Neoliberalism: My episode of “West Wing Thing”
If you didn’t listen to my interview on “West Wing Thing,” here are the notes.
Neoliberalism is not a new, made-up epithet or meaningless term, although that is what neoliberals will tell you if you call them on their neoliberalism.
Neoliberalism is the accurate name for the political world-view that has its roots in the 18thcentury but is experiencing a roaring comeback that started in the 1980s. It is the ideology that has captured the Democratic Party establishment. By that I specifically mean the Democratic National Committee, which formally controls the Democratic Party, and the top-ranking party leadership and core influencers, the super-delegates and power-brokers who set the rules. At its core is an almost religious devotion to this thing they call “The Market.” In their distorted worldview, “The Market” is a force of nature, when in reality it is just a set of political choices that are made by people and that can be unmade by people. This fixed and evidence-resistant belief leads inexorably to an economic agenda based on laissez-faire capitalism and to policies such as privatization, austerity, deregulation and so-called free trade.
Neoliberals have transformed the party of the New Deal into the party of NAFTA, CAFTA, TPP and “ending welfare as we know it;” the party of mass incarceration, debt peonage and the security/surveillance state; the party of the accelerating deregulation of banks, industry and any other sector that can fill their campaign coffers. It doesn’t hurt that they can also offer them hefty speaking fees and cushy jobs to rotate into when they retire.
Neoliberalism is why politicians who say on the stump that they believe in things like science and diplomacy can turn around and boast about their “all of the above energy policy” and never met a war they didn’t like or a defense budget they didn’t want to increase.
Anyone want to ask me how the hell that happened to the party of FDR?
This capture of the Democratic Party was largely the project of the Democratic Leadership Council that originated in 1985, and its think-tank, The Progressive Policy Institute. Don’t let the word, “Progressive” fool you. The DLC was the Blue Dog Democrats’ reaction to the devastating electoral losses after the Mondale campaign. They seized on the moment to advance their pro-corporate agenda, fueled by a total rejection of economic populism, the anti-war movement and the cultural revolution, and an abiding, seething hatred of the “New Left.”
Now you’re thinking, isn’t that pretty much the same as Republicanism, right?
Well, if you drew a Venn diagram of the intersection of neoliberalism and neo-conservatism, there would be a very big area of overlap. And that is what comes of “The New Democrats” and their “third way” politics also known as “Clintonism,” and their failed strategy of “triangulation” to the point of chasing after an increasingly unhinged Republican Party, trying to fine some imaginary “middle ground” that is far, far to the right of where the majority of voters stand on crucial issues like health care, clean air and water, stagnant wages, monopolies and wealth inequality. We can see how that worked out.
But, take heart, there is a difference. Neoliberals don’t care if you have an abortion or get gay-married or what bathroom you use, as long as the 1% stays in power and continues to snorkel up every pocket of public wealth it can seek out, including privatizing Social Security. Neoliberals strongly support your right, regardless of your race, religion or gender to become a billionaire hedge fund manager or sleep under a bridge. Just don’t question why hedge fund managers are entitled to billions while people are sleeping under bridges. That’s class warfare and we can’t have that.
You want more?
I think it’s interesting that the term, Neoliberal, first came in to its current prominencein the 1980s when the “Chicago Boys,” the acolytes of Milton Friedman and Fredrich Hayek, among others, descended upon Pinochet’s Chileand forced brutal austerity on the people, literally at gunpoint. Their reign of terror is well described by investigative journalist Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine. It is also associated with folks like Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Alan Greenspan…which is why I sometimes refer to it as “Republican-lite,” and maybe why some American voters see right through the BS and either stay home or vote for real Republicans who are at least authentic about being exactly the soulless monsters they claim to be.
Shall I ramble on just a bit more?
In my opinion, Neoliberalism is little more than a way-station on the road to full-blown fascism. Its tolerance of some degree of cushioning against the full fury of naked, social-Darwinist capitalism, the bare bones of a social safety net and some degree of individual liberty withers the moment there is a credible threat to ruling class power or corporate greed. If you don’t believe that, I have two words for you: Standing Rock. No, I meant Occupy Movement. No, make that three words: Wall Street Bailout…no, 4 words: Too Big to Fail …just kidding. I could go on all day.
So, if you’re wondering why we keep electing Democrats who say they care about us ordinary folk and then proceed to act in the interest of Big Banks, Big-Oil, Big-Ag, Big-Pharma and Big everything else, why Obama bailed out the banks and left homeowners to twist in the wind, why we can’t have health care as a right or any of the other nice things that other developed countries enjoy, or why we continue to careen toward planetary collapse while the Chuck Schumers and Nancy Peolsis prefer to cling to power above all else and promise incremental change while they mock the Green New Deal as a naïve dream of pixie dust and unicorns, and vow to anyone who dares to think big that they will be a one term Congresswoman…well, there you go.