A Red State Privatization Horror Story

Conservatives and libertarians have been saying for a long, long time that if we just get rid of government and replace it with the private sector, everything will run a whole lot better.

The idea is that since the main goal of all private corporations is to make money, they’ll be much more willing than the government is to cut costs and eliminate waste. The result, conservatives and libertarians say, will be more efficient, responsible, and responsive services. That’s the theory, at least.

In reality, privatization of public services has been a total disaster wherever it’s been tried. And, as a new report from the Center for Media and Democracy shows, it’s also created huge opportunities for fraud and corruption. The report, which was released today and is titled “Pay to Prey,” focuses on how Republican governors in states all across the country used the cover of privatization to enrich campaign donors and political cronies. The worst culprits include some the biggest names in Republican politics.

In Florida Governor Rick Scott has made growing for-profit education one of his top priorities. And, in doing so, he helped out his political buddies and donors while screwing over Florida’s students. One of the biggest winners in Scott’s privatization push, for example, was an ALEC-linked company called K12, Inc. that got actually an “F” from Florida’s education department.

In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Corbett has given huge legal contracts for defending his state’s voter ID suppression law to some of his top donors. Corbett is also trying to privatize Pennsylvania’s state liquor stores, a move that would mean big bucks for corporate allies like Walmart and Sheetz, a local gas station chain.

And in Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder has handed prison food services over to corporate giant Aramark. While the move has meant big bucks for Aramark, the report suggests it’s been an absolute disaster in every other possible way. Meals are infested with maggots, employees have been caught having sex with inmates, and now there are reports that one Aramark employee actually tried to hire a prisoner to kill someone for him. All in all, not a pretty picture.

These horror stories are a perfect example of why privatization is such a bad idea. Ultimately, private corporations are only interested in making money and are only really accountable to their shareholders, not “We the People.” The way they see it, it doesn’t matter if prisoners have to eat rotten meat, if students get a crappy education, or if for-profit hospitals like the ones in Texas don't have proper staffing. All that matters is making a quick buck, and if that means screwing over the public, then so be it.

The disaster of privatization in places like Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania clearly shows us how public issues - things having to do with the commons - like education, healthcare, and criminal justice are just too important to outsource to corporations. And Republicans will never change their mind about selling the commons off to the highest bidder, because from the Republican point of view, these aren’t scandals or horror stories, they’re success stories.

All their talk about how privatization will make government more efficient is just cover for what they really want to do: enrich their corporate cronies and replace "We the People" with "our friends the billionaires." It really is that simple. For Republicans, privatization is just a business opportunity. And they don’t care about the damage privatization does to our society because privatization destroys the one thing standing between them and the total corporate takeover of our democracy: our government. When you think of it that way, everything makes a lot more sense.

Our second president, John Adams, once said that “Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men.” Adams was right, of course, but today’s Republicans see it the exact opposite way. For them, government is there to be looted.

Every time some Republican governor proposes letting private corporations run our schools or our prisons, it's really only because, as Harry Truman said, "The Republicans believe in taking care of big business first and letting the little fellow take care of himself." With a few exceptions like Teddy Roosevelt, it's been that way since the 1880s, and probably always will be.


stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 8 years 33 weeks ago

Government regulations are necessary to control the biggest threat to civilization...GREED! Unbridaled greed has destroyed many civilizations through out history, and that includes the lust for power.

Government-for-profit encourages greed.

sacredori's picture
sacredori 8 years 33 weeks ago

I was still young when the privatization craze started. One of the first things to go was the "information" number. It use to be 555-1212. It got changed to 411 with a private company. For those of you who don't know what that is, before the internet, you had to either look up numbers in a phone book, or you could call information. They could also connect you to your caller. (I know, crazy.) It worked great. It was a little expensive though, something like a dollar or fifty cents per call. Then it got privatized and ever since then more than half the times I used it I would get the wrong number. The price NEVER went down, it just increased in price. They automated it and made the message too fast to write down, so you'd have to call back and pay twice. Most of the time though, they'd just give you the wrong number. Pre privatization, if they ever gave an incorrect number, you could call back and they would credit your call. After privatization they say they would credit your call but actually just charge you twice, once for the wrong number and then again for complaining about it. This first case of privatization I remember affecting me seems to have only repeated itself with every case of privatisation I've seen since then: crappier service, for more money.

harmonious1's picture
harmonious1 8 years 33 weeks ago

Health Care as a Right not as a profitable Business

For Republicans, helping the 99% to access health care is secondary to greater profits to the private corporate insurance companies and keeping the 1% in luxury. Over 50 bills have been passed by House Republicans to repeal the PPACA while ignoring bills which would scuttle “Obamacare” such as one which would open Medicare to all.

But Medicare is flawed and retains health care as a profit making business even though it may limit some costs. Profit making hospitals and exorbitant fees for specialists remain. Consider the morality and lack of compassion of profiting excessively from the unfortunate sick and injured. There is a functioning American alternative which could open health care to all and considerably reduce costs, now the highest in the world, to a more reasonable level and achieve much improved results for the nation’s health and well being. Open and expand the VA to all residents. Nationalize hospitals and health clinics by federal purchase. If the feds can afford to bail out the financial and auto industries, and flush trillions of dollars down the toilet for militarism and wars which have been questionable benefit, we can do this by rearranging priorities. Sickness or injury are greater threats than terrorism or enemy attack. We can start by providing free training to qualified and committed medical students as they do in poor Cuba. This is needed to provide service without long waiting for medical services. It is likely that this reform will lower costs drastically while providing service we Americans, the richest nation in the world, deserve. Why should America be satisfied with less?

U.S. Citizen's picture
U.S. Citizen 8 years 33 weeks ago

As I've said before, "Privatization isn't the solution to the problem; privatization is the problem". Democracy, not corporatocracy.

humanitys team's picture
humanitys team 8 years 33 weeks ago

We are not sufficiently enlightened to act as our brothers keeper so until we are ?why not implement a maximum wage .It would be an arbitary amount you could keep for personal use.

Anything above this amount would go to a world wide compensation system say 40% and the other 60% of income made would go to a charity of your choice .The amount that could be kept for personal use would have to be In the millions of dollars to stop the greedy people complaining but the purpose of life is not about getting but giving .There is enough in the world to go around all we have to do is share .

Change can only be made through the human heart that is why Communism failed you can't legislate morality.

Humanity will grow out of it's primitive economic systems which are based on illusions and old cultural stories.

We have to write a new story based on what works for the collective and our Home the Earth .

Elioflight's picture
Elioflight 8 years 33 weeks ago

Sounds as if they want to reinstitute "legalized" slavery and provide us with barely room and board, but in the long run they cannot possibly be profitable because ALL their consumers--WE the PEOPLE--the ones that acutally LIVE and BREATHE--cannot pay if WE are not paid beyond what WE need to live.

What a bunch of dumbasses! Seriously--they run the world (into the ground)?

Bring out the pitchforks--WE ARE COMING!

mrrob's picture
mrrob 8 years 33 weeks ago

Governor Corbett has been trying to sell the idea of privatization for Pennsylvania’s state liquor stores on the basis of convenience. As a Pennsylvania resident, I don’t buy the argument. What people don’t realize is that privatization will limit the choices available because for-profit liquor sales will result in only the best selling brands being offered. It will push the small, local wineries aside. I personally appreciate the product knowledge of the PA Wines and Spirits staff and their willingness to special order something. I’m sure that Wal-Mart would not provide the same level of service.

WGersen's picture
WGersen 8 years 33 weeks ago

You write the REPUBLICANS favor privatization... but please don't overlook Arne Duncan and Barak Obama's misguided Race To The Top as an example of the Democrats desire to privatize "low performing school districts" which unsurprisingly tend to be those serving children raised in poverty... the very group the Democrats purport to champion.

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