January 8, 2015


‘Hostage-Takers’: Republicans Go After Social Security on Very First Day. An attack by the Republican Party on the nation’s Social Security program took less than one full working day. Included in a new set of rules passed by the House of Representatives on Tuesday was a new measure making it more difficult to move funds between separate accounts maintained by the Social Security Administration. A seemingly technical provision on the surface, critics says it puts millions of disabled and elderly Americans at risk and sets the stage for further attacks aimed at the wider program. . . . Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) also condemned the rule, calling it not only contentious, but dangerous. “Re-allocation has never been controversial, but detractors working to privatize Social Security will do anything to manufacture a crisis out of a routine administrative function,” Brown said in a statement. CommonDreams.org

4 Things to Know Before Your Water Is Privatized. . . Right now, private water companies serve about 15 percent of the U.S. population, but that number could soon skyrocket thanks to several new federal laws and an investment gap of as much as $500 billion over the next 20 years. However, even as private water IOUs eat up an increasing chunk of the U.S. market, water infrastructure’s decentralized nature — owned and operated by thousands of local municipalities, tied to each individual watershed — means that little national data exists. When bills like New Jersey’s stir controversy, local media is often forced into he-said, she-said coverage, without much information on how privatization will actually affect the local system. Next City

Editorial: With oil prices low, now’s the perfect time for Congress to raise the gas tax. . . Lawmakers could have headed off some of the problem in 1993 by indexing the gas tax to inflation, but they put that responsibility on later congresses, which failed to act responsibly. Now, with lower oil prices, the politics of raising the gas tax should be easier, the potential backlash blunted by Americans who don’t feel as pinched at the pump. True, lower gas prices will stimulate the economy to some degree, and raising the gas tax would reduce that effect. But raising it now would restrain present and future demand for gasoline, encouraging Americans to maintain some of the resilience to oil price volatility that the country built up in recent years — and possibly even checking future price spikes. Washington Post

The ugly segregationist history of the charter school movement. As a parent I find it easy to understand the appeal of charter schools, especially for parents and students who feel that traditional public schools have failed them. As a historical sociologist who studies race and politics, however, I am disturbed both by the significant challenges that plague the contemporary charter school movement, and by the ugly history of segregationist tactics that link past educational practices to the troubling present. The now-popular idea of offering public education dollars to private entrepreneurs has historical roots in white resistance to school desegregation after Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The desired outcome was few or, better yet, no black students in white schools. Salon

CA: Los Angeles City Council asks for law banning for-profit parking apps. The Los Angeles City Council Tuesday requested that city lawyers draft a law banning digital media applications that identify available parking on city streets and charge fees to reserve the spots. The emerging technology, offered by San Francisco-based MonkeyParking and other mobile-based apps, has become a thorn for public officials in the Bay Area, along with Boston and Santa Monica. Los Angeles Times

NJ: Liberty State Park advocates remain puzzled by controversial legislation. One week after advocates for Liberty State Park sounded the alarm about legislative changes that they believe would lead to privatization of the park, it’s still unclear why the changes were made and whether they will be signed into law. Mayor Steve Fulop said today he has “serious concerns” about the proposed changes, which would allow a new state commission to “evaluate, approve and implement” plans for the state park. That language was inserted into an 80-page bill shortly before the state Legislature approved it last month. “It’s unclear what the motivation is for the governor to add that in,” Fulop told The Jersey Journal. “Everyone is trying to figure it out.” The Jersey Journal

PA: Koch Bros-backed group to push “3 P’s” – pensions, paycheck protection and booze privatization. The American Future Fund, an advocacy group founded by ex-Mitt Romney campaign aides that has ties to the billionaire Koch Brothers, has come to play in Pennsylvania. The group plans a statewide multimedia and advocacy blitz during the coming legislative session aimed at “[reminding] legislators of their commitments to support “3 Ps:” pension reform, paycheck protection, and liquor privatization,” according to a statement posted to it s website. PennLive.com (blog)

TX: Governor proposes a toll road plan ‘as big as Texas’. Rick Perry was just a year into his tenure as governor when he proposed the Trans-Texas Corridor, a massive 4,000-mile network of privately operated toll roads, railroad tracks and utility lines that would take 50 years to build. “This plan is as big as Texas and as ambitious as our people,” Perry said at the first of many events touting the project. The corridor he envisioned would never become a reality, but he still managed to leave his mark on the state’s approach to funding roads. Under his leadership, Texas has been the country’s most aggressive supporter of tolling and private-sector investment in transportation. Despite millions of dollars spent on planning, the caustic public response to the Trans-Texas Corridor would ultimately doom it. Killeen Daily Herald

TX: Nichols asks for review of contract management for state health commission. State Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) on Wednesday, Jan. 7, requested that the Texas State Auditor’s Office review the procurement processes of the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) in tentatively awarding a contract for the operation of Terrell State Hospital to a private firm. “I believe that if we are considering privatization of one of our state hospitals, we need to be able to show that it will not only save money for the state, but that better services will be provided,” said Senator Nichols. “I hope that through this review some of our questions will be answered, and we will be able to determine the best next step forward in this process.” Cleveland Advocate

MD: Montgomery Parks asks whether privately owned parks make sense for downtown areas. The Montgomery Department of Parks is asking people whether they think public spaces owned by private entities can serve as useful civic spaces now and in the future, or whether they would be better off owned by a public entity. The survey asks what people think about the strengths and weaknesses of privately owned public spaces, especially in urban areas such as downtown Bethesda, Wheaton or Silver Spring.   Gazette.Net

NY: Opinion: NYCHA’s Path to Privatization? As it currently stands, NYCHA’s 2602 buildings spread across 334 developments, serving more than 615,000 people, are in need of $18 billion for major building repairs and upgrades. The area I represent in East Harlem has the highest concentration of public housing in the State. This state of disrepair is both a natural result of aging housing stock and a failure to properly invest in the regular maintenance of these buildings. The plan recently introduced by NYCHA to sell a 50% stake in six developments, in exchange for an immediate cash infusion, is an intriguing approach to this massive problem, but this deal requires closer scrutiny. Furthermore, it raises significant questions about the federal government’s future role in providing housing subsidies. Gotham Gazette