Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Selfishness should not be government policy

A disturbing trend seems to be pervasive in the United States.  Local government after local government falls prey to the economic religion of the unregulated market.  This philosophy, without evidence or working model, asserts that the market always displays more efficiency than the government.  The truth behind the privatization of government services ultimately manifests as selfishness, not efficiency.  The replacements for the government services do not represent the best services the free market can offer; it's not even representative of free market capitalism.  The private entities represent selfish capitalists parasitically draining funds from communities to serve themselves.  The citizens of the Unites States must stop this trend for three important reasons.

First, low-paid workers with no benefits replace workers earning a living wage, making the savings to the communities null and void. I've written about school transportation and private prisons in the past, but the same principle rings true for all services.  Waste management companies have largely taken over in every community.  Most utilities belong to private entities.  Some communities have even privatized fire departments.  In all cases, workers who were solidly in the middle class were either fired, then rehired with less income and no benefits, or were replaced completely by new workers, who were willing to take the jobs at the lower wage.  People who could afford to both live and work in the communities suddenly had no income or less disposable income.  Either way, they could do less to support local businesses, such as convenience stores, restaurants, grocery stores, and various specialty shops.  They could afford to do fewer recreational activities.  In short, money that the community paid for services that used to come back in the form of local consumer spending now goes out of the community, which brings me to my next point.

Shareholders and executives not living in the communities receive the greatest share of taxpayer money for the services. Where the workers, who are more numerous, and therefore more able to support local businesses out of sheer quantity of goods and services they require and desire, were receiving the majority of the taxpayer dollars paid for services, people who have no interest in the communities where they are making their money now receive the largest portion of the money taxpayers pay for the private contracts.  Communities are shooting themselves in the foot with these contracts, because they are creating a parasitic drain on taxpayer dollars, rather than recovering some of the money through local consumer spending.  People collecting dividend checks and executive salaries in other states--or, as the case may be, other countries--will be spending the communities' tax money elsewhere, and since there are fewer of these people than there are workers, the economy overall suffers, because the disposable income is in the hands of fewer individuals.

Finally, government should act selflessly for the people, not as a conduit for selfish people to set themselves up as community parasites.  What these privatization policies have done is effectively create a welfare system for the wealthy, or at least the well-to-do.  It's not the average consumer who has a stock portfolio, unless it's part of a retirement fund they can't touch without penalties or severe restrictions until they retire.  Local governments should, in the interest of their local economies, employ as many workers at a living wage as they can with the money they've budgeted for services they need anyway.  The only time a private entity should ever be employed by a community should be to offer a temporary service.  Communities always need utilities, police, fire departments, waste management, schools, school transportation, and water treatment, to list a few, and these services should employ living-wage workers who are likely to live and spend in the community, supporting local businesses, and therefore receiving back in property tax at least some of the money they've spent on the services in the first place.

Citizens of the United States must become actively involved in the future of their local communities, putting a stop to this trend of parasitic selfishness.  It extends into higher levels of government, but all politics begin locally.  Politicians begin their careers in local government, and we citizens should only elect people who care about the citizens, not about supplying a stable income for wealthy friends or campaign supporters.  I encourage people who care about the futures of their communities to run for local office and help reverse this trend, or support people who are willing to represent us in this fight.

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