Wall Street private equity firms have been buying up or managing fire and ambulance emergency services in some cash-strapped towns (video below).
The New York Times published an infographic on Aug. 1 explaining how the firms, which are under fewer rules than banks, have been taking over public services normally run by local governments since the Wall Street crash in 2008.
Firms have also been managing public roads, bridges and highways, or buying this infrastructure, which was built with tax dollars.
When it comes to 911 calls, the firms bill citizens for fire department services that were previously paid for by taxes.
The newspaper also notes: "Response times for some ambulance companies under private-equity control have worsened."
Equity firms also build schools, run apartment buildings and are planning a massive train line in Florida.
Danielle Ivory, one of the reporters who contributed to the infographic, appeared on Democracy Now! on Aug. 3 and explained how a public service was run by a firm:
So, Rural/Metro is a company that was backed by Warburg Pincus, taken into bankruptcy and then taken out of bankruptcy by Oaktree Capital Management, among other investors. And this is a company that does ambulance services nationwide, and it also does fire services in three states -- in Oregon, Arizona and Tennessee.
And the two services are a little bit different, so it’s important to separate them. But Rural/Metro, when they pick you up in an ambulance, they may send you a large bill afterwards, they may go after you in court if you don’t pay that bill.
And we also found that, on fire, you might think that you’re paying your fire department out of taxes, but, in fact, if you don’t subscribe to Rural/Metro service and you have a fire, Rural/Metro might show up, put out the fire, maybe your house burns down to the ground, and then you get a bill for multiple thousands of dollars.
And we found numerous court cases where Rural/Metro had gone after people in court for bills that ranged up to -- I think $59,000 was the highest bill that we found.