Target: Jacob Lew, Secretary of the United States Treasury
Goal: Denounce increased efforts to privatize roads and other crucial public infrastructure
Privatization is widely viewed as a failed strategy. While selling off public assets like schools, prisons and utilities does benefit the corporations acquiring them, taxpayers typically lose. Promoters of privatization claim the arrangement saves money and boosts efficiency, but the reality is often murkier. Union busting, inferior service, fraud and human rights violations have all plagued so-called “public-private partnerships” (PPPs). Yet if the United States Treasury and Department of Transportation (DOT) have their way, soon vital infrastructure improvement projects could share the same fate.
Using taxes to fund road and bridge repairs is a tried-and-true strategy, but many government officials seem to fear even mentioning the word “tax.” As TruthOut reports, “with so many cash-strapped states desperate to build or repair public infrastructure, many states see no other option for financing projects other than offering private investors tax-free investments.” This allows investors to avoid paying taxes on the income they receive from the projects, a sort of taxpayer-funded subsidy. And several PPPs have recently filed for bankruptcy, leaving average citizens to foot the bill–even for projects which may never be completed. Why would officials want to replicate such disastrous partnerships?
A recent event held by the Treasury and DOT has been dubbed a “privatization party.” Investors met with government officials behind closed doors to discuss deals which they claim will generate savings. Yet TruthOut notes that “so far there is no evidence to show that the private sector has shared, minimized or even assumed any financial risk in these deals.” Demand that the Treasury and DOT stop benefiting wealthy investors at the expense of the public, and end this push towards privatization.
Dear Secretary Lew,
I was disappointed to learn of the Treasury’s participation in the recent Infrastructure Investment Summit, focused largely on increasing the privatization of public infrastructure projects. Contracts for these PPPs often include non-competitive clauses and other stipulations that allow contractors to get rich at the public trough without assuming much risk, if any. The savings and service improvements held up by privatization promoters are unlikely to materialize.
Much of the positive spin on privatization is self-serving at best, if not downright dishonest. As Virginia congressional candidate Jack Trammell told the press,”A great deal of the media praising public-private partnerships in transportation projects comes from sources that have a self-interest in promoting them.”
In short, there are few reasons to expand PPPs and many reasons to reject them. I urge you and your colleagues at the Treasury Department to end your support for the privatization of public infrastructure projects.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Baytownbert via Wikimedia Commons