Handing Over the Country to Big Business

April 16, 2012

One of the latest trends in the privatization movement of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class is the creation of so-called "public-private partnerships" which use various forms of privatization in order to place public resources at the disposal of the private sector.  Most recently, former President Bill Clinton and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the first-of-its-kind "public-private partnership" which aims to turn Chicago's entire infrastructure development function over to private enterprise. The plan calls for the city government to set up a private "Infrastructure Trust" and turn over to big business the management of the funds as well as authority over infrastructure development strategy. 

The openly declared goal of Clinton and Emanuel's "Infrastructure Trust" is to allow big business "to invest and see a return."

The "public-private partnership" is but one of many ways by which the government has been taking areas of the economy that make up the national patrimony of the American people and turning over to the private sector.  All across the country, state governments are contracting out such things as social welfare programs, the running of prisons, park service, school food service and maintenance, garbage collection, etc., etc. State and local governments have been privatizing highways, mass transit systems, hospitals, parks, etc.  In addition, government-run programs such as Medicaid and Medicare are being dismantled and the public revenues earmarked for these services are being turned over, in the form of vouchers, to private HMO's or other for-profit health care providers. The privatization movement is even taking aim at the schools and step-by-step unfolding a program to turn public education over to "educational entrepreneurs."

Privatization of government functions, which has become a major part of the programs of both the Democratic and Republican parties, serves two parallel purposes. First, it effectively separates the government from the responsibility of providing needed services to the population. Secondly, the capitalists are not only given the opportunity to reap huge profits by selling vital public services but they are also given the capital needed to provide such services.

Privatization is a program which is throwing our country backwards 100 years and more. Privatization means handing the birthrights of the people over to the monopoly capitalist class. The public infrastructure, including such things as the public schools or the stock of public housing, is part of our country's social capital – created and paid for over many decades by the workers and taxpayers. Privatization means turning this public infrastructure into private capital; it is the robbery and plunder of the country on a grand scale.

Privatization also means denying that the government and society have any responsibility for the public good. Through privatization, the government is eliminating the entitlement status of various social programs. Instead of providing public services to everyone on the basis of right, privatized social programs will be distributed as commodities on the basis of money. The rich will get the best health care, education, retirement benefits and so forth, while those without money will simply be pushed aside and denied their basic human rights. Privatization is part of the program of leaving every aspect of the life of the people in the hands of the so-called "free market" – that is leaving people completely at the mercy of monopoly capital.

The demand for public services arose in the struggle against medievalism as people fought to make the state – the public authority – bear certain responsibility to guarantee the public welfare and provide for social needs. For example, very early in the history of our country, the people forced the government to recognize the right to education and the state took on responsibility for the system of public education.

Over the years, as the people's struggles forced at least partial recognition of other rights, the state took responsibility for such things as public hospitals and public health, the Social Security system, public housing, and so forth. In addition, historically the capitalist state worked to build the infrastructure needed for capitalist development, including highways, railroads, etc.

Of course, in operating such public services, the capitalist government invariably ran things in a way to guarantee profits for the capitalist class while minimizing the rights of the people. For example, for decades the government has been letting the stock of public housing, the public school system and public health facilities deteriorate and crumble.

But today, as the crisis of monopoly capitalism deepens, the capitalists are seeking to withdraw any and all guarantees for the rights and well-being of the people and to have the maximum amount of the social capital put directly at their disposal. This is the source of the privatization movement.

Thus, the people are presented with a fundamental question. Repeated struggles are being waged and must be waged to prevent the privatization of public services and to demand that government provide guarantees for the rights of the people.

Furthermore, to defeat the program of privatization and retrogression, the people must bring their own positive, forward-looking program to center-stage. Such a program demands the democratic renewal of our country so that the government itself is actually in the hands of the people. This includes a program of providing ironclad guarantees for all the people's inalienable economic rights – including the right to food, shelter and clothing, to a secure job or livelihood at a standard commensurate with our country's high level of development, the right to free, comprehensive health care, to education from infant-care through the university, etc. To guarantee these rights, government must make the needed investments in the public infrastructure. This public infrastructure must be developed in a planned way to meet the needs of the people, not put at the disposal of the capitalist exploiters.