Saturday, January 26, 2008

Bu$h & GOP ~ There's profits in them there roads

Ginny MacDonald of the B'ham News reports U.S. Transportation Secretary supports Alabama toll roads. I'm shocked, shocked! Bu$hCo has continued the right's efforts to privatize everything from making war to educating our children to Social Security to ... so taking road building and the like that way fits. Friedmanites gone wild!

Governor Riley and Secretary Mary Peters plus her PR professional Brian Brian Turmail are quoted extensively. Did Ms. MacDonald go beyond simple stenography here?

For an alternative view on the options for the state, not to mention the possible reasons for Bu$hCo and the other Corporatists to want to go the privatization route, Daniel Schulman's Highway Privatization: "This Is All About Money" in Mother Jones is a good place to begin. Secretary Peters, drawing fire for her bike bashing and other bullheaded responses to the I-35 bridge collapse up in Minnesota early in her tenure, has settled down as she continues following the right-wing agenda of cutting taxes on (but also providing profit making opportunities for!) the wealthy.

Less than a year left for Dubyah but with Governor Riley in place and other Unreconstructed Reaganites down here in Alabama I do fear what damage they can do. Even more privatizing of roads and the like will impact our state and region for generations. Furthermore, locking down our future options in corporate contracts seems rather scary to this Progressive. Truly this story needed some additional perspectives that Ms. MacDonald failed to supply. Perhaps she was unable to simply as to space restriction and then again it could be from the culture of her employer. The Newhouse family would be pleased with her work I'm betting but I'm not sure Alabama is being well-served with reading only the right wing approach to the issue.

Here's what I'll try to do in thirty or so minutes ... Reckon why Reason Foundation is nearly orgasmic about the appointment of Mary Peters to DOT? Could it be that they are bought and paid for by the privatization profiteers? SourceWatch, Media Transparency, and finally Political Friendster helps connect the dots, or more accurately, the dollars. The Anniston Star allowed Billy Norrell of the Alabama Road Builders Association space to point out his groups concerns over privatization taking dollars away from other projects just a few days ago. Yet, the Road Builders Association is hardly without their own agenda. He in fact writes that his members will "eagerly partner" up to get those projects done.

As an aside, I'd like to have seen some coverage on why exactly Ms. Peters is down here in Alabama to fight against an increase in the federal highway tax. I'm not buying that she was here for anything beyond cheerleading for Governor Riley's roll out but perhaps so. To ask how a clear need for more funding is twisted into an opportunity to rail against the inefficiencies of government seems reasonable. To follow the right wing line on taxes is par for the course yet to deliver profits to the markets as they do this is always something to behold. They are always looking for opportunities to advance movement conservatism aren't they?

To be fair to Ms. MacDonald, the coverage around the state hasn't exactly provided much better than what she delivered. The Montgomery Advertiser has Secretary Peters saying, "Taking even more money out of Alabama will not save commuters even one minute. ... We can give commuters the power to pursue new projects, and we can do that without taking money out of this region and sending it to Washington." Won't the profits realized leave the region in most cases, especially if out of state and/or foreign entities are involved? And what of foreign or even multi-national firms owning critical infrastructure being fraught with risks?

Also, "Peters said toll roads in other states have not led to economic segregation, where affluent people use the new toll roads and poor people stay on the old, free routes." appears in Phillip Rawls reporting. Are they really free routes Mary? Aren't they an investment in infrastructure that our government makes? If they are built with taxpayer money then shouldn't every taxpayer get to use them? Why should anyone be able to make a profit on such an essential? Getting from point A to point B in a relatively quick and effective way is critical, even and perhaps especially so for poor people. This is especially true when in an area where public transportation is lacking.

Perhaps this road building is indeed a "critical" need but can't we go with another less radical route? I sense tactics used by Disaster Capitalists all too often. Stir up some fear and then offer a way to soothe the pain. The Korean cars will not roll off the lines and into the stream of commerce quickly enough! Wealthy trophy wives in Montgomery and Birmingham suburbs will be bothered as they are delayed in traveling from the prime shopping locations to the private schools! And you'll never get back from the condo on the beach on time Alabama swells! But I've got a bridge I'd like to sell you.

How long has Bob Riley been Governor? Could he have not gotten started on this earlier? Nice touch Governor blaming the "federal government". He's your President Bob. Your party has had control for decades. (No, Progressives don't count Bill Clinton!) Bu$hCo cut taxes and spent what looked like even a surplus on the neo-conservatives adventurism in Iraq. Of course Naomi Klein makes a very persuasive argument that profiteering drove that effort as well. So because your political party starves governments, not yet to the level for movement conservative Grover Norquist to drown in the bathtub perhaps, the solution is to deliver profit making opportunities for privatization providers? Isn't that really what you are saying?

What about urban planning? Public transportation? Less sprawl? HOV lanes? Carpooling? Silly Progressive, where's the profit in that? WSFA even has a primer on how to get a piece of the action from up on their site. They suggest, "Businesses that want a piece of the action should be proactive. Get close to local governments so you're ready when projects are put out for local bid. But you don't need to wait. If you see a need, make your pitch to a city manager, a city council or a state representative."

I've searched for negative coverage of the privatization push. No luck so far, from any journalist at least. This past fall Guy Thompson, apparently just a regular guy concerned about his world, asked Alabama newspapers to do some digging on the issue so that a full policy debate could more easily occur. Who was he kidding! P/W

UPDATE - Evening of January 29, 2008 - A tip of the tam to The Anniston Star for thoughtful commentary on this issue. I've yet to hear from Ms. MacDonald even though I emailed her the post. Nothing yet from any other media sources that I've been able to find. I'd have expected The Star, an consistently Progressive paper, to have voiced much stronger concerns over "privatization" plus that the poor will perhaps have to get by with second class or worse options but at least they pointed out multiple views, contrary to Ms. MacDonald's "reporting".

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