Fred’s Focus: Privatizing America

Picture this: “The Half Dome in Yosemite” brought to you by Goldman Sachs. Sound ridiculous?

Sure it does, but it may not be too long until you see commercial ads in our national parks. Turning to big business for revenue is the only option they will have after years of a of starved income under a Republican controlled Congress.

The Public Goods Institute at Tufts University has cited the looming commercialization of our parks and other public property. Sadly, the Institute stands virtually alone in tracking this trend.

With an all Republican government about to take power, the decades long attempt by far right politicians and businessmen to privatize government programs is about to go into high gear. For them, they stars aligned after the election. But why is the Republican Party so anxious to privatize government public services? There are several reasons.

Of course, one reason is a party philosophy that the government can do nothing right and the private sector can do nothing wrong. This simplistic thinking holds despite evidence over decades showing the opposite. Conservative guru Milton Friedman wrote that in a private company: “there is one and only one social responsibility of business–to use it resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits.”

There is ample evidence that big business does this no matter how the public is hurt. How many businesses have put profits ahead of the safety of Americans? Automobile companies have a dismal record in this area. At Harvard, Michael Sandel uses the case of an American automaker who concluded that it would cost more to do recalls in cars because of a safety defect than to pay lawsuits resulting from injuries and deaths. It followed a corporate line: let people die instead of saving lives and losing profits. Let that sink in.

And now, President-elect Trump has already started the process. His infrastructure plan is based on a public-private partnership in which the federal government gives tax breaks to companies to conduct infrastructure projects. The companies retain the right to all future profits and according to one estimate, would be liable for merely $35 million in expenses of $1 billion. Your tax dollars would supply the rest. Economic Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman says it is a scam and Bloomberg News agrees.

President-elect Trump’s Education Secretary nominee is a champion of charter schools and has been charged with leading an effort that has resulted in reduced funds for public education in Michigan. This all while the charter schools she championed performed below average – is this the beginning of how education in the US will look overall?

There’s more.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has long promoted the privatization of Medicare through use of vouchers. The long term result? Of course more and more seniors will find they do not have government aid for the needed healthcare. But of course, Speaker Ryan, together with President-elect Trump, would have the pleasure of boasting cutting corporate and high-worth individual taxes at the expense of these seniors.

As the seniors find their healthcare cut, they might also find their social security has been privatized. Remember President George W. Bush’s attempt to have Social Security funds handed over – at least in part – to Wall Street? This was right before the 2007 crash.

The list goes on. Tobacco companies hid for years the negative impact of smoking and today push e-cigarette smoking to young people in low income areas. The New York Times reported the industry is repeatedly assisted by the US Chamber of Commerce.

And yet politicians like Speaker Ryan, supported by the US Chamber, will push the idea of letting private business (that have profit as a sole motive) take charge of the education, healthcare, and the wealth of millions of Americans. Businesses would of course reap enormous profits from taking over these government services and they would certainly provide big time money to the politicians that helped them gain these markets. Bonus: when they leave offices, the supporting politicians would find their way eased by high paying lobbying jobs for Wall Street, for profit schools, postal service, etc.,

A win-win for everyone – excluding of course American seniors, veterans, kids, minorities, and every American voter who wishes for their vote to matter.

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