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Tax we pay for corporatization

I saw in the news that Governor Kasich wants to add private advertising to Ohio’s roadside rest stops. Oh well. Not a big deal compared to some of the other issues of the day regarding public versus private interests. For-profit prisons, public money for private schools, private versus public health care, privatizing Social Security.

There’s an assumption by the governor’s political party that government is always bad and corporations are always good, even those that just exist to lay-off workers, close down businesses, or ship jobs overseas.

This philosophy was memorialized by Republican icon, Ronald Reagan, who said, “Government is the problem.” Ironic, because Reagan spent more than 20 years working in government, including the military, as a governor, and as President. He drew a couple of government pensions.

It’s ironic, too, that anti-government corporation owners have historically benefited greatly from government “welfare,” as when railroad robber barons were given vast tracts of land, and corporations today are given huge tax breaks when they build a new factory or business.

These benefits are not available to ordinary citizens. If you or I hire workers to build an addition on our house, our taxes go up, not down.

We are deluged with propaganda against taxes—“nothing is certain but death and taxes”—but there are a lot of things we have to pay for through private business that we also can’t avoid. Like the electric bill.

In the kind of weather we’ve had this summer, we realize how mandatory this private sector “tax” is.

The prices we pay for electricity, or gasoline, or groceries, are just as compulsory as taxes for schools, police and fire protection, and people to inspect the food and drugs we must have to live.

We complain to high heaven whenever a public employee earns more than we think he or she should, but we don’t seem aware that when we’re paying for gas, we’re paying oil company executives and advertisers huge salaries that dwarf any paid in government.

We hate taxes, belittle government employees, and try to find ways to have all the services we want without paying for them. But we still pay, one way or another.

When we go to OSU’s Schottenstein Arena, we need to remember that folks who bought their clothes, furniture, or paid their rent to the Schottenstein corporations gave them so much money the Schottensteins had a lot left over to donate to OSU. Nothing wrong with that company, but citizen-customers paid for the perpetual advertising benefit the corporation gets from having its name on one of Ohio’s great facilities.

Our public schools are now bedecked with lots of distracting advertising for soft drinks and other products that may or may not be good for kids, but certainly have nothing to do with education.

Funding for public colleges is continually being cut by the governor’s party, forcing students to go further in debt to the corporate lenders.

The whole Republican push to privatize everything and lower taxes, mostly for the wealthy, is sold with the idea that somehow, someway, if a government job is given to the private sector it will be done better or cheaper. That’s nonsense.

The reduction of labor costs by privatizing the work force is accomplished only because private sector workers are less likely to be unionized, and thus more likely to endure substandard wages and benefits.

The “government,” of course, can’t defend itself. It can’t run ads attacking its attackers. And those politicians who dare to stand up to corporate abuse are targeted with millions of out-of-state dollars in negative ads, as is happening to Sen.Sherrod Brown right now.

Imagine the future, if this continues. People already say that some of the members of Congress should dress like race car drivers, wearing patches of ads from their corporate sponsors.

Civic groups are asked to “adopt” a highway and pick up its litter so we won’t have to pay anyone to do it. Maybe big spending political campaigns will adopt government facilities in that way.

Who knows, when Governor Kasich runs again, maybe we’ll see a “Re-elect Kasich Memorial Roadside Rest.” Or a “Willard Romney Memorial Unemployment Office.” It would be more than fitting.


Jack Burgess is a retired southern Ohio teacher and former chief of arbitration, State of Ohio.