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Privatizing Roads, Bridges, Schools and Energy Grids? Corporatism Pervades SOTU

While the President pledged to reel in corporations, his grand plans for the U.S. proposed just the opposite.
 
 
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The split screen during the state of the union last night was a nice touch. After all, what is more practical, more common sense--more bipartisan, perhaps--than charts? My favorite chart was the wages versus corporate profits over time. Those two jagged lines--one shooting sky high over the last decade, the other plummeting steadily over the last forty years--are worth a thousand words, as the saying goes. Throughout the State of the Union, President Obama railed against the reality the chart revealed.

Corporate profits have skyrocketed to all-time highs, but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged,” he boomed. “Today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we've put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That's wrong.”

Wrong, indeed. But on the issue of income inequality, the President’s rhetoric was right across the board--that is, until he actually began unfurling his Grand Plans. That’s when the President’s typical double-speak kicked in.

He promised to curtail corporate profits, but his vision for a new, “high-tech” America seemed to entail turning everything from our highways to our public schools into corporate-owned, public-private partnerships.

Missed that part of the speech? Let’s take a closer look at his lofty language.

“Now at schools like P-TECH in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York public schools and City University of New York and IBM , students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate's degree in computers or engineering. We need to give every American student opportunities like this, ” he said.

“Tonight, I'm announcing a new challenge, to redesign America's high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. And we'll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering and math, the skills today's employers are looking for to fill the jobs that are there right now and will be there in the future.”

In other words, let’s stop teaching to the standardized test--let’s teach straight to IBM’s computer repair manual.

Obama’s proposed public-private partnerships went far beyond public school classrooms. They also include the country’s most essential infrastructure: roads, bridges, rails and even energy grid.

As the President said, “Ask any CEO where they'd rather locate and hire, a country with deteriorating roads and bridges or one with high-speed rail and Internet, high-tech schools, self- healing power grids. The CEO of Siemens America -- a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina -- has said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they'll bring even more jobs. And that's the attitude of a lot of companies all around the world.”

Okay, so now we’re bribing the same corporations whose exploitative profits we’ve pledged to better control by giving the U.S. a makeover. But he goes further:

“So, tonight, I propose a ``Fix-It-First'' program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. And to make sure taxpayers don't shoulder the whole burden, I'm also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children,” he said.

Couched as a way to save taxpayers’ money, the President actually just dangled a considerable carrot in front of corporations: construction grants and partial ownership of nearly all of the United States’ infrastructure.

 
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