PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP is a long-term arrangement between government and business, to provide key services or improve civic operational capacity in the most economical way. The concept borrows from the axiom that market forces are the best way to balance the highest quality for the most cost-effective price.
In recent years the public-private partnership model has been a magnet for financial sector heavyweights, lured by the prospects of large-scale profit guaranteed by government funding. Corporate power over government has been focused by entrenched, super wealthy investors into a pincer movement that’s proliferated an effective method for subordinating government and public-private partnerships to crony-capitalist grift.
The impact of big capital exploitation of public-private partnered services has always resonated across society, impacting most harshly impacting on those who depend on public services e.g. the poor, the sick, the disadvantaged. Lately, the traditional exploitation has moved to the next level. It’s no longer merely taking advantage of easy government contracts. Today it has evolved into an organized program of wealth redistribution, realigning society to impoverish the public to not only enrich the wealthy but create an absolute division between rich and poor.
Public services provide for all citizens, but in the real world it’s the most financially disadvantaged gaining the most from state provision. Western democracies have a history of varying degrees of progressive taxation. In principle it serves to gently trickle wealth down from rich to poor.
If it’s honest, public-private partnership is potentially beneficial, dealing with the practicalities by using private enterprise to meet a needed service; a soft landing for public spending, as part of a bigger business picture. In an ideal version, it’s regulated by sound fiscal practices, balanced books, and subject to the best of market forces, honing the partnership’s activity so it’s efficient and competitive.
Besides the advantages of responsible business practices, public-private partnerships should be accountable to Government; and therefore, the electorate. Accountability to the voter-public means it must satisfy its intended social provision rather than maximizing shareholder profit. Being subject to civic authority means strategic planners can look further forward in time, when developing services, rather than being at the mercy of the next shareholder dividend.
Public-private partnership in its current corrupt form inverts the “for the people” government revenue paradigms. Instead of trying to provide a safety net and opportunities for upward mobility, the new objective appropriates taxpayer money into the hands of the wealthiest corporations (and their billionaire owners).
The corrupted public-private partnership model uses the same framework as the honest version, subtly altered into a mechanism for grift. It’s difficult to spot the corrupted from the authentic, from a distance.
Following the money is the only workable strategy for unearthing the details of the grift and it’s not an impossible proposition. Much of the financial details are public record.
The scale of current public-private partnership means it’s become an engine for massive legal wealth redistribution. The big picture is an orchestrated assault on national resources, taking billions from the taxpaying public, laundering it through legitimate-looking government “investment”, to enrich the private wealth of business owners and corporations.
Public spending — taxpayer money, federal dollars — in the United States and United Kingdom is increasingly finding its way exclusively into those public-private partnerships already subordinated to big capital.
Every national crisis becomes an opportunity for expanding the grift. Coronavirus policy, for instance, is only a failure if viewed through the lens of public good. It’s been an unmitigated success if you are part of the 1% as wealthy oligarchy becomes the ultimate beneficiary of “necessary” government investments. It’s a dream come true.
Some crises need to be manufactured. Brexit in the United Kingdom is an enormous deregulation scheme, liberating the UK government from rules and legal constraints regulated by reciprocal agreements with the European Union. Brexit has been patiently constructed, from as early as the 1980s, to give crony-capital the same free rein it enjoys in the United States.
Post-Brexit, the UK joins the USA in becoming an unparalleled smorgasbord of grift opportunities. Regulations get deregulated. Protections can be rendered useless. Trillions of dollars end up in the hands of a small cabal of Neocon-Neoliberal backers.
The grift is happening before our eyes in 2020. Stimulus packages worth hundreds of billions, even trillions of dollars, have been passed by Congress. Ostensibly in response to economic impact of government-engineered lockdown, in reality these eye-watering sums fund the biggest public-private partnership investment in American history. Not only does this shovel tax dollars to the 1% but it incurs astronomical federal debt as currency is printed to keep the system liquid. Inflation may hurt the average American but billionaire confederacy gets richer and richer.
Power dynamics inevitably define the relationship between citizen and state. Not all government must be an enemy to its own citizens. Authority need not always be abused. History teaches us, however, how difficult it is to keep the relationship in equilibrium. Capitalism may be the best and most dynamic engine for human prosperity, but it’s a difficult system to keep in check.
If the state is in thrall to a billionaire class, it inevitably means citizen freedom (and future) becomes precarious. Citizens are at the mercy of authority and authority is serving the needs of big capital, not average citizens. The public becomes a resource to be exploited. This can’t end well for the individual American!
If the stranglehold big capital has on government power isn’t loosened — at the very least so oligarch corporations can’t perpetually enrich themselves relative to the shrinking financial resources of everyone else —there will be no freedom for anyone who’s not entrenched in the 1%.
Automation, surveillance, technology integrated to impose social regulation and, eventually, compulsory subordination to government authority, will inevitably converge on a dystopian future from which there will be no escape. Ever.