Paul Buchheit writes: It gets more maddening every day. Essential human needs are being packaged into products to be bought and sold. The right to food and water, education, health care, public spaces, and unrestricted speech shouldn’t be based on who can pay the most, or on who can generate profits with the slickest marketing pitch.
The free-market capitalism that drives our economy is a doctrine of individuals pursuing profit. Nothing else matters. An executive for Roche, a healthcare company, said “We are not in the business to save lives, but to make money.”
With privatization of the common good we risk losing both our heritage and our humanness.
1. The Taking of Public Land
Attempts to privatize federal land were made by the Reagan administration in the 1980s and the Republican-controlled Congress in the 1990s. In 2006, President Bush proposed auctioning off 300,000 acres of national forest in 41 states.
The assault on our common areas continues with even greater ferocity today, as the euphemistic Path to Prosperity has proposed to sell millions of acres of “unneeded federal land,” and libertarian groups like the Cato Institute demand that our property be “allocated to the highest-value use.” Mitt Romney admitted that he didn’t know “what the purpose is” of public lands.
Examples of the takeaway are shocking. Peabody Coal is strip-mining public lands in Wyoming and Montana and making a 10,000% profit on the meager amounts they pay for the privilege. Sealaska is snatching up timberland in Alaska. The Central Rockies Land Exchange would allow Bill Koch to pick up choice Colorado properties from the Bureau of Land Management, while neighboring Utah Governor Gary Herbert sees land privatization as a way to reduce the deficit. Representative Cliff Stearns recommended that we “sell off some of our national parks.” One gold mining company even invoked an 1872 law to grab mineral-rich Nevada land for which it stands to make a million-percent profit.
The National Resources Defense Council just reported that oil and gas companies hold drilling and fracking rights on U.S. land equivalent to the size of California and Florida combined. Much of this land is“split estate,” which means the company can drill under an American citizen’s property without consent. Unrestrained by government regulations, TransCanada was able to use eminent domain in Texas to lay its pipeline on private property and then have the owner arrested for trespassing on her own land, and Chesapeake Energy Corporation overturned a 93-year-old law to frack a Texas residence without paying a penny to the homeowners. Most recently, the oil frenzy in North Dakota has cheated Native Americans out of a billion dollars worth of revenue from drilling leases.
Away from the mountains and the plains, back in the cities of Chicago and Indianapolis and L.A. and San Diego, our streets and parking spaces have been surrendered to corporations until the time of our great-grandchildren, with some of the highest profit margins in the corporate world. [Continue reading…]