Friday, July 22, 2011

Public/Private Funding and What Shouldn’t Exist at all

Two news items crossed my e-mail today, and I have to share them:
I. In Blacksburg, Va., a City Councilwoman last week suggested that citizens donate toward the projected $125 million cost of building three new schools, thus offsetting the need for a tax increase, which would amount to a property tax increase of “10 cents or more.”

II. Build the Border Fence: The Official Border Fence Donation Website for the State of Arizona: This website encourages donations from citizens (and they mean this in the strictest sense) to complete the wall between Arizona and Mexico. The website explains:

“One of the gravest threats facing America today is the lack of security and enforcement along the U.S. and Mexican border. The consequences of this lack of security have yielded an unparalleled invasion of drug cartels, violent gangs, an estimated 20 million illegal aliens, and even terrorists.

Because of the Federal Government's failure to stop this invasion, the State of Arizona signed into law SB 1406. Part of this important legislation established this website for the purpose of raising funds through donations from private citizens, businesses, and corporations across the country in an effort to finance and finish building our border fence. One hundred percent of the funds raised will be held in a trust fund account in the Arizona State Treasurer's Office. The bill also created the Joint Border Security Advisory Committee for oversight and accountability of these funds. Additionally, in an effort to contain costs, inmate labor will be utilized in building the border fence.”
The second item is the most immediately disturbing to me. I wrote about this wall in my Nov 23, 2010 blog post when I crossed it for the first time on a trip to Nogales. It is a WALL, and not a fence, which has a much friendlier connotation. It is 8-12 feet high. In some places it is covered with barbed wire, and in other places, there are two walls running parallel to each other in case someone should get over the first one. Sunk deep into the ground, it stops both people and animals. Aside from its racist and xenophobic meanings, it is also wreaking enormous environmental havoc on a very fragile ecosystem and will probably be the final cause of the extinction of the Mexican jaguar, a magnificent nomadic cat.

This website does (probably unintentionally) have a very funny moment where donors are reassured that their money will be used wisely and go a long way because “inmate labor will be used in building the border fence.” Inmates are apparently cheaper and more controllable than undocumented laborers, although some of these inmates could be undocumented people being held in Arizona’s various private prisons. Private donations are being sought to help enforce public policy and the ability to do that is created by public officials.

The first item is even more blurring of public and private. A public official offers citizens the choice between paying more taxes or just donating money in order to build public schools.

Public officials are now in the fundraising business and are active participants in the privatizing of public structures.

A final fact must be introduced now - $1,216,539,560,417 or, written out: one trillion, two hundred and sixteen billion, five hundred and thirty nine million, five hundred and sixty thousand, four hundred and seventeen dollars. This is the total cost, and rising, of what America has spent on war in the past decade.

The cost of war is still firmly in the public sphere. But in all the negotiations about raising the debt ceiling and on whose backs to balance the budget, we have yet to hear loud enough voices asking to dismantle our war machine.

We must have nationwide discussion amongst all our communities about what should be funded publicly, what should be funded privately and what shouldn’t exist at all, if we are ever to really move to a country that works for everyone. Try introducing any of these stories into conversation today. Just by doing so you will be a part of a fundamental change.


Unknown said...

Great food for thought Kim. Thank you.

Fear may be the single greatest drain on the American economy. Taxpayers seem willing to spend with impunity for prisons, the military, and border defenses.

Imagine if we were as scared of our children growing up uneducated as we are of our neighbors children growing up to rob us.

Mazarine said...

Actually, I think the corporations buying out our politicians are why we are still involved in these wars. Lockheed Martin, for example, spreads out their manufacturing into almost every American State so that they will 'provide jobs' and therefore have a measure of clout over the politicians in that state. This is why we are still buying massive war weapons even though our government has massive debt.