Private Gain to a Few Trumps Public Good for the Many

Prof. Robert Reich, a member of the Living New Deal’s Advisory Board, hits the nail on the head in his latest blog post (Thursday, August 22, 2013).  Here’s an outtake from Reich’s opinion piece, which can be read in its entirety at robertreich.org:

“A society — any society —- is defined as a set of mutual benefits and duties embodied most visibly in public institutions: public schools, public libraries, public transportation, public hospitals, public parks, public museums, public recreation, public universities, and so on.

Public institutions are supported by all taxpayers, and are available to all. If the tax system is progressive, those who are better off (and who, presumably, have benefitted from many of these same public institutions) help pay for everyone else.

“Privatize” means “Pay for it yourself.” The practical consequence of this in an economy whose wealth and income are now more concentrated than at any time in the past 90 years is to make high-quality public goods available to fewer and fewer.

In fact, much of what’s called “public” is increasingly a private good paid for by users — ever-higher tolls on public highways and public bridges, higher tuitions at so-called public universities, higher admission fees at public parks and public museums.”

What the New Deal did was invest in public goods on a massive scale, providing essential community infrastructure, public buildings and even public art for towns and cities and rural areas across the entire country.  It’s that spirit of public service that so clearly marks the New Deal era and which is so sorely missing in today’s America.

is Project Manager for The Living New Deal. He is a trained cultural historian who teaches courses in U.S. History at the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University.

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