Loss of Public Goods


Handing Over the Reins of Government
Public Goods Post 
For several decades, and out of sight of most Americans, advocates of privatization have been handing over the reins of government to corporations. These moves are almost invariably made on the basis of claims that government – the federal government in particular – is enormous and is constantly growing, and that contracting out costs less. All these claims are false. In reality, the federal civilian workforce has not grown in a half century. In reality, as a percentage of the total US workforce, the federal workforce has been declining since the 1950s. In reality, federal government spending on goods and services has not increased as a percentage of GDP. And in reality, contracting-out often costs much more than federal workers providing the same services directly. Read more…

Public Goods: What You Need to Know, and Why
Public Goods Post 
Things have changed. Since the November 2016 election we need a new vocabulary, more than ever. If we are going to preserve the myriad essential public services, benefits and protections that we all need, then we have to give them a name – so we can talk about them and act to keep them. Otherwise, how can we comprehend and preserve the multitude of essential products that come from what we call “government,” long maligned and now so threatened? A name for all those things we get and use daily, and the name we need in public discourse, is “public goods.” Read more…

The Public Economy in Crisis
Public Goods Post 
For decades, Americans have been told that government’s problems can be fixed if only government were run like a business. This is false. Historically, the imposition of a market model on public agencies and repeated moves to mimic the market have been a central cause of “broken” government.

This Post announces the publication of The Public Economy in Crisis: A Call for a New Public Economics, written by June Sekera, founder of the Public Goods Post. In the book, June proposes a new explanation of government as an essential, non-market economic system rooted in democratic choice. Read more…

Freedom to Harm
Public Goods Post 
This Post is about the erasure of regulations that is taking place outside of the media spotlight. It takes its title from a 2013 book by Thomas McGarity, who wrote about the consequences of eliminating regulations that protect people and the planet, thereby giving corporations the “freedom to harm.”

Underway today, if out of sight, is the “deconstruction of the administrative state” promised by the Trump White House. This deconstruction is aggressive and violent: it means the demolition of the capacity of our government to protect the safety and health of Americans, to repair and maintain our basic physical infrastructure, to protect the environment and to provide myriad essential public goods and services. Read more…

Unfriendly Skies?
Public Goods Post 
68,000 flights landed safely today in the U.S. That’s almost one per second. All landed safely because of a system of air traffic control maintained by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and its National Airspace System (NAS).

Like so many of its daily accomplishments, government successes such as this are rarely reported. Once again a public good — 49 million* safe takeoffs and landings each year — remains invisible. Read more…

Demolition by Design
Public Goods Post | July 2017
Public goods are produced by public agencies, which are being deliberately dismantled, demolished, or hollowed out. Under the guise of “public-private-partnerships” or other privatization policies, this weakening of government has been advanced for decades by both Republican and Democratic administrations. The Trump administration, however, is escalating the demolition, mostly behind the scenes. Its “deconstruction” of public agencies is pressing forward far more quickly and thoroughly than you may realize.

The Washington Monthly recently ran an important article about how we are all threatened by the current administration’s quiet strategies for demolishing public capacity while growing contracted-out government:

Trump’s Plan to Make Government Older, More Expensive, and More Dysfunctional

Read more …  

Losing Our Libraries
Public Goods Post | September 2017

Public libraries are one of our most easily recognizable public goods. Most everyone knows that local public libraries are free to all, and most understand that this is because these libraries are supported collectively, by our taxes. But until citizens voted in the 1800’s in the U.S. to support the first public libraries, access to collections of books depended upon one’s wealth.

This Post is prompted by the potential loss or degradation of yet one more public library in the United States – in this case the one in Escondido, California, which may be privatized.

Privatizing public libraries does not mean that taxpayers stop paying the cost. No. What it means is that the operation of the library is contracted out to a private, for-profit corporation. Taxpayers keep paying —  but in order to meet the profit requirements of the newly engaged private operator, one of two things must happen: either the cost to taxpayers must go up or the quality of services must go down. Read More …

The Quiet Revolution and a Submerged Para-state
Public Goods Post 
Under normal circumstance, it would be safe to assume that “public goods” are delivered by public agencies.  But current circumstances are far from normal.  Over the last several decades, more and more public goods have been delivered by a para-state, a privatized government virtually hidden from view. We taxpayers still pay, but our money goes to a growing army of corporations on the public payroll.

Private corporations operate programs, deliver services and even manage other contractors. Some citizens receiving public services encounter only private contract workers, so are unaware that they are receiving a government service. While some forms of contract procurement have been in place since the nation’s birth, the very nature of contracting has changed as it has grown in scope. Basic governmental functions are now outsourced to for-profit corporations. Read more…

Broadband for All?
Public Goods Post 
In December 2017 the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal net neutrality rules which had ensured that the Internet belonged to the public and not to internet providers. While the regulatory news is bad, there is a way that people can take back the Internet. In a Guest Post, Donald Cohen tells us how local communities are moving to make Internet access a public good – providing accessible broadband for all. Read more…