The Trump administration wants to run the government like a business: all the profits go to those at the top, and the rest of us are left to fight over the scraps.
Less than five months into his presidency, Trump has taken serious steps to hand over major public assets to profit-hungry corporations. From the pro-business cabinet picks to the “Corporate Interests First” budget proposal, the administration makes it clear it wants to deconstruct government agencies, gut regulations that keep us safe from polluters and corporate greed, and sell off public goods for private profit.
The administration is so eager to sell off public assets that Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council who heads Trump’s infrastructure initiative, told executives at a White House meeting, ‘Take a project you have right now, sell it off, privatize it, we know it will get maintained, and we’ll reward you for privatizing it. The bigger the thing you privatize, the more money we’ll give you.”
Privatizing public assets and federal jobs may sound good for politicians, but it is a bad deal for the American people. Privatizing public assets means allowing greedy corporations to overcharge for things that rightfully belong to all Americans. Privatizing government functions means taking existing money from programs millions of people rely on and cutting them to the bone so their new owners can make an extra buck.
Studies have shown that public-private partnerships (PPPs) just don’t work. They're expensive and inefficient. A report by the Brookings Institution found that "in practice [PPPs] have been dogged by contract design problems, waste, and unrealistic expectations.”
But these facts are not relevant considering the demands of the well-funded, politically-connected special interests.
Here are seven things the Trump administration wants to privatize right away:
- Federal jobs. The Trump budget lifts the ban on privatization studies of federal jobs, opening a flood gate of wholesale privatization of public jobs. It’s a well-known fact that contractors are two to three times more expensive than federal civilians. Most of the money goes straight to increase the bottom line or enrich the CEOs and executives while workers see their salaries, benefits, and pensions cut.
- Prisons. Federal, state, and local governments have used private prisons for decades, but it was only recently when companies running private prisons drew a public outcry after it was revealed that two thirds of private prisons required that their prisons be 80-90 percent full otherwise the taxpayers would be on the hook for unused beds. The Obama administration decided to phase out private prisons after studies showed they have more safety, sanitary, and security problems than the ones run by the government. Within a month after taking office, however, Trump reversed the Obama-era decision. His budget increases funding for private prisons by $171 million.
- Veterans Affairs health care. The Trump administration expanded the VA privatization program that sends veterans to for-profit private hospitals, which often are inferior to VA hospitals. The Trump budget also cuts benefits for disabled veterans in order to pay for further privatization of veterans care.
- Public schools. The Trump budget cuts funding for public schools and transfers the money to for-profit companies. Public schools are designed to serve all students – rich, poor, healthy, disabled, easy to teach, difficult to teach. Private schools are not. Public schools guarantee equal opportunity and are essential to our country’s common good.
- Air traffic control. The administration has proposed to privatize the country’s air traffic control. This could raise operational costs by 20-29% after 10 years, which means passengers would have to shoulder heftier fees when buying plane tickets. Our current system is the busiest and safest in the world. Privatizing it would create chaos and put our national defense’s surveillance and communications systems at risk.
- Roads and bridges. The administration proposed deep cuts to existing infrastructure programs and divert public money to investors who would rake in profits from highways, bridges, rest stops. As a result, the American people will be forced to pay expensive tolls or fees to use facilities that should belong to us all along.
- Public lands and national monuments. Trump in April signed an executive order directing the Interior Department to review national monuments and “suggest legislative changes or modifications,” laying the groundwork to remove protections on public lands and waters. The order is excellent news for Big Oil and its lobbyists but terrible news for the American public and the environment.
“When we privatize, we’re padding the pockets of CEOs and giving up key aspects of our democratic control,” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. “Their bottom line is profit, not the American people. In contrast, our government exists for the common good, to make our lives better. We need to fully fund our government programs, not diverting public money to enrich millionaires and billionaires.”