The sale of publicly owned infrastructure…buildings, water facilities, parks, etc…to “solve” the financial problems of states, counties, and municipalities is the last strategy for balancing public budgets without raising taxes.
Paul Krugman, in today’s NY Times column, points out that in addition to union busting Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s budget bill will allow for the sale of state owned utilities with no legislative oversight or approval by a regulatory commission.
“The state of Wisconsin owns a number of plants supplying heating, cooling, and electricity to state-run facilities (like the University of Wisconsin). The language in the budget bill would, in effect, let the governor privatize any or all of these facilities at whim. Not only that, he could sell them, without taking bids, to anyone he chooses. And note that any such sale would, by definition, be “considered to be in the public interest.”
Yves Smith recently wrote a piece on privatization at his blog Naked Capitalism.
That post elicited the following comment:
Privatization is easy to understand once you see it as the final enclosure onslaught. Once again the people are to be driven en masse off their own property, for no reason whatsoever other than pure robbery.
Even if it were true that “balancing the books” were either possible or desirable (it’s neither; the books are nothing but fraudulent accounting, real “growth” ended years ago; and besides, if these books represented something real, nominal balance could easily be achieved by taxing the rich and corporations a fraction of their fair share), government officials would have no right to alienate public property. That’s a crime against sovereignty. It’s among the most profound forms of treason.
The fact is that capitalism is never sustainable. Even its own textbooks admit that it quickly runs down and reaches stasis. Or, from the point of view of the profiteers, it stagnates. So the only way to prop up profit rates is to continually repeat the process of primitive accumulation, direct robbery in order to accumulate enough of a capital base to recommence capitalist investment.
The classic example was Europe’s land enclosures. Subsequent examples were those of colonialism, imperialism, the IP regime, and financialization. Today capitalism is dead once and for all, since there’s no plunder frontier left. So the only thing left to do is carry out the terminal plunder, the direct robbery of whatever non-enclosed things are still left. Land, services, infrastructure, public heritage information, the water, the air.
And by the time that’s all commodified, it’ll certainly be impossible for anyone to pay for any of it. But by then debt indenture will no longer be meant to extract money, but to enforce the “new” serf system.
This feudalism will be far more cruel than the old, however, since today’s feudal lords are far more sociopathic and callous than the old medieval barons, while today’s serfs won’t even have the consolations of medieval christianity.
This is where we’re headed if we don’t take back the country.