We examine how Europe, Africa & South America are municipalizing entire industries into public services, bypassing corporate domination. We also give our endorsement of Pam Cordova over Sen. Clemente Sanchez.
Today we look at how countries outside the US are increasingly examining municipalization as a means of freeing cities, regions, and nations from the grip of neoliberalism. We have to invent a new normal, and yesterday’s post on worker-owned cooperatives examined how individual businesses can democratize the work force.
But first, we offer a statement of endorsement in Senate District 30 and a new endorsement in Sen. Dist. 20 (see right column below, or bottom of post if you’re on a phone). And we preview our next Zoominar, a critical examination of New Mexico’s options for addressing the budget crisis. If we are not vigilant and well-informed, the looming special legislative session focused on the budget will result in the gutting of our social service safety net and unacceptable cuts in education and early childhood. Moreover, we will miss the opportunity to democratize our tax system and eliminate a dozen or more grossly ineffective tax breaks for industries. Addressing the budget crisis can be done with a economic justice lens or with a neoliberal lens, and we have assembled the perfect four panelists to discuss these issues:
Tuesday, May 26, 6:30 – 8:00 pm. Conversation with NM Voices for Children About the NM State Budget Crisis with Amber Wallin, Deputy Director; Bill Jordan, Government Relations Officer; and Paige Knight, Research and Policy Analyst. Joining this panel will be Rep. Javier Martinez, chair of the House Tax & Revenue Committee. Pre-register for this Zoominar at this link. We will discuss the dire state of the NM state budget due to plummeting gas and oil prices and the economic impact of Covid-19. Central to the discussion will be how tax policy over several administrations has created a regressive tax policy at the same time that historic tax giveaways have starved the state of needed tax revenue. In this context, we will be exploring how the state can use federal relief funds, the Permanent Fund, and changes in tax policy to shore up our budget and avoid significant cuts to our safety net, health care, social services, early childhood, and education systems. Click here to register.
Municipalization: Putting People Over Profits
“Essential workers” has become a “thing.” Covid has exposed how privately owned industry sacrifices those “essential” workers and the public for shareholder profit.
Yesterday we examined a Truthout piece that offered case histories of a wide range of worker-owned cooperatives, laying out how these co-ops are weathering the Covid-driven recession, how workers are included in all business decisions, and how cooperatives are overcoming the challenges imposed by social distancing requirements.
I neglected to include a link to the Truthout piece yesterday, so I include it below, as it offers example after example of new models for organizing small and large business, models that center people and community over profit. To read the full Truthout piece (highly recommended), please click here.
As we examine how municipalization is being used on a larger scale, we see entire industries being municipalized, with vital public services being wrested from corporate grips and brought under public control. Along with yesterday’s post, we can see an emerging new “normal,” one in which public benefit is centered.
In America, Privatization Rules
Let’s begin with a brief list of private industry and just how well they serve the public interest in the US.
- Big pharma decides how to invest in research depending on which medications and vaccines could generate the greatest profit, not medications most in need. As a result, we have dozens of medications to prevent wrinkles and the cupboard is empty for preventing or treating rare crippling diseases or conditions;
- Our food systems are built on a foundation of industrial production of poultry, meat, and produce, with foods produced in unhealthy conditions, obscene, inhumane conditions for livestock, and mono-cropping practices that destroy the soil. Then these foods must be transported thousands of miles using gas-powered trucks.
- Gas & oil fail to disclose known projected costs for decommissioning because to incorporate those costs would diminish their profit and deter investors and lenders needed to sustain their extractive excesses;
- Utilities prioritize profit over protection of land, water, and air and resist a transition to sustainable energy because there is more money to be made from capital-intensive gas, oil, and nuclear energy;
- Private insurers charge exorbitant rates for coverage, add prohibitively high co-pays, and exclude coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, i.e. those who need coverage most. With 49% of Americans dependent on employer-based health insurance, Covid and spiraling unemployment have left these Americans defenseless against Covid and medically induced bankruptcy.
- Private finance (Wall St.) is bailed out in 2008 after their pyramid housing scams turn out to be a house of cards.
New Endorsement for Senate Dist. 30: Retake endorses Pam Cordova in her challenge of Senator Clemente Sanchez. Click here to find out why.
New Endorsement for Senate Dist. 20: Retake Our Democracy endorses Rebecca “Puck” Stair in the Democratic Primary for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. William Payne (R). An endorsement statement is coming soon.
Find endorsement statements for two other Senate Districts below:
Sen. Dist. 35: Neomi Martinez-Parra challenges Sen. John Arthur Smith. Click here to read our endorsement statement.
Sen. Dist. 38: Carrie Hamblen challenges Sen. Mary Kay Papen. Click here to read our endorsement statement.
Last night we packed the Zoom Room for an informative discussion of how the gas and oil industry dominates the NM State Legislature. Panelist Kathleen Sabo, ED NM Ethics Watch; Heather Ferguson, ED Common Cause; and former State Senator Dede Feldman laid out how money, lobbyists, and legislators ensure the continuing grip of the oil and gas industry on the legislature and what can be done to prevent it.
A recording of this discussion is available, along with recordings of previous Zoominars and descriptions of coming Zoominars by clicking here.
Facebook Live Interview with NM Senator Sedillo Lopez
Thursday, May 21st, 6:00pm MT
Explore New Mexico’s most pressing environmental issues with the leading progressive voice in the NM legislature. Join Maya Van Rossum on Facebook with Senator Sedillo Lopez as they discuss how a Green Amendment can help address these issues, RSVP on the Facebook link above for event for reminders!
Join in the conversation, ask questions, and learn how your state could be next in line to protect your rights to pure water, clean air, a stable climate and healthy environments.
We have gone along with this system because no alternatives are presented as viable options. Indeed whenever an effort surfaces to municipalize utilities, create a public bank, implement a Medicare4All public health system, or any other model that deviates from the neoliberal model of corporate control, a conservative coalition constructed over the past 50 years raises alarms.
Think tanks, Fox News, and the majority of both political parties descend with cries of “socialism” and loss of liberty and free choice: “You can’t force me into accessible, affordable healthcare for all. I want to be able to choose from among all the expensive plans with limited coverage.” OR “You can’t make me wear a mask.” It is a common thread. US exceptionalism and hubris have created a monstrous culture predicated on individualism and operating in a political / economic system that amounts to survival of the fittest. Covid has exposed how well that works for us. Not.
In Other Countries
Meanwhile, Europe, South America, and Africa experiment with new models that municipalize one industry after another, bringing them under public control and organizing them for public benefit.
The Future is Public: Towards Democratic Ownership of Public Services is a Creative Commons resource, published in May 2020. It includes 15 full-length stories contributed by remunicipalists and de-privatisers around the world. This research focuses on how communities and workers have managed to reverse the neoliberal tide of privatization by establishing new public models that enhance democratic decision making and serve the interests of people and environment.
A Resilience article, “Public Services in Time of Coronavirus,” offers a glimpse at the models described in far greater detail in the Future is Public. We offer a few excerpts from Resilience that describe how the municipalization movement is unfolding outside the United States and a link to the full piece. For example:
As we know from the example of water privatisation in the UK, profits and shareholder dividends are prioritised over quality services and a healthy environment. In the context of rising social inequalities, climate injustice and political polarisation, the battle against private service provision is also the battle for a fairer, more inclusive and more democratic economy that place citizens and their needs at the centre.”Resilience: “Public Services in Time of Coronavirus”
Consider the bulleted list of industries near to top of today’s post. It chronicles just how poorly our neo-liberal system serves our needs and how a focus on short-term corporate profits prevail over the common good. But, as Resilience describes, there are alternatives. And in relation to telecommunications, there is evidence of US activity in municipalization. From Resilience:
“Remunicipalisation is also happening in cases where private operators refuse to invest due to bleak prospects for profit. Take for example telecommunications services in rural areas; in the US, corporate reluctance has prompted hundreds of municipalities to develop local broadband networks. In many cases, these internet services have been jointly developed and are co-owned with communities. Local councils were also able to create new public services to achieve their own policy goals; the London Borough of Islington for example established a municipal energy company in 2017 to offer affordable energy services.”Resilience: “Public Services in Time of Coronavirus”
Resilience offers more examples, from Chile to Spain, that show how communities and workers have managed to reverse the tide of privatisation by establishing new public models that enhance democratic decision-making and serve the interests of people and environment.
While Resilience and Future Is Public acknowledge that there are challenges in implementing these models, they also contend that the degree to which the private sector has failed to protect our health, our jobs, our health care, and our food supply has caused many more people to question the status quo.
“Although each case faces its own country-specific challenges, they collectively help to create a template for strategies for how to move towards democratic economies based on public ownership. A coherent picture emerges out of the diversity: de-privatisation brings possibilities and conditions for the building of efficient, democratic and affordable public services for all, and not just for the rich.”Resilience: “Public Services in Time of Coronavirus”
Future is Public offers an exhaustive look at how communities are employing municipalization to democratize our economy. Other resources like The Next System Project, Democracy Collaborative, and Next Cities are also exploring these options. Retake has begun to identify a few people who are interested in being part of a study group to explore this body of research and develop White Papers that lay out an alternative vision of what our new normal should look like. This group would meet by Zoom to discuss priorities and resources and then reconvene to consider what members have found. We will develop a research protocol and share it with the group for modification.
If you would like to be part of this group, please share a bit about yourself, your research experience, and the amount of time you might be able to devote to the work. We see the White Papers we develop as being fodder for future legislation that can test public control of industries operating in NM.
If what we have isn’t serving our needs, it is time to invent something that will. Interested?
Paul & Roxanne