There is not doubt about it—a visit to the DMV is often a frustrating (not to say miserable) experience for all of us. The lines to get in are long, and often start snaking around the block one or even two hours before the doors open for business. Once in, it is another long wait in uncomfortable chairs before your name is called to receive service. And all too often what you finally find out that for one reason or another you do not have the required documentation for the clerk to process your requests. AAAARGH, as abused and frustrated Charlie Brown would say. Not only back to square one, but further back to a search for the documents that are needed. This often entails trying to find, on your own, the agency that can supply the necessary documentation. THEN back to square one, joining the line to get into the door then joining the seated crowd to wait for your turn at the service windows.
Hair-pulling rage at yet another bureaucratic snarl for information and service, right? And the the bureaucracy is is created and run by our state and federal governments, right? Why in the hell are they not functioning better for all of our official needs? You assume that it is all “government’s” fault, which directs your hate toward “government.” Why should you pay taxes to support such a dysfunctional system, right? Better to “starve the beast” and force such services into private—which is to say corporate—hands that would presumably offer much better services for all of us, right?
But notwithstanding this line of logical assumptions, the track record of private corporations for supplying services to the public is again and again miserable in itself. Think private health insurance companies, who have on average raised premium prices 40% in the past few years, while systematically working to block legitimate claims, forcing the insured (all of us not on Medicare or Medicaid) to fight for months to obtain the successful processing of our claims and get the payments we are supposedly guaranteed by the faithful payments of our premiums. Or think of publicly owned and traded electric utilities, whose financial incentives are to provide dividends to their share holders, not the needed service and infrastructure maintenance we all rely on to turn on our lights and keep our refrigerators running.
I live in California, where the most glaring example of this is the track record of Pacific Gas and Electric. Beholden to their bottom line, their shareholders dividends and the value of their stock in the markets. These incentives have resulted in the enrichment of share holders and not to basic services and maintenance of their infrastructure, which are never, never properly funded and functioning. To name but a few results, these policies have caused chronically leaking has lines which led to the huge explosion in San Bruno in the San Francisco Bay area that killed a number of people and tore up a whole neighborhood. Or the improperly maintained power lines and transformers that led to a number the recent wildfires that killed a whole lot of people and totally destroyed whole towns. Or think banks who chisel us constantly with new fees. Or airlines, which do the same while in the meantime deteriorating their services to the public in order to provide more profits and dividends, not free baggage service and comfortable seating or healthy meals.
So, back to the DMV. Why do most of us seriously consider the real reasons for the misery of visits that prevails? The answer is that these services are paid for by taxes, and administered by the government that has systematically underfunded them and slashed the numbers of personnel that actually meet us at the windows. The efficiency of service relies on the funds and staffing to deliver them, which are woefully wanting. The resources for them involve TAXES, which ultimately raises the American horror of SOCIALISM, the publicly funding and operations of the very agencies that we rely on for their services.
Americans rightfully demand these services to be efficient and genuinely helpful to us. They just have a deep-seated aversion to paying for them through sensible rates of taxation that could actually improve services for everyone. Noooo, the pressure is rather directed toward “starve the beast” and a growing (and seriously misguided) support for the privatization of many agencies like the DMV. This yearning for better services through private corporate control, which leaves us at there mercy of corporate incentives that have nothing whatever to do with better services. Somehow the bewildering American psyche does not seem up to the task of connecting the dots between corporate control of services and the enrichment of the already privileged class—the 1%—and not the needs of all the rest of us that rely on efficient delivery of the services we need to navigate through our society.
In fact the people at the windows at DMV are truly knowledgable about what is required of us, are courteous in the face of frustrated customers, and are doing their best to get us what we need. But they are laboring under egregiously under funding and staffing. We get what we pay for, no more no less. If Americans cannot “get woke” to these simple facts, then they—us—will continue to live with the frustrations of “business as usual” in all of our tax funded agencies around the country. Live with that, and do your best to be happy about the things are.
And the DMV is just one of thousands of public service agencies we are obliged to rely upon.