February 3, 2014


Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Coming to a Post Office Near You: Loans You Can Trust?….. In the same remarkable report this week, the OIG explored the possibility of the USPS offering basic banking services — bill paying, check cashing, small loans — to its customers. With post offices and postal workers already on the ground, USPS could partner with banks to make a critical difference for millions of Americans who don’t have basic banking services because there are almost no banks or bank branches in their neighborhoods….If the Postal Service offered basic banking services — nothing fancy, just basic bill paying, check cashing and small dollar loans — then it could provide affordable financial services for underserved families, and, at the same time, shore up its own financial footing. (The postal services in many other countries, it turns out, have taken steps in this direction and seen their earnings increase dramatically.) Huffington Post

Pearlstein: The federal outsourcing boom and why it’s failing Americans….So, too, the fiasco with HealthCare.gov, which despite the bleating of Republicans has almost nothing to do with the wisdom of the new health-care law and everything to do with the way the government and its outside contractors set about implementing it. While several of the contractors failed to perform as promised, in hindsight it appears the government also made a crucial mistake in deciding to rely on the IT staff at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to manage the contractors and oversee the final integration of the new system. Free-market ideologues will reflexively see in this failure further evidence of the inherent inferiority of public-sector workers. In truth, it is evidence of how outdated civil service rules and ill-conceived caps on the size and pay of the federal workforce have eroded the government’s ability to perform even essential government tasks.  Washington Post

Video: Weather Forecasting and Public-Private Partnerships. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker spoke with reporters about the public-private partnership in weather forecasting…Senator Mikulski announced a new federal investment in weather technology. C-Span

TX: Toll road use fluctuates, dropped recently. Texas Department of Transportation officials maintain that the privately run section of Texas 130 is increasingly alleviating traffic on the oft-clogged lanes of Interstate 35 despite data that indicates use of the highway has fluctuated and recently dropped. San Antonio Express

TX: Houston Toll Road Taps Investors for Congestion Relief. Builders of a toll road around Houston return to the $3.7 trillion municipal market this week to finance the project serving the fourth-biggest U.S. city….The roadway connects seven Texas counties and circles the Houston metropolitan region, where the population of 6.2 million is expected to swell to 9.6 million by 2035, the documents show.  Bloomberg

GA: University of North Georgia part of plan to privatize dorms. Officials plan to have a partnership in place by the end of 2014 that would privatize dorm rooms in universities and colleges across Georgia. Gainesville Times

LA: 8th LSU hospital ready to go private… The charity hospital also gets a new name — Our Lady of Angels Hospital — as the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health Center System take over. The hospital becomes the eighth of LSU’s 10 hospitals to undergo privatization under the Jindal administration.  The Advocate

IN: House Bill Would Halt Public Employee Pension Outsourcing. House lawmakers approved legislation on Thursday that would halt the Indiana Public Retirement System Board’s plans to outsource management of public employee pensions….The interest rate would be considerably lower under private management, which uses market rates….The bill unanimously passed the House.  It now heads to the Senate. WFIU Local News Podcast

IN: Opinion: Vouchers a distraction from public education needs….Students using vouchers to attend private schools represent less than 2 percent of Indiana’s K-12 students, yet the legislature concentrates on this small group at the expense of the vast majority of public school students. It is as if our policy makers have given up on public education in favor of private education, but such a strategy will never be able to address the needs of the public school students. Indianapolis Star

PA: Prison board drops privatization. The Lawrence County Prison Board agreed Wednesday to stop considering proposals for privatizing the jail for the three-year term of the new jail workers’ contract. The employees’ union agreed to concessions in a new contract, which covers the 2014, 2015 and 2016 calendar years. New Castle News

OH: Trumbull County Superintendents hosting public meeting on privatizing education. Local superintendents will present information about the consequences of privatizing public education and how privatizing impacts their districts. The program will include a presentation from William L. Phillis, executive director of Ohio’s Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding; he will speak about the impact of the privatization movement on public schools in Ohio.  Youngstown Vindicator

IA: Davenport Council says no to privatizing, selling golf courses. Faced with declining play at Davenport’s three municipal golf courses, aldermen on Saturday decried the possibility of privatizing or even selling any of them…. “We don’t want to sell our parks, and there’s no interest in selling the courses,” Mayor Bill Gluba said, echoing the calls of aldermen. Aldermen also showed disinterest in selling the city’s sewer system.  Quad City Times

AZ: McClellan: Libertarian march continues toward privatization of public institutions….[N]ow our privatizers want to create a statewide voucher system, one similar to a county’s in Colorado…..Of course, there are some problems with this, not the least of which is accountability, given that existing voucher plans in Arizona have no private school accountability measures in place, either academically or financially. That is, we have no idea how voucher money is spent by private schools in Arizona, nor do we know how those kids who attend private schools do academically in comparison with their public school counterparts. But we do know that the current variety of voucher plans in this state have done little for the poor, largely because poor parents don’t access the vouchers or don’t have the money to pay for the rest of the tuition private schools charge. Those concerns don’t seem to pop up on proponents’ radar. Ahwatukee Foothills News