Of course, I could be overly generalizing, and to a degree I am. Nevertheless, I have been doing some thinking over the Christmas break about why things are so messed up and my conclusion is that those in power in DC (the heads of the GOP) fundamentally see government differently than those out of power (the heads of the Democratic Party). Bush, Cheney, Frist, DeLay, Blount, Cunningham...all down the line of leadership posts, those folks see government as a bad thing. Or at least they did before they got the strings in DC. So they have combined their idea of the government will always to do wrong with the idea that we might as well use the government to our advantage. Since the government has no real place in civil society, the federal government should just been a tool to enrich ourselves and our allies, while punishing our enemies.
By constrast, the Clinton administration saw the government as a tool to help the People of the US and the world. They saw the federal government as a well meaning but at times bumbling agency that could in some areas do more good if it turned things over to the private sector.
Bush and his friends saw the government as something that was never really well meaning and that since it never can do good, we might as well use it to be good to us. Privization was not to make the things government does now work better (like deliver the mail) but to enrich donors and other supporters (see Cunningham, DeLay, and the expanding Abramoff scandal). There was no need to place experts in any field in a department, but better to get jobs for folks that helped you get into power (see FEMA and Katrina).
Bush did a great job getting the private aid set up for the South Asian Tsunami and Katrina disasters via his father and his father's old nemisis Bill Clinton. But Bush couldn't and wouldn't get the federal government to do anything to actually help people.
What I am not saying in this piece is that Republicans in general are all theiving scoundrels, but that their leaders are. And that the idea of the federal government is your enemy--an idea that is the foundation of the modern conservatism movement does have a logical link to the cronyism, the war/disaster profiteering, and actual bribery that defines the GOP establishment in our Nation's Capital.
That is not to say that Democrats don't have their own profiteers and scoundrels, but those folks are not power positions, either in government or in the party superstructure, nor do such Democrats exist in such numbers.
The devaluation of what government has led to the situation we find ourselves in now.