Monday, June 6, 2016

Public-Private Partnerships...

...or, a marriage made in hell

I just looked up "public-private partnerships" and imagine my surprise to find that it is such a thing that it is also known as "3P."  If you'd like to read more about it, expect that you will have to look long and hard before you find critiques.

Selling business as the solution to the problem of government had been simmering for a couple of decades before Reagan took up the banner.  The original scheme was thunk up in response to the mid-twentieth century anti-business sentiment, which was provoked, of course, by the greed and corruption inherent in business.

In the mid-70's we went from a strong middle-class (white of course) with good jobs and benefits and plenty of plenty, to the shock of gas lines and shortages of anything from beef to those icky green candies that go into fruitcakes.  We were terrified.  And business, as usual, stepped in to encourage our terror and generously offer to fix the problems that had been created by, well, unions and an overly generous government.

Reagan may have been an idiot, but he was an eloquent idiot.  We who were there remember:

"In this present crisis, government is not the solution to the problem; government is the problem."

"The most terrifying words in the English language are:  I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

"I don't believe in a government that protects us from ourselves."

Those corporations, once smarting from government regulation and the pressure from unions to treat workers fairly, saw their opportunity.  Government was wasting our money.  Government wasn't working.  Government was too big.  Government interfered with our good -- American -- capitalist system.

Just as desperate, angry people are now jumping up on the Donald Trump bandwagon, the promise of lower taxes, more jobs and the opportunity for wealth created the Reagan presidency.  But that did not make government smaller.  While taxes on the wealthy (job creators) shrunk, government services were either cut or due to drastic budget cuts, withered and became ineffective.  The more ineffective became government, the more powerful and demanding became corporate interests.

The government, in order to survive, went a-begging.

These days, we have all learned that in order to function at all, we need to beg corporations to please let us dance with them.  But the saddest part of this sick relationship is that we have been taught to believe that the corporate "sponsor" is the good guy, and that is what is saving us from government incompetence, overspending and waste.  Oh, and higher taxes.

Republicans and Democrats share the responsibility for this.  Democrats may push through programs to improve the quality of our lives -- schools, health care, housing -- but it is those capitalist interests that prevent the budget for the service to be adequate, and force the government to accept the conditions of the corporation.  AND to pay a premium for the privilege.

Government contracts mean big profits.  And republican legislators protect those contracts from any type of government regulation or restriction.

Our own Tim Scott recently bragged about voting for benefits for veterans.  What he did not say is that the bill he supported had the condition that the budget increase would mean a decrease in funds for another program.  And by that, he did not mean cuts to corporate entitlements.

A few years ago, in 2013, I turned on C-Span to a House committee meeting.  At that time, so many unemployed due to the recession caused by Wall Street malfeasance and Bush administration policies, were still unable to find jobs.  This subcommittee was working on whether to extend long-term emergency unemployment benefits, which had been created in 2008.  The geniuses on the republican side were absolutely against raising the deficit by extending the benefits without a cut to offset the expense.  The Democrats suggested that this could be offset easily by closing an egregious tax loophole, one that all claimed should be closed.  Except that the republicans refused to consider it at that time.  Because, as with gun loopholes, there is never a good time to close tax loopholes.

And yet it is the Democrats that get the blame, still, against all evidence, for excessive government spending.  And corporations continue to be hailed as job creators, even as they cut jobs, cut benefits, squeeze unions and outright move to countries where labor is nearly free and conditions unregulated.  Trump a hero?  Could only happen because we have been fed this crap for so many decades we have lost sight of the reality.

With Elizabeth Warren's ascent into the limelight, we finally have someone who is pointing out the obvious fact that the emperor has no clothes, that corporations are not our friend.  Bernie Sanders' popularity speaks to the fact that we have all been waiting for someone to face down the greedy and powerful corporation.

Meanwhile, ads on school buses and naming rights to national parks (which have defensively explained that it would only be benches... and anything else where a sign can be planted) continue to pummel our senses.  Corporations claim that by naming stadiums and monuments they are just helping out by lowering costs, but what a deal.  The government pays to have it built, Dunkin' Donuts slaps its name on it for a small sum and gets the free advertising for the life of the building.

A great deal also in that we the people see the product name and assume they actually paid for the building and isn't that wonderful?

As the income gap stubbornly refuses to shrink, we will wear advertisements on our cars (I have seen a few this year) as well as on our clothes.  In fact, if you think about it as you walk around, there is not much in our lives that is not contaminated by advertisement.  Television is a horror, with nearly more ads than programming, but the same ads repeated over and over and over.

But our government contract with business is particularly horrifying, because it keeps government from doing the job it should be doing.  Government should be protecting our individual rights, leveling the playing field, protecting our environment, keeping us safe.  But with arms manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies wielding the checkbook to willing legislators, we have become servants of hungry and powerful masters, and we have been told that we had better be appreciative.  Because we are so much better off than we would be if government was truly in charge.

1 comment:

  1. Terrific blog post!! Good message, well said. And the whole thing is scary as hell.