Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
National Wave of Privatization Scandals and Disasters Ignored By Media, Concealed From Public

The total absence of local journalism in many markets, and the fixation of what news reporting there is on a handful of crime and celebrity stories helps conceal from the public the real price of global empire and the Wall Street Bailout, or how the privatization measures widely undertaken by state and local governments to relieve their financial pressure have been a cavalcade of corruption, a cascade of scandal and failure that make the rich even richer and the rest of us... well, you know....

National Wave of Privatization Scandals and Disasters Ignored By Media, Concealed From Public

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

The real costs of the $17 trillion bankster bailout, along with the untold trillions more spent for wars in the Middle East and America's global empire have come home. States and counties can no longer pay for the ordinary functions of government. Cities and towns can't repair streets and bridges, maintain water systems or fund libraries. Since the war and the bailouts are massively unpopular, you could say the ultimate cause of it all is a lack of democracy.

But the solution local and state governments, encouraged by Wall Street and the business class automatically reach for is even less democratic, and far more costly. That so-called solution is privatization of public assets and even the core functions of government.

The public policy information clearinghouse ProgressiveStates.Org has released another update to its ongoing series of analyses on the evils of privatization, including accounts of recent privatization disasters, accounts of some of the true costs of these boondoggles, sweetheart deals and outright thefts, the positive steps some cities and states are taking to undue and prevent future privatizations, along with research tips and talking points for local groups trying to keep public assets functioning and public.

In a political system where the careers of politicians who award and renew the privatization contracts are financed by campaign contributions of the business class, corruption in privatized contracts is automatic and absolute. When politicians sit down to do the deal with contractor/contributors, there's never anybody at the table, or even in the building looking out for the public interest. The result is a never-ending string of privatization-related fraudulent claims, scandals and civic disasters, most of which are ignored by the mainstream news outside the local areas in which they occur.

Thus highway and welfare privatizations in Indiana and Texas, where IBM got itself paid billions of tax dollars to lose records, introduce bureaucratic delays and deny benefits to needy people are practically unknown outside the media markets in which they happened. Likewise with Chicago's 75 year giveaway of its downtown underground garages and parking meters for more than a billion less than their actual worth, a deal the mayor moved through the City Council in only two days. Citizens are of course, suing the city in the attempt to reverse the deal.

But whether we're talking zoos or libraries, custodial services or  youth shelters, , ambulance services, airports, payroll and benefits administration, workmens' comp, elementary and high schools, construction engineering jobs,or entire transit networks privatizations strip assets from the public domain which taxpayers have invested in, sometimes for generations. Privatizations make the assets and their operational data which used to belong to and be operated in the interest of the many, the private property of the few, no longer subject to public scrutiny or oversight. Privatizations are thefts of public assets, pure and simple, which is why they are invariably championed by business schools and chambers of commerce. They make the rich richer, and the rest of us, well, you know.

For more information on what privatizations may be happening in your neck of the woods and how to fight them, visit progressivestates.org.

For Black Agenda Report, this is Bruce Dixon. On the web you can find us at www.blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20091028_bd_privatizations.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 10:09am EDT

State and Local Democrats From California to New York:  The Standup Party, or the Party of Excuses?

For some time now, many have wondered when or if Congress and the president would ever stand up against Wall Street, the insurance companies, the militarists, gentrifiers and privatizing vampires, and what it might take to make them do it. But if Democrats don't stand up at the state and local level for the interests of ordinary people, why should we expect Democrats in Congress or the White House to be profiles in courage?

State and Local Democrats From California to New York: The Standup Party, or the Party of Excuses?

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

When a kidnapper takes hostages and threatens to murder them all unless demands are met, do the good guys arrive and say, OK, OK, we will meet your demands, or maybe half your demands, and you can kill half the hostages? If they do this of course, we have to conclude they are not exactly good guys, and they haven't ridden to anybody's rescue.

When California Republicans earlier this year proposed the cutting of thousands of state jobs, the end of home health care, payless paydays for state and municipal workers, the end to (relative) guarantees of clean water and uncontaminated food and dozens of other vital services, service cuts that cost the literal lives of Californians did that state's Democrats stand up and ride to the rescue? Of course they didn't.

The solution of California Democrats was to propose the same cuts as the Republicans, only a third to half as deep. And that was an initial bargaining position, they were prepared to go higher if need be. They told voters, and the Republicans OK, shoot half the hostages and we can live with it. OK, OK, maybe sixty percent of the hostages but this is as high as we go, absolutely. This is not a heroic picture. This is not a profile in courage. This is not a Democratic party standing up for the interest of ordinary people. It's also nothing new this year, and not at all unique to California. How many of us from Maine to Miami and Mississippi to Montana have held our noses, suppressed our gag reflexes, and perhaps grabbed our ankles while we voted for, or encouraged others to vote for the party of Marginally Less Evil? And how many more times are we prepared to do it?

What does it mean when New York state's first black governor David Paterson, tells reporters at Harlem's paper of record, the Amsterdam News, that although he is proposing the most drastic cuts to health care, to education, to mass transit, mental health and across the entire spectrum of services government is supposed to provide, that it's going to be tough, but at least it's not California. That's not riding the the rescue, and it's certainly not standing up for New Yorkers. It's an excuse, one that makes you wonder if a generation of promises and sweat and hopes invested in a party that can only provide excuses has in fact been a bad investment. It's not that Democratic voters didn't invest enough. Corporations and bankers and the wealthy have money to give, they can fund your career. All poor people can do is vote for you once every two or four years.

It's the end of October in an off-election year, exactly halfway between the last elections to Congress and most state houses and the next one. And Democrats at the state and local levels still have no idea how to produce jobs. Democrats, including black ones have yet to come up with a model for inner-city economic development other than moving poorer residents out and richer ones in, so their friends in the real estate racket can make a few billion and break them off a piece.

California Democrats are in a corner. New York Democrats are at a dead end. On both coasts and everywhere in between bankruptcies and foreclosures are rising, and anger is building as people wonder if Democrats on any level will ever be ready to mobilize their base to rupture the envelope, the change the rules, to do something different. Like fight. Or whether the best they can offer is the excuse that hey, at least they aren't Repubicans. They don't shoot all the hostages. It could be worse. You could live in California, right.

For Black Agenda Report, this is Bruce Dixon. On the web you can find us at www.blackagendareport.com.


Direct download: 20091028_bd_standup_party.mp3
Category:politics -- posted at: 8:31am EDT