Parallel to the privatization scam is a con that has long been hidden yet is far more insidious. Under this version of Russian roulette, corporations have easily gotten away with the consequences of their deeds. Land was cheap, air and water unlimited, minerals abundant, workers expendable, a sucker was born everyday and you always had friends in government to bail you out when the house of cards collapsed. Who cared about industrial waste, polluted groundwater, ill workers or failed banks, everything was replaceable. Someone else will foot the bill.
~ from Socialize Costs, Privatize Profits by David Rosen ~
What Rosen describes is one of the hallmark principles of capitalism: Externalize the costs. You see, it's easy to amass great fortunes when you are adept at devising strategies that shift the costs of production onto the backs of taxpayers.
Here in the Northwest -- particularly west of the Cascade Range -- there are A LOT of mudslides. Part of the reason we are plagued with mudslides is that it rains a good deal of the year. Copious amounts of rain can unsettle the soil and bring down mountains of mud, even in the most stable of areas.
But there is another reason for the mudslides, one that is caused by humankind: clearcuts. When timber barons swoop in and remove the trees and their root systems from hillsides and mountains, there is little left to hold the mud back. The rain comes, the soil begins to move and, before you know it, a wall of mud and loose debris lets loose.
When a mudslide covers a road or train track, who do you think pays to clean up the mess? If you answered the timber companies, you would be wrong. Taxpayers foot the bill. The particular timber company might have to pay a piddly fine, but the state cleans up the mess and makes restitution, when appropriate.
How is it that the people who deforest hillsides get away with murder time and time again? It's darn easy when the state allowed them to clearcut the hillside in the first place! It means the state government is just as culpable. Since timber companies fund many a political campaign, politicians certainly don't want to tick them off. So, the timber companies realize great profits by clearcutting -- and not having to clean up any messes those clearcuts cause -- and the taxpayers -- who realize none of this enormous profit -- are left to expend public funds to deal with the messy aftermath.
And that is but one example among thousands.