The Privatization of Everything
Date: Wednesday, September 07 2005
The Privatization of Everything
Reagan and Bottled Water
By SAUL LANDAU
August 27 / 28, 2005
"If this irresponsible outside power is to be controlled in the interest of the general public, it can be controlled in only one way - by giving adequate power of control to...the National Government."
-Theodore Roosevelt, Stae of the Union Address. Dec. 8, 1908
"Big government cannot and will not solve the multitude of problems confronting our nation because big government is the problem"
-Sen. Jesse Helms, speech to the North Carolina Legislature May 27, 1997
When I see people drinking water from bottles I think of Ronald Reagan and how he destroyed the New Deal. Go back to 1936 when I was born and the first New Deal ended. From 1933-35, President Roosevelt tried to revitalize the economy by paying farmers not to produce while millions went hungry (Agricultural Adjustment Act) and using government as broker between industry and labor (National Recovery Act). The second New Deal, however, turned the federal government into an entity that cushioned poor people as they fell from the ledge of misery toward the pavement of disaster.
The grossly underpaid and mistreated workers population found solace in the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act), which strengthened protection of collective bargaining. The Social Security Act offered working people a chance to have modest pensions when they could no longer earn wages. The Act also established unemployment insurance payments and a rudimentary welfare system allowing dependent children and handicapped people to get government help. New Deal legislation convinced poor Americans to believe in their government, including its word that they could safely drink the water running from the tap.
In my youth, I don't recall people drinking from plastic bottles. We used public fountains. Before privatization, bottled water couldn't have competed with tap water. The triumph of bottled over tap water symbolized the decline of the political alliance between the poor majority and the government: the New Deal, that informal pact between unions and other groups of poor people and their representatives in national office. In the mid 1960s, this alliance included civil rights and inspired the only other meaningful American reform of the 20th Century: the Great Society Program.
Lyndon Johnson's Great Society expanded the New Deal. Between 1964 and 1966, he pushed through The Civil Rights Act and Equal Opportunity Act of 1964, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Medicare Act and Voting Rights Act of 1965, plus programs like Head Start to help poor children of pre-school age, and laws giving legal and medical help to the needy.
The most activist sectors of the corporate world had had enough. Led by extreme anti-liberals like Richard Mellon Scaife. In 1963 he began supporting the American Enterprise Institute. Other inheritors of fortunes, like Lynde and Harry Bradley, Joseph Coors, Castle Rock Foundation and the Olin Foundation, set up the Heritage Foundation and other think tanks with well-paid "conservative" intellectuals to undo the momentum generated by three decades of liberalism. This anti-New Deal campaign selected its villain as "big government," which they presented as the corrupt waster of taxpayer money.