Friday, November 2, 2012

Sandy's devastation to be a pretext to sell off public services and companies

Shock Doctrine, American-Style: Hurricane Sandy Devastation Used to Push for Sale of Public Infrastructure to Investors

As a result of fully warranted bad press for some privatization deals, such as the lease of Chicago’s parking meters, there has been a bit (stress only a bit) more critical scrutiny of the de facto sale of public assets to consortia of private investors. Nevertheless, major banks have been using the financial distress of states and municipalities to push these deals as a solution to budget woes, when it’s a short-term expedient that leaves the public worse off. As we wrote earlier:

The problem, of course, is that these deals put important public resources paid for by taxes (or even worse, financed by bonds and thus potentially not even yet fully paid for) in the hands of private investors. They then earn their returns by charging user fees of various sorts. The public must rely on the new owners for reinvestment and maintenance, and depending on how the deal is negotiated, may have ceded control as far as fee increases are concerned. This is tantamount to selling the family china only to have to rent it back in order to eat dinner.

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