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Robert Reich on the Perils of Privatization in Public Services

December 16, 2018

Robert Reich’s blog posts regularly appear in several progressive blogs and on Facebook posts from friends who are Bernie Sanders supporters. One of his recent posts, Privatization Can’t Solve Our Country’s Ills, offers five instances where privatization should be avoided, with specific Mr. Reich’s examples regarding public education italicized:

1. Don’t privatize when the purpose of the service is to bring us together – reinforcing our communities, helping us connect with one another across class and race, linking up Americans who’d otherwise be isolated or marginalized. 

…This is why we value public education and need to be very careful that charter schools and other forms of so-called school choice don’t end up dividing our children and our communities rather than pulling them together.

2. Don’t privatize when the service is less costly when paid for through tax revenues than through prices set by for-profit corporations. 

In the case of public education, don’t tout tax savings when profiteers are pocketing large sums and at-will employees are underpaid.

3. Don’t privatize when the people who are supposed to get the service have no power to complain when services are poor. 

This is why for-profit schools are located primarily in low income areas.

4. Don’t privatize when those who are getting the service have no way to know they’re receiving poor quality. 

The marketers of for-profit colleges, for example, have every incentive to exploit young people and their parents because the value of the degrees they’re offering can’t easily be known. Which is why non-profit colleges and universities have proven far more trustworthy.

5. Finally, don’t privatize where for-profit corporations face insufficient competition to keep prices under control. 

This is where the profiteers hope that public education heads…. because it is exactly where tech corporations and Big Oil have “evolved”.

Mr. Reich concluded with this paragraph:

In other words, for-profit corporations can do some things very well. Including, especially, maximizing shareholder returns. But when the primary goal is to serve the public, rather than shareholders, we need to be careful not to sacrifice the public interest to private profits.

A video at the end of the post is worth watching….

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