OPINION: Corporations bring efficiency but ignore equal, fair treatmentPrivatization is used frequently to describe the shifting of government managership to private managership. Privatization seemed, theoretically, like a good practice to and for many people. Conservative criticism, primarily and often heard, has made government a bad word in many circles.
By: Bernie Hughes, The Daily Telegram
Privatization is used frequently to describe the shifting of government managership to private managership. Privatization seemed, theoretically, like a good practice to and for many people. Conservative criticism, primarily and often heard, has made government a bad word in many circles. How often have we heard the statement, “Get government off our backs!” Sounds great until the day your interest is equal treatment for people involved.
Government has become thought of as a cumbersome non-yielding entity. Competing goals among people in a democracy slows the decisions making. Corporations can move more efficiently and quickly. Corporations are not as limited by democratic process, environmental concerns, human rights, living wage agreements off shore, etc. While some of our elected leaders felt that the government should get off our backs, they seem to have overlooked the potential corporate assault on democracy, the environment and wages.
As Naomi Klein noted in her book “The Shock Doctrine,” the George W. Bush administration came into power with a powerful agenda of questions: What can be privatized? What can be outsourced? What can be deregulated? What unions can be broken? What tax breaks can be made permanent for the shakers and movers in our society? What governmental departments can be stacked with governmental clones? What had been subtly political in previous administrations became “in your face” political, e.g. “Would you like to keep your job?”
Along with privatization has come greater influence by corporations. Corporations are truly efficient; they have one major goal, to make money for their stockholders. Faster and more efficient, they can move in directions the present administration believes we should be moving. And so, away we went and are continuing to go.
Since our Iraq and New Orleans fiascos, however, we are taking a more cautious look at privatization. Where should privatization be halted?
Locally, the Duluth Lakewalk has a problem. Will the public walk go behind the recently built Lakewalk condos so as not to restrict their private view? What about the public view? How far might privatization ultimately seek to go: Lake Superior water? Jay Cooke Park? Superior National Forest?
The privatization of water with the world's increasing population illustrates the problem. In the U.S. now, states are resorting to drastic measures addressing water use. Georgia is trying to redraw its border with Tennessee to gain more water rights while California, Arizona and Nevada have battled to divert greater portions of the Colorado River to meet their needs. One reason for the tension is that water, pure water, is becoming a scarce commodity in some locations. The population is expanding into climates and areas where resources are limited, explains Greg Kail of the nonprofit American Water Works Association.
“Water resource planners realize they will need new sources,” he adds, noting that personal conservation alone won’t suffice, since about 80 percent of America’s water usage comes from agriculture and industry.
Is there a danger that corporations could lead us down the primrose path?
They have a market approach; government has a people approach. Let’s look at the pharmaceuticals as an example. Their goal is to maximize profit for their shareholders. Pharmaceuticals bring out new drugs, advertise them professionally attractive and abundantly in many media and suggest to potential users that they should ask their doctors. Doctors don’t wish their patients moving to other doctors, and they owe some consideration to the drug companies. They have some pressure to go along with the newer more expensive drug even though the generic might be substantially as good.
This market approach has corporations wooing the children with toys and products that parents have difficulty in denying. Corporations are speeding our move to a consuming society rather than a conserving society. Free trade has caused the shifting of corporations to foreign countries where cheaper labor exists that permits consumers to buy products cheaper.
The flip side of this issue is the loss of jobs in our country and the loss of industry. In years past, we were concerned that we maintain core industry in our country as a backup during war time when free trade would be disrupted. Evidently now, we have a world empire military that makes such safeguards unnecessary.
Truthfully, this is another continuum upon which we fluctuate. We’ve been moving increasingly toward the privatization side, but with the recent prime mortgage debacle, we will strengthen the governmental control side.
As a school superintendent many years ago, I had experience with district-owned buses and contractors. With contractors hiring and paying drivers, I had another level of bureaucracy to contend with when a change of service was needed. From that experience, it was easy to understand how Blackwater was accused of doing things in Iraq that our servicemen would not have been able to do.
As a pensioner today on Social Security, I’m pleased that equal treatment of recipients is handled by our democratic government instead of a stockholder profit-guided corporation.
Bernie Hughes, Ed.D., is a retired educator who resides in Superior. He can be reached at Bernie1@cpinternet.com.