It couldn’t be clearer that the fundamental democratic right to have our voices — and votes — heard is under attack. Just this week, Wisconsin’s Republican-dominated legislature slashed early voting…in the middle of the night…during a lame duck session.
Bottom line: there are politicians, conservative think tanks, and corporate funders who don’t want people to be able to vote.
But we’ve learned through our work that there’s another — and perhaps deeper — threat to democracy spreading nationwide, and that is privatization.
When corporations take control of public goods like water, transit, and schools, we give them the ability to make decisions that should be made democratically by us, the public. Some examples:
Chicago’s infamous parking meter deal with Wall Street investors requires the city to pay those investors back for taking meters out of use for things like road construction, street festivals, and, even, bike and bus lanes.
Private prison corporations slip occupancy guarantees into their contracts — some as high as 100 percent — which makes it harder to reduce prison populations while putting taxpayers on the hook for guaranteeing their profits.
Many “public-private partnerships” take decision-making power away from the public, like Virginia’s Beltway toll lanes contract, which actually requires the government to pay investors if too many people carpool.
Charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated, are among the nation’s most segregated schools.
Total alleged and confirmed fraud and waste in California’s charter schools has reached over $149 million, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Due to little transparency and oversight, an untold amount of the $6 billion spent annually on the state’s charter schools is being lost each year.
Outsourcing food inspection to corporations has led to repeated oversight failures causing outbreaks of illness and death.
Puerto Ricans are facing harsh austerity measures and privatization all to ensure that Wall Street banks get paid first, the same banks that have long targeted the island with predatory and often illegal debt deals.
All of these demonstrate that privatization weakens democracy — by putting private interests above public interests, by hiding public information, by weakening and even eliminating basic rules and safeguards that help us attack inequality and climate change, and by weakening the collective commitment that binds our communities together.