Doing the work In the Public Interest does—tracking efforts by corporations and others to dismantle, privatize, and slash funding for the public goods we all rely on—can really get depressing.
Just this week, an effort by Denver charter school teachers to form a union was crushed by the school’s unelected board. Mississippi legislators earmarked more than half as much for a golf course in Jackson—$13 million—as it did for fixing the capital city’s crumbling water and sewer system, at $25 million. And Vicereported that private prison companies are still making billions even after President Biden signed an executive order ending many of their federal contracts.
Sometimes it really does feel like we’re living through—as our executive director Donald Cohen’s new book puts it—the privatization of everything.
But I am here to assure you that good things are happening too. For example, the Brooklyn Public Library has announced that any teenager in America can download books being banned right now by conservatives nationwide in an effort to fire up their voter base.
And there are laws and policies in many cities and states that make sure that public contracting decisions both protect and empower our communities, rather than only enrich the already wealthy.
On that second point, we just compiled a list of such laws and policies. Did you know that Massachusetts has had a law on the books since the early 1990s requiring that before, say, a public bus service can be outsourced to a corporation, it must be proven that the move will actually save money?
Or that Texas—Texas!—cracks down on the “revolving door” phenomenon by making state employees wait two years before working for a company that had a contract they oversaw?
If you want to strategize about passing these sorts of policies in your city or state, email us: email@example.com
State and local governments spend an estimated $2 trillion total in goods or services every year—from repairing bridges to janitorial services to purchasing textbooks. Let’s make sure they’re doing it in the public interest.
Photo by Lei Han.