March 16, 2015


Koch-backed veterans group advocates for VA privatization. During the 2014 midterm election cycle, the Koch-funded group Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) backed a bevy of extreme conservative candidates and helped send top Koch cronies (and veterans) Joni Ernst and Tom Cotton to the U.S. Senate. Scarcely a couple months into the 2016 cycle, CVA has released a report recommending that much of the U.S. Veterans Administration be privatized, an extreme policy position that would jeopardize the care received by millions of our nation’s veterans.

Privatizing Public Housing: The “Genocide of Poor People”. . . Janet Golrick . . . a senior advisor at the Federal Housing Administration . . . calls RAD “our central piece in public housing preservation . . . to ensure that the housing units are preserved and affordable for the long term.” (During her interview with Truthout, she references HUD’s budget constraints five times.) Developers sign initial 15-to-20-year contracts to provide public housing, “which they’ll have to renew,” she says, but only once, leaving the future of lots of low-income housing projects up in the air. Baltimore is another RAD testing ground, and, as its Right to Housing Alliance ominously notes: In 40 years, when the contracts with developers expire, the new owners will be able to convert the buildings to market -ate rents, forcing out low-income renters, essentially ending public housing . . .Truth-Out

Privatization Scams You Should Know About – Diane Ravitch. . . If you want to know how private interests have finagled their way into making a killing off public sector dollars, here is an example: Top executives of the Blackstone Group, owner of the janitorial services company GCA Services Group, pull down massive annual compensation. Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone’s CEO, received $656 million in dividends and pay; and its real estate chief Jon Gray took in $205 million, for a combined total of $861 million. GCA has faced repeated accusations of low pay. The New Haven Register reported in 2011 that ‘a proposed GCA contract for custodial services would plunge 200 New Haven, Connecticut, Public Schools custodians into poverty. OpEdNews

AZ: Arizona Republic Promotes Koch-Backed Effort To Privatize Department Of Veterns Affairs. The Arizona Republic recently published an editorial promoting Concerned Veterans for America’s efforts to privatize much of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). While the group is presented by the Republic as an impartial veterans organization, it is actually a right-wing group backed by Charles and David Koch and headed by a Fox News contributor. Media Matters for America (blog)

PA: Koch Bros.-linked PAC launches ad campaign to pressure lawmakers on booze, pensions and paycheck protection. The conservative pressure group, The American Future Fund, is splashing it across websites (including the popular Keystone Report), as a reminder to conservative lawmakers and their constituents that they basically only have three things to do this budget season. And as you might gather, it’s passing a pension reform package, a liquor privatization bill and so-called ‘paycheck protection’ legislation. And if all that sounds as easy as do-it-yourself neurosurgery, that’s because it is. So who’s bankrolling The American Future Fund (or at least someone’s vision of a very specific American Future)? The group is tied to the Center to Protect Patient Rights, a political nonprofit with ties to the Koch Brothers.. . . Paycheck protection, or a ban on the state deducting union and political dues from state employees’ paychecks, hit a speedbump in the state Senate the other week. (blog)

IN: Do charter schools deserve more state funding?. . . A Star analysis found that the failure rate of charter schools more than doubled in the past five years — 53 percent received a D or an F rating from the state last year compared to 23 percent in 2010. “There are charter schools that are doing a wonderful job, but they are just not the panacea that people think they are,” said Dennis Costerison, executive director of the Indiana Association of School Business Officials, which represents public schools. “You have to look at these things … and the bottom line is: Are they functioning properly?” Indianapolis Star

IN: Local officials decry state’s fast Toll Road move. Lake and LaPorte County officials blame their loss of the Indiana Toll Road on misdirection and hostility from downstate officials. “I think the citizens should be outraged the state wouldn’t support our package to bring the toll revenues back into Indiana,” Lake County Commissioner Roosevelt Allen, D-Gary, complained last week after IMF Investors, a global investment firm announced they clinched acquisition of the 157-mile bankrupt highway. . . “I would like Gov. Pence to use his overwhelming influence over the Indiana Finance Authority to support our bid. How can you claim to be all-American and when they have an opportunity to do something that is patriotic and beneficial to the citizens of Indiana, do the opposite?” Allen said.

IL: No need to privatize prof hiring. Who hires professors? Almost always, an academic unit recommends a hire and the board of trustees makes the hiring official. A recent UIUC Senate resolution seeks to remove this power from the board of trustees. A minority of senators, myself included, opposed it. We contended that this is a long-standing statutory power. It is used very sparingly and without abuse. . . No doubt, some board decisions are terribly misguided. Some trustees probably meddle where they shouldn’t. But trustees do not have tenure, as do faculty members — and therefore, their poor or questionable judgments can be altered when new members are appointed. On the other hand, the fact that faculty members have the unique privilege of tenure suggests that it is reasonable to provide trustees with limited oversight in their hiring recommendations. The Senate resolution seeks to reverse a centuries-old power that university boards in America and Europe — public, private, and ecclesiastical — have exercised. In effect, this resolution seeks to privatize the hiring of professors, and further, to make these decisions unreviewable. Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette