Reject PPPs

So-called “public-private-partnerships” (PPPs) are nothing new, but they have been multiplying rapidly at home and abroad since the start of the neoliberal period several decades ago. Not surprisingly, the accelerated expansion of PPPs is a big part of the “post-Covid-19” “Great Reset” agenda of the international financial oligarchy as they strive to avert the inescapable law of the falling rate of profit under capitalism.

PPPs are wreaking havoc in every sector in nearly every country. In the U.S. they can be found in education, healthcare, infrastructure, municipal services, transportation, and more. In education, they take the form of charter schools and much-touted “community schools.” In healthcare, they take the form of large corporations using public funds to provide health services such as elderly care while skimming profits through “cost-cutting.” In the realm of infrastructure, they include private construction companies building ‘public’ roads using public funds and then establishing ways to ensure guaranteed profits for these private interests through the public purse for decades (e.g., tolls). Many other examples of state-organized corruption to pay the rich could be given.

PPPs rest on assumptions that reject the modern idea that the wealth produced by workers belongs to workers and that humans are born to society with rights that must be guaranteed by a government that rests on a real public authority. They legitimize the retrogressive idea that it is fine for government to abdicate its responsibilities to the people while making the rich richer. PPPs go hand in hand with the chaos, anarchy, and violence of the “free market” and exacerbate all the harmful trends endemic to capitalist societies.

To ensure a debased and counterfeit consciousness, PPPs are dogmatically portrayed as great things, as amazing “creative” arrangements that purportedly benefit everyone. Everyone supposedly wins with PPPs. No one loses. There is allegedly nothing problematic with PPPs and everyone should automatically and uncritically embrace them. No investigation or inquiry is needed. Like so many antisocial policies and arrangements, PPPs are to be taken for granted and treated as a “normal,” “natural,” and “good” way of doing things. And even if some aspects of PPPs are critiqued here and there, in the end we should all just go along with them anyway. Principles and standards do not need to be defended.

In reality, PPPs are nothing more than pay-the-rich schemes masquerading as arrangements that “benefit the public.” They represent a main form of privatization, which invariably increases corruption, raises costs, reduces efficiency, lowers the quality of services, further disempowers the polity, and intensifies inequality. The rich and their representatives portray PPPs as necessary arrangements without which society and the public would be worse off. The political and media representatives of the rich never tire of nonchalantly telling us that “we have to work with the private sector” to “get things done” and that “government alone can’t get the job done.” This is designed to cover up the fact that PPPs, far from advancing the public and national interest, rest on the parasitic private expropriation of social wealth. This twisted logic is meant to rationalize putting all the assets and wealth of society at the disposal of the rich. Why not just use public funds directly and fully for public enterprises? Why introduce alien private claims into the equation?

A main way neoliberal ideology justifies and imposes PPPs on society is by actively dismissing the huge distinction between public and private. Public and private not only have nothing in common, they are antonyms. The former refers to everyone and the common good, while the latter means something is exclusive and only for some. Private means not for everyone, not for the common good. Every effort is made by the rich and their representatives to blur this critical distinction or erase it altogether. Such an endeavor is self-serving and conceals the origin of wealth in society and who has a legitimate claim to that wealth. We are to ignore the fact that once private alien claims are introduced into a public enterprise, this necessarily means that wealth for that enterprise is now funneled away from that enterprise and into private hands, leaving the two main claimants to public enterprise wealth, workers and the government, with less value and less ability to serve workers and the general interests of society. The money seized by superfluous private alien interests now leaves the economy and ends up being used in ways that reduce social responsibility.

Private interests must not be permitted to access wealth produced by workers, no matter the pretext. They must blocked from seizing wealth needed to build a diverse and self-reliant economy that meets the needs of all. These funds and assets belong to and are meant to serve society and raise the living and working standards of all. The economic security of Americans cannot be safeguarded through more pay-the-rich schemes.

Shawgi Tell is author of the book Charter School Report Card. He can be reached at Read other articles by Shawgi.