Why This Site?


076A2032Why This Site?

Why should you read my site and subscribe to it? What makes me different?

Business ethics is usually interpreted in a limited fashion. We talk about “on the job” ethics, that is, personal ethics. We talk about corporate ethics, that is, organizational ethics. And we discuss the ethics of economic systems.

That’s where I live – economic systems. That is where the big crises are.

1. Multinational corporations are on the attack on national sovereignty. They want to be independent of the nations where they exist and want the power to sue and overrule laws.

2. Businesses are continually, often successfully turning public resources into private money.

3. Free market fundamentalists are invading every sphere of endeavor with a doctrine as oppressive and odious as any totalitarian government.

Those are the big issues. They are hard to talk about.

It’s not popular. You don’t get hired as a consultant when you imply that businesses are unpatriotic, that they don’t have a right to public resources and that the free market is not the cure for all that ails society.

But I’m not going to shut up.

Join me – read my stuff. Join me in the struggle for justice and fairness.

James Alan Pilant

Tim Haslett on Privatization!


!!@@#dddddd444209mTim Haslett on Privatization!

Tim Haslett is an Australian blogger whose work I find persuasive and enjoyable. Let me let him describe himself: (from his blog)

After 30 years in academia, with a Ph.D. in non-linear dynamics and systems modelling and a Masters degree in English literature, I’m keen to broaden my writing audience. I am interested in becoming part of an informed community of commentary on matters of public interest. For me this will include politics (mainly Australian), films, books and the general cant, hypocrisy and stupidity that seems to infest public life.

That’s pretty good. I think it is better than my self description. Below is a two paragraph piece from one of his blog posts. I recommend it and I would like you to visit his site and sign on as a follower.

James Pilant

Why privatisation really doesn’t work. | Tim Haslett’s Blog

There was a time when a large proportion of our essential services; water, electricity, transport, telecommunications, postal services, health, education, police force, fire-fighting and to a lesser extent the banking system were provided by the federal or state governments. This was based on the assumption that the state, through taxpayer funding, will take responsibility for the provision of the services for the general population. Providing this level of service required a taxation system that progressively taxed those who earned the most money. It also required that the average taxpayer would pay relatively high levels of taxation. With the steady erosion of the tax base under the Howard/Costello government, the amount of revenue available to provide the services declined. This was combined with adopting policies based on supply-side economics, which encouraged private enterprise at the expense of state funded activity.

These changes were particularly evident in the provision of health services where individuals were able to take out insurance to avoid the impact of expensive surgery and to avoid waiting for places in publicly funded hospitals. Win this insurance was provided through a government, not-four-profit insurance company, namely Medibank Private, it effectively meant that people, normally the better off, could pay an extra tax to fund a specific use of the health system. …

via Why privatisation really doesn’t work. | Tim Haslett’s Blog.

From Around the Web.

From the web site, Sussex Against Privatisation.

http://sussexagainstprivatization.wordpress.com/2013/12/05/official-statement-on-suspensions/

Five Sussex students were today, Wednesday 4th December, suspended by Vice-Chancellor, Michael Farthing as he exercised his “authority to temporarily suspend [their] studies and exclude [them] from the University campus.” The suspensions follow protests against the outsourcing of Sussex services to private companies, the occupation of Bramber House in support of fair pay in higher education and the presence of students at the picket lines on the December 3rd national strike.

 The occupation was a legal, peaceful means of protest and one undertaken as a last resort. Approximately one hundred students entered the conference centre on Tuesday 26th November in a calm, non-confrontational manner. The occupation was not disruptive to any academic activity nor were any academic lectures rescheduled or disrupted as a result of its presence. Its purpose was to reclaim a University space now owned by a profit-driven private company and to support striking staff in their endeavours to gain fair and equal pay. Any “disruption”, then, was to the private company and its business ends as opposed to students or University staff. It raises concern that Management prioritise the concerns of a business above the concerns of their students and employees. Further, it is laughable that Management have chosen to accuse students of “intimidating” behaviour given the continued and systematic intimidation and censorship of those involved in legitimate, peaceful protests at the University.

Private Prisons are a Bad Idea


c39ePrivate Prisons are a Bad Idea

New Hampshire House Votes To Prohibit Private Prisons | ThinkProgress

 

At its core, the entire private prison industry profits when people are imprisoned, meaning stricter drug and immigration laws produce larger profits. Private prison operators know this, and have spent more than $45 million on lobbying federal and state lawmakers over the past decade, including top Republicans influencing the immigration debate. Indeed, the CEO of one of the largest private prison groups, the Corrections Corporation of America, assured investors on a recent call that there would continue to be “strong demand” for prison cells, even after immigration reform. The industry stands to rake in $5.1 billion detaining immigrants alone.

Though conservatives regularly argue privatizing industries makes them leaner and more cost-effective, the opposite is true for prisons. In Arizona, for example, private prisons cost $3.5 million per year more than state-run prisons. In Florida, the state has started laying people off after privatizing prisoners’ health care. In addition, private prisons are riddled with violations, including emergency procedures and cleanliness.

New Hampshire House Votes To Prohibit Private Prisons | ThinkProgress

Some services, some activities, have to be kept public because their importance is such that debating them solely from a monetary aspect diminishes intelligent decision making.  And we’re talking about the deprivation of freedom, a subject of some importance. What reduces crime while safeguarding the interests of the individual? How many subjects of such importance do we discuss as a society?

James Pilant

From the web site, National Prison Divestment: (I love these guys!)

As the immigration reform debate heats up, an important argument has been surprisingly missing. By granting legal status to immigrants and ordering future flows, the government could save billions of dollars. A shift to focus border security on real crime, both local and cross-border, would increase public safety and render a huge dividend to cash-strapped public coffers.

This kind of common-sense immigration reform has the multibillion-dollar private prison industry shaking in its boots. Its lobbyists are actively targeting members of congressional budget and appropriations committees to not only maintain, but increase incarceration of migrants — with or without comprehensive immigration reform.

While a broad public consensus has formed around the need to legally integrate migrants into the communities where they live and work, private prison companies Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and The GEO Group, thrive off laws that criminalize migrants, including mandatory detention and the definition of immigration violations as felonies. They are using their money and clout to assure that even if immigration reform goes through, the practice of locking people up for immigration infractions will continue.

From the web site, Student Activism: (This is a great blog, you should consider subscribing.)

Controversial private prison company the GEO Group announced yesterday that it is pulling out of a deal to buy naming rights for the Florida Atlantic University football stadium.

GEO’s prisons, including immigration detention centers and juvenile correctional facilities, have been the sites of a long list of documented violations of prisoners’ rights, and students have been protesting the FAU stadium naming deal since it was announced in February, staging public demonstrations and referring to the new stadium as “Owlcatraz.” The university, however, had until yesterday given GEO and the deal vocal public support, insisting that it would go forward.

From the web site, Prisonmovment’s Webblog: (I like the phrase, “cesspool of filth and decay,” it’s clever.)

How would you describe an industry that wants to put more Americans in prison and keep them there longer so that it can make more money?  In America today, approximately 130,000 people are locked up in private prisons that are being run by for-profit companies, and that number is growing very rapidly.  Overall, the U.S. has approximately 25 percent of the entire global prison population even though it only has 5 percent of the total global population.  The United States has the highest incarceration rate on the entire globe by far, and no nation in the history of the world has ever locked up more of its own citizens than we have.  Are we really such a cesspool of filth and decay that we need to lock up so many of our own people?  Or are there some other factors at work?  Could part of the problem be that we have allowed companies to lock up men and women in cages for profit?  The two largest private prison companies combined to bring in close to $3,000,000,000 in revenue in 2010, and the largest private prison companies have spent tens of millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions over the past decade.  Putting Americans behind bars has become very big business, and those companies have been given a perverse incentive to push for even more Americans to be locked up.  It is a system that is absolutely teeming with corruption, and it is going to get a lot worse unless someone does something about it.

From the web site, Prison Pork:

From The Daily Kos – ” I have a new and self-imposed policy that I follow when I see a news report of some bull-headed politician proposing some law to put low-level drug possessors in prison. That rule? Follow the money, of course.Because something hideous is festering under the surface of these laws. It’s the private prison lobby, which makes campaign contributions to secure harsher penalties. You see, these prison companies are in need of warm bodies, since they can put those people to work inside the walls of those prisons. The companies double-dip, too, pulling in a guaranteed sum from the state in addition to whatever they can make with their legalized slave labor. Weed offenders are just the sorts of people these prison profiteers are looking for. They’re mostly non-violent people who will comply. They can be put to work without much worry.This week, Indiana got into the mix, as its governor Mike Pence pushed for changes to legislation on drug crime. Among his suggested changes:

Tougher marijuana possession and dealing penalties could be added to a proposed overhaul of Indiana’s criminal sentencing laws by legislators after Gov. Mike Pence questioned whether the plan was strict enough on low-level drug offenders. One proposed change expected to be voted on Thursday would make possession of between about one-third of an ounce and 10 pounds of marijuana the lowest-level felony rather than the highest-level misdemeanor.

Why would this Republican governor suggest policies designed mostly for the destruction of communities and budgets alike? Mostly because he and others are politically aligned with the very prison companies that run the show.

 

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Selling Public Property to Balance The Budget?


Selling Public Property to Balance The Budget?

Robbie Wills poses the question above on his web site.  Below is the full article. Beneath it is my response.
Kimberly Leonard writes for Stateline.org that some states struggling to balance their budgets are moving to sell or lease public property such as state office buildings, prisons and major tollways, a strategy attacked by some as a short-term fix.  Arizona and California lawmakers, for example, have pursued “sale-leasebacks” of state buildings. Connecticut is planning to sell unused office buildings, vacant land, cars and equipment.

Should Arkansas state entities such as the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality or the Arkansas Teachers Retirement System, both of whom own their own buildings, follow a similar path?  Should we be unloading surplus vehicles and other equipment?

Here’s the link and here’s an excerpt:

The deals afford the states quick cash, while guaranteeing investors a profit after recouping the cost of the building through the long-term lease payments from the state. Arizona officials said they have received about 100 inquiries from interested buyers, including real estate investors, financial investors, the private sector and nonprofits.

My response is below.

Dear Sir:

I believe that selling state property is a badly conceived idea. This property belongs to the citizens of the state in perpetuity. It is difficult to conceive the costs to future generations based on current evaluations. For instance, there were large areas of poor scrub land in Oklahoma that yielded oil. Who knows what treasures lay beneath the soil of Arkansas? As some of the studies I have included links to indicate, it’s extremely difficult to calculate value for even short periods of time.  

You might argue that many of these shifts of public property could be done as leases. But the leases I have seen in the press are for periods of time like 75 years. For all intents and purposes that is forever as far as this generation is concerned. We have an ongoing responsibility to the citizens both future and current that should not be abdicated by putting it off.

Politically there are powerful interests determined to promote this kind of privatization. Are the people of Arkansas well served by a new and determined group of lobbyists whose successful efforts could result in millions and eventually billions of dollars of profit diverted from public possession and public needs? Citizen activism is a brief phenomenon. Lobbyists and business interests are eternal.

Would these be fair deals? Arkansas budget shortfalls are likely to be regular in the future with important needs unfunded in the short term. How hard are the Arkansas negotiators likely to be when the budget must be completed on a fixed schedule and vital public needs are at stake? The City of Chicago negotiated in the middle of a budget crunch and signed on to a very poor deal.

The Texas Legislature researched and debated the subject quite heatedly. They killed the deal amid concerns that they simply could not figure out the proper value and what kind of safeguards the public deserved.

South American began the privatization process almost twenty years ago by privatizing highways. What happened? It was a disaster. The promised benefits failed to materialize. The report concludes that private public partnerships on roads are always suboptimal. (page 5)

In conclusion, privatization is a short term solution for long term budge problems, a band aid when surgery is necessary. The benefits are unproven, disputable or simple not there. These kinds of decisions that transfer public property to the private sector are worthy of the greatest possible scrutiny and they seldom receive it.

Let me point out one additional matter. If privatization is always better than public management, why are you employed?  If you and your colleagues are unable to find viable revenue for the state’s future and incapable of creating highway authorities and other governmental bodies capable of good performance, why shouldn’t you be privatized? (Forgive me, I would never suggest actual privatization nor do I wish to infer you are not working hard or performing a valuable service to Arkansas. I am merely taking the argument for privatization to its logical conclusion.)

If democracy is the best form of government, what does yielding up large portions of the public’s possessions to private industry say about our ability to govern ourselves? The citizens of the United States have faced war and a succession of economic crises. We don’t have to yield to these challenges by quick fixes. We are the people who will show the world how a democracy even in the most serious of economic difficulties can survive and prosper.

Sources

Dennis Enright’s testimony before the United States Senate (2008)

http://finance.senate.gov/hearings/testimony/2008test/072408detest.pdf

Dennis Enright’s testimony before the Texas State Senate Committee On Transportation and Homeland Security (August 12, 2008)

http://www.senate.state.tx.us/75r/senate/commit/c820/handouts08/081208/Dennis_Enright.pdf

Report of the Legislative Study Committee on Private Participation in Toll Projects

ftp://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot-info/library/pubs/bus/tta/sb_792_report.pdf

This was hardly a recommendation and on July 8, 2009, the Texas Legislature denied the Texas Department of Transportation the authority to build privatized toll roads in cooperation with private developers.

 http://enr.ecnext.com/coms2/article_intr090708LoneStarStat

This is U.S. PIRG’s report on toll roads and protecting the public interest.

http://www.uspirg.org/home/reports/report-archives/transportation/transportation2/public-roads-private-costs-the-facts-about-toll-road-privatization-and-how-to-protect-the-public-texas

The City of Chicago decided to lease out their 36,000 parking meters. The Office of the Inspector General released a devastating report that the city has rushed through the deal and had not properly analyzed the costs.  

http://www.chicagoinspectorgeneral.org/pdf/IGO-CMPS-20090602.pdf