The small-government crowd never cared about the size of government. They only ever cared about into whose pockets government tax dollars flowed. So it always raises a chuckle to hear the Grover Norquists of the world talk about taxes as theft, “confiscatory taxes,” etc. One can hear from the same crowd that the market-based private sector is always – always – more efficient at delivering services than “collectivist” gummint. (Grab your wallet and update your resume when they start using the word efficient.)

More efficient at getting taxpayers to subsidize their bottom lines? More efficient at profiting from infrastructure built with public funds? Damn right. Because there’s nothing government can do on a not-for-profit basis that can’t be done more efficiently at a stiff markup to the taxpayer. Just the skim off the old milk, the middleman in every middle school.

Talking Points Memo (TPM) has begun a series entitled The Hidden History of the Privatization of Everything sponsored by the National Education Association. Because the NEA knows that privatization is another word for FIRED!

I’ve written a lot about privatization here and here and here and here and here. Everything from schools to roads and bridges to prisons to water systems. War has largely been privatized as well. But what with our colonial history, we still shun the term mercenaries when describing whom we hire to support our overseas adventures.

TPM has just rolled out Part 1. President Reagan put forward “more privatization proposals than any president had ever recommended,” but with a Democratic Congress succeeded only in privatizing Conrail:

In 1985, a group of large firms created the Privatization Council. The driving forces were David Seader and Stephen M. Sorett, the privatization coordinator for Touche Ross & Co. a top-tier consulting firm that became Deloitte and Touche in 1989. Touche was involved because it wanted to change the tax codes standing in the way of private municipal sewerage work. Seader went on to lead the Privatization and Infrastructure Group of Price Waterhouse, the global consulting and accounting firm. (The Council was renamed the National Council for Public-Private Partnerships – a less politically charged term than privatization – in the early 1990s).

By 1990, The Privatization Council boasted 150 members, a who’s who of consulting firms, corporations, and industry associations that had their sights on contracting opportunities in water treatment, transit, prisons, trash pickup, airports and finance.

The other significant corporate voice came in through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which increased and operationalized corporate involvement in moving state-level privatization policy.

ALEC put together working groups of corporations, think tanks, and legislators, like one that brought together the Reason Foundation’s director of the Local Government Center, Heritage’s Stuart Butler, Seader from the Privatization Council, a private prison company (Corrections Associates, Inc.) and the National Solid Wastes Management Association to set priorities and draft legislation to make it easier to outsource public services. ALEC, too, has been funded by right-wing foundations like Scaife and Coors as well as major American corporations, some/many of which had an eye on public contracts.

What’s behind the push to privatize? Smaller government? Lower taxes? Freedom? Nah. (Emphasis mine):

Today, privatization is weakening democratic public control over vital public goods, expanding corporate power and increasing economic and political inequality. Domestic and global corporations and Wall Street investors covet the $6 trillion in local, state and federal annual public spending on schools, prisons, water systems, transit systems, roads, bridges and much more.

A new pro-public movement, with this history in mind, is growing quickly. It has become clear that the 40-year conservative assault on government is enriching some and leaving more and more Americans behind. Groups across the country are organizing and starting to see success. Water systems are being remunicipalized, private prison companies are losing contracts (and both Democratic presidential candidates have pledged to end for-profit incarceration), and a growing movement is focused on rebuilding our national commitment to public education. Over the last 40 years, private interests have gained control over important public goods and the impacts are clear. The next 40 years are ripe with opportunity to put the public solidly back in control.

They covet what’s ours.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : Privatization
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Jun
13

Sweet nightmares, Pat

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So now the guy who signed the anti-LGBT “Hate Bill 2” into law in North Carolina wants to help Florida in the aftermath of the slaughter at the gay bar in Orlando. Gov. Pat McCrory is getting right on it:

McCrory issued a statement Sunday calling the shooting a tragedy that should never happen in America. He says those killed were “innocent victims of an inexcusable act of violence.”

McCrory says his prayers go out to the families, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and the people of Orlando.

He says he’s contacted Florida Governor Rick Scott offering any assistance North Carolina can provide.

Here’s one suggestion:
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Restoring felons’ right to vote after parole is a hit or miss prospect among the several states. Maryland restored voting rights to ex-offenders in February. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe recently signed an executive order restoring paroled felons’ voting rights there, nullifying “a Civil War-era provision in the State Constitution that barred convicted felons from voting for life.” The New York Times set up the backstory to this morning’s news back in April:

Amid intensifying national attention over harsh sentencing policies that have disproportionately affected African-Americans, governors and legislatures around the nation have been debating — and often fighting over — moves to restore voting rights for convicted felons. Virginia imposes especially harsh restrictions, barring felons from voting for life.

In Kentucky, Gov. Matt Bevin, a newly elected Republican, recently overturned an order enacted by his Democratic predecessor that was similar to the one Mr. McAuliffe signed Friday. In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, vetoed a measure to restore voting rights to convicted felons, but Democrats in the state legislature overrode him in February and an estimated 44,000 former prisoners who are on probation can now register to vote.

5.8 million Americans are not allowed to vote because of past felonies, according to the Sentencing Project. More than one in five African Americans in Virginia.

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Categories : Justice, Race
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Just Brew It 2016. Photo by Gordon Smith, former DH blogger, now local city councilman.

Just Brew It 2016. Photo by Gordon Smith, former DH blogger, now local city councilman.

President Barack Obama’s recent shift towards expanding Social Security provides an example both of how political pressure from below works and of the limits of a president’s ability to impose his will. Scott Lemieux writes at New Republic:

What has changed, then, is the politics. The leader of the Democratic Party believes it’s in his political interest to support expanding rather than cutting Social Security. The pushback against chained-CPI from both Democratic voters and many congressional Democrats was crucial in making this happen. And you can bet Obama has been paying attention to Bernie Sanders’s strong presidential run, too, which has shown there is an appetite for a stronger welfare state. He changed his public position on Social Security for the same reason he belatedly came out in support of same-sex marriage rights: that’s where the party was.

President George W. Bush’s epic failure to privatize Social Security (at least, in part) early in his second term, Lemieux writes, demonstrated the limits of both the bully pulpit and Overton Window shifting for moving the political center of gravity. In fact, Bush’s backfire may have been “the best thing to ever happen” from a liberal perspective. Republicans have backed off and their putative presidential candidate opposes entitlement cuts, saying, “Of course they believe they’re ‘entitled’ to receive the benefits they paid for–they are!” A deal’s a deal.

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Categories : Democrats, Strategy
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Jun
05

Sunday Morning Music

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R.I.P., champ.

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Jun
04

A man like no other

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Muhammad Ali after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush on November 9, 2005. (Public Domain.)

Now Ali, “The Greatest.” Tributes are pouring in from across the planet for Muhammad Ali, the three-time World Heavyweight Champion who captured boxing and the world through, speed, skill, and sheer force of personality after he upset Sonny Liston in 1964. Ali, 74, died at a Phoenix-area hospital last night after a long decline from a respiratory illness aggravated by Parkinson’s. Ali died a Sufi Muslim.

A report in the New York Times quotes Jim Murray of The Los Angeles Times on Ali’s talents, “He didn’t have fights, he gave recitals.”

The “Rumble in the Jungle” against George Foreman (1974, Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and the “Thrilla in Manila” against Joe Frazier (1975) are legendary. But outside the boxing ring, as his Wikipedia entry notes, “Ali’s actions as a conscientious objector to the [Vietnam War] made him an icon for the larger counterculture generation.” Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., Ali converted to Islam at 22, changed his name, and in 1967 refused induction into the army claiming “his Muslim beliefs forbade him to go to war.” His conviction for draft evasion was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1971 and he returned to the ring.

The Washington Post summarizes:
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Categories : News, Passing
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Just a week ago, we covered the Guardian’s report on the failure of the Pentagon’s whistleblower office to protect the identity of Pentagon whistleblower, Thomas Drake – and Drake’s subsequent prosecution. Edward Snowden told an interviewer in 2015, “It’s fair to say that if there hadn’t been a Thomas Drake, there wouldn’t have been an Edward Snowden.” Thus, Snowden undertook what the Government Accountability Project (GAP) dubbed “civil disobedience” whistleblowing.

That was last week. Now:

The former US attorney general Eric Holder has said the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden performed a “public service” by starting a debate over government surveillance techniques.

Speaking on a podcast hosted by David Axelrod, a former campaign strategist for Barack Obama, Holder emphasized, however, that Snowden must still be punished.

“We can certainly argue about the way in which Snowden did what he did, but I think that he actually performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made,” Holder said, in an hourlong discussion on The Axe Files.

“Now, I would say that doing what he did – and the way he did it – was inappropriate and illegal.”

Snowden obviously saw the irony:

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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May
30

Exercise Your POWER!

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NC congressional and/or supreme court races at stake June 7.

Publication1 (3)

Categories : North Carolina
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May
30

Whither the Democrats?

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A story about California Governor Jerry Brown in the New York Times comes as friends ponder just where the Democratic Party goes in the wake of the 2016 presidential primary. (I’m not the one here to comment on California politics, but I’ve got the 3-hour news jump.)

Whether a hard rain is gonna fall or not this year will depend on how the party appeals to the wave of energized voters who support Bernie Sanders and whether it can energize those who support Hillary Clinton. Putting aside arguments about the process, it is undeniable that there are broad bases in the party for both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Party leadership that is typically ham-fisted about finding any kind of message would be foolish not to take to heart themes that have energized Sanders’ base and led to his strong showing nationwide. Adam Nagourney suggests Jerry Brown can show them how it’s done:

Mr. Brown is in many ways a blend of these two very different candidates, having created a style that has made him an enduringly popular and successful California governor. And it is not only Mr. Brown: The California Democratic Party stands as a model of electoral success and cohesion, in contrast to national Democrats struggling through a divisive primary and debate about an uncertain future.

California is one of the few states in the country, and easily the largest, where Democrats are completely in control, holding every statewide office as well as overwhelming majorities in the Assembly and the Senate, not to mention both United States Senate seats. Mr. Brown and his party are using that power to try to enact legislation — on guns, tobacco, the environment, the minimum wage and immigrant rights — that suggest the kind of agenda that has eluded national Democrats.

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Categories : Democrats, National, Parties
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Interspersed with Dave Weigel’s dispatches from the Libertarian National Convention in Orlando, a clip from Idiocracy came across the Twitter feed yesterday and for some reason it wouldn’t get out of my head after that. From Think Progress:

Speaking to an audience in California on Friday, presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump told the crowd “there is no drought” in their state.

Trump claimed there isn’t a real water shortage. Instead, he said, state officials are intentionally denying water to farmers in the middle of the state — choosing to reroute the water to the ocean to protect an endangered California fish called the delta smelt.
“It is so ridiculous where they’re taking the water and shoving it out to sea,” Trump said. “There is no drought. They turn the water out into the ocean.”

TPM continues:

Trump said that if he were president, he’d have a simple solution.

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Categories : Presidential Race
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