Economic activity -- buying and selling -- has been made the sole rationale for every government action or agency. If you have a legal complaint, the first question any lawyer will ask is how much money did you lose on paper. If your case involves large amounts of lost profits, they might even be lost anticipated profits. If you are merely suing somebody for breathing germs on you, or reckless driving, your contact information will be given to your adversary, so that the miscreant can find you again.
Profit is everything to us now. We have lost sight of every other government purpose, such as making sure the roads and bridges and vehicles are safe, and the drinking water is safe to drink, and the air is safe to breath. That's all been farmed out now to private companies, and they don't have to do anything if it doesn't turn a profit. Because Freedom is freedom to invest, or not. It's your money.
Government used to be there to invest in stuff that will never be profitable. Like drugs for rare diseases, and the postal service, and public schools, libraries, hospitals, national parks and museums. Fisheries need watching or the fishermen will catch all the fish. Farms and food products need watching, or food supplies will fluctuate wildly and spread infection and malnutrition. Elections need careful, consistent, centralized management that provides everyone with access and information to vote freely and in complete anonymity. And prisons are needed for the few people who are really dangerous to others, so they can be housed and fed and provided with sanitation and exercise and access to learning.
None of that stuff will work very well if it has to rely on Investor Confidence. It benefits everybody the same, and offers no advantage to smarter, richer, more beautiful, younger, lighter-skinned, darker-skinned, older, fatter or thinner people. It's the Common. Everybody needs it, so everybody feeds it. The government, issuing sovereign currency, will always be able to afford it.
Well, not so much: since the country has been put in the delicate hands of a hotel magnate, or whatever he was, all that has been abandoned. Now, if anything still functions that does not inspire Investor Confidence, that alone is considered sufficient excuse to privatize it. The US Postal Service is cutting back services that don't show a profit, most likely to disable it for voting by mail in the coming Presidential election. By the same logic Social Security has been under heavy attack for decades. That one was thought to be as obviously necessary as the USPS, but now it's just a matter of time before they find some way to get at it that will stick.
Hospitals and prisons in America are now run as a sector of the Hospitality Industry. The product is not, as the name suggests, a warm and friendly sojourn for your family or business associates, much less healthy and safe outcomes for people in medical or legal difficulties.
I guess they couldn't come up with a way to harness the "Invisible Hand of the Marketplace" to a Public Good like healthcare, or incarceration. These just didn't fit neatly into a chart-of-accounts. They needed some quantifiable basis for economic activity, one that would inspire Investor Confidence. I can just see a bunch of suits around a long, shiny boardroom table, with coffee and flip-charts scrawled with "Committed" and "Advanced" and "Transforming" and "Keep It Simple Stupid." Rent extraction, hmmmm. What do jail and prison have in common? Needles? Laundry? I know: Beds!
In about 1971 I worked in a surgical operating room. They started building six floors above the old hospital, on stilts to take the added weight. Drilling in the walls while patients were going under anesthesia. New brick wall across the old route to the morgue. Whose idea was this? It turned out that breakththroughs in medicine had converted many admissions to outpatient procedures, and reduced convalescence time so dramatically that the hospital needed twice the surgical capacity just to keep the beds full. This change rippled through the hospital and nursing home industry in just a couple of years. And it changed everything, pharmaceuticals, insurance, medical practices, medical supply houses, the whole industry and marketing.
Keeping the beds full at all times and maintaining "Growth" is now the sole economic purpose of a prison or hospital. Anything that reduces "crime" or increases "health" is as much a threat to these industries as travel impediments, like a virus. This is not lost on the disciples of Eddie Bernays, "Father of Public Relations." The pipeline is still being upgraded, snaking through the neighborhoods where outrage has already boiled over, like some new kind of DAPL monstrosity. Filling the beds from the unfortunate demographics.
It is mildly interesting that the forty-fifth President of the United States is in the Hospitality Industry, at the promotional end of things, and clearly doesn't care whether the occupants of the beds he sells are living or dead. He would probably be in the funeral business too, if there was an after-market. But for anything else you can do to a human body, he's apparently getting a cut. The pandemic poses a different challenge from his position, because most people had always assumed that a public health emergency would provide a brief time-out from the feeding frenzy, at least to give the appearance of a government of, by and for the people. But this guy seems to think the PR department can handle it if they just "surge" while this great windfall fills the coffers of the winners, and the coffins of the losers.
I shudder to think what will happen when the prison industry crashes, as businesses structured this way so often do, and nobody shows up to let the prisoners out, or feed them, or maintain the plumbing. This is already beginning in many privately-owned prisons, as prisoners are put in solitary to accommodate reduced staffing, and the toilets and showers no longer meet the ordinary needs of living human beings if they ever did and all to cut costs, and maintain Investor Confidence.
Meanwhile the movement to abolish conventional policing has gained serious momentum, threatening the prisons' supply-chain. They're taking up some slack by renting out beds for the people fleeing across the border from the horrendous violence and corruption brought on by incompetent regimes propped up at enormous US taxpayer expense under the policies the American corpocracy has held locked in place since General Smedley Butler blew the whistle with his poorly-suppressed classic, "War Is A Racket." But they aren't changing their basic function of punishing anybody consigned to their heartless enslavement.
We pay for this atrocity. We pay to have infant children torn away from their mothers and locked away in cages and cells. We pay to have them shipped around without any paper trail or oversight, to fall through the many gaping cracks in the so-called criminal justice system. We pay to have them dehumanized and disrespected, dismissed and destroyed. We pay by the bed, by the night, by the hour, by the minute. Because we're not the Investors whose Confidence calls the shots in our country. We're the "consumers."