Privatizing California

One of the “GREAT LIES” the neo-cons and free-marketeers have advanced and perpetuated with a surprising degree of success has been the notion that the private sector can do it better than the public sector. They don’t bother to distinguish what “it” is, but it actually doesn’t matter to them. “It” is intended to include every form of human endeavor, from academia to zoos, from energy to prisons and on-and-on. Of course, these folks don’t give a damn about providing services and programs that actually help people or benefit society as a whole. Their unabashed mantra is: “If there’s money to make, the private sector will be there to meet the demand.”
While that might be all well-and-good in some areas, the fact still remains (and sadly so), that the single driving incentive for the private sector is money and money alone. Fortunately, there are a few socially responsible companies who see the importance of combining profit with purpose, and perhaps more stepping up as our world warms beyond repair and starvation and genocide seem to be plaguing the planet. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of companies are drvien by one single principle: PROFIT. That profit leads to pay-back in the millions to CEO’s for whatever time and effort they put in to increasing that “profit” regardless of its impact on the environment, its employees or the communities in which it operates.

Now, uncontrolled greed isn’t anything new, but that is why we have set up a system of oversight and regulation—greed has to be controlled and limited. Profit can be a good thing, but uncontrolled greed can be very destructive of a society and the common weal. In California, we set up the initiative process to check the excesses of the railroad robber barons. In the U.S., the FDR -era created the New Deal which included national regulatory agencies like the Federal Drug Administration, the Secruties and Exchange Commission, check against corporate excess and greed. The right-wing wants to abandon those watchdogs and let business and greed go unabatted. The Bushies have been pretty successful at it on a national scale and our Governor is making it his goal here in California.
Schwarzenegger is going about trying to privatize much of California’s businesses and neutralize the work of state agencies that are designed to protect the public from scams and dilettants. Instead, he’s all about letting the free-market reign, without reigning in any of its excesses. Just look at his laughable appointments to the State Chiropractic Board—an oversight entity designed to root out quacks and improper services that hurt patients and cause greater damage to our health. He doesn’t believe we should be checking excesses on behalf of the public, but rather let these groups do what they want….after all, the market will do all the checking on abuse, incompetence, etc. so long as the government doesn’t interfere. But “interfering” to protect the public is exactly what the government is supposed to do—serve the PUBLIC, not greedy corporate interests which operate without conscience or controls. It is the government that is mandated to protect against products that hurt the public, lead to illness or death, destroy our quality of life, decrease our opportunity to move up the ladder of success and so on.
This free-market-is the-answer to all our ills approach is straight out of the Bushies playbook. Knock out oversight and public protection, let the market reign and all will be great. Now, tell that to the thousands of truly injured workers whose workers compensation benefits won’t pay the rent, let alone allow their families to eat or be clothed. Tell that to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Tell that to the next person who has to lay out $4 a gallon for gas so the oil industry can continue its record-breaking billions of dollars in profits–and payouts to its CEOs. Of course, then the money gets filtered back to Arnold’s campaign coffers (yes, still—even though he’s termed out of office and shouldn’t be collecting a dime).
What is catching on in disturbing fashion is the public’s willingness to accept this explanation and buy into this propaganda.The right-wing seems to be winning the debate that we should be privatizing everything; that the government can’t do anything right. Let’s just ignore all the scandals that have cost our nation billions, if not trillions of dollars over the past several years. Let’s start with the Savings and Loan scandal of the 80’s the Enron scandal, the Halliburton scandal that continues to this day.
Let’s continue to deregulate….we’ve done that with healthcare and energy-and look what a mess that has wrought.
We’ve done that with the airline industry while continuing to subsidize its folly.
The illogical conclusion from all this is that we should privatize MORE—let’s privatize our prisons, our highways, our water supplies for example. Crazy? Well, maybe, but that’s what this governor is moving toward. After all, he believes that the private sector can do it better, because they pay better and thus get better people running their companies than we can offer in government. Such logic reminds me of the logic of Candide. As Voltaire’s hero explains, we have noses to keep our eyeglasses in place. Of course, Voltaire was just kidding. Unfortunately, the right-wing neo-cons are very serious and it appears, becoming more successful at vilifying a system that has protected the public for almost a century.
Our own governor is doing his part to promote these neo-con policies as well. We’ve got to stop them from becoming our world as well. We need to let Schwarzenegger know that we don’t want those values bleeding into our state. They’ve done enough damage already. The free-market approach, without proper oversight has always proven to be a disaster. We can’t allow it to gain a bigger foothold here in California.