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JHB

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The Hidden History of the Privatization of Everything

Crossposting from Good Reads

Note From The Editor
Introducing Our Feature Series On Privatization
Josh Marshall
***
Today TPM is kicking off a richly reported four part series on privatization and the privatization movement in the United States. We’ll begin later this week with a detailed look at the history of the privatization movement, particularly its ideological origins in post-New Deal America, as intellectuals who feared the growth of government searched for ways to limit its growth. Later, their work combined with that of conservative political strategists who saw privatization as a way to eliminate key political constituencies supporting government spending. By the 1980s and 1990s, these principally ideological and political projects came together with a range of corporations, some new and some old, eager for access to the business opportunities privatization had and would continue to create.

From there we will look at public-private partnerships and particular industries like the corrections industry to see how privatization works in practice. Public debate on the issue often focuses on costs and savings. Does privatization really reduce costs to tax payers or simply enrich private businesses? Our series will look closely at that issue. But we will also focus on the way privatization often limits the scope of democratic government itself - taking key public policy decisions away from democratically elected or accountable authorities and handing them over to private corporations, whose methods and practices are either hidden from public view or are actually trade secrets they own.



Part 1
The History of Privatization
How an Ideological and Political Attack on Government Became a Corporate Grab for Gold

Donald Cohen

***
Rising discontent with government during the 1960’s and 1970’s created fertile ground for privatization advocates like Savas and Robert Poole, founder of the Reason Foundation. Not only did they see opportunity for increased contracting out, but they seized the moment to recast existing municipal practices as living proof that their ideas were correct. Local governments had considerable experience contracting for basic services. San Francisco, for example, began contracting with private companies for trash collection in 1932.

The urban fiscal crises of the 1970s offered the perfect opportunity to create a rationale for contracting out public services. Cities across the country were facing declining revenues as middle class families and manufacturing companies fled to the suburbs and Great Society welfare programs increased costs. The lengthy 1973 recession pushed cities into crisis and toward Savas’ solutions. Privatization was no longer only a right-wing attack on popular government services, but increasingly becoming a managerial response to tight city budgets.

By the end of the 1970s, the table was set. Cities were in fiscal crisis and a new conservative think-tank infrastructure (Reason, Cato, Heritage, ALEC, and others) that embraced privatization as a core strategy to downsize government was ready for a frontal assault.

And then a new president was elected.

The Hidden History of the Privatization of Everything

Note From The Editor
Introducing Our Feature Series On Privatization
Josh Marshall
***
Today TPM is kicking off a richly reported four part series on privatization and the privatization movement in the United States. We’ll begin later this week with a detailed look at the history of the privatization movement, particularly its ideological origins in post-New Deal America, as intellectuals who feared the growth of government searched for ways to limit its growth. Later, their work combined with that of conservative political strategists who saw privatization as a way to eliminate key political constituencies supporting government spending. By the 1980s and 1990s, these principally ideological and political projects came together with a range of corporations, some new and some old, eager for access to the business opportunities privatization had and would continue to create.

From there we will look at public-private partnerships and particular industries like the corrections industry to see how privatization works in practice. Public debate on the issue often focuses on costs and savings. Does privatization really reduce costs to tax payers or simply enrich private businesses? Our series will look closely at that issue. But we will also focus on the way privatization often limits the scope of democratic government itself - taking key public policy decisions away from democratically elected or accountable authorities and handing them over to private corporations, whose methods and practices are either hidden from public view or are actually trade secrets they own.



Part 1
The History of Privatization
How an Ideological and Political Attack on Government Became a Corporate Grab for Gold

Donald Cohen

***
Rising discontent with government during the 1960’s and 1970’s created fertile ground for privatization advocates like Savas and Robert Poole, founder of the Reason Foundation. Not only did they see opportunity for increased contracting out, but they seized the moment to recast existing municipal practices as living proof that their ideas were correct. Local governments had considerable experience contracting for basic services. San Francisco, for example, began contracting with private companies for trash collection in 1932.

The urban fiscal crises of the 1970s offered the perfect opportunity to create a rationale for contracting out public services. Cities across the country were facing declining revenues as middle class families and manufacturing companies fled to the suburbs and Great Society welfare programs increased costs. The lengthy 1973 recession pushed cities into crisis and toward Savas’ solutions. Privatization was no longer only a right-wing attack on popular government services, but increasingly becoming a managerial response to tight city budgets.

By the end of the 1970s, the table was set. Cities were in fiscal crisis and a new conservative think-tank infrastructure (Reason, Cato, Heritage, ALEC, and others) that embraced privatization as a core strategy to downsize government was ready for a frontal assault.

And then a new president was elected.

The Republican Munsters

I remember the exact point where that phrase gained cachet ouside lefty circles...

February 10, 1992, in a speech by former Attorney General Edwin Meese at Harvard Law School, that was widely reported on and promoted, particularly on the Right.

Meese Speaks at Law School Forum
Stresses Importance of Ensuring Free Speech, Freedom of the Press
By Perry Q. Despeignes, CONTRIBUTING REPORTER February 11, 1992

Speaking at a Harvard Law School Forum last night, former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III defended federal restrictions on the content of Planned Parenthood consultations while warning of the danger that "politically correct" speech codes pose to First Amendment rights.
http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1992/2/11/meese-speaks-at-law-school-forum/

At the time I thought it was a little odd that they'd latch on to that particular phrase, but then I remembered something else:

This was:
1) almost a year after the Soviets had been absolutely sidelined in the response to Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait and the ensuing Gulf War,
2) almost six months since the failed coup by Soviet hardliners to oust Gorbachev, and
3) about a month and a half after the Soviet Union was dissolved completely.

In other words, it featured prominently in a heavily-promoted speech at the precise moment in history when even the most dinosaurine Conservative couldn't maintain the fiction that Liberals and Lefties were "on orders straight from the Kremlin" without losing all credibility beyond a relative handful of true-believing goobers.

The Soviets had become useless as a means of painting Liberals and Lefties as fools, dupes and active agents of a foreign power ideologically driven to wreck the country. Useless as a brush with which to paint L&Ls as traitors and as a DISloyal opposition, for stoking anger against them.

So they shifted gears and cloudsourced it: goodbye slavishly following "orders from Moscow", in the new version there's just this weird ideological cloud of anti-Americanism that motivates Liberals and the Left. In some ways it works even better, because it's even more malleable: it can cover whatever you want it to cover as long as you keep thumping the drum.

"When the Russians beat us into space...

...we didn't deny Sputnik was up there."

Time to repost this...

From a previous time this topic came up.
http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1017&pid=168930

Search on "video news release", "VNR", and/or "prepackaged news"

It's a PR tool that's become a staple, especially in local news. There's a suggested script for the lead-in (kind of obvious what it was with this example), followed by a video segment produced by some other party. And the big question is who the other parties are. It would have been interesting to see the video segment that followed, to figure out what they were trying to sell -- probably a retail association trying to promote a "come on, everybody's doing it" attitude to encourage more spending during the holidays.

They're very attractive for local stations because it gives them material to air at little or no cost, and the lead-in by the local station anchors gives the impression that it's something the station did on it's own, not something that they got from elsewhere and just used verbatim.


A video news release (VNR) is a video segment made to look like a news report, but is instead created by a PR firm, advertising agency, marketing firm, corporation, or government agency. They are provided to television newsrooms to shape public opinion, promote commercial products and services, publicize individuals, or support other interests. News producers may air VNRs, in whole or in part, at their discretion or incorporate them into news reports if they contain information appropriate to a story or of interest to viewers.

Critics of VNRs have called the practice deceptive or a propaganda technique, particularly when the segment is not identified to the viewers as a VNR. Firms producing VNRs disagree and equate their use to a press release in video form and point to the fact that editorial judgement in the worthiness, part or whole, of a VNR's content is still left in the hands of Journalists, Program Producers or the like. The United States Federal Communications Commission is currently investigating the practice of VNRs.
***
VNRs have been used extensively in business since at least the early 1980s. Corporations such as Microsoft and Philip Morris, and the pharmaceutical industry generally, have all made use of the technique.

According to the trade-group Public Relations Society of America, a VNR is the video equivalent of a press release. and presents a client's case in an attractive, informative format. The VNR placement agency seeks to garner media attention for the client's products, services, brands or other marketing goals. The VNR affords local TV stations free broadcast quality materials for use in reports offered by such stations.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_news_release

In March 2000, Candace White, marketing professor at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, co-authored a report with Mark D. Harmon for the Public Relations Society of America titled "How video news releases are used in television broadcasts." On the panel with Moscowitz and Potter, White said that the same self-interest that encourages news directors to use VNRs dictates that the material is used responsibly. "I trust news producers to be able to weed out true news value; I give them credit for being able to recognize blatant sales pitches. Our study found that the corporate videos were used the least, and the ones about health and safety were used the most," she said.

The Center for Media and Democracy's Executive Director John Stauber disagreed. "The use of VNRs amounts to systematic deception of viewers, both by the hidden interested parties behind them, and by news organizations with impure motives themselves," he said.

Reporting on a September 2005 seminar on new media, Media Daily News noted that VNRs "which can look like regular news stories to the unaided eye--can be placed in local or national newscasts." On that panel was Larry Moskowitz, the president and CEO of Medialink Worldwide. "If there is news in your brands we'll find a way to put your brands in your news. In a sense, it's product placement, but it's earned a place on the shelf," Media Daily News reported.

Medialink Worldwide, one of the largest producers and distributors of VNRs, states in its 2003 annual report that a "VNR is a television news story that communicates an entity's public relations or corporate message. It is paid for by the corporation or organization seeking to announce news and is delivered without charge to the media."

While the company likens VNRs as akin to the traditional hard copy news release, it acknowledges they are widely used in newsrooms. "Produced in broadcast news style, VNRs relay the news of a product launch, medical discovery, corporate merger event, timely feature or breaking news directly to television news decision-makers who may use the video and audio material in full or edited form. Most major television stations in the world now use VNRs, some on a regular basis," Medialink states.
http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Video_news_releases



More evidence of that–if any is necessary–comes in the form of this clip reel put together by Conan O'Brien's Conan show, which shows a large number of TV anchors reading from the same script about a story of immense public importance: a smartphone app for ice cream delivery:

As O'Brien comments, "I don't find that funny–I find it scary."

This would appear to be one more example of what Free Press and others were warning us about a few years back–fake news segments that are really just corporate PR planted in the middle of a "newscast."

The FCC should, in theory, do something about this manipulation of the news on the public airwaves. But the commission has been extremely slow to act. As James Rainey reported in the L.A. Times (3/30/11), two stations faced slap-on-the-wrist fines for airing commercials dressed up as news–four years after the offending broadcasts aired.
http://www.fair.org/blog/2012/07/19/local-tv-news-now-with-ice-cream/

So who else has a MASSIVE hangover this morning?

Inevitable result of #GOPDebateDrinkingGame.

And all of them ignore that Abe's Republicans were a liberal/left party

Conservative characterizations of the Republicans at the time are embarassingly similar to present-day Republican characterization of Democrats:

Below is a conservative political cartoon from 1860, engraved by Currier and Ives and published in Harper's Magazine.

See if you recognize anything:


http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003674590/

"The Republican Party Going to the Right House"

Lincoln rides in on a (fence) rail, carried by Horace Greely (anti-slavery editor of the New York Tribune), leading his followers into a lunatic asylum.
GREELY: "Hold on to me Abe, and we'll go in here by the unanimous consent of the people."
LINCOLN: "Now my friends I'm almost in, and the millennium is going to begin, so ask what you will and it shall be granted."

Younger Woman: "Oh! what a beautiful man he is, I feel a passionate attraction' every time I see his lovely face."
Bearded Man: "I represent the free love element, and expect to have free license to carry out its principles."
Man with trim beard and hat: "I want religion abolished and the book of Mormon made the standard of morality."
Caricatured black man: "De white man hab no rights dat cullud pussons am bound to spect' I want dat understood."
Older woman: "I want womans rights enforced, and man reduced in subjection to her authority."
Scruffy man with bottle: "I want everybody to have a share of everybody elses property."
Barefoot man: "I want a hotel established by government, where people that aint inclined to work, can board free of expense, and be found in rum and tobacco."
Seedy top-hat man: " I want guaranteed to every Citizen the right to examine every other citizen's pockets without interruption by Policemen."
Man at the end: "I want all the stations houses burned up, and the M.P.s killed, so that the bohoys can run with the machine and have a muss when they please."

Let’s go down the list, shall we?:
Supported by "liberal media": Check
Liberals will embark on profligate giveaways to THOSE PEOPLE? Check.
Flighty, emotional, entranced by charisma/celebrity? Check.
People conservatives consider sexual deviants? Check.
People conservatives consider religious deviants? Check (and how ironic, this particular turn).
Grasping minorities after special rights? Check.
"Feminazis"? Check.
There's a vast army of layabouts, thugs, foreigners, and outright thieves who want to take your hard-earned stuff? Check, check, check, and check.

"Friends of Abe" my historically-literate ass.

They've been on that trajectory since the 90s...

...when Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh effectively became the voices of the party. In 2000 it wasn't deeply-rooted enough, and the party establishment still pretty much followed "traditional" practices.

In 2004 they had someone already squatting in the Oval Office, so there was a clear choice.

The cracks were really visible in 2008, but McCain and Romney were heavy enough establishment hitters to still clean up by far.

And then McCain, heeding Bill Kristol's flawless logic, tapped the Grifter Queen of Glacier Gulch as his VP. And then the "Kenyan" guy with the furrin name won.

The floodgates opened up: rich wingnuts and bilkers poured money into the coffers of the Teastroturf machine, run-of-the-mill wingnuts poured their own money in, and it was a great time to cash in and/or (mostly "and") bilk the gullible who were so flame-eyed that they weren't paying much attention to where the money was going.

Simplified, sure, but that's the gist of it.

There are 250 days until the Iowa caucus, 258 until NH primary

Pace yourselves, people, and stay hydrated.
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