Buried on page 51 of President Obama’s new budget proposal is a short section titled “Reform TVA” — where “reform” is likely to mean “privatize.” It’s the quiet beginning of a late chapter in the story of the New Deal, made necessary in part by Obama himself.
The Tennessee Valley Authority provides electricity to some 80,000 square miles of the Southeast. It operates nuclear, coal, and natural gas electricity generation systems; it runs a series of dams, some of which produce hydroelectricity. The only two things that differentiate it from any other massive electricity company are that it is owned by the government, and that it has a deeply significant history.
The impetus for this remains unclear. No evidence exists that a privatized TVA would be more efficient or more effective nor that the power TVA provides is no longer needed.
There are two reasons the proposed sale might not happen. The first is that regional members of Congress are likely to balk at the idea, as noted by KnoxNews.com. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee has already indicated his opposition.
The second reason is that it’s not clear that private entities will be eager to assume that burden. Last year, Exelon Energy tried to sell three of its Maryland coal-powered plants which similarly needed upgrades. Exelon ended up selling the facilities at a steep discount.
Thatcher and Reagan may be dead, but Neoliberalism lives on – its flame kept burning by Republicans and Democrats alike as the generations-long push to roll back the New Deal continues under the Obama administration. This time targeting one of the great public works projects that electrified America.
So much for hope but apparently there will be some changes.