Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The lies governments tell, Colorado style

Coloradans are up in arms about a plan to privatize a major highway that, they say, could result in $28 tolls between Denver and Boulder. Advocates, predictably, are claiming the private sector can shave 20 to 25 percent off construction.

British economist John Weeks unpacks such lies about privatization on the Real News. He points out the idea that government is inherently inefficient is beaten into people's heads every day:
You’ll learn that, say, the environmental agency wastes money building something or other, whether it be subsidizing wind farms or subsidizing people to do research on non-carbon-based energies. But this is peanuts compared to the private sector. I mean, you have these executives who oversaw the collapse of the financial system, and each year they’re getting bonuses of up to $100 million, $300 million. Well, I mean, if this isn’t a waste, what is? And then, in addition, many of these companies produce things that are absolutely useless for the economy, making billions of dollars out of producing so-called financial products which led to the collapse of the economy. 
But the idea’s been sold. You know, government is inefficient. We’ll make it as small as possible.... It ought to be leaner and more effective. 
This is nonsense. The government sector needs to be larger. Just about all of the basic things governments do they do more effectively and cheaper than the private sector. One of the best examples is pensions. The U.S. Social Security system is much more efficient than anything in the private sector. And that is because the government doesn’t charge you a handling fee and doesn’t run a profit doing it. 
Tell that to Colorado. Direct Democracy tells us:
Nine Colorado public highways being sold to foreign toll road firms over the next 12 months starting with US 36. I-70 in downtown Denver/mountains, C-470 and I-25 from Denver to Ft. Collins are all being privatized and tolled.
Democrats in the Legislature have managed to postpone the sale. It's a good thing, too. Here's why:
Round trip from Denver to Boulder will cost $28 in the express lane during rush hour. Toll cost is indexed to inflation and will rise much higher over the next half century. 
The amount of profit Goldman Sachs and Plenary will make from US 36 is a CDOT secret that is being kept from the Colorado taxpayers and elected officials. 
The expensive toll lane addition will mean highly congested free lanes. It will become illegal for the state of Colorado to add additional free lanes to US 36 without compensating the toll operator for 50 years of decreased toll revenue. 
Colorado elected officials are not being allowed to review the secret 50 year contract terms before the state privatization board, the HPTE, signs the contract.
We call it paving the road to serfdom.