Thursday, January 08, 2009

"Our Legislature is still in the throes of push-button privatization and the ceding of public services to profiteers."

It's what lubricates Austin


John Young
Waco Tribune-Herald
Copyright 2008

In rapid, thunderous succession, two Texas giants have collapsed: the power infrastructure of House Speaker Tom Craddick and the superhighway to be built in confidence, the Trans-Texas Corridor.

Amid the dust and debris, someone is saying this is a new day. That remains to be seen.

In theory, our government is run by us. In Texas, it’s a little more complicated.

For instance, one can assume that the moneyed interests that contributed $700,000 to remodel the speaker’s apartment in the State Capitol expected to get a proportional share of running Texas.

Actually, they thought they’d each get a proportional share of telling Craddick what to think. Now they have to work on a new man, Joe Straus. Fudge.

The corporate interests that bought their way into Gov. Rick Perry’s heart with campaign contributions and highway privatization schemes wonder now if good money has gone after bad.

The San Antonio Express-News reported that Perry received $1.2 million in campaign cash over six years from interests seeking to build toll roads.

We all assume that public roads are the public’s business. But with Perry’s corridor scheme, and a contract with Spanish firm Cintra-Zachry, the inside skinny was proprietary, meaning: It’s none of our business.

Don’t get it? It’s the business of business, something that’s become the modern-day motto of Texas government.

A great deal for Texas? We had to trust Perry and the suits making the presentation to him. A state auditor asserted that Cintra understated long-range costs.

This debacle has l’odeur of the ’90s effort to bring high-speed rail to Texas without a penny of state participation — all private money. Yeah. Sell that to the French.

Now the TTC is in shambles, which is as it ought to be. Texas needs parts of what Perry was proposing, but not the mother of all superhighways presented to us as one would a proctologists’s instrument.

As for Craddick, rarely has a public servant had such a cold bedside manner. Until the House revolted, he hardly needed to warm his hands.

Why? Money is why — not only his own shock-and-awe campaign fund but the support of corporate compadres — godfathers of self-interest.

Somewhere along the line the influence of big oil dwindled in running Texas, leaving a whole other “oil” to lubricate things, the coin of contributors like homebuilder Bob Perry, solid waste mogul Harold Simmons and a host of corporate political action groups.

Money, money, money, money.

Money laundering charges that led to the fall of Tom DeLay in Congress surrounded his efforts to aid Republicans in the Texas Statehouse, the key objective being to keep Craddick as speaker.

A new day? Not necessarily. Our Legislature is still in the throes of push-button privatization and the ceding of public services to profiteers.

The Dallas Morning News has launched a laudable series on privatization atrocities. It started off with corporate behemoth UnitedHealth, which bought its way into lawmakers’ hearts and won a $1.2 billion contract to provide managed care for the elderly and disabled.

It’s been a debacle — understaffed and undependable compared to bad-old government. The people who need the help were left flailing. The men in suits were left with pockets stuffed.

Pulling strings and levers for arrangements such as these are highly connected, and magnificently paid, former state officials who plied elected office into untold riches. The same cast of characters seems to pop up whatever the special interest involved.

Rarely do the people pop up as the interest being served.

And why should they? We know who owns state government. It’s not them.

John Young’s column appears Thursday and Sunday. E-mail:

© 2009 Waco

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