I find myself increasingly encountering the term, “public-private partnership.”
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.
Think of Chicago’s parking meter fiasco. From the May 23, 2016, Chicago Sun-Times:
Chicago’s parking-meter system took in $121.7 million last year, while four underground city-owned garages reaped another $34.7 million — with not a penny of that money going to the cash-strapped city government.
Instead, the $156.3 million pot of parking cash went to private investors who control the meters and garages under deals cut by former Mayor Richard M. Daley and rubber-stamped by the City Council. …
Chicago Parking Meters — formed by banking giant Morgan Stanley and other financial partners — paid the city $1.15 billion to manage the meter system and pocket the money fed into it for the next 75 years. ...
i the seven years since, the meter company has reported a total of $778.6 million in revenues.
In the public-private partnership, the private entity rakes it in – and the public is thrown into crisis.
But let us return to VP Pence.
On June 08, 2017, Donald Cohen of In the Public Interest published this post about Pence’ canceling a PBS interview “out of the blue.” It just so happens that a failed public-private partnership connected to Pence was hitting the news. As Cohen writes:
On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence cancelled an interview with PBS out of the blue, provoking speculation. ...
On Monday, the state of Indiana announced it would take control of a troubled highway construction project, Interstate 69, between Bloomington and Martinsville. The contractor, the Spanish firm Insolux Corsan, is facing bankruptcy and had been missing deadlines for months.
Who brought Insolux Corsan to the state? Pence. As governor, he signed a 35-year public-private partnership with the firm in 2014 to finance, construct, and maintain a section of the highway. Pence said it would provide “better value for taxpayers” than if the state used the traditional — and cheaper — method of public financing. But with only half the project completed and taxpayers left cleaning up the mess, one wonders what he’d say now.
Monday also happened to be the kickoff of a weeklong rollout of the Trump administration’s infrastructure plan, which would rely heavily on public-private partnerships. On PBS, Pence was supposed to talk infrastructure — drawing attention to his failed project wouldn’t have been good for business.
Ten years ago, I published “The Shock Doctrine,” a history of the ways in which crises have been systematically exploited over the last half century to further a radical pro-corporate agenda. The book begins and ends with the response to Hurricane Katrina, because it stands as such a harrowing blueprint for disaster capitalism.
That’s relevant because of the central, if little-recalled role played by the man who is now the U.S. vice president, Mike Pence. At the time Katrina hit New Orleans, Pence was chairman of the powerful and highly ideological Republican Study Committee. … Under Pence’s leadership, the group came up with a list of “Pro-Free-Market Ideas for Responding to Hurricane Katrina and High Gas Prices” — 32 policies in all, each one straight out of the disaster capitalism playbook. …
The first three items on the RSC list are “automatically suspend Davis-Bacon prevailing wage laws in disaster areas,” a reference to the law that required federal contractors to pay a living wage; “make the entire affected area a flat-tax free-enterprise zone”; and “make the entire region an economic competitiveness zone (comprehensive tax incentives and waiving of regulations).”
Another demand called for giving parents vouchers to use at charter schools, a move perfectly in line with the vision held by Trump’s pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos. …
Even more striking was the company that FEMA paid $5.2 million to perform the crucial role of building a base camp for emergency workers in St. Bernard Parish, a suburb of New Orleans. The camp construction fell behind schedule and was never completed. ...
After all the layers of subcontractors had taken their cut, there was next to nothing left for the people doing the work. ...“Every level of the contracting food chain, in other words, is grotesquely overfed except the bottom rung,” Davis wrote, “where the actual work is carried out.”
This corruption and abuse is particularly relevant because of Trump’s stated plan to contract out much of his infrastructure spending to private players in so-called public-private partnerships.
What could be more lucrative than using crisis (or manufacturing crisis, if necessary) and combining that fear-instilling atmosphere with a little front-end cash in order to beef up corporate profits?
That, my friends, is a public-private partnership.
In fact, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)– which actively encourages public-private partnerships, including offering model legislation (see here and here and here and here)– will have stalwart voucher promoter, Betsy DeVos, as a featured speaker at its Denver conference in July 2017.
Heads up, America: The sharks are eyeing your public infrastructure.
Longer version originally posted 06-11-17 at deutsch29.wordpress.com.