Money Gets In The Way: Profit Perversion and Public Policy

Conservative candidates have a successful track record of stirring chicken-shit ideas and candidates into the savory chicken-salad of electoral victory.  How else do you explain nimrods like Jason Chaffetz getting elected year after year without even breaking a sweat?  Progressives always have the better ideas- even when our ideas are bad but we can’t make it happen at the ballot box because we fail at messaging.  The oldest rule of K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple, Stupid- is one we just can’t seem to grasp. Beating these assholes at the ballot box hinges on getting this simple message across: Conservatives can’t govern worth a damn because money always gets in the way- just like in that tantalizing photo above.  If only we could get money out of the way, we could see the light and do what’s right.

For as far back as I have been watching elections, the more tentative messenger has almost always been the Democratic representative.  Team Obama was the exception, and unfortunately they made us think that we were a better team than we really were- like a high school baseball team might feel if it had Reggie Jackson, Willie Mays and Barry Bonds playing the outfield for them.  Proof positive: after celebrating gleefully when he emerged as the Republican nominee we could not even beat a bad joke candidate like Donald Trump in the general election.  Enough said.  And since Barack can never run again we had better get our asses in gear. Those Mad Men jokes from the 2012 election won’t be so funny when we are living them out in 2020.  I don’t know about you, but I am not interested in accepting servant class status and having some white guy referring to my grown daughter as a “girl.”  Since she is an independent 25 years old woman with a bachelor’s degree, she should never be referred to in that vein in her life- but we had better not take that for granted.  Funny happenings will follow when employment laws stop protecting women and minorities in the workplace.  Don’t believe me, just watch.

But like I said, progressives have a built in advantage that we just have to tap into- long, hard and steady until we win- starting now.  Progressives understand what conservatives don’t:  Everything in our nation cannot operate on a profit motive.  Privatization is bad public policy- and conservatives go to bed every night with new visions of privatization dancing in their heads.  The foundation of modern conservatism and the core of the G.O.P. ethos is that the “invisible hand of the free market” must be allowed to operate without government interference, i.e. regulation.  The exceptions are, of course, when conservatives want the government to plunder and pillage black cities like Flint and Benton Harbor, Michigan through “Emergency Financial Managers,” or vaginally penetrate young women in Virginia seeking an abortion with an ultrasound probe- so the women “can have more information before making what most people would say is a very important, serious, life-changing decision.”

Profit motive has its place in a capitalist democracy- and an important place.  But we lapse into profit perversion when we promote and encourage people to make money purely off of the suffering of their fellow citizens.  Prisons should not be a for-profit enterprise for any reason on any level.  That has proven to be a bad idea. Proof positive: Luzerne County Pennsylvania Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. was convicted of funneling young boys into the penal system in exchange for a million dollars in bribes from 2003 to 2008 from the owner of the private local prison.  While justice may have been served by this scumbag being sentenced to 28 years in prison that is cold comfort to the young boys were thrown into the hell that passes for a correctional facility in today’s world.  The torment that those boys suffered has scarred them for life- suicide resulting in one particularly harrowing case.  Families were torn asunder- but the judge and prison owner had a nice time spending all that money.  So in any election between a progressive and a conservative it is crystal clear who has the better argument.  This “kids for cash” scheme only happened because conservatives got their way when they sought to privatize the penal system.  Had there been no profit motive, these children would not have been herded into incarceration- sometimes without even a court hearing or legal counsel to which they were entitled under the Constitution.  This is a clear-cut case where injecting a private profit motive into an area that ought to be the exclusive province of the public service yielded disastrous results.

Another case involves the poisoning of a struggling city’s water supply and destroying the health and well-being of its citizens as a result.  In Michigan, the Republicans enacted a law that empowers the governor to appoint an official called an “Emergency Financial Manager” if a municipality is deemed to be in economic distress (i.e. black and poor).  The EFM has no accountability to the people of the municipality whatsoever- answering only to the governor who appointed him.  The local government, normally the apple of the conservative eye, is completely emasculated, divested of all power and not even entitled to reporting from the EFM on the changes he unilaterally decides to impose on the city.  The effect is that the entire governance of a municipality under an EFM would be run under a structure identical to that which would exist in any private enterprise:  The governor plays the part of a business owner who hires a manager to run a business for him.  The governor/owner can hire and fire the manager at his will and the manager’s sole objective is carrying out the will of the owner.  Removing accountability to the citizenry is the essence of privatization.

So when the EFM of Flint, Michigan decided to change how water was supplied to the citizens there was no public voice he had to hear or heed.  And when it turned out that his changes actually poisoned the water supply with lead, causing an outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease in the children of Flint, he remained in his position because Governor Rick Snyder was satisfied with his performance.  Had it not been for the fact that several officials appointed under the EFM were found to have lied about the condition of Flint’s water supply, the story would have ended right there.  Instead, the whole crew has been charged with multiple felonies and are awaiting trial- all except for Governor Snyder. Not only is Governor Snyder getting a skate for this fiasco, the effort to privatize Flint’s water system is now in full swing- based in part on the incompetence and corruption overseen by the EFM.  So when it is all said and done, Flint will have a private company running its water supply for profit.  I am taking bets that there will be a connection between a Snyder donor and the company that winds up with the water contract. Conservative hypocrisy knows no limits.  Meanwhile, these glaring and flagrant failures of conservative governance get little traction as progressive politicians continue to struggle with messaging.   How difficult is it to argue that it is un-American to make money off of poisoning or imprisoning children?  For the record, I am not suggesting that privatization always leads directly to criminal corruption- it just opens the door to disaster triggered by profit motive.  Sometimes the result is horrific, at other times it is just bad business and the public is poorly served. (Ask any Atlanta resident about the parking ticket nightmare we have endured under privatization.)

Heartbreaking analogy:  A Nebraska family was walking along a pathway next to a lagoon one evening during their Disney World vacation this past June when an alligator sprang from the water and snatched their two year old son away to his death. The alligator didn’t do it because it was evil.  It did it because it was an alligator and that is what alligator’s do- they hunt and kill small prey that wander too close to their murky homes.  There was no judgement involved- just a creature doing what it was supposed to do.  By the same token, a private business’s sole purpose is to make money.  That is what it does, and all of its energy is geared toward that end.  It does not make it an evil business, it makes it a business.  That is why businesses can’t be trusted to operate in the public interest in areas of critical importance.  It is not what they are built to do.  Progressives’ mastery of narratives like these will be impossible for conservatives to counteract.  Their free market arguments are inferior to our public service arguments because they have virtually no success stories to point to- just their philosophical hand-jive and talking points.  If we make it our sole objective to drive this point to the voters in every corner of the country, eventually we will win them over and send all of these fake public servants where they belong- to work for their true private employers, or to the prisons they so love to fill.

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