NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 21, 2008

Race- and gender-conscious government contracting was born during the Nixon administration and has since become endemic, says the Weekly Standard.  From the U.S. State Department to city garbage collection, contracts at all levels of government employ race and gender preferences: 

  • In 2002, 6.75 percent of all federal procurement dollars were awarded through the Small Business Administration to disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs).
  • Between 1983 and 1999, all Department of Transportation contracts required 10 percent of contracts to be reserved for minority- and women-owned firms.

Race-conscious contracting practices are an enormous burden on taxpayers, says the Weekly Standard.  According to a study by Justin Marion of the University of California at Santa Cruz:

  • Road construction projects in California cost 6 percent less after the overturning of affirmative action by Proposition 209 in 1996.
  • In the two years after racial preferences were eliminated, the state saved an estimated $64 million.

Several factors account for the tenacity of preferential-contracting programs, despite two Supreme Court rulings against them:

  • First, aggrieved non-DBE-eligible companies are reluctant to sue the government and offend a hand that may feed them in the future.
  • They also fear offending well-organized civil rights activists who have the potential to organize pickets, demonstrations, and sophisticated public relations campaigns against a firm.
  • In addition, contractors are already used to all types of government regulations and codes, and tend to view affirmative action as just another of the many obstacles in doing business with the government.

On the political front, neither party takes seriously the concept of colorblind government, says the Weekly Standard.  Unless the public loudly demands a colorblind government, we will continue with the existing system that is guided by the notion that the government is entitled to discriminate among its citizens.

Source: Jennifer Rubin, "The Quotas That Won't Die," Weekly Standard, July 21, 2008.

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