The Iraq War shows us the huge profits corporations reap when they take over the role of government:
What do war and the battle over taxes have in common? The move towards profit and privatization.
The budget negotiations that led to the shutdown in Minnesota and the near shutdown of the US government are about much more than money. This is also more than an ideological battle over the role of taxes in society, or over social issues like stem cell research, a ban on which the Republican majority disingenuously attached to the budget bill.
If you look carefully at the other states that have been embroiled in controversy this year – states such as Wisconsin, with the long battle over collective bargaining, and Michigan, where emergency managers have been appointed by the Governor to take over control of struggling towns and school systems – a pattern emerges.
These battles are about more than taxes or collective bargaining; they are part of a much larger ideological fight over the future privatization of services currently performed by government. It is a battle to open enormous new markets and opportunities for potential profit, profits that will be paid for directly by taxpayers in Minnesota and elsewhere.
For an example of how this might play out one need look no further than the war in Iraq. In Iraq, for the first time ever, much of the support work that had for generations been performed by the military was outsourced, almost all of it to a handful of companies that profited mightily from the war. On close inspection one sees that American taxpayers have not received good value for their money. The largest military contractors in Iraq have been found guilty of fraud, overbilling, and waste of resources that have cost the government billions of dollars. Meanwhile, as our tax dollars are squandered, the profits of these companies soar. Adding insult to injury, one of the largest of these companies, Halliburton, moved its corporate headquarters from Texas to Dubai in 2007 to avoid paying U.S. taxes on much of its income and profit.
Imagine a future where our roads are maintained, our bridges are built, and our students are taught by employees of companies whose headquarters are not in Minnesota, or Wisconsin, or even the United States, and whose shareholders demand larger dividends and whose CEOs make hundreds of millions a year. Is this the future we want for our country?
Government is not a for-profit entity. Government at its best delivers essential services and responsible stewardship of community resources at a good value to its citizenry. It is time we accept that taxes – well-spent – are a necessary investment in our infrastructure and our future, and concentrate on how to encourage efficiency and minimize waste. It’s also time that we return to proportionate taxation, where those who benefit the most pay the most. Doing so is an essential part of any long-term solution to the ongoing and divisive battles over the budget.
Camille J. Gage is a Minneapolis-based artist and musician and the project coordinator for 10 Years + Counting. This essay was originally published at onthecommons.org.