Stand and deliver
By Raymond Freeman 10/31/2013
The profit motive is an incentive for more efficiency. Prices usually fall, for example Model T cars or Honda Cub motorcycles. (I’ve long admired Henry Ford and Soichiro Honda.) Everyone becomes better off. So does this mean that anything from private enterprise is automatically cheaper? People in Ojai thought not.
What if you lived on the wrong side of the street, and paid 10 times more for your water because it came from a private company? This privately held corporation has a long-standing monopoly on 2,900 connections. It once made economic sense (no water, no houses). But other consumers in Ojai are served by the nonprofit Casitas Municipal Water District. Its water is much cheaper.
Explanations were trotted out for the exorbitant cost of delivering the water privately from Lake Casitas. But the locals didn’t swallow them. To them, it was highway robbery, stand-and-deliver stuff with mask and pistols. They looked into the numbers. They found they could certainly get water more cheaply from Casitas Water. They formed the group “Ojai FLOW” (Friends of Locally Owned Water) to advance the issue. It was no pipe dream. Its proposal went on the ballot. Support flowed in, you could say. An overwhelming majority of voters, 87 percent, supported it. The other 13 percent were diehard conservatives (elderly people who believed the company propaganda) who wanted to throw money away. Go figure.
Casitas Water now has the power to issue bonds, raise $60 million and buy out the private water company, Golden State Water Company. That’s a ton of money. Invested at a safe rate of 3.33 percent it would yield $2 million per annum. Translation: that $60 million’s equivalent to a stream of pure profit of $2 million every year forever just for opening the mailbox! Nice work if you can get it.
The honchos at Golden State Water were bound to say yes, right? Guess again. Over our dead bodies, they said. They’ve sued to stop the bond issue moving forward and the matter is now tied up in court (even though they’ve already lost a similar battle). They’ll fight to the bitter end to keep their monopoly profits.
And they also play dirty pool, according to Ojai FLOW’s website: “Misinformation, front organizations, dirty tricks and PR firms are what big companies use when they can’t come up with truthful arguments to support their claims. Golden State and their supporters are no different.” A list of its bogus claims is given. You can study them, and see the rebuttals from local citizens.
What’s going on? Evidently, Golden State gets far more than 3.33 percent annual profit for fixing pipes and reading meters. Why? Where’s the entrepreneurial risk that needs to be rewarded? People must have water. What’s really going on is the vision for America’s future.
Question: Is America to be run for the benefit of 1 percent of Americans, or 100 percent of Americans?
Ronald Reagan promised his vision would make everyone richer. But the 99 percent have woken up and realized that nothing “trickled down.” They created huge wealth, but you could say it all “flowed up” to the already rich. It’s been “Niagara up” (David Cay Johnston). How so? It’s pretty simple, politically.
Conservative “think tanks” figured out years ago that Republican voters don’t pay attention and can’t think! Republican voters like the “idea” of being Republican, emotionally (all that rootin’ tootin’ free enterprise), but never check the results, logically. The super-rich have made out like bandits and laugh all the way to the bank. Hence, Mitt Romney mocked the American public when he thought nobody was recording him. Bless his soul, he was right. Unless you’re super-rich like him, you have a few screws loose if you vote Republican.
Even Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich criticized his party’s “right-wing social engineering” that promoted the interests of the super-rich over average Americans.
Today’s Republican Party has become arrogant and complacent. It doesn’t even pretend to serve the public interest. Ripping off the public to make the super-wealthy even richer is all that matters in today’s extreme Republican ideology. But this destroys the middle class. Consumer spending coming mostly from the middle class is the backbone of 70 percent of America’s economic engine.
Conservatives couldn’t care less. They see Ojai FLOW as the peasants attacking the privilege enjoyed by the aristocracy. Such rebellions have to be crushed. The full barrage of misinformation, misdirection and obstruction is therefore coming down on Ojai ratepayers. Forget what you learned about democracy in high school. In America, democracy can be suffocated with private money.
But thanks to Ojai FLOW the highway robbers are getting the exposure they deserve. The Ojai FLOW grass-roots volunteers have become an example to other towns across America on how to take back power from corporations who cheat communities to enrich their shareholders. It’s about reclaiming democracy for the people.