Privatization Is Changing America’s Relationship With Its Physical Stuff

Source: Brian Alexander, The Atlantic, July 12, 2017
 
… As vague as Trump’s pronouncements have been on the matter, it is clear that the general thrust behind the promised building-and-repair push involves using federal dollars as up-front investment to entice private enterprises to provide most of the financing. While Democrats announced their opposition, the general idea of increased privatization of infrastructure has had a bipartisan cast. President Obama supported a plan to create an “infrastructure bank” that would help finance so-called public-private partnerships (known, for their alliteration, as P3s), but that idea fizzled under the glare of Republican opposition. He also floated the idea of selling off the Tennessee Valley Authority. …

Related:

Selling Back To The Public What It Already Owned: ‘Public-Private Partnership’ Shark Bait
Source: Mercedes Schneider, Huffington Post, June 12, 2017
 
Today, I read two articles centered on this idea, both of which concerned Vice President Mike Pence – and one that concerned Pence’s role in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  One article also included a sprinkling of US secretary of [privatized] education, Betsy DeVos.  A major goal of corporate education reform is to deliver public education to private entities (corporations, or even nonprofits, but don’t think that an entity termed “nonprofit” cannot be a handsome money dispenser for those running the nonprofit and doling out contracts). However, the extreme-right-Republican aim does not end with public education but with delivering the operation of the entire American infrastructure to private entities.  In the end, what this entails is having private corporations front money to state and local governments in order to lease back to the public what the public already owns.

How President Trump Might Carry The Torch Of Privatization
Source: Here & Now, WBUR, May 8, 2017

… Now President Trump is poised to continue privatization and private contracting in all kinds of industries, from education to incarceration. Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson looks at the history and politics of privatization with Donald Cohen and Shahrzad Habibi of the group In The Public Interest. …


The Incoming Privatization Assault
Source: Jeremy Mohler and Donald Cohen, American Prospect, April 24, 2017

Trump’s signature brand of wheeling and dealing fits neatly in the recent tradition of running government “like a business.” For decades, the corporate world has increasingly become the exemplar of good governance, and the market has come to stand for economic efficiency. These claims have fed into a trend of creeping privatization, which has weakened democratic public control over public goods, expanded corporate power, and widened economic and political inequality. Some of this trend has been driven by the desire to save public funds, and some of it by pure ideology. … With the Trump presidency and Republican control of Congress, privatization will drastically accelerate—from privatized infrastructure and private prisons to voucherized schools and Medicaid or Medicare. Despite claims of greater efficiency, the reality is usually higher fees and costs, reduced services, lower wages, and loss of public control. The essence of a public service is cross-subsidy. Free or low-cost provision of water and sewer service, public transit, public education, and public parks tends to help lower-income people, based on the premise that these are basic public goods. …

Can the government save money by privatizing prisons, Medicare and other functions?
Source: Richard Lachmann, The Conversation, March 2, 2017

Should we run the government like a business? Donald Trump seems to think so. … If appointing businesspeople to run government is a path to efficiency, as Trump believes, then privatizing governmental functions entirely should bring even greater budget savings and improvements in services. … We can expect more efforts to privatize government functions and facilities under Trump. … How should we evaluate proposals to privatize government functions? First, we shouldn’t assume that lower costs means more efficiency. It will be easy to develop a replacement for the Affordable Care Act that is cheaper. Just provide fewer benefits or make the insured pay more out of pocket or in premiums. That is not more efficient, but just a less comprehensive program. The government would save money, but patients get less while paying more.  Second, not everything can be reduced to a price. … Finally, we need to recognize that people who have spent their careers working in the private sector, where the single measure of success is the rate of profit, might not be capable of running an organization that measures success in terms of human well-being, public health or the beauty and sustainability of our environment. …

Opinion: How elites profit from the myth of American bankruptcy
Related: Harry Stein, MarketWatch, February 27, 2017

After years of hysterical warnings about a “looming fiscal crisis” from deficits under President Barack Obama, Republican leaders in Congress are suddenly willing to increase deficits for President Donald Trump. This deficit flip-flop is certainly hypocritical, but it also obscures the true nature of the threat posed by Trump. … The primary threat is not that America will go broke; it is that America’s fiscal strength will be wasted and abused. Trump and his allies in Congress are poised to privatize America’s fiscal strength to further enrich a wealthy few and give corporations more power over ordinary Americans. … Corporations would be further empowered by several of Trump’s fiscal policies. Private companies are already jockeying for contracts to build Trump’s border wall — a project that will likely to use eminent domain to seize land from its current owners. According to the conservative Daily Caller, “defense contractors couldn’t be happier” about potential profits from Trump’s military buildup. And privatization is also at the core of the infrastructure plans touted by Trump and some in Congress.

This Is How the Republican Party Plans to Destroy the Federal Government
Source: Herbert J. Gans, The Nation, February 13, 2017

… Today, however, President Trump is pursuing a radical shrinkage of the federal government that comes close to overthrowing it entirely. The goal of this project: to leave the country with a minuscule government that is basically an appendage to private enterprise. Call it the Overthrow Project.  The essence of the Overthrow Project is familiar: to reduce taxes on the very rich, free the business community from taxes and regulations that interfere with its money-making, and subsidize that community with public funds. In addition, the Overthrow Project aims to privatize as many governmental activities as possible. Left for government is the maintenance of the remaining public infrastructure that enables private enterprise to operate efficiently and safely, as well as the assurance of public safety through ever-higher funding of the military, the homeland-security apparatus, the police, and other forces of so called law and order. …

The total or partial privatization projects now being implemented will target public education and the Veterans Affairs department, as well as Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, and other entitlement programs. Another attempt to divert part of Social Security to Wall Street can be expected. The further privatization of public lands, including in the national parks, is already being discussed. Existing privatized institutions, such as prisons and the military will undoubtedly be expanded. Private contractors have already taken over many of the military’s support functions. The possible elimination of cabinet departments and other federal agencies would generate additional privatization to replace some of the goods and services these have provided. A number of Trump’s cabinet secretaries and other top officials were chosen because they are intent on privatizing major government programs in the agencies they are to lead. Several have clearly been picked in order to decimate and perhaps eliminate their agencies. … Should the Overthrow Project be successful, government’s role would be limited to enforcing the rules and regulations for the newly privatized enterprises. … The business community would probably have government subsidize privatized public functions that supply what were once public goods. In fact, GOP ideology, which treats the market to as America’s dominant institution, suggests that additional institutions supplying public goods are eligible for eventual privatization. …

Trump’s Transition Team Is Stacked With Privatization Enthusiasts
Source: David Dayen, The Nation, December 28, 2016

In the Public Interest, a research organization monitoring privatization, has compiled a list of 32 different members of the Trump transition team or formal nominees for top agencies who have either close ties to privatization groups, or demonstrated support for the philosophy. If these officials get their way—and there’s no reason to think they won’t—America’s schools, roads, air-traffic-control systems, prisons, immigrant-detention centers, and critical social-insurance programs will soon fall into private hands. “Donald Trump ran on improving the lives of working families, yet he’s surrounding himself with people that want to line the pockets of corporations and the politically connected,” said Donald Cohen, executive director of In the Public Interest, in a statement. The list includes Vice President-elect Mike Pence, a leader of ultimately unsuccessful efforts to privatize Social Security during the Bush administration, along with high-profile cabinet picks like education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos (a known advocate of steering public money to private charter schools), health and human services selection Tom Price (whose relentless advocacy for the privatization of Medicare is well-documented), and defense secretary James Mattis (recipient of almost $1 million in compensation as a board member of major defense contractor General Dynamics).

Here are 4 government programs Trump’s team wants to privatize
Source: VERA BERGENGRUEN, Sacramento Bee, December 1, 2016

Donald Trump was not the kind of presidential candidate who lays out the finer details of his policies on the campaign trail. Now, as the president-elect assembles his government, the people he is choosing to run it provide a clearer picture of the policies his administration will pursue. Among them are a lot of plans to privatize government programs, including Medicare, services provided by the Veterans Affairs department, college loans and infrastructure projects. …

… Trump’s pick to head the Health and Human Services Department, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., has championed privatizing the Medicare program for seniors and disabled people. Last month, Price said he expected the House to push forward with Medicare privatization “within the first six to eight months” of Trump’s administration. This could happen through the budget reconciliation process, which would allow the Senate to pass the plan through a simple majority that could not be blocked by filibuster. Price’s “Empowering Patients First Act” calls for providing tax credits, based on age rather than income, to help purchase private health insurance. …

… Trump’s transition is being advised by Concerned Veterans for America, a small, conservative organization backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch, who have long supported privatizing veterans’ healthcare. Trump reportedly met with with Pete Hegseth, who served as the group’s CEO until January this year, about the job of Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Another person Trump is considering for the position, retiring House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., has also worked closely with the CVA. …

… Trump’s choice to head the Department of Commerce, financier Wilbur Ross, has proposed a plan to privatize infrastructure improvements. It would create $1 trillion worth of new infrastructure through federal tax credits to construction companies to build new toll roads, toll bridges and other projects that create revenue. The Trump administration would entice private companies to invest $167 billion of their own equity into projects in return for a tax incentive equal to 82 percent of that investment – or roughly $137 billion in government tax breaks. …

… The Trump campaign indicated that it wanted to remove the government from student loans by overhauling the federal aid system and shifting lending to the private sector. It would return college loans to the way they worked before President Bill Clinton and Obama moved them from private lenders to the federal government. In May, Trump’s policy director Sam Clovis told Inside Higher Education that the Trump administration would have private banks lend the money to students instead. …