Category Archives: Federal

Immigrants Are Dying in U.S. Detention Centers. And It Could Get Worse.

Source: Brendan O’Boyle, Americas Quarterly, July 17, 2017

… Trump’s policies are already increasing the number of people held in detention centers, further straining the system. … The administration has signaled its commitment to private prison companies, which also operate immigrant detention centers. This alarms detainee advocates, since five out of the seven detainees who died this year were being held by privately operated providers, and multiple investigations have found privately operated prisons to be more dangerous for inmates. … As it pushes for more detentions, the Trump administration also reportedly has plans to weaken protections for immigrant detainees. …

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Immigrant Deaths in Private Prisons Explode Under Trump
Source: Justin Glawe, Daily Beast, May 30, 2017

Men and women held by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement are on pace to die at double the rate of those who died in ICE custody last year, a Daily Beast review of ICE records found. And most will die in privately run facilities. Eight people have died in ICE custody in the 2017 fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, 2016. That’s almost as many as the 10 who died in the entire 2016 fiscal year. All but one of the deaths this year, and all but two last year, occurred in privately run prisons. Nine of the 18 deaths occurred at facilities run by GEO Group, the nation’s second-largest private prison company. …

The problem with privatizing prisons
Source: Farah Mohammed, Daily JStor, May 15, 2017

… The theory behind private prisons has translated poorly into practice, however, and has been strongly criticized. Studies showed there were minimal savings compared to using public prisons. A scandal involving the murder of an Oklahoma couple by escaped inmates was linked to lax security at their private facility. Another private Ohio prison saw thirteen stabbings, two murders, and six escapes in its initial 14 months.  In 2011, a Court Judge was convicted in a “cash for kids jail scheme,” in which private prisons had paid him to dole out harsh sentences in order to maintain their prison population. … Under Trump, inmate numbers are expected to increase substantially, following a crackdown on illegal immigration and a new insistence on mandatory minimums (where repeat offenders of even non-violent crimes must serve sentences of years). …

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Warning: Trump Administration Wants To Privatize National Park Campsites

Source: James Jimenez, KRWG, July 8, 2017

… U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recently announced that he wants to privatize our national park campsites. There are a lot of problems with this—primarily that prices will very likely be raised. Also, there is generally much less accountability when private companies run government programs. It becomes not only more difficult to determine just how our tax dollars are being spent, but there is also more room for subtle forms of discrimination to take place. By definition privatization means an economic focus on the use of public lands rather than a conservation and equity focus. Sec. Zinke’s desire to privatize public campgrounds is just one small symptom of a bigger illness that has this presidential administration in its grip—the illness of commodifying everything and anything that can, in any way, be made to profit someone. …

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As Trump moves to privatize America’s national parks, visitor costs may rise 
Source: Mary Catherine O’Connor, The Guardian, June 25, 2017 

America’s national parks need a staggering $11.5bn worth of overdue road and infrastructure repairs. But with the proposed National Park Service budget slashed by almost $400m, the Trump administration says it will turn to privatizing public park services to address those deferred maintenance costs. … But some public lands advocates are concerned that privatization would drive up costs for visitors and put the egalitarian nature of visiting a park out of reach for some. … If you’ve visited a national park, especially a busy one, such as Yosemite or Grand Canyon, there is a good chance you’ve patronized a private operator. Concessionaires operate a range of services including lodging, restaurants and transportation – ferries to Alcatraz and Liberty islands, for example. All told, the NPS has issued private concession contracts at 100 places within the park system. In recent years, disagreements over park contracts have led to costly lawsuits for the park service. … It would take a tremendous increase in such contracts to generate enough revenue to help the park system. … But despite his bullishness on infrastructure spending, Trump has proposed cutting the NPS budget by nearly $400m, which will force job cuts. …

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. …

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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. …

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Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Isn’t Much of a Plan

Source: Michael Granof and Martin Luby, Fortune, July 12, 2017

President Donald Trump hasn’t fully outlined his prescription for making American infrastructure great again, but he has called for a major dose of public-private partnerships—also known as P3s. These P3s, he promises, provide “better procurement methods, market discipline and a long-term focus on maintaining assets .” That’s true enough in some cases, but P3s are no cure-all for every public project. Despite the hype, the public-private approach does not provide new funding sources to communities, nor does it work for many types of public projects. …

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World Offers Cautionary Tale for Trump’s Infrastructure Plan
Source:Peter S. Goodman, New York Times, June 16, 2017
 
The rest of the planet bears a warning for President Trump’s plan to lean heavily on private business in conjuring a trillion dollars’ worth  of American infrastructure: Handing profit-making companies responsibility for public works can produce trouble.  In India, politically connected firms have captured contracts on the strength of relationships with officialdom, yielding defective engineering at bloated prices. When Britain handed control to private companies to upgrade London’s subway system more than a decade ago, the result was substandard, budget-busting work, prompting the government to step back in. Canada has suffered a string of excessive costs on public projects funneled through the private sector, like a landmark bridge in Vancouver and hospitals in Ontario. …

Editorial: Public Works, Private Benefit
Source: New York Times, June 9, 2017
 
President Trump’s infrastructure plan is turning out to be a mirage. He had talked about a $1 trillion, 10-year effort. But the White House now proposes allocating only $200 billion, which would come from cutting aid to states and localities and giving it to Wall Street investors as tax credits, which it hopes will attract $800 billion in investment for big projects that would turn a profit through tolls and user fees. … But most of the nation’s unmet infrastructure needs involve smaller projects to operate, maintain and upgrade — not only highways, but also water, sewer and other systems that are of no interest to private investors.

Donald Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Faces an Urban-Rural Divide in Congress
Source: Ted Mann, Wall Street Journal, June 8, 2017
 
President Donald Trump’s plan to tap the private sector to rebuild $1 trillion worth of roads, bridges and rails has encountered an early problem: geography.  The administration says it will rely on private investors to supply the vast majority of cash to support a decadelong infrastructure rebuilding effort. But members of Congress from rural areas are wary.  That is because private investors are looking for infrastructure projects that throw off steady streams of revenue, from which they derive their profits, and those tend to be found near population centers. … Support from Republicans, many who represent rural areas, will be crucial in getting a large infrastructure package through the GOP-led Congress, since many Democrats have said they would oppose efforts to rely on tolls, rather than federal aid, to pay for building projects.

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America’s public housing crisis may worsen with Trump budget

Source: Lawrence Vale, Associated Press, July 12, 2017
 
… As someone who has spent 25 years researching and writing about the travails of public housing in the U.S., I had this immediate thought: Could the same thing happen here?  Various commentators have pointed out that American regulations require sprinklers and do not permit the use of cladding materials with combustible plastic cores in high-rise structures.  Yet while the facades of American public housing may be less flammable, the system suffers from a toxic convergence of long-deferred maintenance, squeezed budgets and cost-cutting measures. Privatization policies, deeply rooted suspicions about the character of public housing residents and long-term inattention all threaten the capacity of stigmatized low-income families to remain in their homes. …

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Ben Carson reckons with proposed HUD budget cuts
Source: Jonathan Easley, The Hill, June 30, 2017

… Now, as HUD secretary, Carson controls the $46 billion government agency that oversees housing for the poor. President Trump’s proposed 2018 budget would cut HUD spending by $6 billion. “We will use whatever resources we have very efficiently,” Carson said. “The other thing to keep in mind is that the traditional view of HUD and government is we ride in on a white horse with a bucket of money … and go off to the next thing,” he continued. “That particular model has led us to the point where we have three to four times as many people in need of affordable housing and it’s getting worse.” Carson, who had no experience in government before becoming HUD secretary, is grappling with decisions about which programs to keep, which to shutter, and how to improve the ones that remain. …

Carson: HUD will focus on public, private sectors partnerships
Source: Mallory Shelbourne, The Hill, April 26, 2017

Ben Carson, President Trump’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), said in a new interview that his forthcoming agenda will promote partnerships between the public and private sectors.   “The biggest tools are the partnerships — public, private, nonprofit and faith community partnerships — which allow us to leverage those federal dollars …” Carson told The Associated Press in an interview published Wednesday. …  

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Trump changes higher ed with rollback of Obama-era consumer protections

Source: Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Washington Post, July 9, 2017
 
Step by step, the Trump administration is walking back policies and rules in higher education that its predecessor said were needed to protect students who rely on federal funding to pursue a degree. … Through the first half of the year, the department led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has withdrawn, delayed or announced plans to revamp more than a half dozen Obama-era measures involving federal student aid. …

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Betsy DeVos delays 2 Obama-era rules designed to protect students from predatory for-profit colleges
Source: Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, June 14, 2017
 
The Trump administration is suspending two key rules from the Obama administration that were intended to protect students from predatory for-profit colleges, saying it will soon start the process to write its own regulations.  The move made Wednesday by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was a victory for Republican lawmakers and for-profit colleges that had lobbied against the rules. Critics denounced it, accusing the administration of essentially selling out students to help for-profit colleges stay in business.

Trump’s Administration Is Making It Easier for For-Profit Colleges to Screw Over More Students
Source: Michelle Chen, The Nation, March 31, 2017
 
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s controversial pick for a special assistant—for-profit college corporate lawyer Robert Eitel, may be a portent. As counsel for Bridgepoint, the parent company of the now-tainted brands of Ashford University and University of the Rockies, was forced by the Obama administration last year to refund $24 million in tuition and debt costs to students, plus civil damages, after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that its heavy marketing scheme for its online programs, and “deceived its students into taking out loans that cost more than advertised.” …

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Trump’s air traffic overhaul faces bumpy skies

Source: Brianna Gurciullo and Lauren Gardner, Politico, July 9, 2017
 
A month after Trump offered his public support in a White House speech, the proposal to split up the Federal Aviation Administration still faces opposition from rural interests, small-plane owners and key Republicans in Congress, where the to-do list for returning lawmakers is piled high with big tasks like repealing Obamacare and rewriting the tax code.

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AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders on FAA Privatization Bill
Source: AFSCME Press Release, June 23, 2017
 
AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders issued the following statement on the FAA privatization bill released Thursday: “AFSCME is strongly opposed to inefficient and risky efforts to privatize the nation’s air traffic control operations. Air traffic safety must be our chief concern and that requires responsible governmental control and continued strong oversight. AFSCME cannot support the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization legislation now pending in the House of Representatives. “The bill, as introduced, has the potential to threaten safe and efficient air travel for many Americans, to significantly weaken the economy, and to harm the committed federal workforce that is dedicated to the safe and efficient aviation all Americans deserve and expect. Congress must reject this risky plan.”

House unveils latest bill to privatize air-traffic control
Source: Bart Jansen, USA Today, June 21, 2017
 
A House chairman unveiled his latest proposal Wednesday to move air-traffic control out of the Federal Aviation Administration and to a non-profit corporation governed by industry stakeholders, setting off a contentious debate that will play out through the fall.  Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said the change would allow faster, more efficient modernization of the system from ground-based radar to satellite-based GPS. Strong support from President Trump and airlines, along with changes to the corporation’s board and for general-aviation, improved the bill’s chances from a similar proposal last year, he said.

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Teachers union leader: We won’t work with Trump and DeVos because ‘I do not trust their motives’

Source: Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, July 3, 2017
 
The president of the country’s largest labor union, Lily Eskelsen García of the National Education Association, told delegates at her organization’s annual gathering that they would not work with the Trump administration because the president and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos could not be trusted to do what is in the best interests of children.  Eskelsen García just addressed the 96th NEA Representative Assembly meeting in Boston, accusing President Trump of residing “at the dangerous intersection of arrogance and ignorance” and labeled DeVos as “the queen of for-profit privatization of public education.”

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Interviews for Resistance: On the Commodification of Education
Source: Sarah Jaffe, In These Times, May 18, 2017
 
What has been happening in education over the last 20-30 years—people talk a lot about the prison-industrial complex and about the pharmaceutical-industrial complex, but folks don’t talk enough about the educational-industrial complex. Education is where all these things come together and that is what we have been having for the last 20-something years is an educational-industrial complex where you have all these businesses come in trying to provide a service and really privatize education, which is our last public good. …

This is the new Betsy DeVos speech everyone should read
Source: Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, May 16, 2017
 
The Michigan billionaire appeared at the 2017 annual technology and innovation conference in Salt Lake City sponsored by Arizona State University and Global Silicon Valley, delivering a speech and answering questions from Jeanne Allen of the nonprofit Center for Education Reform, who, as Liz Willen, editor of the Hechinger Report, said in this column, “threw one softball after another, such as: “What would you say to people about technology?” … What she talked mostly about, though, is what she always talks about — school choice — and she renewed previous attacks she has made on the value of government and public schools. If anybody thought that having the responsibility of running the entire Education Department would broaden her scope, this speech should disabuse them of that.

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Betsy DeVos Picked A Student Loan CEO To Run The Student Loan System

Source: Molly Hensley-Clancy, Buzzfeed News, June 20, 2017
 
When the Trump administration announced its pick to run the $1.3 trillion federal student loan system on Tuesday, there was one notable thing about the candidate that wasn’t mentioned in the press release: He’s the CEO of a private student loan company.  The Education Department’s statement described A. Wayne Johnson as the “Founder, Chairman and former CEO” of a payments technology company called First Performance Corporation. … But what wasn’t noted was Johnson is currently the CEO of Reunion Student Loan Services, a detail confirmed by a company representative reached by phone on Tuesday afternoon. Reunion originates and services private student loans, and offers refinancing and consolidation for existing loans. …

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Betsy DeVos undoes Obama’s student loan protections
Source: Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Chicago Tribune, April 11, 2017

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday withdrew a series of policy memos issued by the Obama administration to strengthen consumer protections for student loan borrowers.  The Education Department is in the middle of issuing new contracts to student loan servicing companies that collect payments on behalf of the agency. These middlemen are responsible for placing borrowers in affordable repayment plans and keeping them from defaulting on their loans. But in the face of mounting consumer complaints over poor communication, mismanaged paperwork and delays in processing payments, the previous administration included contract requirements to shore up the quality of servicing. Companies complained that the demands would be expensive and unnecessarily time consuming. … DeVos has withdrawn three memos issued by former education secretary John King and his under secretary Ted Mitchell. One of the directives, which was later updated with another memo, called on Runcie to hold companies accountable for borrowers receiving accurate, consistent and timely information about their debt. … The Obama administration requested routine audits of records, systems, complaints and a compliance-review process. … The exhaustive list of demands were a direct response to an outpouring of complaints to the Education Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB, in particular, has documented instances of servicing companies providing inconsistent information, misplacing paperwork or charging unexpected fees. Because the federal government pays hundreds of millions of dollars to companies such as Navient, Great Lakes and American Education Services to manage $1.2 trillion in student loans, advocacy groups and lawmakers argue that more should be required of these contractors. …

Federal Student Loan Servicing: Contract Problems and Public Solutions
Source: Eric M. Fink, Roland Zullo, Elon University School of Law, University of Michigan, June 2014

One consequence of the 2007–2008 financial crisis was an abrupt shift from bank-based to direct federal student loans. This momentous change required the Department of Education to rapidly establish the capacity to service loans, which was achieved by outsourcing this responsibility to four large for-profit firms and a group of smaller regional entities. Loan servicing involves routine payment processing, account management and borrower communication, as well as the non-routine yet more labor intensive role of assisting borrowers that face hardship with debt repayment. Borrowers have expressed dissatisfaction with the present system. Complaints jumped significantly in the first two years of the loan servicing contracts and remain at historic highs. Several factors contribute to this increase, including the lackluster job market for graduates. However, upon close inspection it appears that loan servicers bear part of the blame for neglecting their responsibility to counsel borrowers with distressed loans. The Student Loan Ombudsman’s Office of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau has issued several reports that further validate this assertion. To understand why the system is underperforming, we draw attention to the public-private contract. A question for any public-private contract is whether the incentives within are adequate to encourage contractor behavior consistent with the mission of the service. In our review of the contract terms, we conclude that the incentives to reduce operational costs far outweigh the incentives to be responsive to the needs of borrowers…This case illustrates the inherent limitations of a performance-based contract as an administrative tool. Regardless of design, contractors will strive to minimize operational commitment to any labor-intensive task, in this instance attending to the personal needs of borrowers….

Trump Labor secretary tells G-20: More apprenticeships in US

Source: Laurie Kellman, Associated Press, May 18, 2017
 
U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta is making public-private apprenticeships his debut issue as President Donald Trump’s point man on matching American workers with specific jobs. … The declaration, and a new campaign of tweets on the subject, represent the first indication since Acosta’s swearing-in three weeks ago that apprenticeships are at the core of the Trump administration’s plans to train a new generation of workers.  The discussion of apprenticeships is a relatively new one for Trump, who campaigned for the White House on promises to restore manufacturing jobs that he said had been lost to flawed trade deals and unfair competition from China, Mexico and more. But it’s not new to policymakers of either party or the private sector, whose leaders have for years run apprenticeship programs. … There’s also evidence of rare bipartisan agreement, at least on the value of apprenticeships, which generally combine state and federal government money with support from universities and companies looking to train people for specific jobs. In some cases, students split their time between school and work, and the companies pay some portion of wages and tuition. The budget compromise funding the federal government through September passed this month with $95 million for apprenticeship grants, an increase of $5 million — in part to increase the number of women apprentices. …