Introducing “Pro-Public,” a project to make government work for all of us

After declaring ourselves wholeheartedly “pro-public” back in January, we heard from you about the dire need for a government that works for all of us.

Then a pandemic broke out, claiming the lives of over 130,000 Americans and counting. And then, a powerful black-led, multiracial movement erupted after the police killing of George Floyd. 

If the past few months have revealed anything, it’s that the 40-year corporate attack on public institutions has endangered everyone.

State and local governments are starving for funding after decades of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. Budgets for crucial public goods like public health and education are woefully inadequate compared to what’s needed. Spending on the criminal justice system and the military is squeezing out critical needs like clean water, transit, parks, libraries, and the arts. 

But corporate leaders, right-wing organizations, and conservative politicians didn’t stop at tax cuts. They’ve also waged a rhetorical attack that helped plunge trust in government to an all-time low, making the worst public health crisis in a century even worse. 

Even before all of that, though, racism was and continues to be this country’s enduring affliction. After the successes of the Civil Rights movement, racism became less visible and more systemic, woven into the fabric of laws, rules, and policies. Just one example: municipalities that rely heavily on revenue from police tickets, court fees, and other fines have a higher than average percentage of black and Latino populations. 

The path forward is clear: We must foreground and confront the deep history and impact of structural and cultural racism.

We must make full-throated arguments for the role of public goods, public institutions, and democratic decision making in all communities, especially those who historically have been left out. 

We must expose efforts by corporations and private investors trying to take control of public goods.

We must develop and support new rules and revenue generators to expand access to public services, rebalance economic power, and eliminate the corrupting influences of money on democracy. 

And we must spotlight the work of the public servants who matter so much to our communities—teachers, postal carriers, trash collectors, librarians, and other public workers.

To those ends, we’re refocusing and rebranding our email newsletter. 

Pro-Public is a newsletter for people who think government should work for all of us. If you’re already subscribed to our weekly emails, you don’t have to do a thing. (If you aren’t subscribed, sign up here.)

Starting next week, we’ll dig into one story highlighting the value of public goods, the need for more public resources, or the harms caused by privatization. We’ll also include other stories and ways to get involved in pro-public campaigns and more.  

We can’t do this alone—so we need your help:

  • Got tips or stories? If you read a story about a school food service manager in Columbus, Ohio, preparing meals kids during the pandemic, an analysis of a new progressive tax policy, or a campaign to stop privatization, send it our way:
  • If you know a public worker, a public school parent, an elected official, a community organizer—anyone who believes that the government should work for all of us—please forward them this email. (They can sign up here.)

But rebranding won’t be enough. Ideas must become action. We’ll continue to support campaigns and policy ideas that prevent privatization and protect and enhance public institutions. We’ll also call attention to how structural and cultural racism is used to exclude certain communities and prevent public goods from being available to all. 

The millions of people, many of them young, flooding the streets right now give us hope. They are fighting for a safer, more equal, more democratic society. They are demanding that our public institutions do the right thing. We stand wholeheartedly with them.