Archive for Privatization
“America’s descending into madness,” writes Henry Giroux in his latest book. The author appeared on Bill Moyer’s program Friday as the nation observed the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. Since the Reagan-Thatcher era, Kennedy’s calls to public service and national aspiration have been systematically supplanted with an ethos of radical self-interest and tawdry appeals to men’s basest instincts. It is a world, Giroux asserts, in which elites consider that “survival of the fittest is all that matters” and that “democracy is an excess.” Giroux is appalled.
… the notion that profit making is the essence of democracy, the notion that economics is divorced from ethics, the notion that the only obligation of citizenship is consumerism, the notion that the welfare state is a pathology, that any form of dependency basically is disreputable and needs to be attacked, I mean, this is a vicious set of assumptions.
From their press release:
“Across the country, for-profit companies are engaged in a hostile takeover of our schools, roads, prisons, drinking water, and even local government itself,” said Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy, adding that, “CMD’s Outsourcing America Exposed project will give taxpayers the tools they need to identify these privatizers and profiteers, their eye-popping salaries, and the raw deals contained in their contracts that puts taxpayers on the hook, and it will tell taxpayers how they can take back control of public assets and public services.”
You know the joke about the con man who tries to sell some sucker the Brooklyn Bridge? Of course you do. It’s an obvious con because everybody knows the Brooklyn Bridge is public property. Now listen up, pal, or the next joke may be on you.
Investors that failed to privatize Social Security under the Bush administration and who got badly burned in the crash of 2008 are looking to get their hands on public property at bargain prices. Even the Brooklyn Bridge is not out of the question.
Public private partnerships are a hot, new investment vehicle. PPPs are a way for getting public infrastructure — that you, your parents, and their parents’ parents paid for and maybe even built with their own hands — out of public hands and under the control of private investors who are more than happy to sell your own property back to you at a tidy profit. A turnpike here, an airport there, or your city’s water system.
Psst. Hey, bud. C’mere. I got this bridge in Manhattan…
And from the In-Box comes a posting from inthepublicinterest.org. This week in privatization, including one of Barry Summers’ favorites, the Macquarie Group. And lookee, they’re buying a bridge in Manhattan:
Sequoia National Park — The Giant Forest
This is like the Area 51 of trees. I keep thinking what it would have taken to get up here before the roads and cars. It would take a week with pack horses to get up here. There is no hint down below that anything like this might exist up here. Such trees might have been the stuff of local legends. Tinfoil hat stuff. Who would believed you if you told them about the giant Sequoia?
On the drive up here I kept looking at the rock walls constructed along the road. Damned socialist make-work spending. (And I and wonder why we are not putting people to work doing this sort of thing when so many people need employment right now. The Blue Ridge Parkway has been an economic benefit to western North Carolina since the Depression.) Visitors from all over the world come to Sequoia national Park to see these trees, a national and world heritage. President Bill Clinton added the Sequoia National Monument Section in 2000.
But I suppose we must roll with the changes. Austerians tell us there is little money for national heritage. And none for world heritage. (Plenty for wars, though.) Besides, nobody knows who the dead presidents and generals are after whom some of these trees are named anyway.
Isn’t it time for corporate sponsorship (if not outright privatization) of our national heritage? So the General Sherman tree now will be the Goldman Sachs Tree. The General Grant Tree will be the Bank of America tree. And the McKinley Tree will be the Walmart Tree. Henceforth, all these giants will be named after large corporations and banks because these things are too big to fail.
Use this thread for all things budgety. The proposed Senate Budget does not include any tax reform details. Rumor has it that the poor and middle class will be paying more under the coming tax shift, while big corporations and the wealthiest pay less. Keep that context in mind as you read all of the spin. Also bear in mind that education and health care are two of the primary pathways out of poverty and for staying in the middle class. The Legislature will deal with raising taxes on the poor a little further down the road. Here are some bulleted budget points from various sources.
- Senate leaders released a $20.6 billion budget Sunday night
- overall education spending dropping when compared to the current year.
- paves the way for an effort to privatize [Medicaid], something the governor is already studying.
- Among the other proposed changes the Senate budget would make to Medicaid and health services are:
— cuts covered doctor visits on Medicaid from 22 per year to 10.
— raises co-pays for services.
— cuts private nursing services by $5 million.
— cuts mental health drugs by $5 million.
— cuts aids drug assistance by 25 percent, or $2 million. The budget also contains a provisions that would direct the state prisons to seek to use ADAP funding to pay for HIV drugs for those in the state prison system.
— closes the state’s three alcohol and drug abuse treatment centers, saving $37 million. In turn, the budget sets aside $10 million to pay for drug treatment services provided through regional mental health care agencies.
- includes a controversial provision that would require applicants for certain welfare programs to undergo drug testing.
- remove class-size caps for elementary school grades.
Y’all know that your North Carolina state government is about to lower taxes for the wealthy and big corporate interests while raising taxes for the poor and middle class, right? They’re also going to privatize Medicaid, which will reduce services for the poor. They’re also slashing child care - 31,000 kids are expected to be cut. They’re also doing away with environmental protections. They’re also savaging voting rights. Both the Senate and House versions of the budget are a move towards regressive taxation and underfunded services.
More info to come, but know that the folks at the General Assembly are about to send you the bill for their ALEC ambitions. North Carolina is their new laboratory, and we’re the lab rats.
This hit my inbox yesterday, and I thought I’d share it here:
Despite the sincere appeals from many of you, and the principled arguments made by representatives of the City of Asheville, the NC General Assembly has passed House Bill 488, the “Regionalization of Public Utilities”.
The main intent of this bill is to forcibly remove control of the Asheville water system and pristine 22,000 acre watershed from Asheville’s elected officials, and put it in the hands of an unelected Board controlled by the State. The studies have all been finalized: there will be no economic benefit to ratepayers from transferring control of Asheville’s water, there will be no “efficiencies” gained – this is about wrenching control of water from the people into the hands of the State.
The threat of privatization of this vital resource still exists, and the threat to make this the first of many such seizures across the State still exists. We need to take a stand now just as was done last November when 86% of Asheville voters expressed opposition to the sale or lease of the water system. To date, over 50 municipalities in North Carolina have passed resolutions opposing the forced transfer of local government infrastructure.
Our best hope to derail this ill-advised juggernaut lies with NC Governor Pat McCrory. As a former Mayor himself, he has to see that the State seizure of municipal assets is a terrible idea. What City or Town will make investments and improvements in their infrastructure (the kind that Asheville has recently made in their water system), once the precedent has been set that if one greedy neighbor wants your assets, the State may step in and take them? This is what is happening to Asheville.
Please take the time to send an email to Governor Pat McCrory.
Or give his office a call (919) 733-5811. As always: be polite, don’t attack the bill sponsors, be persuasive. Mention “Asheville Water” or the “Regionalization of Public Utilities” bill. Should the bill reach his desk, ask him to please Veto!
For more info & other ways you can help, you can always visit SaveOurWaterWNC.com
Thanks for speaking up for safe, publicly-controlled drinking water!
Barry & the whole crew at Save Our Water WNC
Your body is over sixty percent water. Purified water.
Former Nestlé CEO Peter Brabeck thinks water is a foodstuff that corporations should own and profit from selling.
See the banality of evil in the flesh. It’s right out of Phillip K. Dick.
It began well over a year ago when the representative from NC’s 116th district filed a bill that would forcibly merge the City of Asheville’s public water utility with the Metropolitan Sewerage District. He didn’t bother to tell Asheville’s elected officials about it, even though they were in his office the day before. Quickly backpedaling, the representative reformatted the seizure into a “Study Committee” process. The “Study Committee” went through the motions, ignored the opposition, and came up with a recommendation that mirrored the original seizure bill. The bill itself was filed this past Thursday, HB488. It is an outright taking, offering no compensation for loss of the asset.
Asheville’s legal team is looking the bill over, and we’ll get more interpretation from them in coming days, but there are many truths that are painfully clear and that have been effectively ignored by those supporting this attack on Asheville.
- The legislation was not requested by the people of Buncombe County. 86% of Asheville’s voters opposed the merger in a recent referendum. Major business interests, including our Asheville Brewers’ Alliance and Downtown Association, oppose the merger. The NC League of Municipalites opposes it. Cities across North Carolina have passed Resolutions against it. The legislation solves no problems, but it creates a host of them.
- No compensation is offered for the seizure of this municipal asset. Various estimates value the asset between $57 million (lowball MSD estimate) and $1.3 billion. Only by taking the system without compensation can they demonstrate a cost savings to customers.
- Asheville is offered only a tiny minority of MSD Board representation despite the fact that the majority of water customers live in the city.
- The instability and unpredictability of the status of municipal assets will undermine future infrastructure investments and could also impact bond ratings. This means higher interest rates, paid by taxpayers, when it’s time to invest in infrastructure. And what city’s going to make big investments knowing that the state legislature may just swoop in and seize their assets?
- Asheville stands to lose $1.9 million/year from the water utility’s portion of shared central services.
- As it is proposed now, other legislation surrounding revenue reform does not promise to hold cities harmless. That is, we’re being told to expect deep drops in revenue, revenue that funds everything from firefighters to parks to street repair.
- In Asheville, we have no access to other sources of regional revenue (occupancy tax, food and beverage tax, etc.). In addition, Asheville is unique in its position in NC as a regional hub. Asheville has the highest daytime to resident population ratio among all cities in North Carolina with populations of 50,000 or greater. The daytime population, which includes people who commute into Asheville for work, is approximately 43,000 people higher than the resident population. That’s without counting people who travel in for shopping, services or tourism. With over 50% of Asheville’s budget directed to Public Safety (Police and Fire), a significant portion of city services are provided to non-residents yet paid for by city residents.
· The economic interdependency between Asheville, Buncombe County and the surrounding region has an impact on the lives of more than 1.3 million citizens living in 23 counties. Strengthening this type of urban-rural network requires partnerships to support regional economic relationships. Legislation that impacts Asheville impacts almost a quarter of counties in the State.
· The repeal of Asheville’s ability to access water revenues for regional infrastructure only adds to the financial stress of the current economy. Cities will be faced with two decisions – to raise taxes or to forego regional investments that support jobs and business growth – both of which are negative for North Carolina’s economy.
During the post-September 11 panic, the radical right-wing pundits like Mark Steyn peddled fears that Muslims with their high birthrate might overrun western civilization and forcibly convert America to Islam. Now that they’ve gained the upper hand in the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA), radical right legislators (and their oligarch backers) are determined to forcibly convert state property and services purchased with public money into private profit. (Remember Russia?) For a quick buck, carpetbagging worshipers of the Golden Calf are flexing their muscles in Raleigh to demolish what North Carolinians built over the last half century.
For all their contempt for “the 47 percent” and “makers and takers” framing, Michael Lind explains that rent-seeking monopolists in the private sector are the real parasites:
In today’s rentier-friendly conservative ideology, somebody who makes payday loans at usurious interest rates, gouges businesses with high insurance rates, or gets paid tolls from a privatized toll road is as much a “maker” and an “entrepreneur” and a “capitalist” as someone who puts together a team of inventors, engineers, workers and investors to apply 3-D printing to printing replacement body parts. All money-making enterprises are supposed to be equally productive and socially useful, for no other reason than they make somebody rich.