Privatizing Government Services in the Era of ALEC and The Great Recession – Section 1, Introduction

PRIVATIZING GOVERNMENT SERVICES IN THE ERA OF ALEC AND THE GREAT RECESSION

by Ellen Dannin 1

I. INTRODUCTION

In Max Barry’s 2003 novel, Jennifer Government,2 there is no public sector:  The world is run by American corporations; there are no taxes; employees take the last names of the companies they work for; the Police and the NRA are publicly traded security firms; the government can only investigate crimes it can bill for.

Hack Nike is a Merchandising Officer who discovers an all-new way to sell sneakers. Buy Mitsui is a stockbroker with a death-wish. Billy NRA is finding out that life in a private army isn’t all snappy uniforms and code names. And Jennifer Government, a legendary agent with a barcode tattoo, is a consumer watchdog with a gun.3

Events in 2010 through 2012 suggest that Jennifer Government might accurately predict our national trajectory. During that period, a number of states, including states with a long history of public-sector collective bargaining—Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin—limited or proposed eliminating or limiting public-sector collective bargaining rights.4 A 2010 “Quinnipiac University poll found that three-fourths of [Connecticut] state voters supported a wage freeze for state workers, and 61% favored layoffs.”5 Public anger also developed in New Jersey as a result of the state’s failure to properly
fund public employee pension benefits by $53.9 billion. Ironically, that anger led to demands that More →