The Public Square

Barbara Kessel on the privatization of war, emergencies and everyday life


My name is Barbara Kessel. I am a member of A.W.A.R.E. (The Anti-War Anti-Racism Effort), the Socialist Forum and Jobs with Justice.

My concern today is privatization, the selling of government functions to private, profit-making, interests.

There are three huge problems with such privatizations: 1) Costs increase ? since the private company needs to make a profit 2) the service previously provided to the public goes only to those who can afford them - e.g. residents of the County Nursing Home 3) the accountability disappears.

We can see this in the wars we are waging in the Middle East, where military contractors are paid at least five times that of a U.S. soldier for doing the same work. Still, the money for their services comes from federal government contracts which is our taxes. If our military pays $36 for a six-pack of Coca Cola because it is provided by Halliburton under federal government contracts, how and to whom does one complain? Protective gear, such as helmets, goggles and vests, are provided at great expense by military contractors, but they did not make enough so that many soldiers had to purchase their own "from home," sent over by relatives. When Blackwater, the largest private military contractor, massacres civilians, as they did a year ago in Nisour Square, Baghdad, they are not accountable since they cannot be prosecuted under Iraqi law, under U.S. Military law, or in American courts. Costs go up, service goes down and accountability disappears.

As our health care system has become ever more private, with public hospitals disappearing, the mounting health costs are stunning. Less people can afford health care, even in emergencies, and the only way to challenge these costs is now through legal threats and lawsuits. People here in Champaign County know that if the county Nursing Home is privatized, it will cost more and serve less people.

To learn more about how all this works and what we might do about it, come to hear historian Dan Kenney. He will give two talks, next Friday, October 10 entitled "Privatization: Outsourcing our Sovereignty and your Rights". The first talk will be noon to 2P.M. in 123 English Building on the UI Campus, sponsored by the History Discussion Group. Dan Kenney will also be speaking Friday, October 10, at 7:00 PM at the Urbana City Hall Auditorium, 400 S. Vine Street. That talk is co-sponsored by A.W.A.R.E., the Socialist Forum, Jobs with Justice, and the I.W.W.