This Train Has Left the Station
The Collapse of the GOP's Privatization Scheme
by Tamara Baker

July 1. 2002 -- SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA (APJP) -- Here, on this unbelievably hot summer day -- so hot that I'm staying indoors with the air on full blast, thanks to the nicely affordable electricity rates of our non-privatized public utility, Xcel Energy -- I've been doing some thinking.

I've been thinking, with the help of my train-nut hubby, who subscribes to Trains magazine of the GOP efforts to slowly starve to death public passenger train service, and comparing it to similar efforts to kill public education by defunding it.

This is all part of the decades-long "privatization" blitz of the GOP's, a blitz that Enron (in the energy field) and Edison in Philly (in the school field) have now discredited. The GOP wants to kill Amtrak and sell off the pieces to their donor buddies -- though there may be legal problems that could scuttle their being sold off the way Michael Powell's FCC has sold off broadcast frequencies (Hubby sez that there's some question as to whether or not ownership of the rail lines would revert to their pre-1971 owners upon Amtrak's demise).

Meanwhile, even though the Scalia Court ruled 5-4 to legalize the diversion of public monies to prop up private schools, very few states are going to go for the voucher concept: vouchers have already been voted down, in many case by huge margins, in every single state that has held public referenda on whether to allow them. And even in Ohio, very few private schools will take the voucher money, because they don't want to be accountable to the Federal Government.

Of course, the GOP, which questions the spending habits of poor black welfare mothers down to the last nickel, probably wouldn't be so demanding of accountability from nice, white-run and white-attended schools. Look at the free ride they're giving Philadelphia's failed Edison Schools project.

As Joshua Micah Marshall states in his Talking Points Memo this week

Edison Schools is a rather small company as publicly-traded companies go -- actually getting smaller every day, if you go by market capitalization. But if the company is relatively small in size it's extremely politically wired. Edison, you see, is in the rather innovative business of running -- or trying to run -- public schools on a for-profit basis. They also dabble in the charter school game. So as you can imagine the company's work is highly politicized.
Josh Marshall rightly wonders why, if Edison Schools is doing the same sort of suspect business practices
that brought down WorldCom and Enron (such as using Edison's virtually-worthless stock as collateral for
a loan made in order to buy more Edison stock), they haven't had to face a margin call. Is it because the privatization pushers don't want to admit that you can't run a school system on the assumption that it's
more important to make money than to teach our kids?

The whole point is that passenger train travel, public education and public utilities, are not and should not treated as "profitable" enterprises, as if one could only consider the cash profits made by one individual
or one company. In the long run, publicly-paid-for trains, schools and utilities are much more cost-effective
-- for businesses as well for the rest of us.

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