Krugman: Wisconsin budget bill is ‘a perfect setup for cronyism and profiteering’

Sometimes Paul Krugman is right on the money — with no “But Professor, you didn’t go far enough” waiting in the wings. This time he goes far enough. He starts rhetorically, by saying maybe Wisconsin isn’t just Cairo, but Baghdad under the heavy privatizing hand of L. Paul Bremer and the baby neocons.

It would be tempting to blurb the start of his article and say go read. But I’d like to feature some of the remarkable detail near the end. The Professor channels, and credits, Naomi Klein (my emphasis throughout):

What’s happening in Wisconsin is, instead, a power grab — an attempt to exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the political power of corporations and the wealthy. And the power grab goes beyond union-busting. The bill in question is 144 pages long, and there are some extraordinary things hidden deep inside.

Krugman fails to add “Walker created the crisis with tax cuts,” but you can’t say everything in 700 words. And its those “extraordinary things hidden deep inside” that get his attention, and mine.

For example, the bill includes language that would allow officials appointed by the governor to make sweeping cuts in health coverage for low-income families without having to go through the normal legislative process.

And then there’s this: “Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state.” … The language in the budget bill would, in effect, let the governor privatize any or all of these facilities at whim. Not only that, he could sell them, without taking bids, to anyone he chooses. And note that any such sale would, by definition, be “considered to be in the public interest.”

Krugman calls this, correctly, “a perfect setup for cronyism and profiteering”. But wait, there’s more. Koch Industries (remember them?) “invested” in the governor because they’re already heavily invested in the state:

Koch Industries has numerous businesses in Wisconsin, from Georgia-Pacific paper mills to coal and shipping companies. Approximately 3,000 people are directly employed by the company in the state, and 8,000 more indirectly.

The Professor wonders if maybe, just maybe, Koch Industries may want to buy those state-owned power plants, without having to bid, for that magic amount the Walker regime, in its sole discretion, “determines to be in the best interest of the state”. (How’s zero? Is zero good for you?)

So watch these power plants, and watch the Koch Brothers. The privatization of Wisconsin power is the other big story here. It should not be buried.

This is the Billionaire’s Coup in action, by the way, and this time the billionaires have names — Charles & David Koch. Invest in the state, buy the governor and everyone else that counts, then use captive government to pick the state clean. There’s no crime scene tape if you already own the cops.

Just so you know, the other name for the Billionaire’s Coup is Rubinite Neoliberalism. Seems it’s a two-party thing.


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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