It was only a day after I learned of the existance of ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) and made the post Who is ALEC? that I learn about Truthout’s Article Koch Brothers, ALEC and Their Corporate Allies Plan to Privatize Government. Unfortunately, the US has the dollar rather than the Pound Sterling or I would refer to what is going on in the same vein as the Genesis Album Selling England by the Pound since that is pretty much what has been going on for the past 30+ years in US Politics (and to some extent the same in Britain). Unlike England, there is less sympathy for government functions, or at least so it appears in the heavily controlled US media.
The Truthout article explains how ALEC works. ALEC contends that government agencies have an unfair monopoly on public goods and services. To change that situation, it has created a policy initiative to counter what it calls “Publicopoly.” ALEC’s stated aim is to provide “more effective, efficient government” via privatization—that is, the shifting of government functions to the private sector. Of course, that makes a shift from Publicopoly to either Monopoly or Oligopoly with little or no public control over those new private entities.
ALEC came to the public’s attention in February and March with the culmination of the fight over Gov. Scott Walker’s budget bill AB 11, which sought to curtail the collective bargaining rights of government employees and thus disempower Wisconsin’s public sector unions. When on February 23, the Buffalo Beast published recordings and transcripts of a prank call to Walker from a Beast reporter posing as billionaire GOP donor David Koch, it became apparent how intimately involved brothers David and Charles Koch were in Walker’s efforts to break public sector unions.
Subsequently, bloggers and editorialists began batting around possible scenarios involving myriad right-wing public policy foundations funded by the Koch brothers and proceeds of Wichita, Kan.-based Koch Industries (and other Koch-controlled corporations). During such speculation, one name arose as the favorite villain behind the multitude of bills aimed squarely at public employee unions. That name was ALEC.
On February 25, 2011, Florida State Representative Chris Dorworth (R-Lake Mary) introduced HB 1021. The bill sought to curtail the political power of unions by prohibiting public employers from deducting any amount from an employee’s pay for use by an employee organization (i.e., union dues) or for any political activity (i.e., the portion of union dues used for lobbying or for supporting candidates for office). Moreover, HB 1021 stated that, should a union seek to use any portion of dues independently collected from members for political activity, the union must obtain annual written authorization from each member.
In effect, this bill defunds public-sector unions—like AFSCME, SEIU, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association—by making the collection of member dues an onerous, costly task. With public-sector unions denatured, they would no longer be able to stand in the way of radical free marketeers who plan to profit from the privatization of public services.
Given the similarities between HB 1021 and a rash of like-minded bills in states across the country, including Wisconsin, on March 30 a public records request was sent to Dorworth’s office seeking copies of all documents pertaining to the writing of HB 1021, including copies of any pieces of model legislation the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) may have provided.
Within an hour of submitting this request, Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon’s (R-Winter Park) Communications Director Katherine Betta responded: “We received a note from Representative Dorworth’s office regarding your request for records relating to the American Legislative Exchange Council and HB 1021. Please note that Mr. Dorworth’s legislative offices did not receive any materials from ALEC relating to this bill or any ‘model legislation’ from other states.”
But two weeks later Dorworth’s office delivered 87 pages of documents, mostly bill drafts and emails, detailing the evolution of what was to become HB 1021. Buried at the bottom of the stack was an 11-page bundle of neatly typed material, labeled “Paycheck Protection,” which consisted of three pieces of model legislation, with the words “Copyright, ALEC” at the end of each.
Dorworth legislative assistant Carolyn Johnson claims that, although Dorworth is an ALEC member, neither she nor her boss have any idea how the ALEC model legislation found its way into Dorworth’s office. Dorworth could not be reached for comment.
Though the specifics are secret and “restricted to members,” ALEC openly advocates privatizing public education, transportation and the regulation of public health, consumer safety and environmental quality including bringing in corporations to administer:
- Foster care, adoption services and child support payment processing.
- School support services such as cafeteria meals, custodial staff and transportation.
- Highway systems, with toll roads presented as a shining example.
- Surveiling and detaining convicted criminals.
- Ensuring the quality of wastewater treatment, drinking water, and solid waste services and facilities.
Of course, there are myriads of horror stories regarding the privatisation of the Penal System. such as Luzerne County, PA’s Kids for cash scandal and Googling Private Prisons Scam will net loads of stories like this one: What did Torrey Westrom think he was saving with private prison proposal? or Private Prison Promises Leave Texas Towns In Trouble. The prison privatisations should serve as a large glaring warning of the minefield which privatising governmental functions will bring.
Giving these corporations regulatory powers over environmental quality is also puting the fox in charge of the Chicken coop. The Koch companies have a notorious environmental record. And is the US public so damaged as far as short term memory goes to have forgotten the BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill. That in and of itself should be even more of a warning than the prison privatisations.
Quite frankly, there are certain functions that governments do a whole lot better than private enterprise, yet the US public is being sold a duff bill of goods that privatising government. The worst part of it is that the people won’t realise how badly they have been shafted until after the damage has been done.
Additionally, there is the usual US historic ignorance that the panic of 1837 was caused in part by the selling of government assets. This message from that time should be heeded by today’s US Citizens:
Although the excitement of 1839 did not equal that of 1837, there was a duller and completer despondency. It was at last known that the recuperative power of even our own proud and bounding country had limits. Years were yet necessary to a recovery.
Even more importantly, the US public should be asking who is controlling the message that they hear from the corporately controlled MSM (which includes Public Broadcasting which is beholden by underwriting, or commercials by any other name). The US is heading down a very dangerous path, yet few people are doing anything about it.