March 24, 2015


Opinion: How Privatization Degrades Our Daily Lives. . . Broadcast Journalist Edward R. Murrow in 1955: Who owns the patent on this vaccine? Polio Researcher Jonas Salk: Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun? We don’t hear much of that anymore. The public-minded sentiment of the 1950s, with the sense of wartime cooperation still in the minds of researchers and innovators, has yielded to the neoliberal winner-take-all business model. In his most recent exposé of the health care industry in the U.S., Steve Brill notes that it’s “the only industry in which technological advances have increased costs instead of lowering them.” An investigation of fourteen private hospitals by National Nurses United found that they realized a 1,000% markup on their total costs, four times that of public hospitals. Other sources have found that private health insurance administrative costs are 5 to 6 times higher than Medicare administrative costs.  eNews Park Forest

TX: Lawmakers, anti-toll road groups rally at Capitol. Members of various advocacy groups opposed to toll roads gathered on the Capitol steps Monday to present their legislative agenda and voice their support for eliminating toll roads. . . . “The tax burden represented by paying tolls has risen to a level that exceeds many folks’ property tax bills,” said Terri Hall, director of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom. “Texans cannot sustain this toll tax burden. Something must change, and fast.” Hall outlined six priorities of the coalition, including prohibiting the Texas Department of Transportation from utilizing public money to build toll roads, requiring toll revenue be used only for the road on which the tolls are collected, and banning any partnerships between private companies and the state.

DC: Graduation rates up in DC public schools, down for charter schools. D.C. Public Schools’ graduation rate increased last school year by two percentage points, to 58 percent, but the city’s public charter schools recorded a drop of nearly seven points, to 69 percent, according to new data. Washington Post

IA: Editorial: Medicaid plan is gift for private firms. From Social Security to Medicare, Republicans have pushed to privatize government entitlements. Now Gov. Terry Branstad seeks to hand over management of Iowa’s $4.2 billion Medicaid program to a few private companies. The public should be skeptical. The more than 500,000 poor and disabled individuals and families in Iowa who rely on Medicaid should be asking questions. The federal government should be reluctant to approve the waiver that Iowa needs to privatize a program funded by state and federal dollars. In recent presentations to the public, state leaders have unveiled a lot of numbers intended to show Medicaid is expensive. What they do not provide is context. Des Moines Register

WI: This Is What Wisconsin’s 2.5% Budget Cut Looks Like. . . And while none of the campuses expects to close, each is being transformed. That’s because Walker’s proposed changes would monumentally shift the tradition of shared governance, further dismantle the tenure system, and effectively privatize much of the system’s work force. Many employees are being told to expect to lose their jobs this spring. Many who remain will find that their jobs require significantly more work for less pay. Chronicle of Higher Education ($)

WI: Your Views: State budget would privatize local Aging and Disability Resource Centers. I am writing to encourage all citizens to contact their government representatives and express concern regarding the proposed budget cuts to several of the human service programs in Wisconsin, including privatizing the local Aging and Disability Resource Centers or ADRCs. . . When consumers are given accurate and unbiased information, they can make good decisions about how to spend their money to obtain care at home. This prevents admission to long-term care facilities and saves taxpayers money! Privatizing these services not only gives profits to insurance companies paid for by taxpayers, but it also places our local communities’ most vulnerable citizens at risk of receiving poor service or, worse yet, no service. Janesville Gazette

MO: Missouri House moves to privatize Medicaid eligibility checks. Missouri would hire a private contractor to verify applicants’ eligibility for Medicaid and other social services programs under a bill the state House passed last week. . . . In addition to checking initial applications, the contractor would update the income and assets of recipients at least quarterly to see if they should remain on the rolls. The company would submit the information to the Department of Social Services, which would retain authority to decide who is eligible. . .. The bill garnered bipartisan support, passing on a vote of 148-5. It is being pushed by Maximus, a Virginia-based company that specializes in government health and welfare programs. Maximus has hired lobbyist David Winton to advocate for the bill.

IL: Brady Says Privatizing Higher Ed Might Be The Solution In Illinois. Wisconsin and Virginia have begun conversations about privatizing flagship public universities. Now, Illinois is about to have the discussion. Bloomington Republican State Senator Bill Brady has introduced a bill to privatize Illinois’ public universities over six years.

NY: State education aid may fall short; Cuomo gets Fs across the board. . . Also on Monday, Cuomo got a report card full of Fs from the Alliance for Quality Education. In a news release with a chalkboard-like graphic and a picture of the governor frowning, the alliance gave him Fs in the following categories: research, for putting faith in standardized testing to evaluate teachers; math, for not closing the equity gap in school funding; pre-K, for not following through on funding prekindergarten in upstate and suburban communities; and civics, for what it called his bullying of school districts. Cuomo got an A in rhetoric because of his “ability to distract from real solutions and point the finger or blame, not deterred by whether facts match reality;” and an A for business studies as it alleges that Cuomo “scores very high on return on investment for Wall Street investors supporting high stakes testing, privatization and teacher bashing.” Glens Falls Post-Star

LA: Gov. Jindal’s Implosion – Charles M. Blow. What happened to Bobby Jindal? . . . Jindal was the brainy Moses coming to deliver his people from the bondage of inanity. But that was then. Now, Jindal has gone from being one of the most popular governors in the country to one of the least popular. . . . On Friday, Robert Mann, a columnist at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, called for Jindal’s resignation, citing all of the problems in the state that the governor isn’t focusing on as he tries to gin up a greater national profile: “We have some of the nation’s highest poverty and worst health outcomes and you’ve done little to address them. . . .. What you have done is hollow out higher education and inject needless confusion and rancor into the state’s elementary and secondary education system. Meanwhile, the state’s health care system is a fractured, dysfunctional mess under your privatization schemes. Now, you’ve outsourced the state’s tax policy to Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform.” New York Times

NJ: Editorial: Lottery couriers / Preying on the vulnerable. . . The state is a little more than a year into a misguided and so-far-disappointing privatization contract for lottery sales and marketing. There was only one bidder for the 15-year contract – a three-company consortium known as Northstar New Jersey. And in the first year of the contract, lottery sales were down 9.2 percent, and Northstar fell $24 million short of its projections – and that was after the company got the state to lower the projections. And administrative costs were up 45 percent from the last year the state had full control of the lottery. In return for a lump sum payment of $120 million to the state, Northstar gets a percentage of any increase in lottery revenue it generates. Could the creation of lottery courier services be an attempt to bail out Northstar and the privatization deal? Press of Atlantic City

GA: GUEST COLUMN: A return to separate but equal schools. . . They now have floated legislation to create two separate school systems in our state. Senate Bill 133 and Senate Resolution 287 will go far to destroy the public education system. If we adopt this law now pending in the House, the governor will become the dictator for all poor white and black students and their schools. He will then appoint a “czar” to operate what he deems failing schools, in what is to be called an Opportunity School District. This czar’s private corporation will educate all Georgia’s kids whose schools are deemed “failing” by the governor. This private corporation will hire teachers, run the schools, and collect their profits. The idea is, I guess, that private enterprise can do it best. This is a long-held belief of Republicans, whose real plan is to privatize all services and to profit from them — and then to destroy government, or limit it to just raising an army. Northwest Georgia News