Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Carefully Planned Train Wreck

Why do trains crash here but not in Europe or China or Japan? It's all about the privatizers.

That which the Republicans and their clients want to privatize (so they can jack up prices) they first conspire to break down. First they need to cause its failure. Cheaper to buy up that way. It's an old Mafia trick.

Here's a deep dig into the problems of Amtrak by the National Journal.

Common Dreams reports on the Republican Congress's immediate slashing of Amtrak budgets after the Philly crash.

And the reporting from the New York Times.

Does anyone see a pattern? It’s going on every day, every week, all over. Everything owned by the public and run for the public, anything the public really needs, is seen as an opportunity to privatize, to re-engineer to suit narrower interests. The purpose, as they see it, isn’t to deliver goods and services safely for a reasonable price. They see the purpose as delivering maximum profits with minimal concern for the customer or the employee. Ordinary people are hostages to the necessity of certain services, which makes the venture capitalists’ mouths water. Need is a killer business model, ripe for maximum exploitation.

PrivatizationWatch tracks the march of privatization all across the public sector.

Privatization is a shrewd and deeply heartless process and it’s been going on since Reagan took the public interest out of the equation. Look at what Mitt Romney got rich doing and see if you can do the same thing to the systems we all rely on every day. The transportation grid, the energy grid, the food and water supply. Maximum profit, minimum upkeep, short term wins and a guaranteed public need, a guaranteed demand to be squeezed and milked.

How is it done?

First they target something they’d like to hand over to their venture capitalist friends. (The way the entire public sector in the former Soviet Union was handed over to the Russian mafia, only here there needs to be a rationale.)

Find the target.

Make it fail. (There’s your rationale. Failure implies the public sector is inept, which it isn’t.)

Defund it. Break it down. Throw sand in the works. (Republicans have been doing this sand-in-the-machinery routine with Congress, with our democratic system, for the entire Obama presidency.)

Load the public sector system up with pointless burdens. See how the Republicans loaded the Postal Service up with 100 years of pension obligations to be fully funded in a couple of years? That sort of cynical trick will bust the budget and force unworkable cuts in service.

Take the system you want to take over for scrap, and get it to stop working smoothly. Destroy morale. Cut the workforce so the customers start complaining. Make everybody hate the system that used to work well for everybody and served everyone. Blame the people who are trying their best to make the system function. Foist dysfunction on them. Shoot them in the leg and laugh at them for limping.

Then BOOM. Shut ‘er down. Sell ‘er off, cheap, to their private enterprise pals.

This is what the flag-wearing anthem-singing hands-on-hearts Republicans have been planning for the Postal Service, a well-run public institution–– founded by Benjamin Franklin forgodssakes.

John Nichols at The Nation has been writing about the efforts to shut down the Post Office and privatize its parts for several years.

Want to know how privatization works out for the average American? Ask your UPS or FedEx guy how much they’ll charge to send a birthday card to your nephew in Nebraska. Will they say “48¢? No. I’m guessing they’ll say around $23.

And this, folks, is what they’re planning to do with Amtrak. Amtrak, as defunded as it is, still is the preferred transportation method for 80% of the people traveling in the northeast corridor, the busiest travel corridor in the Western Hemisphere. It could be busier if Republicans weren’t working so hard to make it not work.

Besides the passenger rail failures in the news there are almost weekly news stories about another high plains town evacuation because of a derailed oil train.

Salon has been reporting on the reason for the oil train crashes while the networks have just been broadcasting the explosions.

The private rail business isn’t interested in making their rail lines safe. They’re happy to handle a weekly train explosion. Better than fixing their rail lines. They’re misers on the classic Scrooge model: starve the system, impoverish the employees, and pay every saved dollar to the executive suite and to the handful of wealthy shareholders, who (coincidence!) don’t live along or anywhere near a rail line much less work on one.

Here's Paul Ryan's interview about the Amtrak safety fixes that have been delayed by Congressional budget cutting. Even FoxNews can't save him.

Europe’s trains run well and on time. Asia’s trains are a marvel. But we’re a dying empire. Why? Because we’re owned by a 1% crowd who don’t care if the system falls apart. They’ve already moved all the cash out of the country, the way mobsters used to loot legitimate businesses. Who needs mobsters anymore when you have a 1% who steal much bigger and much more efficiently?

The privatizers and their determined effort to break down public systems and institutions also resemble the barbarian hordes who broke down the Roman Empire. One of those tribes gave a name to what they did. They were the Vandals.

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