Parking meters and prisons: Top six privatization horror stories…


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From DailyKos

[Privatizing government business services means losing local democratic control to corporations and loss of local jobs. We have recently learned that our own Ukiah business licensing has been outsourced to a company in Atlanta. Why? More efficient and cheaper and non-union? Lowering the budget to save overpaid management?… -DS]

Selling public resources to private companies for them to profit off of is a hot trend in cities and states—not all of them controlled by Republicans, either. Privatization deals affecting everything from parking meters to child welfare to public water systems are often negotiated in secret, carried out with little oversight, and subject to massive cost overruns and corruption. The sordid story of Chicago’s parking meters has to be a top entry in any “worst privatization stories” competition. Rick Perlstein laid out the ugly details in The Nation a couple months back:

Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2008 struck a deal with the investment consortium Chicago Parking Meters LLC, or CPM, that included Morgan Stanley, Allianz Capital Partners and, yes, the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Abu Dhabi, to privatize our meters. The price of parking—and the intensity of enforcement—skyrocketed. The terms were negotiated in secret. City Council members got two days to study the billion-dollar, seventy-five-year contract before signing off on it. An early estimate from the Chicago inspector general was that the city had sold off its property for about half of what it was worth.

Transition: The Power of the Powerless…


tFrom The Picket Line

(Why does seemingly every corporate headquarters, hotel, school, and so on in the U.S. have the stars and stripes flying on a big pole not far from the front door? When people visit the U.S. from other countries they often remark how weird it is to see the flag everywhere instead of primarily on certain government buildings. Is this because American corporations, or foreign corporations with offices here, are especially enthusiastic about the flag? Or is it because nobody wants to be the target of some Fox News two-minutes hate about being insufficiently patriotic — that is, insufficiently subservient to the ruling ideology? Why do sporting events open with the national anthem, and what do you think would happen if you stayed seated when it played?)

I recently read Václav Havel’s essay on “The Power of the Powerless.” I thought I was going to be rereading it, but I realized that what I had read before was only excerpts. Today I’m going to summarize and paraphrase and riff on the full essay for a bit. It’s a fascinating and surprising piece of work and I think it has useful lessons for us today.

The context for the essay is Czechoslovakia in 1978. The country had been behind the Iron Curtain for thirty years, and ten years had passed since the brief experiment in political liberalization known as the “Prague Spring” which had been quickly stopped by a Soviet-led invasion.

Havel was a Czech playwright with international renown

Overthrow the Speculators…


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From CHRIS HEDGES
Truthdig

Money, as Karl Marx lamented, plays the largest part in determining the course of history. Once speculators are able to concentrate wealth into their hands they have, throughout history, emasculated government, turned the press into lap dogs and courtiers, corrupted the courts and hollowed out public institutions, including universities, to justify their looting and greed. Today’s speculators have created grotesque financial mechanisms, from usurious interest rates on loans to legalized accounting fraud, to plunge the masses into crippling forms of debt peonage. They steal staggering sums of public funds, such as the $85 billion of mortgage-backed securities and bonds, many of them toxic, that they unload each month on the Federal Reserve in return for cash. And when the public attempts to finance public-works projects they extract billions of dollars through wildly inflated interest rates.

Speculators at megabanks or investment firms such as Goldman Sachs are not, in a strict sense, capitalists. They do not make money from the means of production. Rather, they ignore or rewrite the law—ostensibly put in place to protect the vulnerable from the powerful—to steal from everyone, including their shareholders. They are parasites. They feed off the carcass of industrial capitalism. They produce nothing. They make nothing. They just manipulate money. Speculation in the 17th century was a crime. Speculators were hanged.