Cities & States Selling the Family Silver - WSJ

The Wall Street Journal has a headline story, Facing Budget Gaps, Cities Sell Parking, Airports, Zoo. Great, cities and states are selling off public assets which we paid for with tax dollars.

Cities and states across the nation are selling and leasing everything from airports to zoos—a fire sale that could help plug budget holes now but worsen their financial woes over the long run.

California is looking to shed state office buildings. Milwaukee has proposed selling its water supply; in Chicago and New Haven, Conn., it's parking meters. In Louisiana and Georgia, airports are up for grabs.

So, who is buying, literally, America away from her citizenry? One is Morgan Stanley of bail out fame, all the while Morgan Stanley has tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

The most popular deals in the works are metered municipal street and garage parking spaces. One of the first was in Chicago where the city received $1.16 billion in 2008 to allow a consortium led by Morgan Stanley to run more than 36,000 metered parking spaces for 75 years. The city continues to set the rules and rates for the meters and collects parking fines. But the investors keep the revenues, which this year will more than triple the $20 million the city was collecting, according to credit rating firms.

The Royal Bank of Scotland, the same bank who received $700 million from AIG alone and also received Goldman Sachs payouts of $4 million (that's bail out money), is reporting $45 billion in deals in various stages right now.

Water supply also is being sold to private interests. In Milwaukee, a consumer advocate called a plan to sell the water system "mortgaging Milwaukee's future." The report, by Washington-based Food and Water Watch, says private water service in general costs 59% more as new owners seek to recoup their investment. It adds: "Water users cannot vote private managers or state-appointed regulators out of office."

Another question is who is buying our public assets? When one doesn't pay their private parking tickets do they now go to private jail and pay a private fine?

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