Friday, April 12, 2013

Public utilities, private futilities

In England and Wales, Margaret Thatcher privatized the water supply. Unless you had a well, you were pretty well screwed. The premise that safe, clean drinking water and water for other uses should be a public utility is based on the concept of providing for the public welfare, the community welfare, from the wording of the constitution:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
There is an assumption, one we most frequently see on the right, that private enterprise, driven by profit, will be more efficient and effective than public entities.  We have seen all too vividly that assumption is false - we see it in the no-bid fraud and waste and ineffectiveness of privatizing aspects of our military through so-called independent contractors.  We see it in the failures and problems of privatizing our public libraries or private profit. We see it in the poor performance of for profit institutions of higher education that rip off our students, especially our military veterans trying to use their G. I. Bill benefits. We see it in the brutal failures of our privatized prisons as well.

And we have seen this where governments, like that of the late Baroness Thatcher, who died earlier this week, privatized the water supply in England and Wales.  Everything she privatized, from water to railroads badly underperformed, and costs skyrocketed, while a few of her best buddies profited hugely.

We should be very wary of the push to privatize anything else here - including schools, but also water, roads and bridges, etc. We should be kicking the under-performing private contractors the hell out, and return our armed forces to self-sufficiency and efficiency, and a greater cost-effectiveness than the right wingnuts of the Bush administration saddled us with now. Reject the invalid right wing assumptions that private business for-profit is better; nothing indicates that to be valid.

Next time you take a shower, wash a load of laundry, or fill up your glass or cup with either water or a beverage that is substantially water, think about how cost effective it is now, and how much it would impact you so very, very badly if someone was charging you a lot of money for that water, making an obscene private profit.

The late and not-so-great Maggie Thatcher made water in the UK more costly than other countries in the EU; that is not a mistake we want to make here.  I hope you will join me in a drink to that -- a good 'socialist' swallow of clean, inexpensive public water --- water kept clean and safe in part by government provision, and very much by government regulation as well.

And something more to think about as we contend with potholes on our roads and highways, and possible flooding and closures of our deteriorating bridges - you could be paying prohibitively high private tolls, to generate profits, on your drive to work every day, or to visit family, or attend your place of worship, or to go to jury duty, or to vote or pay your taxes or receive your mail or deliveries.

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