Conservatives believe that private industry does a better job than government - right? Conservatives are for divesting some government functions so private industry can run them more efficiently - right?
Many state and local governments take this idea seriously and, unnoticed by the U.S. public, have been selling off some of our infrastructure to foreigners. Then suddenly the news hit the fan about the proposed sale of 22 East and Gulf Coast port operations to Dubai Ports World, a maritime company controlled by a Middle East government.
When devotion to private enterprise ran up against U.S. sovereignty and national defense, not only conservatives but the American people opted for the latter. The anti-Dubai uproar swept across all party and economic lines because there is a limit to whom we want to sell our essential transportation systems. A federal agency known as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is supposed to be guarding our national interests when foreigners seek to buy U.S. properties. CFIUS operates in secret, so the public is in the dark about its procedures.
CFIUS is apparently also in the dark about what the U.S. public thinks and didn't foresee that the Dubai Ports deal would be controversial. Foreign purchase of U.S. infrastructure has been proceeding at a rapid pace both before and after the Dubai Ports flap.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr., a former Defense Department official during the Reagan administration and current columnist for Townhall.com, discovered that "out of more than 1,500 cases of foreign acquisitions reviewed since 1988, CFIUS has only formally rejected one." Homeland Security admits that 80 percent of our 3,200 terminals nationwide are operated by foreign companies and countries. In June, a Spanish firm, Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A., paid $1.3 billion for a 50-year lease to operate a 10-lane toll road through the heart of Texas. The same month, an Australian company bought a 99-year lease on Virginia's Pocahontas Parkway.
Also in June, an Australian-Spanish partnership paid $3.8 billion to lease the Indiana Toll Road for 75 years. Last year, Chicago sold a 99-year lease on the eight-mile Chicago Skyway to the same buyer for $1.8 billion, and tolls are expected to double.
Almost weekly, we learn about other U.S. properties that have been sold or leased long-term to foreign companies. The tolls from the U.S. side of the tunnel linking Detroit to Windsor, Canada, belong to an Australian company. Why the rush to sell our transportation systems to foreigners? "Follow the money" explains all.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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