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Obama Honors Thatcher with TVA “Privitization” Plan, Kicks Ordinary People in the Stomach Again

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Nathan Tankus is a student and research assistant at the University of Ottawa. You can follow him on Twitter at @NathanTankus

The give-away boys in Washington
Are busy as can be.
They’re giving away the TVA
And the U. S. Treasury.
They’ve robbed us of the tidelands oil
And brother, they’re not done.
The give-away boys, the give-away boys
Way down in Washington.
There’s many a way to rob and steal
If ever you get the yen,
You can do it with a forty-four
Or with a fountain pen.

President Obama adopted a reflective tone to mark the passing of Maggie Thatcher. Commenting on her death, he stated “the world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty.” In Obama’s proposed budget, we found out what the terms “freedom” and “liberty” mean: the freedom for the old to go hungry and the freedom of the poor to go cold.

The headline issue, cutting Social Security benefits by changing the measurement of inflation (the “chained CPI”), is something that writers on Naked Capitalism have been predicting for a long time. What has come as a shocking (but not surprising) twist is a bombshell buried in Obama’s budget: the proposed privatization of the Tennessee Valley Association. At this point I think it’s important to quote a part of this section of the budget at length:

TVA is a self-financing Government corporation, funding operations through electricity sales and bond financing. In order to meet its future capacity needs, fulfill its environmental responsibilities, and modernize its aging generation system, TVA’s current capital investment plan includes more than $25 billion of expenditures over the next 10 years. However, TVA’s anticipated capital needs are likely to quickly exceed the agency’s $30 billion statutory cap on indebtedness. Reducing or eliminating the Federal Government’s role in programs such as TVA, which have achieved their original objectives and no longer require Federal participation, can help put the Nation on a sustainable fiscal path. Given TVA’s debt constraints and the impact to the Federal deficit of its increasing capital expenditures, the Administration intends to undertake a strategic review of options for addressing TVA’s financial situation, including the possible divestiture of TVA, in part or as a whole.

Notice how nonsensical the justification for the “divestiture of TVA” is. The authors clearly acknowledge that the Tennessee Valley Authority is a “self-financing Government corporation”. The TVA issues its own debt and also has income from electricity sales. Yet because its capital expenditures are counted as part of the federal deficit for accounting purposes, privatizing the TVA supposedly counts as a “spending cut”. This is the willful blindness of orthodox thought taken to extreme levels. Privatizing the TVA doesn’t shrink the amount of debt in the economy one cent; all it does is bring that debt onto private balance sheets. In fact, private investors will buy the Authority on mainly on credit, increasing the amount of private debt.

Additionally, these capital expenditures are being made to modernize the TVA, or in other words, increase the amount and value of government assets. Even from an orthodox perspective, what’s important isn’t just the liabilities of the federal government, but also its assets. Businesses account for capital expenditures, transfers and expenditures very differently, but since “the deficit” is the headline number Washington is obsessed with, Obama and congress are obsessed with shrinking that headline number rather then doing things that make sense economically for the federal government.

What this will change is the lives of over nine million people across seven states. It is impossible to underestimate the explosive impact of this policy. Approximately one out of every thirty-five people in the United States get their utilities from the Tennessee Valley Authority. If the past is any guide, an Obama success in privatizing the Authority will lead to explosive price increases that will increase the cost of living all across these states. The devastating effect of this can’t be underestimated. Take Tennessee for example: according to the Census, Tennessee median household income is nearly $9000 below the national median. One of the things that partially offsets this is that the cost of living in Tennessee is 14% below the national average according to the ACCRA cost of living index. Utilities are a major part of that both by directly lowering the cost of utilities for consumers and lowering costs for the businesses they purchase from.

What’s possibly even more frightening is the environmental implications. The Authority is responsible for all sorts of land management, river management and other environmental responsibilities in the region. A complete privatization of the TVA could conceivably eradicate environmental management in the area. Even in a better scenario, another agency would still have to take over those responsibilities, which would involve enormous investment and cost to set up such a large operation. This area has already had to deal with Mountain top removal for many years; it is unclear whether or not it could take another environmental disaster of this sort. What is most worrying is the fact that the Tennessee Valley Authority has three nuclear power plants under its control. What effect will changing control of those plants have on their management?

On the bright side, there are signs that this give-away won’t go through smoothly. Bloomberg seems to be the first major news outlet to report on this scheme: “A sale of TVA would cost taxpayers money and may boost electricity rates,” said U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee. “The proposal is ‘one more bad idea in a budget full of bad ideas,’” Alexander said in an e-mailed statement. The TVA is very popular, even among Republicans in the area. This shouldn’t be surprising. It is a popular cliché that all politics is local. I don’t think that is true, but it is true that politicians are often more loyal to regional interests and issues then national ones.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is the ultimate regional issue and thus area Republicans are getting out in front of their base rather then playing to cosmopolitan speculators who desperately want to own the TVA. When Eisenhower gave a contract to a private company to build a coal plant rather then providing taxpayer funds to the TVA to construct additional generating capacity in the Memphis area, it was called a scandal and helped propel Democrats into Congress. The last major politician to seriously propose privatizing the Authority was Barry Goldwater during his 1964 campaign. For all the talk about Goldwater pursuing a “southern strategy”, he lost by over 5% in Tennessee as a result. It is telling that Obama’s political father on this issue is Barry Goldwater. To be fair, Bill Clinton also went on a privatization binge at this point in his career: “He proposed selling off four federal electric utilities in his 1996 budget (see page 149), and he did manage to complete the sale of the Alaska Power Administration. He also privatized the federal helium reserve in 1996, the Elk Hills Petroleum Reserve in 1997, and the U.S. Enrichment Corporation in 1998.” We can only hope that this initiative fails as resoundingly as Goldwater’s 1964 campaign.

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50 comments

  1. Calgacus

    Caro’s multivolume bios of LBJ are well worth reading on this issue alone, his relation to public power, the skinny on how he fought both for ordinary people and the morons/crooks of private power, including an interesting history and prehistory of the TVA.

    Obama want to privatize it?: Asshole.

    1. Cynthia

      We’ve gone from Washington, who could not tell a lie, to Nixon, who could not tell the truth, to Bush, who could not tell the difference, to Obama who can tell you whatever is on his teleprompter.

  2. AbyNormal

    Privatize: To take any operation currently performed by government and transfer to the private sector, under the theory that anything operating in the private sector will be done better—with a profit for the contractor, faster—too quickly to be checked for suitability or durability, and cheaper—monetary accounts need never be disclosed.
    devil’s dictionary

      1. digi_owl

        The trick seems to be to favor long term sustainability over short term speculation, no matter if it is public or private in origin. Right now private is the market report cycle, while public is the duration of a election cycle.

        It seems that as more and more people live further and further from the land in terms of their sustenance, shorter and shorter the thinking becomes. Trees can take decades to become viable as building material for instance.

  3. sleepy

    I grew up in Tennessee where TVA is–mostly–a well-liked institution. During the presidential campaign of 1964, Goldwater’s proposal to sell TVA was considered so outrageous, so off-the-wall, that it killed whatever chance he had in that conservative state.

    The TVA has facilities in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Hopefully, the proposal will be too much even for the wingnut congressional delegations from those areas. And I think it will.

    1. sleepy

      I should add–I grew up in Memphis which has a city owned public utility company which purchases power from the publicly owned TVA, which results in some of the cheapest utility bills in the nation.

      And, yes, I am aware of the pitfalls of cheap energy.

  4. Heron

    “Government’s role in programs such as TVA, which have achieved their original objectives and no longer require Federal participation”

    I hadn’t realized the TVA had already produced all the electricity the states of the Tennessee River Valley would ever need in perpetuity, or that it had built automated, self-maintaining flood-control systems throughout the basin, robots capable of clearing any navigation obstacles that develop, of tearing up sand bars, and of shoring up banks collapsed by natural shifts in flow. I hadn’t realized that the TVA had successfully put together a self-implementing plan to manage and promote the economic development of the Tennessee drainage basin for the rest of human history. When the “original objective” of an organization is to provide persistent, necessary, public-good services, how can you claim it’s been accomplished and expect anyone to take you seriously? Might as well say a single breath is all the breathing you’ll ever need. Do they genuinely think we are that stupid? My God; to think I’d see the day when a Democrat would try to take apart the TVA and leave Republicans to defend it. Does Obama simply not talk to anyone from outside the Chicago-New York-DC corridor, or is it just no-one with less that 5 mil in thier bank account?

  5. Jim Haygood

    ‘Capital expenditures are being made to modernize the TVA, or in other words, increase the amount and value of government assets. Even from an orthodox perspective, what’s important isn’t just the liabilities of the federal government, but also its assets.’

    This is true. But off the top of your head, what are the total assets of the US gov’t? Most people wouldn’t even know where to look for that figure. In fact, it can be found here:

    http://www.fms.treas.gov/fr/index.html

    Since the assets of the U.S. gov’t are so widespread and varied in character, they tend to be managed poorly. Moreover, ‘because its capital expenditures are counted as part of the federal deficit for accounting purposes,’ government infrastructure is notoriously undermaintained.

    ‘If the past is any guide, an Obama success in privatizing the Authority will lead to explosive price increases that will increase the cost of living all across these states.’

    I’d like to see the evidence for this statement. Utility charges are regulated at the state level. Why would seven independent state regulatory commissions allow ‘explosive price increases’?

    By contrast, decades of evidence shows that government does a poor job of running public utilities. Which utility was the worst performer during the recovery from Hurricane Sandy? State-owned LIPA, by a long shot.

    Similarly, during the period when one of the two Indian Point nuclear reactors was managed by a private utility while the other was under the New York Power Authority, the NYPA reactor consistently received worse safety ratings.

    New York State provides a case study in what a bad idea government utilities are. Federally-owned utilities such as TVA and Bonneville aren’t as badly managed as New York’s, but they are hamstrung by the public budgeting process. Utilities are simply a bad fit in a government structure that was never designed to manage them.

    1. Me

      “I’d like to see the evidence for this statement. Utility charges are regulated at the state level. Why would seven independent state regulatory commissions allow ‘explosive price increases’?”

      You have got to be kidding me. You think there is scant evidence that privatizations the world over have not resulted in massive price increases? There are endless examples in developed, underdeveloped and developing countries of privatizations resulting in worse services, higher costs and massive layoffs.

      Besides, maintaining a large transporation or energy system needs massive capital outlays and expenditures. How could a private system do this and remain profitable without a massive price mark up? The fundamental issue is having the politcal will there for the proper investments to be made by the public authorities. That can happen with the government but you have to have people in government who believe in the common good and don’t look to public resources like the TVA as something to be looted or ignored.

      “Why would seven independent state regulatory commissions allow ‘explosive price increases’?”

      Why would we deregulate finance knowing that it is likely to lead to corruption, more severe financial crisis and economic implosion? Why would we continue on with our horrible free trade deals knowing they have de-industrialzied the country? Why would we lower the taxes on inhereted wealth knowing that wealth inequality is massive and growing and the majority of the wealth in this country is now inhereted? Why would we cut spending when the government is the only institution around that can actually increase demand? Why would we privatize public education knowing what it has done to other countries, say Chile? Why would we even think about negotiating the TPP? Why has Obama toyed with lowering taxes paid by corporations knowing that corporations already pay amongst the lowest taxes of all OECD countries? The answer to all these questions is the same Jim. Say whatever you want, you carry water for the rentier class. I am sick of people like yourself arguing for the looting of public resources. These resources are in need of funding and maintenance, they are in need of modernization, they aren’t in need of more looting by parastic rent seekers. This model did not work out well for the general public in England, but I doubt you give a damn.

      1. Jim Haygood

        ‘I am sick of people like yourself arguing for the looting of public resources.’

        Actually, the looting is already occurring under the current management. Perhaps new management can stop it. From the Chattanooga Times Free Press:

        TVA’s beleaguered nuclear program is the source of most of its debt, still around $28 billion, and it’s been constantly plagued with multibillion-dollar cost overruns, doubled-and-doubled-again construction delays and an unending list of safety violations.

        The problems seem endless. The projected finish of the second unit at Watts Bar, for example, has been set back twice, while the projected cost of finishing it has doubled twice. The current schedule calls for it to be finished by 2016 at a cost of over $6 billion. But that’s questionable since TVA was cited last week for not testing thousands of parts installed at Watts Bar since 1995, and at its other two nuclear plants, Sequoyah and Brown’s Ferry.

        In a separate citation a week earlier, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission slapped TVA with six violations of “substantial safety significance” for failing to adequately protect Watts Bar and Sequoyah nuclear plants, both on the Tennessee River, from potential flooding if upstream earthen dams fail.

        http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2013/apr/02/president-renominates-brown-for-tva-post/

        Reforming the TVA’s poor management would be one approach. But as indicated in the rest of the article, Congressional politics interferes even with simple issues such as naming a new board member.

        How is TVA ever going to straighten out its deep-set problems with 14 Senators looking over its shoulder?

        Privatizating TVA would remove the political strictures which make government a less-than-ideal owner for running industries such as utilities.

        1. Lambert Strether

          TEPCO is privately owned. It’s always possible to make things worse. I would be hard-pressed to point to a healthy institution in our current dispensation (at least of the scale to run the TVA), but if I were running Hell, I could consign Jamie Dimon, CEO and predator, to a lower circle than even Max Baucus, Senator and mere enabler.

          1. Nathanael

            If you want a really nasty example look at the extremely dangerous company which currently owns the “Vermont Yankee” nuclear time bomb.

        2. different clue

          Profitizing TVA the way you want would merely extend the looting to looting all the power dams and electric transmission facilities as well. It would loot all the conservation and other lands which TVA manages on our behalf. It would compromise or destroy the “navigable waterways” and “flood control” co-functions of TVA.

        3. Me

          “Privatizating TVA would remove the political strictures which make government a less-than-ideal owner for running industries such as utilities.”

          Based on what logic?

          “Privatizating TVA would remove the political strictures which make government a less-than-ideal owner for running industries such as utilities.”

          People like yourself have said this for so long you forgot that you need to back this claim up. I am not buying that private interests manage utilities or services as well as the state, so explain the logic. When you privatize something the logic is that the profit motive will cause the corporation(s), assuming you have a competitive market, to increase services while lowering costs. The profit motive will cause innovation . Well, you are handing over the TVA to, at best, oligopolies, if not a monopoly. So there would be no competition. What about executive pay, marketing costs (if they actually have competition), possibly dividend payments, lobbying, (always) higher administrative costs than the government, with all of that waste you sit there and claim that private interests still will deliver more efficient services than the state. Obviously the last 40 years hasn’t convinced you what a bankrupt idea that is.

          If the issue is lack of investment then we should pressure those in government to invest in the TVA, the privatized TVA would face the same problems the government has as far as capital expenditures. If facts matter to you we could look at what happened to Britain when they privatized their railroads, when Chile privatized the pension system and the trains there, when Chicago privatized its parking meters, modern jail privatizations, on and on. Handing utilities over to private interests doesn’t by itself increase investment what so ever, there are endless cases where private interests DON’T invest in capital improvements and simply rake in money thanks to their monopolistic and rentier privilege.

          Latin America has dealt with this horrible train wreck of an economic model and people like yourself can’t get elected in most countries in the region if they think as you do. They tried this model, it failed horribly and they want nothing of it.

          http://www.inthepublicinterest.org/node/457#_ednref1

          According to a 2007 survey by the International City/County Management Association, 52% of governments that brought services back in-house reported that the primary reason was insufficient cost savings.[iii]

          • An audit report from the Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau revealed that the state’s department of transportation wasted more than $1 million by outsourcing almost half its engineering work to private contractors over the past five years. The audit found that about 60% of these outsourced jobs could have been done at a lower cost by state workers, which would have saved the state $1.2 million.[iv]

          • In February 2009, Chicago and Chicago Parking Meters LLC signed a 75-year concession agreement for the operation of Chicago’s 36,000 parking meters. Along with many problems related to malfunctioning meters, rates have significantly increased, causing many residents to think twice before parking in the city. Many stores and merchants in the area complain that the rates have decreased business. In some parts of the city, rates increased in the first months to 28 quarters ($7) for 2 hours of parking time. The parking charges also have been extended to 7 days a week and for more hours during the day.[v]

          • In 2009, Indiana cancelled its $1.34 billion contract with IBM to provide public benefit eligibility services. For two years, vulnerable families failed to receive benefits for which they qualified, including food stamps, health coverage, and cash assistance, due to the company’s poor provision of these services. The privatized system led to high error rates and poor timeliness, among many other problems.[vii]

          • In 2010, Gary, Indiana cancelled its 10 year contract with United Water. In May 2008, a state inspection found that the district, under United Water’s management, had violated discharge limits 84 times between 2005 to 2007; had at least 25 pieces of broken equipment; filed inadequate monitoring reports; and failed to meet mandated deadlines.[viii] By cancelling the contract and bringing water service back in-house, the city expects costs to decrease from $16 million to $8 million a year.

    2. Bill Wolfe

      Jim – People who share your ideology assured us folks from NJ that economic deregulation of the power industry would lower costs to consumers and improve service.

      That didn’t happen – rates went up, profits went up, service went down, maintenance went down, and reliability went down.

      Your illustration points more to inherent problems with old nuclear plants than public management. Those plants are unsafe under any ownership and management scheme and should be shut down.

      This is rent seeking looting by the Oligarchs, pure and simple.

      Obama puts this out there because he lacks any historical understanding of the New Deal, has none other than a deal maker’s corporate perspective on political economy (and hides that void behind “bi-partisan pragmatism), and because he doesn’t have the stomach for seeking an increase in the TVA debt cap.

      He can’t negotiate a debt cap deal with Congress – he sure as hell isn’t going to the mat for public power in the Tennessee Valley.

      So, this “divestment” because a convenient way to appease his Oligarchs who pull his strings, while avoiding another battle over government and infrastructure investment.

      1. Propertius

        Obama puts this out there because he lacks any historical understanding of the New Deal

        I disagree. I think the President has a very clear historical understanding of the New Deal – he just doesn’t like it because he’s really a Republican and always has been. He despises the New Deal legacy.

        Never attribute to ignorance that which is better explained by malice.

  6. steelhead23

    Perhaps most pernicious would be the effect of financing. You see, the purchaser, whoever they may be (Berkshire Hathaway, would be high on the list), would borrow the lion’s share of the purchase price. Its called leveraged buy-out or LBO. Electricity rates would be based on costs – including those financing costs, plus an assured profit. Thus, while TVA is facing increased capital costs, adding in the LBO financing cost and profit – would kill any industries that have located in the TVA service area for the purpose of obtaining “cheap federal power” – a spectacularly stupid idea. Add to that effect, the dampening effect on wholesale prices provided by TVA and those in the service area can expect not just higher rates, but more volatile rates as well. That Obama would now emulate Margaret Thatcher is a clear indication of his appointment as king of the elite. I wonder if they gave him a crown.

    1. Nathanael

      Berkshire Hathaway actually disapproves of high debt loads. It is a rarity among US corporations however; any other buyer would borrow to the hilt.

  7. Massinissa

    Another sign of how far right wing this country has gone.

    When Barry Goldwater talked about privatizing the TVA back in his 1964 campaign against Lyndon B. Johnson, that proved to be his single most unpopular proposal. Goldwater likely would have lost anyway, but his defeat was the single largest presidential campaign defeat of a major party in this half century. The American public resoundingly denounced Goldwater, his far right (for the time period) policies, and his position on the TVA.

    Now so called ‘Liberal’ Obama can talk about privatizing it, and noone in the entire goddamn country will give a shit, partly because Im sure the mainstream media will only barely cover this if they cover it at all.

    Back when his friend Bob Dole lost the 1996 presidential campaign, partly for not being ‘conservative’ enough, Barry Goldwater said “We’re the new liberals of the Republican party. Can you imagine that?”

    15 or so years later, Barry Goldwater is not a liberal of the Republican party: Apparently he would now be considered a liberal.

    Note: Sorry I didnt read the article fully before writing this. Didnt realize Goldwater was already mentioned. But Im going to post this anyway, I hope noone minds.

    1. different clue

      People of the Tennessee Valley watershed will give a shit. If the TVA Senators and Representatives are smart, they will promise to get revenge for privatising the TVA by privatising every single power authority and power dam throughout the West in revenge. And they will be honest and call it revenge in an effort to deter officeholders from outside the TVA area from voting to permit TVA privatization. If TVA gets privatised with support from officeholders in the Colorado River watershed for example, then the Colorado River watershed officeholders and people deserve to have Hoover Dam, Glen Canyon Dam, etc. privatised and sold in revenge. And make clear that it IS in revenge. The TVA area officeholders should begin designating all their hostages in advance and in open view.

        1. progressive humanist

          Republicans only need to open a publicly owned co-op utility and GAME OVER from democrats!

  8. Michael Hudson

    Nice to know that Joe Glazer’s song is still remembered.
    I heard him sing it at a small party in Hyde Park as a teenager. He gave me his record — the first autographed record I ever received.
    Those were the days when union members still stood up strongly against privatization.

  9. Chauncey Gardiner

    Their “Sequester”-”Austerity” driven, asset-stripping endgame of properties owned by We the People is finally becoming clear for all to see after their years of unlimited funding agenda of Wars of Choice, Bank “Bailouts”, “Globalization”, and their QE-ZIRP wealth transfer. If they succeed in privatizing the TVA, I expect that other key publicly owned infrastructure such as bridges, water systems, and the Bonneville Power Administration will be next up on their sales and “leases” of our publicly owned assets under their “privatization” agenda.

    They’re selling Our assets! To Whom Do We Owe All This Money and Why? And why is no serious consideration being given in Washington, DC to MMT? We have become Russia after the collapse of the USSR. The only component missing to date is the mafia violence, as the corruption has certainly risen to that level.

    1. pws

      Our last, best chance was during the crisis that saw Obama elected. We needed a Roosevelt (heck even Teddy would have been OK).

      We got someone who makes Calvin Coolidge look good.

      Our next chance will be during the much more horrible, catastrophic crisis that is coming directly as a failure of the horrible goon squad that’s been inhabiting the White House for these many years, but God only know what that will lead to.

      1. Beppo

        Yes, you’re quite right. It’s a real shame that more people hadn’t seen ” Our Brand is Crisis,” and known that not only was Obama not any sort of progressive or populist, he was just a regular Bill Clinton Robert Rubin neoliberal scumbag, and was being sold identically to some of those who came before.

        Various regimes have become so good at shutting down popular protest, and monitoring all communication for dissent, that any movement to create a fair and equal world would have to be too threatening to be ignored and too massive to be attacked. I suppose we all need to get to work

  10. rich

    Sweatshops on Wheels

    We now resemble the developing world: We have small pockets of obscene wealth, ailing infrastructure and public service, huge swaths of grinding poverty, and militarized police and internal security.

    This process of destroying our public transportation system is largely complete. Our bus and rail system, compared to Europe’s or Japan’s, is a joke. But an even more insidious process has begun. Multinational corporations, many of them foreign, are slowly consolidating transportation systems into a few private hands.

    “Our money is meaningless in politics,” Larry Hanley, the international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), lamented when we met in his office here in Washington. “It is still sought after, but it really has no weight in determining anything.”

    “For 50 years we have been trained to negotiate, trained to litigate, trained to arbitrate, trained to legislate, all the things society requires of a good, well-trained, well-groomed union,” Hanley said. “And then all of a sudden they said, guess what, we are going to pull the plug. You are no longer even going to have the right to negotiate. We are going to take away your bargaining rights. What good is it to have 500 well-trained officers in my union who know how to arbitrate a grievance when you haven’t got a contract and you have no grievance procedure?”

    Former Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi and Rodney Slater, a secretary of transportation under Bill Clinton, work for these multinational transportation firms as Patton Boggs lobbyists. Armed with buckets of corporate cash, Lott and Slater lobbied the Senate last year to insert a call for privatization into a highway bill on behalf of the multinational corporations.

    The $8.5 billion stimulus package for public transportation, largely because of Larry Summers’ insistence, did not provide any money to fund operating costs for public transportation. This meant that city public bus services, which must operate on declining local tax revenue, could do little more with the stimulus money than work on infrastructure.

    “I am watching as 80 percent of transit systems have had to raise fares or cut service since the recession and then this money is used to build the bosses new bathrooms or buy them new cars,” Hanley said. “What it speaks to is a really stupid policy on national transit.”

    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/sweatshops_on_wheels_20130415//

    1. pws

      One big difference, though, is that the developing world has informal institutions to make up for their horrible, predatory states. Often centered in the family, the madrassa or the temple.

      We don’t have nearly as developed an informal infrastructure here, and we have a much more efficient predator state than most Third World Nations. (Try escaping your past here, if you have a bankruptcy or a criminal record. It won’t happen. Unless you are rich, or have political connections.)

      So, I’d say that while in some ways we resemble the developing world, we also resemble, probably more so, the failed communist states at the end of the Cold War. (Which, honestly I always expected, but the rot has set in so fast!)

      1. progressive humanist

        And the working classes in the third world are well-unionized, most of them.

        The Indian Railways systems is one of the biggest corporations in the world, all unionized!

      2. Nathanael

        “we also resemble, probably more so, the failed communist states at the end of the Cold War. (Which, honestly I always expected, but the rot has set in so fast!)”

        If only we had our own Gorbachev. But we don’t. So we are probably going to collapse in a much much nastier way.

        See also Dmitri Orlov’s “The Collapse Gap”.

  11. allcoppedout

    I doubt Thatcher ever came up with an idea of her own. Unlike Jim I’m not sure government runs much even when organisations are nationalised. There’s not enough space to even begin to debate this here. There’s little I would call data as a scientist around in economics and business. The UK is broadly in the same mess I grew up in pre-Thatcherism (which a number of academics think starts 10 years before the Iron Lady) – the standard analysis here would be from Will Hutton.
    We had three Thatchers (Blair and Brown were in drag and only got to power through the death of the Christian-Democrat John Smith). All three sang from the same spreadsheet, if with slightly varying interpretation. The debates on genuine alternatives were had by 1930 and involved democratic foreign policy to prevent the chasing of higher rates of return (looting) abroad and accumulations of wealth (money) for this purpose rather than more rational, scientific investment (E D Morel ousted Churchill, Veblen, Polanyi etc.).
    Shame on Obama for any award to someone who did my country so much harm, but we need to look deeper. He appears to be a decent, well-educated bloke. We need to know why this doesn’t matter or is so easy to feign in politics.

    1. pws

      “He appears to be a decent, well-educated bloke.”

      He’s not.

      He’s both a complete monster, fairly ignorant and not very intelligent. He’s like his idol, Ronald Reagan, actually.

  12. F. Beard

    In fact, private investors will buy the Authority on mainly on credit, increasing the amount of private debt. Nathan Tankus

    Yep. And since credit is the lending of stolen purchasing power (“Loans create deposits” but the purchasing power comes from diluting other deposits) the TVA would essentially be bought with counterfeit money.

      1. Chauncey Gardiner

        Thank you, Roger and F. Beard. Hadn’t previously considered the deflationary and economically depressing aspects of these “Public-Private Partnership Privatizations”, including the TVA proposal.

        Goes along with their “Sequester”/”Austerity” policies, though, and lack of domestic fiscal spending on infrastructure, education, healthcare and renewable energy in favor of foreign wars, bank and corporate bailouts, hidden corporate subsidies and “globalization”. We can clearly see now who the biggest socialists feeding at the trough really are.

  13. Jack Bray

    What’s even worse is what it could mean for all the public TVA land in the Tennessee Valley. For the most part it is now treated as public recreation land. Developers will be drooling over the waterfront parcels.

  14. jrs

    When I was told Obama wanted to roll back the New Deal, I thought of Social Security, but I never thought quite in these terms! (just too irresistable, it is the classic, New Deal public works program).

    One prime concern of mine would be what it would do to promote or discourage green energy. I do know municipal energy providers seem to do much better on this that private providers. I dont’ have much experience with the Fed gov on such things (and it wouldn’t suprise me if municipals did better than them too). Yes, I’m perfectly willing to pay more for energy that doesn’t destroy the planet.

  15. Eleanor Fitzgerald

    With Obama’s support for the “chained CPI” and now the privitization of the TVA, I think I voted to elect a stealth Republican to be president, though some think he is a blue dog. None of these positions were apparent when he campaigned as a Democrat. This is a whole lot more than reaching across the isle. I feel deceived and betrayed.

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