Friday, June 22, 2012

"Hell On Earth"

I've written several times over the past few months about America's Prison-Industrial Complex and the risk we, as a nation face when we privatize what should be a public function (here, here, here).  Now Paul Krugman weighs in with a succinct summary of the sham of privatization in the context of recent revelations about the private administration of halfway houses in New Jersey. A program championed by that man-of-the-people, Chris Christie.
But if you think about it even for a minute, you realize that the one thing the companies that make up the prison-industrial complex — companies like Community Education or the private-prison giant Corrections Corporation of America — are definitely not doing is competing in a free market. They are, instead, living off government contracts. There isn’t any market here, and there is, therefore, no reason to expect any magical gains in efficiency.
The phony "competition" argument falls apart when you have giant corporations rigging the bidding system to ensure they get to suck off the government teat.  Which means they are the real parasites.  Not the teachers, firefighters and other public employees, but these giant corporations.   But why the push for privatization then?  It's not that hard to work out when you're dealing with greedy private corporations: Money.
But the main answer, surely, is to follow the money. Never mind what privatization does or doesn’t do to state budgets; think instead of what it does for both the campaign coffers and the personal finances of politicians and their friends. As more and more government functions get privatized, states become pay-to-play paradises, in which both political contributions and contracts for friends and relatives become a quid pro quo for getting government business. Are the corporations capturing the politicians, or the politicians capturing the corporations? Does it matter?
If they can step into that public funding stream they get a guaranteed return from a virtually guaranteed revenue stream: citizens paying taxes.  It's too tempting to resist.  And they'll continue to lobby to ensure we have "tough" penalties, especially for non-violent drug offenders who, in general, are quite easy to warehouse.

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