July 9, 2015

Feds throw cold water on GOP air traffic control privatization plan. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx threw cold water Wednesday on a Republican plan to privatize large portions of the nation’s air traffic control system. House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) is expected to call for the creation of a new nongovernmental agency that would take over air traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration in a forthcoming funding bill for the agency. Foxx said Wednesday during a meeting with reporters at the transportation department’s headquarters that he did not see the need to remove the federal government from the airplane navigation process. The Hill

USPS’s controversial deal with Staples headed to showdown over legality. The U.S. Postal Service’s outsourcing of stamp sales and other retail services traditionally offered by post offices to Staples has been a simmering wound with postal unions, with nationwide protests and calls for a boycott of the office-supply retailer. Now, one of the biggest labor battles in recent years is headed to Washington, where the National Labor Relations Board will rule in August on whether the Staples deal violates the Postal Service’s collective bargaining agreement with the American Postal Workers Union. Washington Post (blog)

Is Neoliberalism Finally Running Out of Tricks? Neoliberalism, the privatization and commoditization of everything that moves, has experienced a great run over the past three decades, jump-started in the 1980s by PM Thatcher and President Reagan, christened in 1951 by Milton Friedman. Decidedly, “austerity of governmental social programs” is the kissing cousin to “privatization of public assets” as part and parcel of neoliberal principles, for example, Troika (European Central Bank, European Commission, and International Monetary Fund) austerity and “the dismantling and privatization of public health and education systems” (Pablo Iglesias). Throughout Europe, Troika’s influence, or “neoliberalism on steroids,” has been hand-feeding kernels of dissent to popular uprisings. The imposition of draconian austerity measures inflicted upon Greece and the Mediterranean nation-states is rapidly, very rapidly, nursing a badly bruised European Left back to robust health. Pablo Iglesias, age 36, a former political science instructor, leads Spain’s leftwing anti-austerity Podemos party. He’s “the guy with the pony tail” on television with huge political impact. “The ‘People of the Television’—el pueblo de la television, or the TV nation, so to speak— didn’t know about a new political party called Podemos, but they knew about the guy with the pony tail,” (Understanding Podemos). CounterPunch

There’s a Contract for That. . .Some Michigan lawmakers are the latest to join Alabama, Oklahoma and Mississippi in considering the privatization of marriage by halting the issuance of state marriage licenses, thereby freeing people to make their own marriage contracts according to their conscience, religion and common sense. Those contracts could be registered with the state, recognized as legal and arbitrated by the courts, but the terms would be determined by those involved. Are these publicity stunts to show disdain for the idea of gay marriage? Maybe. However, the idea that states should get out of the business of regulating and granting permission to marry is hardly monopolized by religious fundamentalists. In fact, more and more people from all political backgrounds are beginning to ask the same question. Frankly, why does the state have to give citizens permission to marry?   Huffington Post

IN: Avoiding future highway congestion may come with a cost. . .Toll roads are just one approach transportation planners are taking as they try to ease the nation’s deepening traffic congestion. With little hope that the federal government will splurge on enough new construction to reverse traffic trends, the goal is to squeeze as much efficiency as possible out of current highways. . .. Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, won passage in 2014 of House Enrolled Act 1104, requiring the Indiana Department of Transportation work with outside experts to study alternative transportation funding mechanisms, such as changes to the 18 cents per gallon state gas tax — or the feasibility of a per-mile charge. Their first report to the Legislature is due this month. Soliday expects it will show the different ways of paying for roads and what the state would get using each method. Nwitimes.com

IN: Better Luck This Time: Analysts Optimistic on Indiana Toll Road. Months after the original private owner of the publicly owned toll road went bankrupt, the new owner, Australian fund manager fund IFM Investors, is set to complete the financing of its takeover bid next week. Bond Buyer

MA: Why something called the ‘Pacheco law’ is an MBTA battleground. . . What is the Pacheco law? The law doesn’t make it impossible to contract out work. In a nutshell, it requires agencies—like the T—to prove that a private contractor will provide cheaper and higher- or equal-quality services. Any proposal has to meet with state auditor approval. . . The Pioneer Institute, a fiscally conservative-leaning Massachusetts policy analysis group, says the law has cost the T hundreds of millions by preventing it from outsourcing. Pacheco law critics argue it accomplishes little beyond protecting union employees. Advocates of the law agree the law offers protection for labor, and the MBTA’s Carmen’s Union was quick to rally against Baker’s proposal to exempt the T. Advocates also say the law ensures any privately contracted work is not done at taxpayers’ expense—meaning that it actually saves money. And they argue the law does not impede privatization, often noting that since the law was passed, the vast majority of requests by the MBTA have been given approval. In-Depth-Boston.com

NJ: Debate continues over the future of Liberty State Park. Gov. Chris Christie and the Democratic-led Legislature made good on a promise this week to change a new law that some worried might pave the way for commercial development in the shadow of Lady Liberty. But the new law — frequently referred to as a fix — has not convinced everyone that the possibility of building up the park is off the table. seattlepi.com