|Privatization guru Milton Friedman|
Today, after 50 years of attack on government, privatization is a standard conservative response to tight public budgets, a key pillar of attacks on government, and a lucrative market opportunity for domestic and global corporations. Large corporations operate virtually every type of public service including prisons, welfare systems, infrastructure, water and sewer, trash, and schools. For example:
In 1988 AFT president Al Shanker proposed a new idea: To create charter schools where teachers could experiment and innovate and bring new ideas to the nation’s public schools. Today, nearly 3 million children attend charters, and large corporate chains and billionaires are funding the rapid growth of privatized, publicly funded charters.“Cities have been discovering that public services do not necessarily have to be reduced by government or paid for by taxes,” the Privatization Council’s David Seader told the Milwaukee Journal in 1986. Individuals can pay for what they use and private companies are ready to take their money.
Cohen on Bill Clinton
Perhaps Clinton’s most significant contribution to privatization was ideological. The NPR reports redefined government services in market terms – “citizens” became “customers” of public services and competition became a guiding management principle.A new pro-public movement, with this history in mind, is growing quickly, says Cohen.
It has become clear that the 40-year conservative assault on government is enriching some and leaving more and more Americans behind. Groups across the country are organizing and starting to see success. Water systems are being remunicipalized, private prison companies are losing contracts (and both Democratic presidential candidates have pledged to end for-profit incarceration), and a growing movement is focused on rebuilding our national commitment to public education.