Monday, May 16, 2011

"We Should Never Privatize Public Safety"

Florida's legislature just passed a budget that will privatize the correctional services of 18 counties, basically 20% of its prison population. Though the decision has been criticized by both side of the aisle (the quote I used for the title comes from a Republican legislator, Mike Fasano), and despite the fact that private prisons in Florida, as elsewhere, have a long history of abuse and failure to perform up to contract, the deal went through. Senator Fasano described the claims of cost-savings touted by proponents, including budget chief JD Alexander, as "unconvincing and undocumented." In fact, Alexander at one point even said he himself was not convinced of the savings, but wanted to privatize a huge portion of the state system as part of an "experiment."

This is unrestrained Republican ideology in its most logical iteration. Governor Ric Scott and many Republicans in the state legislature, especially JD Alexander, received huge contributions from the GEO Group in campaign contributions. The GEO Group has also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying the Florida legislature in recent years, building a great relationship with conservative legislators. This is nothing but a ploy to divert taxpayer money to corporations. Republicans promote corporate welfare while eschewing individual and social welfare. They label the poor as "lazy" and bitch about their tax dollars going to social welfare programs, while they turn around and give huge tax cuts to the wealthy and subsidies and contracts to private corporations with histories of abuse and negligence, corporations that donate generously to their campaigns and help keep them in office. This is what they do.

The GEO Group utilized 2 of the top 5, and 3 of the top 10 lobbying firms in Florida during the past election cycle to maximize their influence. They have also donated hundreds of thousands to state campaigns, mostly to conservatives and incumbents. So it should come as no surprise that the state has decided to embark on the most ambitious prison privatization scheme in history.

This is conservative economics. This is the face of a country that allows for unlimited corporate contributions to politicians and campaigns. Republicans literally want to dismantle government and turn over government services to the private sector. They want to perpetuate the grossly unequal distribution of wealth and power in this country, because it serves their purposes and interests at the expense of everyone else's. And I fear this is only the beginning of what will be a huge wave of anti-government, pro-privatization activity that we're seeing crop up across the country. But people need to realize that government is not the problem. The government is a tool we can use to fix the problems inflicted on society by corporations and their endless greed.

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