Here’s our weekly analysis of privatization in the news and in communities nationwide. Not a subscriber? Sign up.
This week’s highlights
- After decades of decline, the public’s trust in government is going up.
- Maryland’s Purple Line, a much-touted light rail “public-private partnership, is having financial issues, and Fitch just downgraded Maryland Economic Development Corporation senior private activity bonds (PABs).
- Pennsylvania’s public schools stand to lose $1 billion in local revenue due to the pandemic, with costs rising for districts for charter school tuition.
Governing for the Common Good
1) National: Frontline workers need more than thank yous. They need Congress to save states and localities, writes Jeremy Mohler of In the Public Interest. “It’s both Teacher Appreciation Week and Public Service Recognition Week, which uses the hashtag #PSRW. And, yes, we should #ThankATeacher and honor our federal, state, county, and local government employees. But teachers, sanitation workers, nurses, and other public workers need more than a ‘thank-you.’ They need personal protective equipment (PPE). They need more resources to work with. They need higher pay and cheaper healthcare. They need these things because we—all of us—are counting on them to get us through this pandemic.”
Tomorrow National Nurses United will be holding a virtual candlelight vigil/and call for action on “the proper PPE we need.” (6:30pm PT/9:30pm ET)
2) National: The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Democrats are making the case for a strong role for government in responding to the COVID-19 crisis. “When he stood before Congress in 1996 and declared ‘the era of big government is over,’ President Bill Clinton gave voice to a doctrine that permeated Democratic politics for more than two decades. Government, while necessary, shouldn’t be celebrated if the party wanted to win elections. The coronavirus is changing that. Democrats are enthusiastically embracing the idea of a robust role for government in American life, abandoning concerns they might alienate the relatively narrow slice of independent voters. Instead, they argue, the pandemic is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show voters how government can play a positive role in responding to a global health crisis and economic slowdown.”
3) National: “There is nothing ‘natural’ about this disaster,” says Dimple Abichandani of the General Service Foundation, “at least not in the way it’s unfolded in the United States. Yes, a virus is the spark of this disaster. But the economic and social crisis in which we find ourselves is a result of a decades-long ideological assault on the role of government and deeply entrenched racial, gender and economic inequality in our society.”
4) National/International: Under the impact of the coronavirus crisis, public trust in government is going up, Edelman reports. “The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Spring Update: Trust and the COVID-19 Pandemic reveals a remarkable shift in the landscape of trust since January. The Spring Update shows that amid the COVID-19 pandemic, government trust surged 11 points to an all-time high of 65 percent, making it the most trusted institution for the first time in our 20 years of study.” [Download the 52-slide report]
5) National: Responsible contracting can save lives. Its absence can threaten public health and safety. That theme runs through the 89-page whistleblower complaint of Rick Bright, who was moved from his post as longtime head of BARDA by the Trump administration after he resisted cronyism and politically influenced contracting decisions. “When COVID-19 emerged as a global threat, Dr. Bright was uniquely positioned to lead BARDA in its crucial work of combating this existential public health threat. However, Dr. Bright repeatedly clashed with his supervisor Dr. Robert Kadlec, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (“ASPR”), who took orders from HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Their relationship had been tense since approximately 2018, when Dr. Bright began raising repeated objections to the outsized role Dr. Kadlec allowed industry consultants to play in securing contracts that Dr. Bright and other scientists and subject matter experts determined were not meritorious. Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, however, Dr. Bright became even more alarmed about the pressure that Dr. Kadlec and other government officials were exerting on BARDA to invest in drugs, vaccines, and other technologies without proper scientific vetting or that lacked scientific merit.”
“On a call with reporters earlier Tuesday,” The Washington Post reports, “Bright’s attorneys, Debra Katz and Lisa Banks, said Bright came under pressure from Kadlec to award contracts ‘based on political connections and cronyism. (…) Bright also alleges that he raised repeated objections to the ‘outsized’ role Kadlec allowed industry consultants to play in securing contracts for drugs that Bright and other scientists viewed as ‘not meritorious.’ One of those mentioned was John Clerici, a pharmaceutical consultant with ties to Kadlec. Bright said he was pressured to extend a contract with one of Clerici’s clients.”
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce will be holding a hearing on protecting scientific integrity in the COVID-19 response this Thursday. Dr. Bright will testify. [Watch an excerpt from Bright’s interview with CBS 60 Minutes, to be broadcast next Sunday the 17th]
The Project on Government Oversight reported last week that the Office of Special Counsel has received at least 31 whistleblower disclosures and 15 retaliation complaints related to the coronavirus. They said by email that “we don’t know much about the complaints themselves but do know a number of them came from the Department of Health and Human Services.” OSC has recommended that Bright be restored to his post.
6) National: Support is building for direct federal aid to counties and municipalities in addition to direct aid to states, the Bond Buyer reports. “A bipartisan group of New York lawmakers announced Wednesday plans to introduce the Direct Support for Communities Act that would evenly split federal emergency aid between counties and municipalities. The bill authored by freshman Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado of New York’s Hudson Valley would create a new federal aid formula for counties and municipalities. The county fund would go directly to all counties based on their population. The ‘municipality fund’ would use a modified Community Development Block Grant formula with 70% going to cities, towns and villages with a population of over 50,000 and the remaining 30% to municipalities under 50,000 in population.” [Sub required]
7) California: The state and its biggest cities are suing ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft “for misclassifying their drivers as independent contractors instead of employees in violation of the law. (…) California is suing the companies under authority granted by a new state law and under the California Competition Law.”
8) California: On a vote of 5-1, the California Assembly Committee on Public Employment and Retirement has approved ACA 5, the bill by Assemblymember Dr. Shirley Weber to allow voters an opportunity to restore affirmative action and equal opportunity in California. “Eva Paterson, Co-Chair of the Opportunity for All Coalition, celebrated the victory, saying, ‘The vote today is a historic step for California. It is critical that ACA 5 is part of the discussion as we consider how we are going to keep Californians safe and stable through the COVID-19 crisis.’ She continued, ‘We look forward to the next steps in the process of putting this on the November ballot. California has been hit hard by this virus. ACA 5 provides concrete ways for our collective recovery.’”
9) New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has ordered the New York eviction moratorium extended, and has offered help to landlords. “There is no doubt a tradeoff between the tenant and the landlord,” Cuomo said. “We’re helping the landlords also, but on a human level I don’t want to see people and their children being evicted at this time through no fault of their own.”
10) International: Writing in The Economist, Margaret MacMillan, an historian at the University of Toronto, says “the coronavirus forces questions about what sort of future we want, what the proper role of government is and what makes a healthy society. We face a choice: to build better ways of dealing domestically and internationally with this challenge (and prepare for inevitable future ones) or let our world become meaner and more selfish, divided and suspicious.” [Sub required]
11) Think Tanks: Government regulation can save lives and protect public health and safety. Dr. Peter Lurie, president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, looks at one example of the potential costs of deregulation—antibody tests. “The language of red-tape reduction is seductive. But in this case, as in so many other deregulatory efforts foisted upon the public by the Trump administration, the rules were not ‘just as protective of the people.’ Indeed, there is a significant likelihood that someone will pay for this little deregulatory romp with their life.”
12) National: Teachers are prepared to call strikes or pickets of states open schools too early without taking necessary precautions. “American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten told Politico that if schools are reopened without sufficient safety measures ‘you scream bloody murder,’ adding, ‘And you do everything you can to … use your public megaphones.’ The National Education Association’s Lily Eskelsen García told the publication that teachers are united after years of strikes for more funding. She later told The Hill her organization’s members are also concerned by the lack of educators on the White House’s reopening task force.”
13) National: School privatization opponent Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership, is a Pulitzer Prize finalist. “A deeply researched and rigorously argued account of the public-private partnership that replaced redlining with even more predatory and destructive practices.”
14) National: Shawgi Tell looks at how charter schools continue seizing enormous sums of public funds during the pandemic. “The necessity today is for governments at all levels to cease funneling much-needed public funds to private business like charter schools and to direct these funds to public schools that serve 90% of the nation’s students. Public funds belong to public schools and charter schools are not public schools. There is no such thing as a public charter school, especially given the fact that charter schools are now openly claiming to be small private businesses so as to obtain public Small Business Administration money (from the CARES Act) that regular public schools, precisely because they are actually public, do not have access to.”
15) Alaska: School bus drivers represented by the Teamsters are demanding that the school district pays First Student drivers during the school shutdown. “There is a line in the 2016 contract between First Student, and the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District that lets the district pay a reduced rate to the bus company when schools are closed. Anything less than 170 student contact days in a school year. (…) The FNSBSD contract with First Student will end in 2021, and a new contractor, Durham will begin a 10-year contract in fall that year.”
16) California: San Diego County school districts may switch to “blended learning,” an area dominated by charter schools. “Roxana Marachi, an associate professor of education at San Jose State University who specializes in equity issues, said she is troubled by the increased attention to and increased marketing of virtual charter schools during this pandemic. ‘Right now, it’s a time when everyone is going scrambling to try to find alternatives … and so, unfortunately, it’s also a high time for the potential of exploitation of our communities,’ said Marachi, who is education chair of the California State NAACP.”
17) California: The California Charter Schools Association is now opposing a bill covering home school charters it had a hand in originating since “the association said it believes the bill contains ‘overly prescriptive oversight and review standards’ and vague definitions of such terms as ‘enrichment.’ The bill defines enrichment as activities related to recreation, technology, arts and entertainment used to support a school’s academic program.” AB 2990 now advances to the Appropriations Committee.
18) Minnesota: Parents are being forced to fight off school closures and privatization in the midst of the pandemic, Sarah Lahm reports. “The rapid expansion of charter schools has also become a divisive issue in the district, and many strong supporters of the redesign are also proponents of the charter school industry. (…) Disaster Leads to Opportunity. The crisis rhetoric puts the Minneapolis schools plan squarely in line with other disaster-driven public school upheavals, including those in New Orleans, Puerto Rico, Indianapolis, and Denver.”
19) Idaho: A proposal to build a housing complex in the Twin Falls Original Townsite Residential Historic District that would contain a charter school is drawing opposition. “The school will be put before the Planning and Zoning Commission at a future date and is not currently being presented.”
20) Louisiana: A school board in Evangeline Parish voted not to pay First Student drivers during the pandemic. “District 12, Ward 1 School Board Representative Ellis Guillory communicated he felt that payment is First Student’s contractual responsibility, ‘The ones that work for our Evangeline Parish School Board, we paid them because we’re responsible for them. Now First Student is responsible for their own.’” In its last full year First Student and First Transit had revenues of $3.8 billion.
21) Massachusetts: The Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) has appointed Brian Miller to its board. Miller, founder of The Miller Group at Morgan Stanley, was a founding trustee and finance chair of the Boston Collegiate Charter School.
22) Pennsylvania: In a guest column for the Mercury, Jeff Sparagana, Ed.D, a board member of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, answers Agora’s CEO’s question of why no one is taking his company up on its cyber charter program. “The reason is obvious,” Sparagana writes. “No school would want to replicate Agora’s failures. The school bills itself as a strong alternative to traditional public schools that provides students with ‘personalized, innovative, intensive academic preparation that inspires and educates them to achieve their high level of academic knowledge and skill.’ For most of the last decade, the school has consistently ranked as one of the worst-performing schools in the state. And in 2015, Agora hit rock bottom as the lowest-performing cyber charter school in the state and ranked 2nd from the bottom of the 475 public school districts in the entire state. During that year, less than a third of its 3rd graders were reading on grade level and its high school graduation rate was less than 47%. And while it is no longer ‘the worst-performing school,’ Agora’s improvements are hardly worth celebrating.”
23) Pennsylvania: The state’s public schools stand to lose $1 billion in local revenue due to the pandemic. “While the money coming in is anticipated to go down, the amount going out is increasing. The association said districts face rising costs for things such as charter school tuition and special education.”
24) Pennsylvania: Waynesboro Area School District is facing a $2 million deficit. “In addition, [School Board Director Patti Strite] said the district is paying for bus contracts on transportation that’s not being used. There are other costs as well, that continue despite school being closed. “Act 13 requires WASD to continue paying over $8 million to the pension system and continue paying all cyber/charter school costs, special education programs and building renovation bond payments,” Strite said. And then there are the additional costs associated with educating students at home.”
25) National/International: Rachel Cohen reports that the Tennessee Valley Authority is outsourcing federal jobs during the pandemic. “The TVA was created in 1933 during the Great Depression, and part of its mandate is to provide economic development to the Tennessee Valley region. Yet despite this, and despite the 30 million U.S workers filing for unemployment over the last several weeks, TVA management has announced plans to outsource hundreds of federal IT jobs to overseas companies. What’s particularly galling about this is that TVA management has admitted the layoffs and outsourcing are not driven by a desire to save money, nor is it because of any problem in the quality of performance their current workers have demonstrated.” Writing in The Intercept, Cohen says “Gay Henson, a TVA worker of 35 years and the current president of Engineering Association (EA)/Local 1937, said that workers there see the move as an attempt to undermine their union. While efforts to outsource their jobs predated the pandemic, Henson is not paranoid to consider how the new economic crisis might be exploited.”
26) National: Never letting a good crisis go to waste, the privatization industry is again trying to gin up interest in asset recycling. Last time they tried the concept went nowhere, not least because local governments were not keen on engaging in a wholesale liquidation of their assets to “recycle” their value into speculative and dubious projects involving developer rake offs. Jigar Shah is of Generate Capital and Jay Tannon of American Infrastructure Holdings say “with trillions of dollars in national debt on and off the balance sheet, why don’t we try something new that will leverage public dollars and provide a pathway for enormous private investment in all US states and territories?” But asset recycling is not “something new.” It has been tried before, most notably in Australia, and has produced serious problems and public risks. Perhaps they’re now banking on desperate governments being their best customers.
27) National: Standard & Poor’s, which rates infrastructure project finances, calls for a major initiative in the sector. The key takeaways from the 35-page report:
- “Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the longest U.S. economic expansion in U.S. history has abruptly ended: We forecast that U.S. economic activity will shrink by 11.8% ($566 billion) in real terms, peak to trough. The well over 30 million jobs lost at the trough will wipe out all the jobs created in 23 or more years. Economic damage will be three times greater than the Great Recession, in one-third the time.
- A $2.1 trillion boost of public infrastructure spending over a 10-year period, to the levels (relative to GDP) of the mid-20th century, could add as much as $5.7 trillion to the U.S. over the next decade, creating 2.3 million jobs by 2024 as the work is being completed. The additional 0.3% boost to productivity per year that it generates will lead to a net 713,000 more jobs on the books by 2029.
- GDP growth in the past 10 years floundered at around 2.25%–one-third the rate of 1959 when the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System was built. The opportunity to build infrastructure (and create jobs) during the Great Recession in 2009 was missed.
- Right now, the U.S. may have a second chance. COVID-19 has created an urgency to invest in much-needed public health infrastructure. Six months from now, we may look back on the pandemic as an event like Super Storm Sandy, which called attention to the need for investing in infrastructure to prevent damage from climate change. Either way, it all comes back to infrastructure investment, which we need to tackle now.”
28) National: Failing to prepare for climate change will be a costly option, writes Bruno Alves in Infrastructure Investor. “Climate change, like covid-19, is not a black swan event. Just as governments foresaw the impact of a pandemic but failed to make adequate preparations, we can see the likely consequences of climate change depending on how much—or how little—we all choose to do about it.” But in their effort to gather feedback from the 20 biggest managers and investors on the subject, Infrastructure Investor ran into mixed results. “We only managed to engage with 11 organisations—the remaining nine either declined to comment or could not be reached after repeated attempts—and their answers varied in breadth and quality. That highlighted how hard it is, across industries, to get adequate disclosure on climate change—what S&P Global Ratings’ Michael Wilkins called one of the ‘last holdouts’ in financial markets.” [Sub required]
29) National: Last week, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works passed the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 and Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020. “AWIA includes reauthorization of the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund at increased levels for the first time in more than 30 years and increases assistance to struggling communities. The CWSRF is currently set at $1.64 billion, but under AWIA would incrementally increase to $2 billion in fiscal year 2021, $2.5 billion in FY 2022 and $3 billion in FY 2023 for a total of $7.5 billion.” But millions of people face the prospect of water cutoffs, which Food & Water Watch is battling to prevent by urging you to contact your governors.
30) Florida: JEA, Jacksonville’s troubled electrical utility, is rehiring a CEO who led it before it got mired in its currentprivatization scandal. A search is underway for a permanent manager. “Among the issues facing the city-owned utility is a power purchase agreement with the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia that it is seeking to void through a federal lawsuit.
Meanwhile, Nate Monroe reports that “one of Mayor Lenny Curry’s top officials who served as the lead negotiator during secret JEA sale negotiations last year has refused to voluntarily appear before a special City Council committee investigating the controversy, setting up the potential for an administration official to receive a first-of-its-kind subpoena.” The Florida Times-Union says “a document obtained by the special City Council committee investigating JEA shows top utility executives could have gained the most from a controversial incentive plan that would have triggered multi-million dollar payments if JEA had been sold.”
31) Maryland: The repercussions from Purple Line Transit Constructors’ announcement that it intends to pull out of its design-build contract for the Purple Line light rail “public-private partnership” continue to spread. On Thursday Fitch Ratings downgraded the rating on approximately $313 million of Maryland Economic Development Corporation senior private activity bonds (PABs) to BB from BBB-. All instruments have been placed on Rating Watch Negative. “The Rating Watch Negative reflects Fitch’s concern over the potential implications to the project from a potential termination of the DB contract at the current stage of construction, including the inability to draw on the existing performance bond and DB contract parent company guarantees. Execution of a global settlement agreement that addresses a new, achievable longstop date and ensures timely payments on all upcoming debt service obligations, in conjunction with successful resolution of the DB termination notice would likely resolve the Rating Watch Negative.”
Standard & Poor’s said Purple Line Transit Partners LLC remains on CreditWatch with negative implications, and believes “it is highly likely that it will take significant time and costs to replace the contractor.” [Dow Jones Institutional News, May 4, 2020; sub required]
Carol Park and Sean Kennedy of the Maryland Public Policy Institute (a member of the conservative, Koch-backed State Policy Network) say it’s time to pull the plug on the Purple Line PPP. “Maryland’s leaders sure do love a good boondoggle. The Old Line State’s latest fiasco is the Purple Line project—16.2 miles of Metro track connecting Bethesda and New Carrollton. Initially lauded as the nation’s most ambitious public-private partnership transportation project, the Purple Line is a runaway train burning taxpayer dollars for fuel.” But they doubt that will happen. “The most likely but worst possible response would be for Maryland to find another private partner who can take over the project.”
Criminal Justice and Immigration
32) National/California: An ICE detainee held at the CoreCivic-owned Otay Mesa Detention Center has died due to coronavirus, the first reported death from the disease in ICE custody. “The man was identified as Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejía by his immigration attorney for nine years, Joan Del Valle. He had lived in the U.S. since the 1980s, including 20 years in Los Angeles, according to Del Valle. (…) Del Valle said Wednesday night that Escobar Mejía’s family in the U.S. was too distraught to discuss his death publicly and authorized her to speak on their behalf.” The family reportedly came to the U.S. in the 1980s to escape the war in El Salvador.
33) National/Texas: At least 12 people jailed in the GEO Group’s immigration prison in Conroe, Texas, have Covid-19, according to a federal habeas complaint by two detainees.
34) National/Georgia: The Intercept reports that a special unit at a private ICE jail in Georgia pepper sprayed detainees protesting their coronavirus care. “At Stewart, which is operated by the private prison giant CoreCivic, there is a special unit of correctional officers tasked with suppressing detainee disturbances. Akin to a SWAT team, the pepper-spraying unit is known as the Special Operations Response Team, or SORT. The SORT unit, which has not been previously reported on, is trained to use riot shields, helmets, pepper spray, and pepper-ball ammunition.” Advocates are pushing for details on Georgia’s response to COVID-19 in prisons and jails.
35) National: It seems as if bed guarantees (“fixed income contracts”) are helping both CoreCivic and GEO Group to weather the COVID-19 storm, which has seen declines in their immigrant detainee numbers, declining revenue, and increased spending to try to stave off more deaths in their facilities from the illness. Do American taxpayers really need to prop up these companies as the number of needed beds declines?
On Thursday, CoreCivic CEO Damon Hininger was asked by Noble Capital analyst Joe Gomes: “I would just like to delve a little bit more into the ICE population decline. Listened to your competitor’s call last week [GEO—ed.], and they talked about they have some guaranteed minimum contracts that are helping in this time to keep up a certain level of revenues. I was wondering if you could speak a little bit more about does CoreCivic also operate under such type contracts? A little bit more about the decline in the ICE populations. And on the ICE populations, where on the scale do they land in terms of margin contribution to the business versus the state contracts or the U.S. Marshal or the BOP?”
Hininger’s answer? “Looking at our federal contracts, I know you asked about ICE, but let me just give you kind of an overview of our federal contracts. We have about 21 federal contracts. And of those, about 14 of them have a monthly fixed payment provision. So the 7 contracts— again, federal contracts that do not have those fixed monthly payments are mostly smaller facilities, and they have multiple customers, whereas the 14 that do have the fixed monthly payments, the partner is either the anchor customer or they have the exclusive use to the entire facility.”
For CoreCivic’s quarterly report see here. For GEO Group’s see here. CoreCivic will be holding its annual shareholders meeting this Thursday and it will be webcast.
36) National: Writing on Seeking Alpha, Daniel Thurecht raises questions about the sustainability of GEO Group’s leverage and dividend payments.
37) National: “What will it take for America to beat this pandemic and reopen our economy?” asks AFSCME. “A public service army. We can’t lay off the very workers who can save us. The next relief bill from Congress MUST have state and local aid. #FundtheFrontLines.”
38) National: The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that government employment dropped by 980,000 in April. Employment in local government was down by 801,000, in part reflecting school closures. Employment also declined in state government education (-176,000). The BLS reports the healthcare industry lost 1.4 million jobs in April.
39) National: Water justice advocates came together for a discussion last week on the importance of access to affordable water during COVID-19 on The Appeal’s podcast (begins at 5 minutes into the recording).
40) National: Rural and intercity bus companies have been hit hard by pandemic. “If we go out, these states are going to lose their rural transportation.” Brent Paulsen, the Iowa Department of Transportation’s transit programs administrator says “this is critically important to help these companies. They provide an important service in our state, connecting rural areas to metro areas and rural areas to other rural areas.”
41) National: The COVID-19 crisis is dramatically affecting the solid waste business, much of which is in municipal contracting with companies such as Waste Management. But with restaurants and small businesses, an important part of Waste Management’s revenue, largely closed down, the company’s prospects are uncertain. Guess where they’re going to go to shore up their revenues. “On top of that, with so many people working from home, it’s no surprise that more trash is being picked up curbside at this time. With as much as 30-50 percent of the workforce potentially continuing to work from home in the future, waste haulers will have to renegotiate contracts with municipalities. Jim Fish CEO & President, Waste Management said, ‘We’ve got to make sure we’re adequately compensated.’”
42) New York: Schenectady is facing drastic cuts in public service personnel, and possibly bankruptcy by the end of the year, if federal help doesn’t arrive soon. “His ominous warning came in response to concerns raised by councilwomen Leesa Perazzo and Marion Porterfield about the staff reductions to public safety. “We have to do everything that we can possibly do to make sure we’re not reducing our police and fire,” said Perazzo. McCarthy reiterated that employees from other departments in City Hall, not just the police and fire, could face furloughs.”
43) International: Public interest groups in the United Kingdom, including Keep our NHS Public, say creeping NHS privatization is hampering their COVID-19 response. “In the past few weeks, the government has ramped up outsourcing (UK government ‘using pandemic to transfer NHS duties to private sector’, 4 May), repeatedly handing over contracts to companies to run operations that the NHS should be leading. The private sector has proven itself to be ineffective, with profits and cost-cutting consistently put before care. Testing centers are being run by Deloitte, KPMG, Serco, Sodexo, Mitie, Boots and the US data mining group Palantir, funded by our money. Even before this crisis, the government was helping private companies to creep into our NHS. We will not let this government shock doctrine our NHS with further privatisation. This experience has taught us that we are all in this together, and that our NHS is a vital, lifesaving organ, there for us all. NHS funding is not there for governments to prop up private companies, it is there to keep us safe.”
44) Pennsylvania: The coronavirus crisis is casting a new light on the state’s public liquor sales system, which has faced repeated attempts to privatize it. “According to the board’s annual report for fiscal 2018-2019, it generated more than $2.67 billion in sales and taxes from its Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores, direct deliveries to licensees, and from its e-commerce website. Together, it returned more than $769.9 million to the general fund, state and local government and other beneficiaries that fiscal year. It returned $717.2 million to the general fund, including $381.9 million in liquor tax, $150.2 million in state sales tax and $185.1 million transferred to the general fund. Like other states, Pennsylvania is reeling from revenue hits and added expenses. The commonwealth, which is debating its fiscal 2021 budget, could lose $4 billion in revenue absent further rescue aid from Washington.”
45) Puerto Rico/National: As the Commonwealth government files a court motion contesting claims of its debt, Cate Long provides some context: “Why is Puerto Rico bankrupt? Because about half PR’s GDP is US pharma operating there & PR taxes their income at ~3% & gives them +$14 billion a year in tax incentives. Fiscal plan says 1/2 pharma leaves in 5 yrs. Bankrupt at the front door & tax haven at the back door.”
46) International: Concern is growing about a massive handover of patient data to private, for profit corporations by Britain’s public National Health Service.