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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/6/13

Privatization Part I

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Prisons for profit: The new slave labor

  By Mike Krauss

  In the decades after World War II the American people built up the greatest and most broadly shared prosperity the world had ever know. That immense wealth attracted admirers. Millions wanted to be a part of it. Others wanted to own it.

  Now, that wealth and the political power that goes with it are grotesquely concentrated among an ever smaller number of American citizens, in a way to rival the Roman aristocracy of ancient times or the European aristocracy which the first Americans threw off.

  Democracy itself is threatened.

  And the soul-less predators among the 1 percent want more, and are flexing their political muscle to get it. Like the remorseless killer of the James Bond movies, for them, "the world is not enough."

  Their next acquisition is the hard assets of the American people. Their siren song is "Privatization!"

  The first target was carefully chosen: prisons.

  Who cares about prisons, right? I mean, they're full of criminals. But that is not how Wall Street sees prisons. They see a cheap and captive labor force.

  And state by state, city by city, county by county, American prisons are being privatized and the prisoners put to work for their new owners, making an astounding array of products that are sold into the American market, to take market share and help drive down the wages of honest labor.

  Prisoners are "paid" at about $1.25 per hour, to be spent in the company store; like the coal miners in the company towns of Pennsylvania and elsewhere until the mid 20th century.

  Off-shoring has been done. Now, we can in-shore cheap labor. And don't forget illegal immigrants. Wall Street hasn't. The ones who get into the labor force drive down wages, and the others we can round up to keep the cells full and the private prisons profitable.

  Hotel rooms, airline seats, prison cells -- same profit and loss dynamic. Keep occupancy high and costs low.

  High occupancy is achieved by (What else?) an army of lobbyists and campaign contributions, to insure ever more draconian prison sentences for non-violent and even minor offenses. When that fails, judges can be bribed to keep the cells full, as they have been in Pennsylvania.

  Here is a how the CEO of one of the big private prison companies might explain cost control to a manager of one of the prisons they operate:

  "You spent how much on blankets, clothing, food and medical care? And what the hell is this Internet access learning stuff? Rehab? These jerks aren't going anywhere. We're gonna keep "em right where they are, filling the cells. Look, I'm not about to lose my bonus because you can't keep costs down. You wanna' keep your job? Then get those costs down. And I mean now!"

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Author of the forthcoming novel "Pursuits of Happiness," a director of the Public Banking Institute and chairman of the Pennsylvania Project. Mike is an international transportation and logisics executive with broad experience in U.S. government (more...)

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