Saturday, May 19, 2012

Public To Private

The House of Representatives Friday passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 299-120, with 77 Democrats supporting the bill, and all but 16 Republicans joining them.      The Senate Armed Services Committee will consider the bill, which the White House has threatened to veto, next week.

This year's version of the NDAA contains several controversial provisions, including banning same-sex marriages and 'marriage-like' ceremonies on military bases and authorizing indefinite detention without trial of terrorism suspects, including U.S. citizens, captured on U.S. soil.

But the bill is most notorious for breaking the Budget Control Act, a bipartisan agreement for controlling spending made when Republicans, during the debt ceiling debate, pretended to care about the deficit.   Daily Kos' Joan McCarter notes "It authorizes eight billion dollars extra, including " a new missile defense system on the east coast, keeping ships and aircraft that the Pentagon is trying to retire, rejecting the military's request for domestic base closings."

More money than the Pentagon wanted, for programs and hardware the defense establishment has rejected.   It's not about defense (or the debt) anymore- but it is about defense contractors.

Starving government and funneling more power and profits from to the private sector has become a major objective of Republican government.     The Philadelphia Inquirer's Matt Katz, often impersonating a PR flak for Governor Chris Christie, nevertheless wrote in April 

Interested in a piece of New Jersey's government? With Gov. Christie in office, now's the time to buy, buy, buy.

In recent months the Republican governor's administration has amped up efforts to privatize government services, which would generate short-term revenue and cut the number of benefit-receiving employees. State parks, public schools, and Atlantic City Expressway toll booths all have been opened to outside companies.

At least a dozen functions of state government are being filled by companies or are targeted for privatization, public documents show, with the Christie administration considering proposals from firms to maintain highways, repair state vehicles, cook prison food, and process child-support payments.

The twist from Chris Christie, atwitter with excitement at the possibility of joining Mitt Romney on the presidential ticket, is the urge to privatize a function which already provides a profit.    Katz continues

The next piece of New Jersey government that may hit the market could provide the biggest windfall - and the biggest controversy. The Treasury Department has sought information from vendors about privatizing the $2.6 billion state lottery.

But Christie is only one of several GOP governors, Walker, Kasich, Snyder, Scott, Daniels, and others, taking direct aim at the public interest by fronting for private interests.       Next door to New Jersey

The move mirrors what's happening in Pennsylvania, where Gov. Corbett this month issued a "request for qualifications" from companies that might want to manage its $3.2 billion lottery.

Other states are considering offering long-term leases on their lotteries. Such a move would bring an immediate infusion into New Jersey's coffers, expand gaming opportunities, and allow the state to tax profits.

And provide a nice little benefit to the company that gets the contract by providing a service the state was providing rather efficiently.   Moreover, as Paul Davies argues

Lotteries rely disproportionately on older and poorer players. In fact, there are often more lottery machines per capita in lower-income areas. Once a private operator takes over the lottery, it is a good bet the poor will end up even poorer. A private operator will be more aggressive about enticing new and existing gamblers to spend more money on the lottery.

That will likely mean more marketing, more retail outlets, more new games, and probably a push to sell tickets online. There will also likely be an increased effort to attract younger gamblers. The likely result will be a sharp rise in the number of problem gamblers, and less disposable income to spend on other goods and services. States don’t have much concern for problem gamblers as it is. Once a private operator takes over, look out.

Governors Christie and Corbett aren't motivated by a desire to exploit poor or elderly people (who provide a disproportionate share of gamblers) any more than congressional Republicans are out to weaken the military or impoverish the middle class (the last point being debatable). They are mere collateral damage to their efforts to turn government over to private contractors, well-connected law firms, and others only too happy to assist them in undermining government and the faith of people in the public sector.

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