Archive for Privatization

Sep
30

First they came for the air traffic controllers …

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“Nothing makes people more stupid and foolish than money and fear,” the creator of The Wire told the Guardian. David Simon spoke about what drives him, and about his new mini-series, Show Me a Hero.

Set in the 1980s, the show examines a community split over a plan to build public housing in the upscale — predominantly white — east side of Yonkers, NY. It was a breakdown driven not only by race, but by fear and money.

Simon sees the dispute as allegorical of the political dysfunction in an America that no longer knows how to solve its problems. The period coincides, he believes, with the breakdown of the social contract in America, the triumph of capital over labor and the unpairing of tides and boats that had risen together in a postwar America we had come to believe was normal.

This is a point forcefully made by ex-Clinton labour secretary Robert Reich in his recent film, Inequality for All. He dates the busting of the labour unions and the rupture of the social compact to Ronald Reagan’s firing of 11,000 air traffic controllers in 1981. From then on, the idea that a market-driven society would mutually benefit those who held the capital and those who provided the labour was no longer in place, he says. For Simon, this is the point at which the shared community of interests that walked side by side as the American economy surged after the second world war came apart. The collective will that bound together communities, cities and, ultimately, America started to erode.

“What was required in Yonkers was to ask: ‘Are we all in this together or are we not all in this together?’ Is there a society or is there no society, because if there is no society, well, that’s the approach that says ‘Fuck ’em, I got mine’. And Yonkers coincides with the rise of ‘Fuck ’em I got mine’ in America.

“That’s the notion that the markets will solve everything. Leave me alone. I want maximum liberty, I want maximum freedom. Those words have such power in America. On the other hand ‘responsibility’ or ‘society’ or ‘community’ are words that are increasingly held in disfavour in the United States. And that’s a recipe for cooking up a second-rate society, one that does not engage with the notion of collective responsibility. We’re only as good a society as how we treat those who are most vulnerable and nobody’s more vulnerable than our poor. To be poor is not a crime, except in America.”

A guy I knew in the T-party once insisted that there is no society, just as Simon describes. And if there is none, by that logic how could he bear any responsibility for it? T-party members may clasp copies of the U.S. Constitution to their breasts, but they’ve lost its spirit after rejecting the document’s first three words. There is no we in their America, just I and me. And community? Sounds too much like communism. And an excuse for low-caste Irresponsibles to collect a government check for not working.

The view portends a grim, decidedly unexceptional American future in which doomsday preppers barricade and arm themselves against their neighbors while the rich retreat to lush, gated sanctuaries protected from both by armed security.

The thing is, as more Americans slip out of the middle class and find themselves struggling to get by, they are catching on to the barrenness of that future. The Moral Monday movement caught on by bringing together a diverse community to call out the depravity of the ‘Fuck ’em I got mine’ culture of Wall Street’s Jordan Belforts, and among ALEC corporations out to strip America for parts.

But David Simon doesn’t believe We the People are quite there yet.

“I think in some ways the cancer is going to have to go a little higher. It’s going to start crawling up above the knee and people are going to have to start looking around and thinking ‘I thought I was exempt. I didn’t know they were coming for me’.

“It’s happened to the manufacturing class, it’s happened to the poor. Now it’s happening to reporters and schoolteachers and firefighters and cops and social workers and state employees and even certain levels of academics. And that’s new. That’s not the American dream.”

First they came for the air traffic controllers, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not an air traffic controller.

Then they came for the factory workers, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a factory worker.

Then they came for the schoolteachers, the firefighters, the cops, the academics … .

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Sep
28

Funny, how that works

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Perhaps it is not just a coincidence or a quirk of American policy-making that the words “innovation” and “reform” lately seem to attach themselves to ideas that drive more public money, public infrastructure, and public control into the hands of private investors. Nor that this meme is driven by lobbyists for public-private partnerships (P3s) where corporations stand to rack up profits by privatizing the commons.

Whether it is turning over state prisons to for-profit Corrections Corporation of America or public education over to publicly traded K12 Inc., we are to believe that despite the scandals and poor outcomes, the private sector will always do a better job than big gummint. We hear the private sector is more “efficient” than efforts run by the people and for the people. But more efficient at what?

This last week, as we noted, ITR Concession Co, and its parent company, the Spanish-Australian consortium Cintra-Macquarie declared bankruptcy on its concession to operate the Indiana Toll Road. The 75-year deal fell apart after only eight.

But getting back to efficiency. Think maybe the Germans could do it better? Maybe not.

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Sep
26

Applying Monsanto’s tactics to educating children

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The GSV manifesto declares, “we believe the opportunity to build numerous multi-billion dollar education enterprises is finally real.”

Venture capitalist, Eric Hippeau, believes the “education market is ripe for disruption.”

Writing for the Nation Investigative Fund, Lee Fang details how venture capitalists and firms such as K12 Inc. view it as their mission to disrupt traditional public schools through vouchers applied to private schools, expanded charter schools, and the “next breakthrough in education technology.”

[D]espite wave after wave of negative press, K12 Inc. figures as a solid investment opportunity to many. Baird Equity Research, in a giddy note to investors this year about the potential growth of K12 Inc., noted, “capturing just two million (3.5%) of the addressable market yields a market opportunity of approximately $12 billion … Over the next three years, we believe that the company is capable of 7%+ organic revenue growth with modest margin expansion.” How will it achieve this growth? According to Baird, K12 Inc.’s “competency in lobbying in new states” is “another key point of differentiation.” The analyst note describes “K12’s success in working closely with state policymakers and school districts to enable the expansion of virtual schools into new states or districts” as a key asset. “The company has years of experience in successfully lobbying to get legislation passed to allow virtual schools to operate,” Baird concludes.

In the process, they also educate children. It’s there in the footnotes in 6-point type.

Look, there are friends who happily send their kids to small, community-based, parent-organized charter schools that provide them with a quality education. These aren’t them. Lobbyists and campaign donations from would-be “multi-billion dollar education enterprises” will make mincemeat of those schools the way Walmart kills off mom-and-pop stores. But in the scheme of things, they’re small potatoes. Privatizing public education itself is the breakthrough the Walmarts of the education industry seek.

Next year, the market size of K-12 education is projected to be $788.7 billion. And currently, much of that money is spent in the public sector. “It’s really the last honeypot for Wall Street,” says Donald Cohen, the executive director of In the Public Interest, a think tank that tracks the privatization of roads, prisons, schools and other parts of the economy.

Investors call that steady, recession-proof, government-guaranteed stream of public tax dollars “the Big Enchilada,” as Jonathan Kozol wrote in Harpers before the market crash.

Standing in their way? “Unions, public school bureaucracies, and parents,” says Hippeau. Because it sure isn’t neoliberals in the Obama administration. It’s hiring education industry veterans to oversee applying to educating our children Monsanto’s tactic of using its GM crops to crowd out competing seed sources.

As I wrote awhile back,

From this perspective, it’s bad enough that states are not providing education on at least a not-for-profit basis. But it’s far worse than that. They’re giving it away! That’s a mortal sin. A crime against capitalism. The worst kind of creeping socialism. Hundreds of billions of tax dollars spent every year in a nonprofit community effort to educate a nation’s children, and the moguls are not skimming off the top. The horror.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : Education, Privatization
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Sep
21

But not a drop to drink?

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As the People’s Climate March begins in New York later today, California struggles with record drought. It’s not just the hippies worried about climate change, and not just here.

The UK must prepare for “the worst droughts in modern times” experts will warn this week at a major international conference to discuss the growing global water crisis.

Britain is looking at ways of reconfiguring its water infrastructure — expanding reservoirs, imposing tougher water extraction licenses, considering more desalination plants. “In the past we have planned for our water resources to cope with the worst situation on record but records are only 100 years long,” explains Trevor Bishop, the Environment Agency’s deputy director. “We may get a situation that is worse than that – with climate change that is perfectly possible.”

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With the imposition of a state-appointed emergency manager for Detroit, a local activist says half the voting population of Michigan has, essentially, lost the right to vote. As we noted during our recent visit, they’re also cutting off the water to thousands of Detroit families and headed towards privatizing the water and sewer systems. Sally Kohn looks at The Republican Occupation of Detroit:

Why would any city want to privatize its water system? A report by Corporate Accountability International (CAI) shows that water privatization fairly universally leads to higher prices for cities and consumers and, in many cases, decreased efficiencies. In fact, the track record for water privatization is so abysmal that CAI found more than 20 American cities that had once privatized their water have taken back control of their systems since 2002. If water privatization is bad for the city of Detroit and its residents, who is it good for? Corporations. Which is where the state’s interest comes in.

Government governs best that’s closest to the people? Not so in Michigan. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s GOP may hate what they decry as the nanny state, but they are just fine with a paternalistic daddy state.

Under Governor Pat McCrory and the GOP-led legislature, North Carolina is headed there as well. Michigan just got there first.

Jul
23

Water Is A Human Right

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Don’t mess with Maureen Taylor.

Scroll to 1:08:40. “This monstrous thing that’s going on in Detroit … beyond demonic … You gotta leave here changed! … Water is a human right.”

Seems we got their attention:

Detroit suspended its aggressive policy of cutting off water to customers with unpaid bills on Monday, the latest response to a controversy that has prompted large protests and caught the attention of the judge overseeing the city’s bankruptcy.

The city said there will be no shutoffs for the next 15 days. The disclosure was made in bankruptcy court where Judge Steven Rhodes is overseeing the nation’s largest ever municipal bankruptcy. He has been encouraging Detroit to come up with alternatives to shutting off water for thousands of homes and businesses.

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Jun
27

Friday Open Thread

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Photo: Mark Clifton via Wikimedia Commons

Even the conservative Civitas Institute is growing wary of public-private partnerships. The state is getting ready to sign a 50-year contract with a foreign company with a track record of financial trouble on PPP deals elsewhere that leave taxpayers footing the bill for failure.

And Thom Tillis? He’s one of the driving forces behind the deal.

Gosh, where’s Fox News when you need them?

What’s gotten up your tailpipe this morning?

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Jun
20

Friday Open Thread

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It’s “Free-Market Ideology Gone Mad” Friday here at ScruHoo, courtesy of Wikileaks:

Public Services International (PSI), a global trade union federating public service workers in 150 countries, has reported that TISA threatens to allow multinational corporations to permanently privatize vital public services such as healthcare and transportation in countries across the world.

“This agreement is all about making it easier for corporations to make profits and operate with impunity across borders,” said PSI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli in response to the leak. “The aim of public services should not be to make profits for large multinational corporations. Ensuring that failed privatizations can never be reversed is free-market ideology gone mad.”

It’s not mad. No. It’s become a cult.

Another day in Wake County Superior Court yesterday in the case of “Moffitt v. Asheville,” Judge Howard Manning Jr. presiding. Rep. Tim Moffitt and Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson were on hand for the hearing in the lawsuit challenging Moffitt’s “Regionalization of Public Utilities” law that forcibly transfers control of Asheville’s water system to a new regional authority.

Much hinges on whether or not Moffitt’s bill was deliberately written to evade the state’s constitutional ban in Article 2, Sec. 24 on enacting local legislation “relating to health, sanitation, and the abatement of nuisances.” Asheville activist Barry Summers was there to remind attendees — graphically — not of the water system’s history, but of the legislation’s.

While both McGrady and Moffitt watched the proceedings in court, Asheville’s attorney Dan Clodfelter disagreed with the state’s assertion that the bill was not local in nature. An attorney with the Charlotte-based law firm Moore and Van Allen, Clodfelter himself served as a state senator until last month, when he was named the mayor of Charlotte.

The bill does not specifically name the city of Asheville. But Clodfelter said it was clear that was lawmakers’ intent, rather than creating a statewide bill with a general set of principles to administer.

“Our constitution says what it says,” Manning said, indicating that the constitutional question was the crux of the case. Expect an appeal, however Manning rules.

Moffitt v. Asheville is a style of legal shenanigans we have seen emerge over the last decade from Wall Street to Jones Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. That is, to push the limits of the law to the breaking point and beyond, to knowingly step over the line and — using the law itself for cover — to arrogantly dare anyone to push back. If no one does, or if they do and fail, those who twist the law to their own ends succeed, and the boundary between the legal and the criminal moves again, and not in the direction of the public good. Rinse, repeat. Thus, torture becomes “enhanced interrogation,” fraudulent securities become top-rated investments, and public investments in schools, water systems, highways and airports slowly become the private wealth of oligarchs. Like watching an accident in which everything goes into slow motion, it is happening before our very eyes. Because it transpires in remote meeting rooms under color of law, we the people are not supposed to notice.

(Original post has been corrected. Rep. Nathan Ramsey was not in attendance Friday, but was cited in reporting as an original sponsor of the water bill.)

Apr
24

This Week In Privatization

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The Privatization Backlash

For decades, city and state governments have seen contracting as a cost-saving panacea. But past experience has left some of today’s policymakers more skeptical.


Western lawmakers gather in Utah to talk federal land takeover

‘It’s time’ » Lawmakers from 9 states gather in Utah, discuss ways to take control of federal lands.

Like grabbing NC airports and water systems, whaddya figure conservation isn’t the real agenda here?
Categories : Privatization
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