Privatization: what could possibly go wrong?

Gee–let me guess:  unscrupulous people will be more interested in profits than in serving the public?  And, the jobs that private corporations create will be vastly inferior to their government job counterparts?  Here’s what happens at a lot of private, for-profit universities (via Susie at Suburban Guerrilla), which amazingly enough are much more interested in talking the students into huge loans than they are in actually educating them:

In the end, [Martine ] Leveque decided to enroll. The day she came in to fill out her paperwork, she says, the recruiters rushed her through the process and discouraged her from taking the forms home to look over. They told her that she would be taking out private loans in addition to federal loans that are traditionally used to pay educational expenses, but did not explain what the terms of those [$29,000 worth of] loans would be. “They just kept telling me that ‘we’re with you,’ and that they would try to get me the maximum amount of federal loans allowed,” she says. Only later did she learn that those private loans—which made up two-thirds of her “financial aid” package—carried double-digit interest rates and other onerous terms.

To make matters worse, the program did not come close to delivering on the promises that had been made. The instructors had little recent medical experience. Instead of really teaching, she says, they usually just read textbooks aloud in class and sometimes offered students the answers on tests ahead of time. On the rare occasions when Leveque and her class were given time in the lab, she found that the equipment was broken down and shoddy—except for the expensive new mannequin, which no one knew how to use. Instead of the promised rotations at UCLA Medical Center, her clinical training consisted of helping pass out pills at a nursing home. . . .

Since graduating in 2008, Leveque has been unable to find a nursing job, perhaps because she never learned how to perform basic tasks such as giving shots. Instead, she works as an occasional home health care aid earning at the most $1,200 a month—not enough to pay her rent on the cramped apartment she shares with her sister and son or keep gas in her car, much less pay off her student loans. As a result, her loan balance has ballooned to $40,000, and she has no idea how she will ever pay it off. “My credit is ruined,” Leveque says. “I made one mistake, and I will be paying for it for the rest of my life.”

But but but:  it’s those public and private non-profit universities that are completely unaccountable, with all of their left-wing tenured professors engaging more in ideological indoctrination than in education, and/or more interested in their narrow, selfish “research” than in teaching their students and/or just taking up space as “dead wood!”  How do we know university education as it is now actually works, without endless assessment of academic programs, and without subjecting the faculty to workshops teaching them how to teach today’s students?

Here’s what the “privatization” of city services has done for my town’s garbage collection (and probably your town’s too):  it got rid of unionized jobs and turned them over to private, for-profit companies that now contract with individual homeowners for garbage removal and recycling services.  So now, instead of one garbage day a week in our neighborhood, and one pollution-chuffing truck collecting our trash, we have six garbage days a week, and pollution-chuffing trucks trolling our streets six days a week!  Guess where those magical “savings” are coming from, in spite of the obvious waste and duplication of services?  From workers’ wages.  You know what we say to that, girls and boys:  Awesome!

RoastTurkeySo, we know what happens when garbage collection is privatized, and we know what happens when universities are private, for-profit corporations.  Any guesses as to what private, for-profit health insurance does to distort health care in this country?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  If you’ve got a job, be thankful.  If you’ve got friends and family members around you, be thankful.  And not just today–every day.  Thanks to all of you readers, commenters, and friends–I hope you have a wonderful day.  I’m cooking chez Historiann today–the pies, cranberry sauce, and dressing were done yesterday, and the turkey is out of the brine at this point–so going out for pizza instead sounds pretty good right about now.  Whew!

0 thoughts on “Privatization: what could possibly go wrong?

  1. Among many things today I’m thankful for your intelligent commentary here.

    Game theory seems to show how we benefit the most from a combination of cooperation and competition. People arguing for a true socialist state disregard the benefits of competition, just as people arguing for unfettered laissez-faire capitalism ignore the benefits of cooperation.

    Though I’ve been doing all kinds of work toward transcending my own dualistic views of the world, I find myself regularly framing our problems as a country in terms of freedom and responsibility. An overemphasis on the greatness of our country because of our freedoms has obscured the importance of the responsibilities that accompany them. The failure to accept personal responsibility by vast numbers of our fellow citizens has created a culture of blame that has missed the vitally important truth in this quote by John Burroughs:

    A man may fail many times but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.

    I also have a little holiday tradition in which I listen to or watch William Burroughs Thanksgiving Prayer. I’m not linking it here because some people will find it offensive and I definitely don’t want to destroy anyone’s holiday dinner with the family. It is on YouTube if you want.


  2. The wolf is in the oven here; well, actually though, the turkie is in the wok. The NYT today has a piece on the niche popularity of “Heritage” turkeys, which can run above $100 a bird, somewhat beyond my price range. New York State just allowed the first wild turkey hunt on Long Island (whence my clan fled a longtime back) since Gov. Winthrop, Jr.’s day. That’s about as heritage as you can get, but they weren’t seeing too many birds.

    Anyway, Happy Holiday, one and all, and bless this honorable blog.


  3. The turkey is in the oven. Just have to shape the bread, reheat soup, cook brussels sprouts & stuffings, and we’re ready to roll. In addition to a job, family and friends, it’s great to have these places of virtual meeting…
    Enjoy your day and eat well!


  4. Notorious, I feel bad noting that we had a pie yesterday (green tomatoes and apple) and another today (squash). I am about to cook the soup, which shall contain a second kind of squash. Then cranberries and a yam and onion casserole. At the center of it all–a tofurkey bought at Trader Joe’s. Didn’t William Penn eat tofu at at American thanksgiving?

    I too am thankful for the community here and–spoiler alert!–you are all thanked collectively in the acknowledgments of the forthcoming book. This may be the first blog getting a shout out in an academic book, but it is well deserved.


  5. In my “liberal” state, very Democratic but behaves as a southern state, garbage collection is a county responsibility. The county immediately contracts it out to a private company. Our truck showed up today because it’s our day. Treating people like the trash they collect is par for the course in our fucked up system.

    Thanks given to my kids, one is a union organizer, grand kids, spouse and the memory of my parent, hardworking non-tenured great people that they were.


  6. Thanks, all. I hope you had great Thanksgivings!

    I’m appalled that your garbage was picked up on a holiday, KoshemBos. My usual trash day is Thursday, but it’s never picked up then–we put it out the following day. Being a garbage collector is extremely hard work.


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