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Response to Tansy_Gold (Original post)

Wed May 9, 2012, 11:32 PM

11. The New Wall Street Racket Looting Your City, One Block at a Time

http://www.alternet.org/story/155276/the_new_wall_street_racket_looting_your_city%2C_one_block_at_a_time?page=entire

When Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced a “new and innovative” financing tool last month to help Chicago renovate failing infrastructure without precipitating another budget crisis, many in the city were understandably critical. Chicagoans have already endured the notorious 75-year lease of their parking meters to a consortium headed by Morgan Stanley. That sale promulgated a system wherein the public is held hostage by private finance, due largely to the inclusion of arcane legal stipulations like “non-compete clauses” and “compensation events” in the language of the contract. Ellen Danin, writing in the Northwestern Journal of Law and Social Policy relates that: “Chicagoans learned about compensation events when CBS reported that the city’s parking meter contract required reimbursement for events like repairing streets. Public records showed that in the first quarter of 2009, the city was liable to the parking meter contractor for more than $106,000 in lost income during the slow months for street repair and street closings for festivals, parades, and holidays, as well as repairs and maintenance. At that rate, it is not unreasonable to predict that Chicago will owe roughly $500,000 a year to the private contractor.”

The city essentially acts as an insurer for the meter merchants, with the return being a one-time injection of roughly a billion dollars that the previous mayor, Daley the Second, haphazardly exhausted on closing budget deficits in the waning years of his two-decade tour at the helm. With the current infrastructure deal, Emanuel has repeatedly claimed that this is not privatization: This is not like the parking meter deal. Can the public believe him? Here is how the “infrastructure trust” works: the city pays for upgrades to its roads, rail or schools with dollars pooled by Emanuel’s friends from the banking and investment world. Meanwhile, the city retains “ownership” of the infrastructure, though this comes at the cost of having to ensure a revenue stream for the fund. Emanuel’s favorite example is his $225 million pet project to green-retrofit some of the city’s older buildings. The savings on energy usage stemming from the renovations are then extracted and used to pay off investors. Of course, the city could also sell municipal bonds to raise necessary funds, and then use the savings in energy costs to pay the loan back at a much lower cost to taxpayers. But then Emanuel’s friends (and campaign donors) would not be the richer for it.

While the mayor bills his plan as “bold” and “innovative,” the reality could not be further from the truth. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have been around for decades in various forms and their track record is replete with delays, cost overruns and prolonged legal battles. What’s more, the beneficiaries of these investment mechanisms are the same rapacious Morgan Stanleys and Goldman Sachs that gave us the mortgage-backed securities scandal and the ensuing recession. Using the economic malaise they created as cause, they have ratcheted up their advocacy of PPPs as a means of helping cash-starved public entities finance capital-intensive projects. The upshot is that they are holding us hostage all over again. They are using infrastructure built over decades with public monies as collateral to extract profit off of the back of taxpayers. A cursory look at some past projects of this nature demonstrates that PPPs are often inefficient, overly costly and inherently unjust.

THREE GROTESQUE EXAMPLES ARE DESCRIBED HERE (SEE LINK)

Toward Sustainable Investment in Infrastructure

PPPs are purported to make additional resources available for public expenditure on capital-intensive infrastructure projects. However, the opposite tends to be the case. A report published by the Public Services International Research Unit notes: “The great majority of PPP’s rely on a stream of income from payments by government – i.e. public spending...In a context where there are political demands to cut public spending, the existence of PPP’s creates greater threats to other spending on public services. This is because PPP’s create long-term contractual rights to streams of income, and so governments are legally constrained from reducing payments to PPPs.” Even the International Monetary Fund warns that public investment in PPPs should be subject to strict scrutiny in a July 2009 publication: “Intervention measures should be consistent with the wider fiscal policy stance, be contingent on specific circumstances, and be adequately costed and budgeted.” The IMF also argues that PPPs related to weathering the economic crisis should include a “turn off” mechanism. A green paper published by the Commission of the European Communities in April 2004 even went further, recommending against PPPs as a tool to close any budget deficits. They argue that the mechanism should be employed primarily when the private entity is providing a specific field of expertise.

After all, why should anyone trust the same racketeers who precipitated the global economic crisis to make acute investment decisions on behalf of the people? All levels of government face serious fiscal constraints stemming from a range of causes, including the ongoing recession and regressive tax policy across the board. When financiers so generously offer to open up the purse strings to invest in pet infrastructure projects, the public response ought be: “No, thank you. Instead, we are going to raise the top marginal tax rate.” That would be a far more efficient and prudent way of beginning to tackle the fiscal crises in government.

MORE PROOF THAT RAHM IS A SCUMBAG, IN CASE YOU HAD DOUBTS.

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