The poverty of thought in American policy making bears some similarity to the meager budgets of public water utilities. With the sacrifice zone of Flint present in the public consciousness, where cuts to indispensable public services were the cost of corporate tax cuts, the Obama administration is positioning private capital as the solution to the problems posed by an aged water distribution infrastructure. For the Obama administration, to prevent the sorts of outages that occurred when Michigan “emergency managers” ran the provision of social goods like a business, we must invite actual profit-seeking businesses to provide these goods. The cure for the sickness of neoliberal austerity is swimming deeper into the abyss, with privatizations of distributors of public goods, and deregulation of those sectors to clear the way for profit extraction.
In tandem with the “Water Summit” at the White House today, wherein the administration announced that monopoly capitals would be delighted to provide their services for a nice tax write-off, Michael Webber of the Energy Institute, an industry funded think tank, set out the manifesto for the summit in an op-ed in the New York Times. For Webber, the solution is simple. “To fix our water systems, we need prices that lead to more rational water use and invite needed investment”, as the “problems are compounded by an antiquated system of regulations, [and] and dysfunctional water markets”. Deregulation and market liberalization are the keys to efficiently provided, generally affordable, safe water because private monopoly capitals entering and capturing the distribution of public goods will cause them to forsake their shareholders and not extract profits. Ignore the part where they ask for rate caps to be removed, that’s not to allow charges to be raised; it’s merely to increase corporate freedoms. Trust them. You can trust them.
This move by the Obama administration to privatize the delivery of a socially necessary good is an outrage and makes clear Obama’s adulation of neoliberal ideology, the reigning political philosophy of recent American policy makers, Democrat and Republican alike. Those who are disgusted by the treatment shown to the people of Flint cannot consider the acting ideology to be had only by Republicans, but must realize that the Democratic Party fully embraces the ideology that grounds the policies that allowed for Flint to be sacrificed for capital. This is as clear from similar lead contaminations in Democrat controlled Chicago and Newark as it is from the privatization push of the Obama administration. Those who seek to reject such a heinous ideology should look to political representation outside of the two-party system.