Sep 5, 2011
The state of Ohio is selling one of its prisons to a private company. Though many state and local governments have privatized the management of their prisons, Ohio becomes the first state to turn over prison property outright. The state is looking for buyers for four other prisons as well.
Such sales will undoubtedly mean a worsening of conditions for prisoners, as their private owners seek to “cut costs.”
It’s only one part, however, of a much bigger pattern of governments handing over publicly owned property to private hands.
The politicians claim the sell-offs are necessary due to increasing budget deficits.
The federal government has cut its revenue sharing with the states, which therefore have less to pass down to local governments. The economic crisis and high unemployment mean lower sales and income tax revenues. The bursting of the housing bubble in turn means the states collect less in property taxes.
Politicians use the “budget deficits,” as justification for cutting social services and putting less money into pension funds, which are already underfunded due to shaky financial investments.
The deficits also give local politicians a convenient excuse for privatizing services. The city of Chicago privatized its local toll bridge, the Skyway, and parking meter collections. The state of Pennsylvania privatized its toll roads. The mayor of Detroit is looking to privatize the city’s lighting department.
What the politicians never mention is the biggest reason for budget shortfalls – the systematic hand out of tax breaks to big corporations.
All these maneuvers, whether it’s handing out tax breaks, investing public money in risky financial instruments, paying ridiculous fees to banks or handing over public property outright to private interests, are done to prop up profits for the corporations – who can no longer make their own economy run without collapsing.