Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Truth About Public-Private Partnerships

There is a great deal said about the value of public private partnerships. They are hyped as the best way to solve all problems. 
The public sector has been discredited by neo-liberalism so anything worth doing must include a consideration of the private sectors interests, if not their direct control. While this may sometimes generate some innovative and collaborative solutions and projects, what has become much more common is simply the public sector financing, subsidizing and meeting the needs of the private sector independent of any gain for the general public. It had gotten worse as the private sector and corporate interests have captured the political system  through direct and unlimited financial  contributions to public officials or through the threat of capital flight if public benefits are not forthcoming.
Just a few recent but typical examples:
The New York Times reports on the Bureau of Land Management a federal government agency charged with protecting public lands but instead is handing out leases to mining, ranching, timbering, and drilling interests.  Some would view this as an example of a public-private partnership that promotes economic development and creates jobs but in fact it is a giveaway of public resources to private corporations. 
In the state of Florida we have tax breaks delivered to the private sector as an incentive to expand operations when the expansion would have taken place anyway. And these happen to go to the largest corporations in the state who are also providing the legislators who advance these policies with large campaign contributions.
If one calls into question these kinds of public-private partnerships, they will be attacked as anti-business and job-killers.
So, while states and cities slash public services that meet the needs of the larger population, they hand out gifts to the private sector under the unassailable banner of public-private partnerships.

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