October 30, 2014

Part of the attack on social programs is the privatization of the public sectors of the economy.

All across the country, federal, state and local governments are contracting out such things as social welfare programs, the running of prisons, park service, school food service and maintenance, garbage collection, etc., etc. In addition, government-run programs such as Medicaid and Medicare are being dismantled and the public revenues earmarked for these services are being turned over, in the form of vouchers, to private HMO’s or other for-profit health care providers. The privatization movement is even taking aim at the schools and step-by-step unfolding a program to turn public education over to “educational entrepreneurs.”

Privatization undermines the entitlement status of vital social services. Instead of being produced on the basis of the needs of the people or as rights and entitlements, these services are produced as commodities by private capitalists seeking solely to maximum profit. Just like everything else in the so-called “free market” system, such basic human rights and necessities as the health care system, education, garbage collection and so forth will go to those with money while those without – the vast majority of the people – will be more and more left to fend for themselves.

For example, the privatization of Medicaid and Medicare is only intensifying the two-tier health care system, in which the rich receive the best possible care while the working people and others are shunted aside and denied needed health services. Similarly, the proposals to voucher out public education provide the rich with subsidies for sending their children to private schools, while the sons and daughters of the workers are condemned to crumbling schools.

Another dimension of the problem is that privatization takes the infrastructure currently in the public domain and turns it over to the private sector. The results of this are absolutely disastrous because the people – society as a whole – are deprived of the means, the resources, accumulated over generations in order to insure that certain minimal standards or minimal rights can be provided.

Such national assets as the public school infrastructure, the country’s stock of public housing, the interstate and state highway systems, the airports, etc., have been built up by our whole people over generations and generations. Some of these assets represent public investments which help create an economic and social infrastructure upon which modern society rests, other of these assets have been allocated to the public sector only as a result of generations of struggles by the working class and people who have fought to insure that society recognize and guarantee certain minimal human rights.

Take education, for example. From the very beginning, the American people fought against the feudal system which left education as the exclusive preserve of the rich. Even in colonial days, and especially in the early and mid-19th century, broad sectors of the population, with workers in the forefront, came out to assert that education was a right. All the movements for the extension and reform of education started from the point of view that education belonged to the whole society and was a public matter and that in order to fulfill its minimal responsibility for the general welfare, government had to invest the resources necessary to guarantee education for the people. In the 1960’s, this movement for public education extended its program to include university education and again demanded that government make the necessary investments.

One result of these movements is that our country has created a vast infrastructure of public education and these assets – belonging to the whole society – are the vital means with which we have equipped ourselves in order to guarantee the right to education. The same is true of the public health system as well as such programs as Medicare and Medicaid, which embody the recognition that public health concerns the general welfare of the people and is a responsibility of government.

But privatization strikes at the very hallmark of modern society by denying that such things as public health, universal public education, income support for the poor and most vulnerable, and so forth are public responsibilities, matters which must be in the public domain and guaranteed by the government in the full view of the people. Privatization is robbery of the whole people, of the whole country, and robbery on a grand scale. Just as in the period of primitive capitalist accumulation, when the capitalist class got started by robbing and plundering the entire continent and the indigenous peoples, so today, monopoly capitalism is reverting to this method by directly relying on the state to plunder our country of its public assets. The capitalist class is literally falling over itself in the grab for public resources. The land speculators want our country’s stock of public housing turned over to them; the billions upon billions invested in the space program are already being put at the disposal of communications monopolies and others. The capitalists are drooling at the prospect of further getting their hands on the monies earmarked for Medicare and Medicaid, at the privatization of the $100 billion public school infrastructure. The mining capitalists, the oil monopolies and big timber companies are grabbing for more of the national lands and natural wealth of our country.