Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Texas Toll Road Pieces Fit into Privatization Puzzle

How are the global economic crisis, water in Bolivia, oil in Iraq, and the fast lane on Highway 635 in North Dallas related? And what do they have to do with the airport in Tegucigalpa?

They’re all part of a jigsaw puzzle called, at various times, Reagonomics, neo-liberalism, neo-conservatism, globalization and gobblelization.

As the world capitalist crisis began to crunch, in the mid-1970s, the transnational corporate “solution” was to use state power to squeeze more profit out of all economic activity. They began an assault on workers’ wages, hours, and benefits. They pulled weaker nations into disadvantageous “free trade” agreements that gave their resources, their markets, and even their workforces to the transnational corporations. They used the International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization, and the World Bank to force intolerable conditions onto weaker, debtor, nations. They pried all forms of economic activity out of the democratic control of the people and into private, corporate, hands. Those who did not cooperate faced the full military power of corporate-dominated nations.

It didn’t work out. In the 1990s, the Argentines rejected the conditions that the International Monetary Fund tried to oppose. The World Trade Organization weakened and became an international epithet. The Bolivians rejected the privatization of their water supply. Privatizing Iraqi oil fields turned out to be much more of a problem than anticipated. Bush failed to privatize Social Security. People all over Latin America began to elect governments who wouldn’t cooperate with the transnationals. The people of the United States elected a President and other leaders on the basis of their commitment to a change in economic models. As this is written, Latin America is raging because the President of Honduras was kidnapped and exiled by neoliberals.

This quick look around brings us to the highway lanes in North Texas. Governor Perry called a special legislative session that ignored the big problems of runaway unemployment and children’s health care, but left the door wide open for more privatized toll roads, including “managed lanes” in the middle of existing highways. Texans have had more than enough of Perry's privatized toll roads. Prices are skyrocketing and people are getting bills over $1,000!

Two years ago, Perry was still hoping for a privatized toll road up to a quarter mile wide and stretching from Laredo to Oklahoma. The Lege didn’t let him have it. In the special session just ended, they turned their backs on Perry’s toll road ideas altogether.

Neoliberalism, including privatization, did not work. It is being rejected all over the world, and in Austin.

--Jim Lane

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