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The Pirates of Privatization

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Matt Rothschild's astonishing expose of the FBI's decision to "deputize" 23,000 representatives of private industry reflects a frightening alignment of authoritarian forces, as well as another apparently deliberate flouting of constitutional norms. The sad thing is, we can probably expect an almost total silence from the loyal opposition party, which once again suggests we have reached the near-total corporatization of government over the past few decades.

It also represents the logical extension of the conscious corporatization of the federal government over the past seven years:

In 2002, the Bush administration openly announced its plansto corporatize 850,000 government jobs.

It was, of course, just part of a broader ideological agenda that extends back decades (and not just in the Republican Party, as has been mentioned) -- an agenda that has not come close to being entirely concluded (e.g. after overreaching too early, we can expect they will come back later to try to privatize social security).

This observer has spilled a lot of bile criticizing the growth of crony contracting, which doubled during the Bush era from 200 to $ 400 billion per year. The epidemic of waste, fraud and no-bid contracts may have become epidemic, but the seeds were planted long before that -- in no small part during Al Gore's "reinventing government" project, which cut back on the number of contract oversight specialists in places like the Pentagon.

The result was not just the looting of the treasury, but the loss of life and the gutting of government services.

But the corporatists don't mind. They're the ones who make a killing and, when government fails, it only continues to feed popular cynicism about the legitimacy of government, thereby reinforcing the ideologues' ability to propose "more efficient" and "less costly" answers -- brought to you by the folks in the private sector. And so, the vicious cycle of corporate cronyism continues.

Yes, the problem goes far beyond mere questions of cost. Just ask the families of the Iraqi civilians gunned down by Blackwater security back in September, who are probably willing to bet that no one from Blackwater will ever be brought to justice.

Yet the real "Blackwatergates" may be yet to come. (What else could you expect when "shoot to kill" orders are given to corporate employees here in the U.S. Next up: "tort reform" to gut anyone's ability to sue for the loss of a family member or loved one. Paul Bremer's CPA orders might yet turn out to be the new models of corporate constitutional immunity.)

But law often follows reality as a way to codify the inevitable. As investigative reporter Tim Shorrock has reported, so much of the national security apparatus already has been handed wholesale over to the corporations that there's very little real government oversight left. At least 70% of the U.S. Intelligence budget goes to pay contractors like SAIC, Lockheed Martin, CACI and other taxpayer-bilking bureaucracies.

And it's not as if the FBI is coming late to the table. Recall how their FISA surveillance work has been conducted with the complicity of Sprint and other telecom companies, for whom the administration is also seeking statutory immunity. Talk about blowback.

I've said it before, but it's worth restating. Corporations already:
* Write the president's daily brief
* Conduct Government Security Clearance Background Checks
* Process FOIA Requests
* Started to collect taxes for the IRS (until Congress stopped that).
* Oversee other corporate contractors
* Are increasingly taking on law enforcement duties, from criminal profiling to the management of private prisons (Corporate Crime, of course, is "off the table", even though it costs society far more).

And the madness is not limited to the federal government. As their budgets suffer from federal cutbacks, the recession and lower taxes assessments, state governments are bound to see a solution in public-private partnerships.

Take Mitch Daniels -- who headed OMB when the Bush administration announced its plan for corporatizing the federal government. After getting the ball rolling, Daniels went back to Indiana, where as governor he has given corporations control over a wide variety of state assets -- including a major cross-state highway, prisons, hospitals and welfare case management. Although Daniels doesn't like the term, his rabid pursuit of the ideological agenda led the New York Times to dub him "Governor Privatize."

And Daniels is hardly alone. State, county and municipal governments across the country are entertaining the notion of privatizing toll roads, water utilities and other essential services, as well as many non-essential services traditionally managed by state and local governments. For example, the Boston Globe reports that more than a dozen states are being pushed to privatize their lotteries.

Observers say the touted benefits of privatization and state-private partnerships have been way oversold (not surprising, given the corporatization of the media itself): Blogger Bill Tieleman recently pointed out that when Calif. Gov. Schwarzenegger cites British Columbia's public-private partnership projects as a model, he omits significant cost overruns: "In the vast majority of examples here in BC and elsewhere, the costs are higher as the public gets hosed to provide private corporations with substantial profits."

Let me stop and say that I would be remiss to not mention that when and where people get organized, it's possible to stop this insanity. E.g., according to the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Congress effectively ended Bush administration efforts to outsource thousands of natural resource and environmental protection jobs. In no small part due to the efforts of PEER and labor unions.

But at this point, the good news is scarce and relatively minor compared to the rampant ongoing looting of our public assets.

But perhaps that's what we get for electing and re-electing an incompetent "MBA" president and CEO VP with so much "gravitas".

After seeing Enron, Global Crossing, WorldCom, Adelphia, Tyco and other companies go bust after their superstar CEOs left, we should expect to find out that a lot more was being stolen than the W's off the office keyboards when these crooks leave office in 2009.

And so, of course they know just how angry the rest of us will be when the bill arrives. Which is probably why they decided to deputize their friends at Blackwater and other companies: So the hordes can't simply descend upon their mansions in Greenwich and the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and take back what is rightfully that which belongs to future generations.