Apr 10 2012

Civic Circus on the Privitization of Public Services

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Civic Circus Civic Circus with Ankur Patel breaks down local politics, with a weekly report on city, county, and state bureaucracies. (LAFD).

Privatizing public services and resources continues to be a so-called-solution to the economic and financial problems that we face.

At the city level, the top budget official for Los Angeles city, Miguel Santana, is invoking the specter of bankruptcy to push a neo-liberal agenda: Privatizing all things public. By repeating the phrase “core services” and harping on the structural deficit, Santana is making a case to privatize city resources like the zoo and the convention center. This has led to him pitching the idea of outsourcing custodial, information technology, and other city jobs to private corporations. But he finally went over the cliff when he floated privatizing ambulance services in LA. There are well documented examples of private ambulance companies leaving patients without care because they can’t afford it. Again, neo-liberal economics has to do with the privatization of all things public, and this is one of the major solutions that LA’s chief budget official is pushing.

The other solutions presented revolve around raising taxes, which our Chief Accounting Officer Santana claims the city hasn’t done to solve the budget deficit. The increase in our water and electricity rates, the increased sewer service charge, and higher sales tax to fund public transportation don’t count because that money didn’t directly go to reducing the deficit, it just offset costs that would have otherwise increased the deficit. But this is just semantics, and it’s this sort of disinformation that is used to raise fears of bankruptcy.

In fact, the city has over $6,000,000,000 invested in financial instruments created and traded on Wall Street completely separate from any pension funds. SO, if we are investing billions of dollars in Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Nike… how are we hovering near bankruptcy? Isn’t it just another ploy to push the neo-liberal agenda?

But the privatization of public resources is not limited to City services. We are all familiar with how private corporations like Halliburton and Blackwater have turned war into a for-profit endeavor, and how the focus on health insurance instead of health care favors private insurance companies. But even more heinous is the privatization of education. We have seen it in the charter-school movement, more recently in higher education in California, and in recent days, specifically at Santa Monica Community College (SMC).

Santa Monica College, one of the premier community colleges in the nation, is considering a 2-tier tuition system that would make required classes more expensive. The campus would create a separate organization that would provide in-demand classes at a higher cost. A single class that a student needed to graduate would cost $540 for in state students. As one of the flagship colleges of the 112 California Community College System, SMC’s education policy has an impact on community colleges across California.

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