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Privatization of America’s Public Institutions

The Story of the American Sellout

Lawrence Baines

Privatization of America’s Public Institutions describes the transformation of the military, K–12 public schools, public universities and colleges, and prisons into enterprises focused on generating profits for a select few. In many cases, privatization has limited accessibility, promoted segregation, fueled declining standards, increased costs, and reduced quality.

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Chapter 5. American Sellout


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I grew up in Dallas, Texas, but my dad’s family lived in upstate New York, so when I was young, in the summer we used to make the long drive from Texas to New York. On the journey, we drove through Pennsylvania and encountered toll roads, something that were, at that time, unknown in Texas. After paying for the umpteenth toll on yet another Pennsylvania turnpike, my dad would say, “Texas doesn’t have toll roads because, in Texas, the roads are for everyone.”

Now, forty years later, the roads in Texas are not for everyone. Texas is inundated with tolls. Recently, I received a bill for $20 for driving four miles on a road that my dad used to drive on for free. Despite the payment not being overdue, the bill stated that, if I did not pay the toll immediately, I could potentially face fines of thousands of dollars, and eventually wind up in jail.

I wondered about that threat, printed neatly at the top and on the back of the toll bill that I received in the mail. Apparently, if I did not pay the toll, I might be arrested by employees of the government—the local police department or the Texas Highway Patrol—fined and thrown in jail.

It was the governor of Texas, Rick Perry (as of this writing also the current U.S. Secretary of Energy), who sold several...

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