This week in privatization — they really do have a bridge to sell you

The privatization of public property is something that both Democratic and Republican public officials love to promote.

Republicans love it because they’re vultures, always feeding the poor (you, me and the rest of the “99%”) to the rich. Neoliberal Democrats — that is, the whole of the party leadership — love it because somehow “free markets” unfettered by government regulation means “freedom”.

Neoliberal Democrats also love it because they too are always feeding the poor (you, me and the rest of the “99%”) to the rich. See? The two parties do get along after all.

From our North Carolina activist friends at Scrutiny Hooligans, we get a good look at the amazing extent of the privatization movement, and believe me, it’s moving along quite nicely, thank you. First their intro (a decent piece of writing, in my estimation):

This Week In Privatization

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…

Every word a true one.

And then the meat, a 39-item list of current national and local privatization and anti-privatization efforts, assembled by the good people at In The Public Interest. I don’t want to give you the whole thing; click here to read it for yourself.

But here’s a tease (my emphasis):

1) National: Aramark partners could cash in on $3 billion in IPO profits. Aramark, a leading food services privatizer in prisons and schools, is planning to go public in a share offering. The company has been accused of “cutting costs and boosting profits by skimping on meals.” …

3) National: Macquarie Group raises an initial $1.3 billion for a fund to invest in North American infrastructure projects. “Part of the money raised is expected to be invested in New York’s Goethals Bridge, which is being privatized by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. (…) Budget constraints are forcing public bodies in the US to attract more private capital into projects traditionally funded from government balance sheets.” Its MIP III fund is targeting about $2 billion. [Sub required]

Goethals Bridge (image via flickr)

Goethals Bridge, ready for sale (image via flickr)

4) National: USDA comes under fire for moving to privatize meat inspection in pork plants, while speeding up processing lines. Under an expanded pilot program, USDA safety inspectors would be replaced “with private inspectors employed by meat companies.”

7) California/Oregon/Washington: The West Coast Infrastructure Exchange, a collaboration between the three states and British Columbia, releases draft recommendations for project standards on infrastructure “public private partnerships.” The Exchange, which has invited public comment, “said it’s seeking input from a diverse range of stakeholders, including investors, local government project proponents, labor, advisors, and contractors.” [Sub required; Infrastructure Project Certification—Proposed Principles and Framework] …

9) California: Newport Beach City Council votes 4-3 to proceed with outsourcing trash collection. … Councilman Selich says “‘I’m opposed to the outsourcing, make no bones about it. I think we’re elected to represent the people who voted us into office.’ In eight years as a Council member, he said, no issue has stirred residents like outsourcing trash collection has. ‘Wherever I go,’ he said. ‘They’re all opposed to it.’” …

On and on it goes, 39 items. Do read; it’s quite the list. And note the headline — This week in privatization. Next week will bring more, I’m sure.

Your neoliberal Democrats and Milton Friedman Republicans at work. Show this to the next person who tells you “our political system is broken.” It’s not broken at all — it’s just broken for us.

(By the way, if you failed to click the very first link in this piece, consider doing so. It’s Rick Perlstein at his Rahm-bashing best.)


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

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

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31 Responses to “This week in privatization — they really do have a bridge to sell you”

  1. vonlmo says:

    “Rahm?” Is that the same Rahm Emmanuel, Mayor of Chicago, soon to be in N.J. campaigning forCorey Booker? The very same Rahm?

  2. Naja pallida says:

    Even if you didn’t have executives and their ridiculous salaries, it’s still not logical to expect a for-profit entity to manage public resources at less cost, because they always have to take their cut off the top. So no matter how you do the math, you have operating costs plus their profit cut. A profit cut that, like everything else in the for-profit world, is expected to go up each and every year. This is why privatization almost always looks good on paper to start with, but never results in what they claim it will, ie cost savings to the tax payer. When things are publicly funded and operated, we don’t have to deal with that extra profit cut, because things like bridges aren’t expected to turn a profit. Most public resources in general are inherently not profitable, because they’re an investment in the public good. Privatization is exploitation of the public good.

  3. ComradeRutherford says:

    Privitization can ONLY cost more, because the government doesn’t have a raft of executives demanding multi-million dollar salaries for doing nothing.

    Social Security overhead is less than 4%! No private corporation can come even close to that.

  4. cambridgemac says:

    That’s what happened here in Cambridge when they were hunting for the Marathon bomber. Creepy. And even creepier was the fact that the media did not report on the illegality of the whole thing. We were confined to our houses.

  5. cambridgemac says:

    Well, since the Constitution clearly states that the obligation and capacity of the US government to pay its obligations MAY NOT BE QUESTIONED, the problem is worse than what the public “thinks.” The Teabagger strategy is sedition and the reps are commiting an impeachable offense.

  6. cambridgemac says:

    Calling these atrocious agreements “partnerships” is like calling serfdom a “partnership” between the lords and the serfs. The Corporate ReichWing continues to eviscerate the English language. In Orwell’s 1984, the Party controlled people by debasing the language into DuckSpeak. Welll. we’ve got CorpSpeak.

  7. markofthebeasts says:

    Reminds me of one of the junior high schools where I grew up was old, so the city sold it. Now, it’s a private ‘university.’ I can’t imagine that it didn’t go to a well connected local interest group for a great price.

  8. nobonesl says:

    The ultimate goal of privatization is to make the song, “Sixteen Tons” come true for the entire world.

  9. nobonesl says:

    Public School “Reform”/Charterization/”Parent Trigger”/TeachForAmerica all are indispensable parts
    of the big push for privatizing America’s Public Schools. The plan is going swimmingly–A smash-success, with schools being discredited and subsequently flipped, in low-income areas all over the country, because of the persistent difficulties so many low-income kids and families have trying to achieve academic success.
    Charter schools are an investor’s paradise. But Hell for teachers.
    And little more than a con-game of inferior education for the kids and families, who won’t know what a poor education they received until they go out in the world and try to put it to use.
    Kids are memorizing terms like “grapheme” in English, for example–Zillions of terms convenient for multiple-choice bubble tests. But precious few kids understand things like propaganda techniques or characteristics of manipulative speech.
    Kids are being taught myriad DETAILS to memorize, but seldom the “Why” or “how” things happen anymore, especially in English and Social Studies/History.
    Low-income ignorance and naivety is being entrenched and reinforced by current modes of “teaching”, pushed HARD by school deformers. Yes, there is also a method to this madness.

  10. JayRandal says:

    Everything is for sale in US now.

  11. Phil says:

    When I worked for the State of Florida, they took over the Dept. of Corrections food services in the southern part of the state. After a few years, someone realized that there was no cost savings, the quality of the food had actually declined (pretty impressive for prison food), and it had created a huge security headache because Aramark did a very poor job of screening employees before placing them inside a correctional facility. The function was “insourced.”

  12. Phil says:

    I do believe you mean the Chicago Skyway. The Bishop Ford (formerly known as the Calumet) expressway remains free to use.

  13. UncleBucky says:

    Oh, lord. Everyone please read “Riddley Walker” by Russell Hoban. This will be the USA or what’s left of it in a couple of generations.

  14. LanceThruster says:

    Aramark took over the in-house custodial services where I’m at.

  15. Naja pallida says:

    It is simply not possible for a for-profit entity to adequately manage public resources. The fundamental need for profits to always increase negates the ability for it to be effective in saving states any money over the long term. Gullible state governments are lured in by the low up-front costs, but end up screwing their tax payers the longer a privatized entity has control of the resource. Texas has yet to learn their lesson, despite their toll roads costing tax payers significantly more than if they were publicly managed with appropriate taxation. And then Texas cuts taxes to the point where they are incapable of maintaining those roads that are public, necessitating that some of them be ground back to gravel. And this is the example they give the rest of us for how the entire country should be. Absurd doesn’t begin to cover it.

  16. Indigo says:

    It was “duck and cover” during the Cuba Crisis. Hurricanes often have us “hunkering down,” and now we have “shelter in place.” We have enough mayhem here at home, we don’t need to police the globe, dabble in other people’s civil wars, or even look past the local news anymore.

  17. Monoceros Forth says:

    What really irks me about all of these pushes to hand over public properties and services to private ownership and management is that the legislators doing the pushing never, ever seem to care about the really important question: can it be demonstrated adequately that private management will save money and improve service? The lawmakers seem to regard that question as settled, not worth discussing, the answer self-evident. Of course private companies will do a better job, cos civil servants are always indifferent clockwatchers pampered into laziness by a bloated bureaucracy while the men of the private sector are all vigorous and efficient go-getters tempered like the finest steel by the purifying fire of the free market.

  18. cole3244 says:

    gotta keep those for profit hospital beds filled.

  19. nicho says:

    Last week, DC people were told to “shelter in place.” Where have we heard that before? But how long before we hear it again? And how long before there will be sirens that will indicate that everyone should “shelter in place” and anyone on the street will be considered a suspect. I’m pretty sure it won’t be that far away.

  20. nicho says:

    Yeah, the one in Orange County costs $1 per mile. Your tax dollars at work.

  21. fletcher says:

    Selling a public structure like a bridge or road is a bad idea. In Chicago they merely issued 99 year leases for money upfront (which the city immediately squandered) on the city parking meters and the Bishop Ford Expressway. On both the payments went way up. In neighborhood shopping areas it cost upwards to $4.25 an hour to park. Park near a popular restaurant and feed a credit card into the meter and you can easily add $12 to your night out. On the Bishop Ford, the toll is now triple what is was only a few years ago. Chicago is now looking for ways out of these deals. Chicago might recall what folks in the late 19th Century did to get out of a privatization of the Milwaukee Plank Road (now Milwaukee Avenue) on what is now Chicago’s Northwest Side. The owner set up toll barriers that were manned by armed thugs. People hating to pay 50 cents to use the road came out at night and burned down the barriers. This went on for more then a year. The road returned to a public street one day after the owner turned up dead by gunfire and the thugs departed for lack of pay. They were so much more efficient in those days.

  22. Monoceros Forth says:

    Meaningless “news” generation, really. Why do any actual reporting when you can fill broadcast time with the results of a poll? I think it’s especially ridiculous when some question that can easily and objectively be answered as true or false is treated as just another subject for a poll, reducing every sort of issue into just another matter of opinion and adding force to phony “controversies” about such things as evolution or climate change.

  23. Indigo says:

    It’s about to happen here in central Florida and the reason is transparent, the highway board pockets the money. Or so it seems.

  24. Bill_Perdue says:

    This post could be illustrated by reading Jack London’s The Iron Heel, one of those books that rarely makes it onto high school or college reading lists.

  25. Guys, I need your help with this. For the past two months we’ve been spammed by video ads that have their audio on auto-play, so the second you arrive on the site, some obnoxious audio starts playing. We have banned auto-audio-on ads from the beginning, but the past two months some movie promoters keep slipping through. I need your help. The only way we can begin to figure out who’s doing this is to know the following info:

    1. which page is the ad on, send me the page web address/url
    2. tell me where the ad is located on the page – and I mean specifically (e.g., top square ad in right column?)
    3. What is the ad for, what movie or whatever is it advertising?
    4. What is the landing page, the URL address, of the page that ad takes you to (yeah it requires clicking on it, but we need the info.
    5. If you know how to, take a screen shot (or use your cell phone cam) of the Americablog page with the ad on it so I can see, and email it and the above info to me at: contact at americablog dot com

    I need your help, please. Thank you.

  26. markofthebeasts says:

    I am suspicious at how the ‘carpool’ lanes are slowly being converted into toll roads on the freeways in Los Angeles. Seems like privatization creep onto what used to be freeways, paid for by tax dollars. :/

  27. Indigo says:

    It looks as if they’re fishing for an insurgency to use as an excuse for a more openly repressive police state. If it comes to pass, I hope they at least wear snappy uniforms.

  28. Drew2u says:

    Eh, if the NSA is relying on contractors vetting contractors, I don’t think we have much to worry about as it’ll implode from the sheer mass of its own hubris. ;p

  29. Drew2u says:

    Just a sidenote, but on MSNBC they said, “A WSJ poll shows that a majority of Americans believe there will be serious negative effects if the debt ceiling isn’t raised.”


    Does it matter what the public thinks? I suppose, sure, in one respect, but isn’t that was the CBO or actual analysts are for – to demonstrate whether or not there will be real-life serious consequences for something like that?

  30. Fentwin says:

    The thought that’s been in my head recently is that after a while the serfs are going to get tired of being shat upon by their so called “betters”, and when that happens things are not going to be very pretty.

  31. nicho says:

    Just part of the plan. The last chapter in the corporatist playbook is, “How to deal with the civil unrest that follows.” And it looks like, with wiretapping, NSA spying, drones, thuggish police, and private corporatist mercenary armies, they’ve got that well in hand. The game is pretty much over.

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