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Letter to the editor – The market is not fair

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To the editor,

Neither Todd Cohen nor Marc Krizack  [“Letter to the editor – Nonprofits are not businesses”-Philanthropy Journal, 3/18/03] understands about nonprofits.

Attacking government largesse is a handy shortcut invented by the rich to obscure a very simple equation: Providers earn public money when providers add “public value.”

Today’s $900 million contract for Halliburton to reconstruct Iraq has nothing to do with Halliburton’s profit or nonprofit status. Nor does it have anything to do with “tax-and-spend” Democrats.

The federal budget continues to grow, just as traditional Democratic providers decline in their share of that federal cash. By hook or increasingly obvious crook, they won; we lost.

That same might be said of California’s current Enron deficit. Enron made money the old-fashioned way: They stole it.

The state seems incapable of getting it back. Politicians remain enthralled by the pretext that market value should determine the price of power.

The reality was closer to Marx and Capone than to John Stuart Mill or Reagan: Speculators stole what has become the California deficit.

For anyone to abandon the profit motive to “those who know how” is ridiculous. Cheney and company are not smarter; they’re just richer.

For others to presume “the market” is fair or open to public ends is just as ridiculous. That market is an artificial invention to express value, and it only reflects the information available to consumers.

There is no more “market” for private telecommunications than there is for public highways. Phone and Internet bills that confuse consumers, and Cheney’s roads in Iraq, both make money and give just as little option for real choice.

Nonprofits now face Halliburton’s problem: Justify what they want by delivering what the public wants.

The solution for nonprofits is no more complicated than for Halliburton: Buy, or make accountable, a few more politicians than the other guys. Those politicians pay what “the public” tells them to pay.

For some, the transaction is based on cash. For others, it’s votes. Either way it’s simple. Hell, it worked for Cheney.

Joe Beckmann, development director, Oekos Foundation, Somerville, Mass.

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