Creeping capitalism…

Let’s get one thing straight: while I’m a progressive, I still believe we need to strike a balance between capitalism and socialism. We need to offer equal opportunity in this modern world, and we also need to recognize individual abilities and reward those with the new ideas. These are NOT antithetical goals and any political activist who tries to paint them that way immediately loses my respect. The world isn’t black and white, and it isn’t even just fifty shades of gray. It’s a technicolored world of great diversity that we should celebrate and make the most of in our daily lives. The key word here is balance maintained through logic and reason.

That said, let me justify the title of this article. Governor Cuomo’s newly announced partnership between the MTA and private enterprise is an example of “creeping capitalism.” (Did you think this article was about President Trump? Tsk, tsk.) Cuomo’s proposal: For $250k, a company can participate, and for $600k, it can “adopt” a subway station. Nowhere have I seen what the companies will get out of this participation (naming, plastering its ads on subway walls—how far will they go?), and I refuse to research it because the whole thing’s a bad idea. Knowing Mr. Cuomo, it will be yet another loss in the public’s battle against capitalistic intrusions into public services and spaces.

Some services just need to be government controlled and not in the hands of private enterprise to eliminate the often occurring abuses of corruption and price gouging. Private enterprise’s goal IS ALWAYS to make money; public services should only charge enough to cover their costs (which shouldn’t include bloated salaries for fat-cat administrators—do they think they’re more worthy than a NASA climatological scientist?). This is a fundamental and necessary bifurcation that is indeed black and white. Mixed systems do NOT work, and even private enterprise’s offering of essential services—natural gas and electricity, telephone, cable, ISPs, water and sewer are good examples—must be heavily controlled by governments if not actually owned by them.

NYC isn’t the only city and NY isn’t the only state where capitalism is increasingly intruding into the public service sector. Essential services were often run by local, county, state and natural governments to eliminate the abuses of private enterprise, but now these same entities are outsourcing to private enterprise to reduce costs because budget cuts make it attractive to shirk their civic responsibilities. This is a horrendous mistake because the human element is all too often ignored and the for-profit element is emphasized by these outsourcing firms. Privatization hurts their employees and takes the power away from the people by placing a barrier between essential services and the people they serve.

Conservatives often complain about the cost of government services. It’s always amusing for me to see well-dressed business people riding on public transportation and complaining about them. That’s hypocrisy in action. There’s no guarantee that costs to the user will be lower when the service is outsourced. And, if they aren’t, the private company will cut costs by minimizing workers’ salaries and benefits or skimp on maintenance. We see this in the airline industry, for example. This often leads to strikes, work stoppages, and inferior maintenance, a further burden for the user of the service.

We see the absurdity of creeping capitalism even in sports. Why should the Celtics’ home court or the Patriots’ home field bear the name of companies? What does TD Banknorth have to do with the Celtics and Gillette have to do with the Patriots? That’s only one example that irked me early on; I’m sure readers of this blog have many others from around the country. (Email me and I’ll make a list and publish it on this blog.) I’m sure many of these cases are similar to what Mr. Cuomo proposes for the MTA. While the public foots the bill for the refurbishing of an arena or stadium, some corporation for a pittance gets to put its name on it. That’s absurd! Of course, outsourcing essential services—privatizing the MTA, for example—is much worse, but capitalism keeps creeping insidiously into public services one way or another. It’s a bit like that Geico commercial where one scientist inadvertently releases slime and is consumed by it; the slime is capitalism and the public sector doesn’t have it under control, not by a long shot.

We often debate socialism v. capitalism in this country. Some politicos at the beck and call of private industry’s lobbyists and special interests lambast public services as “communism” (I’ve heard this from those well-dressed business people riding on public transportation too). Joe McCarthy is alive and well in such ignorant and superficial debates. And such rhetoric is an appeal to emotions and an attack on logic and reason. Essential services must be government controlled, that is, socialized and NOT capitalized.

Cuomo is beginning to sound like the left-of-middle HRC-type of liberal who has sold out to private enterprise. He’s channeling Herbert Hoover and not FDR. Maybe he’s thinking of running for president? I hope not. We’ve already suffered through one electoral disaster with a candidate who was beholding to private enterprise. Let’s not make that same mistake!

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And so it goes….

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