Monday, February 23, 2015

Prisons for Profits and Kids for Cash

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism, as it is a merger of state and corporate power." Benito Mussolini

Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) are a key plan for financial gain and control of the masses, taking of the public's assets, and easily becomes fertile ground for corruption and fraud. It's also a method of changing government. Apparently, Italian dictator Mussolini, the Il Duce and minion of Hitler, knew that trick. We may believe we're far removed from the time period and dictators like Il Duce, but the observable patterns remain; it's just labeled and packaged differently to fool some of the people.

"The early twentieth century Italians, who invented the word fascism, also had a more descriptive term for the concept -- estato corporativo: the corporatist state. Unfortunately for Americans, we have come to equate fascism with its symptoms, not with its structure. The structure of fascism is corporatism, or the corporate state. The structure of fascism is the union, marriage, merger or fusion of corporate economic power with governmental power. Failing to understand fascism, as the consolidation of corporate economic and governmental power in the hands of a few, is to completely misunderstand what fascism is. It is the consolidation of this power that produces the demagogues and regimes we understand as fascist ones (David G. Mills).

If the definition of "entrepreneur" is "a person who organizes, operates, and assumes the risk for a business venture", then entrepreneurs are defunct or, at best, just about nonexistent. The words related to articles about "parasite entrepreneurs" and "predator entrepreneurs" are oxymorons; as these are people who've discovered too many easy ways to get the taxpayers' dollars and assets risk-free. What we're really seeing are Public-Private Partnerships.

When looking at forgivable loans, and other pools of money created from taxpayer revenues (including TIFs, CDBG, and Redevelopment) clearly the receiving businesses aren't assuming the risk for business venture at all - rather it's the citizens carrying the risks. The numbers of total business failures reported vary, but start-up ventures are reported at about a 75% failure rate. And none of the businesses backed by taxpayers for Obama's green and solar companies have succeeded; we're at 0 for $6 Trillion input ("List of Failed Obama Green Energy and Solar Companies in the Billions" ).

Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs):
The late Joan Veon, former Certified Financial Planner, business woman starting Veon Financial Services, Inc., an international journalist and author (Prince Charles, The Sustainable Prince, 1997; Global Straitjacket, 1999) educates us about the insidious change in government on all levels, and globally through PPPs. Veon tells us about Al Gore's state-sponsored "First Global Meeting on Reinventing Government" (November 4, 1999), and how Gore, when speaking with the delegates from foreign nations, referred to the taxpayers as the "customers". Some of the information from Veon includes:
  • A PPP is a way in which corporations create new entities through PPPs to take control of government assets (the citizens' assets),
  • PPPs are called "a solution for a government that is broke",
  • We can call PPPs "global corporate fascism", "transfer of wealth", "the fleecing of the American taxpayers", a system of "deceit, deception, and distortion",
  • Public = the government at all levels; Private = corporations, including multinational corporations, foundations [i.e. The William Jefferson Clinton Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, etc; Universities, Associations (i.e. Automobile, Timber, etc. "any entity with a lot of money"); and Nongovernmental organizations, NGOs, (i.e. Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy, etc.)] with the bottom line of the "partnership" is taking control of the assets of government on all levels.
  • The goal of PPPs is to make profits by using and taking public assets; and once the assets are transferred the citizens will not have any representation, and, therefore, no say in the operations of business in the PPPs 

Tax Increment Financing (TIF): "Imagine...a land where $500 million is spent to spackle the cracks of waste, bloat, patronage, and corruption...Welcome to the land of Tax Increment Finance districts (TIFs)". (Chicago, 2006 ). TIF, is a public financing method that is used as a subsidy for redevelopment, infrastructure, and other community-improvement projects; therefore, "by definition, TIF diverts money from schools, parks and other important services".

The caveat about TIF programs are some are "poorly designed" and "...can give government officials a tool to lavish subsidies on favored or well-connected developers"...and "can create 'slush funds' (indicates a fraudulent use of money; expenses disguised as legitimate expenses) that lack public oversight and accountability", and TIFs sometimes continue long after the project's TIFs funds completed ("Tax Increment Financing, The Need for Increased Transparency and Accountability in Local Economic Development Subsidies").

In one example, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania construction contractors bribed officials in exchange for helping secure a TIF. Former Commissioner, Greg Skrepenak, and former Redevelopment Authority Director, Allen Bellas, both pleaded guilty to accepting bribes associated with tax diversion programs approved by the county government. Because of the TIF, the county, township and Pittston Area School District would have to wait 12 years to start collecting taxes.

Community Development Block Grants (CDBG):
The CDBG was developed under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to fund local community development activities to benefit low and moderate income people (i.e. affordable housing, anti-poverty, eliminating slums and blight, addressing urgent health or safety needs). 

"This program was created in 1974 with the stated objective of eliminating blight and providing affordable housing. In the nearly four decades since then, it has degenerated into a federal slush fund for pet projects of local politicians and politically connected businesses. It is plagued by profligate waste and outright fraud." (Tom McClintock, Congressman, CA, District 4). Further, Congressman McClintock says the billions of dollars in HUD's CDBG slush fund " an unauthorized expenditure, the legal authority for it expired in 1994, 18 years ago and congress has not bothered to renew it ever since. But we keep shoveling money at it." ("Draining a Slush Fund: Community Development Block Grants").

"Every once in a while, we need to remind politicians that "redevelopment" is supposed to be a tool for cleaning up blighted urban neighborhoods and improving the quantity and quality of housing – not a conduit for siphoning money from the public treasury into developers' pockets."("A Corruption of Redevelopment Law".

Redevelopment is referred to as the unknown government ("Redevelopment: The Unknown Government, What It Is, What Can Be Done"). The linked pdf is an easily understood format to educate the public regarding the pitfalls of redevelopment, including TIFs. Some of the chapter titles are:
  • Corporate Welfare
  • Predatory Redevelopment
  • Follow the Money
  • Housing Scam
  • Eminent Domain for Private Gain
  • The Myth of Economic Development
"'Economic Development' is a common cliche among city governments and redevelopment agencies. It refers to a belief that tax subsidies to selected private businesses can stimulate the local economy. It assumes that the free enterprise system alone is inadequate. It presumes that government planners can allocate resources more efficiently than can the free market. The legal purpose for redevelopment remains the elimination of blight. All economic acitivies must pay lip service toward that goal. Behind this facade, redevelopment has subsidized giant retailers, luxury hotels, golf courses, stadiums and even gambling casinos." (Ibid).

Prisons for Profit And Kids for Cash:
Without doubt, there are some people who should be imprisoned. But it seems reasonable to believe the numbers should be far less than what we're seeing in the U.S. and appear to be the result of PPPs in the prison industry and their profit-making goals. Between 1990 and 2010, the number of privately-owned prisons in the U.S. increased 1,600%. There are approximately 2.3 million people imprisoned in the U.S. alone, costing $55 Billion to the federal government, while generating $3.3 Billion annual revenue in 2012 for 75% of the private prison industry. The U.S. comprises approximately 5% of the world's population, and about 25% of the entire global prison population.

Private prison companies' contracts often include "Lock-up Quotas" at or above a specific level; some demanding a minimum occupancy level of greater than 90%. Also included are "Low Crime Taxes"; if occupancy rates are not fulfilled, the government pays for empty beds ("Shocking Facts About America's For-Profit Prison Industry").

Additionally, 50% or more of detainment facilities for immigrants are run by private prison corporations. More than 25,000 low-security non-citizens are detained at thirteen private prisons under Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) contracts (ACLU). "The federal government is in the midst of a private prison expansion spree, driven primarily by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency that locks up roughly 400,000 immigrants each year and spends over $1.9 billion annually on custody operations.

The two largest private prison companies are Corrections Corporation of America (CCA; operates 66 correctional and detention facilities in 19 states and the District of Columbia), and the GEO Group (operates correctional, detention, and residential facilities in the U.S., Australia, South Africa, and the United Kingdom). Private prison corporations have enormous political clout through lobbying, providing campaign contributions, and cultivating relationships and associations (Justice Policy Institute). Combined, CCA, GEO (including its Cornell Company) contributed $835,514 to federal candidates, and over $6 million to state level politicians during the past 5 election cycles.

According to the Justice Policy Institute the private prison corporations are continually looking to expand in states, including Maine, "For Profit Prisons and The Danger of Corruption and Abuse" (above): "Former CCA Warden and Maine: Governor Paul LePage appointed former CCA Warden Joe Ponte as the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections. While Maine currently does not have any private prisons, according to news reports, CCA has been in discussions with the town of Milo for the past 3 years over the possibility of building a $150 million facility. The appointment of Ponte and the $25,000 in campaign contributions LePage received from CCA raise concerns of increased access for CCA to open private prisons in Maine."

The numbers only reveal part of the story because prisoners also provide a source of cheap labor; pay is $0.93 to $4 per day (some prisoners in Illinois receive no pay, rather the pay is used to reduce sentencing). Companies that pay inmates can get up to 40% of the money back in tax reimbursements. Cheap prison labor is contracted to companies such as: Boeing, McDonalds, Starbucks, Victoria's Secret, IBM, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Dell, Compaq, and Nordstroms. U.S. prison inmates produce about 93% of U.S. paints and paintbrushes, 92% of U.S. stove assemblies, and 100% of military helmets ("Are private prisoners the new slaves of the U.S.A.?"); and they make office furniture, work in call centers, fabricate body armor, take hotel reservations, work in slaughter houses, and manufacture textiles, shoes, and clothing "Prisoner Labor Booms As Unemployment Remains High; Companies Reap Benefits".
According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, privately-owned corporations operate more than 50% of youth correctional facilities in the U.S. Profiting from imprisoned human beings also includes children, and a scandal as cruel and shocking as the documentary's title leads us to believe as evidenced by: "Kids for Cash" (2013).

Two judges were charged with a 48-count indictment of racketeering, fraud, money laundering, extortion, bribery, and federal tax violations February 9, 2009 in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Judge Mark Ciavarella, Jr., and Senior Judge Michael Conahan received over $2.6 million in kickbacks through involvement with a scheme to build two new juvenile detention facilities co-owned by attorney Robert Powell and taking a $1 million in bribes from the builder, Robert Mericle. The two judges manipulated convictions; private prisons profit when more youth are incarcerated.

The Juvenile Law Center brought the cases to attention in early 2007 and petitioned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court alleging violation of youths' civil rights, and was originally denied until January 2009 when it was reconsidered following charges of corruption surfacing after investigation of another judge, Anne H. Lokuta. Several hundred cases were tried without the youths receiving proper counsel, and children as young as 11 were being sent to jail for instances such as:

"...the 13-year-old incarcerated for throwing a piece of steak at his mother’s boyfriend; the 15-year-old for throwing a sandal at her mother; the 11-year-old for calling the police after his mother locked him out of the house; the 14-year-old for writing a satirical Myspace profile. Another 14-year-old, an A student, was sentenced for writing “Vote for Michael Jackson” on a few stop signs; she had a seizure while in detention, banging her head so hard she cracked her dental braces (The New York Times, Sunday Book Review).

Conahan was convicted on one count of racketeering on September 23, 2011 and sentenced to 17.5 years in federal prison. Ciavarella was convicted on February 18, 2011 on 12 of 39 counts and sentenced to 28 years in federal prison. Governor Ed Rendell said (August 7, 2009): Ciavarella and Conahan "violated the rights of as many as 6,000 young people by denying them basic rights to counsel and handing down outrageously excessive sentences. The lives of these young people and their families were changed forever."

This is the "reinvented government" Al Gore, the Corporatists, et al. want for us; and they're changing it piecemeal while selling us and our children for their profits. Even judges can be bought.

Nelson Mandela may have broken apartheid in South Africa, but those in charge "negotiated" to maintain a grip on the financial structures of the nation, and in doing so still control and enslave the people by controlling their assets (Naomi Klein's, The Shock Doctrine, The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, 2007). Our reinvented U.S. government has been occurring without a single shot being fired.

"The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members." Mahatma Gandhi

"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest."  Elie Wiesel

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