Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Staying True to His Word, Unfortunately

John Kasich, the new governor of Ohio, has made it clear he intends to privatize more of his state's prison system. Kasich claims to be doing this in order to save money, but a simple review of research on private prisons will uncover numerous reports that dispute the claims of cost-savings by the industry. Anyway, he seemed to be taking one step closer to expanding the reach of private prisons when he hired a former CCA consultant and employee as his secretary of corrections.

So it comes as no surprise that a state Senator recently made remarks hinting at the state reopening a former juvenile facility as a private adult prison. In this case, I will refrain from voicing my standard complaints about the industry to highlight an important detail about privatization that is relevant to the current news about collective bargaining in the midwest (Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio, in particular).

Mike Huffman, president of the Mid-Ohio AFL-CIO made some pointed remarks about the private industry, and how they don't hire union employees: "The down side is privatization. ... It'd be nice to have the prison back open just for jobs, but at the same time we're struggling to keep collective bargaining." His point is really that this is yet another move by a state government to disperse power and resources from the government to the private sector, often at the expense of the working class(Private prisons don't hire unionized guards). Unions have historically provided a very important service for labor in this country, and recent attempts to strip unions of collective bargaining rights signify a dangerous trend. Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, even jokingly admitted in a phone call to a man he believed was one of the Koch brothers that he thought Wisconsin was the first battle in a war against collective bargaining.

This tide of anti-government rhetoric sweeping the nation certainly has merit in that it seeks to address the inefficiencies of government. However, the solution is not simply to eliminate government or pare it back to its most basic form. That will only lead to greater ineffectiveness in combating some of the most dangerous elements of our society, namely wall street, big oil, global warming deniers, and home-grown religious fanatics. Yes, governments need to be more efficient and accountable. But the notion that private industry fits either of those definitions, or that it would if just given the chance to regulate itself via the wondrous "free market," is just outright absurd.

Private industry is no more moral, accountable, transparent, or efficient than the government. In fact, a democratic government is theoretically the citizenry's best weapon against corporate excess, which, let's face it, isn't good for the majority of Americans.

Finally, and I'll leave on this little tidbit, regular readers might be interested to know that ALEC is largely behind the attack on collective bargaining. Yes, the super right-wing, corporate-sponsored legislation promoting whore of a nonprofit, ALEC. The attacks on collective bargaining, and governments looking to privatize more services, have nothing to do with fixing budgets. It is all part of a coordinated hoax being perpetrated on this country by some of the wealthiest and most influential leaders of business. It's all about lining their pockets. Nothing more, and nothing less.

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