Neoliberalism

Continuing now with the quote from the last post that I said was leading to another post, this one about Neoliberalism. The quote was:

I don’t think we’d be discussing how neoliberalism hijacked democracy if it weren’t for Hilary vs. Bernie. – Linda Russo on Facebook. I concur.

CorpWatch LogoAnd this handy guide from Corpwatch:

What is Neoliberalism?: A Brief Definition for Activists

by Elizabeth Martinez and Arnoldo Garcia, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

“Neo-liberalism” is a set of economic policies that have become widespread during the last 25 years or so. [I would say 40 years. Carter, Reagan, Bush.] Although the word is rarely heard in the United States, you can clearly see the effects of neo-liberalism here as the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer.

“Liberalism” can refer to political, economic, or even religious ideas. In the U.S. political liberalism has been a strategy to prevent social conflict. It is presented to poor and working people as progressive compared to conservative or Rightwing. Economic liberalism is different. Conservative politicians who say they hate “liberals” — meaning the political type — have no real problem with economic liberalism, including neoliberalism.

“Neo” means we are talking about a new kind of liberalism…

The main points of neo-liberalism include:

1. THE RULE OF THE MARKET. Liberating “free” enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government (the state) no matter how much social damage this causes. Greater openness to international trade and investment, as in NAFTA. Reduce wages by de-unionizing workers and eliminating workers’ rights that had been won over many years of struggle…

2. CUTTING PUBLIC EXPENDITURE FOR SOCIAL SERVICES like education and health care. REDUCING THE SAFETY-NET FOR THE POOR, and even maintenance of roads, bridges, water supply…

3. DEREGULATION. Reduce government regulation of everything that could diminish profits, including protecting the environment and safety on the job…

4. PRIVATIZATION. Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors. This includes banks, key industries, railroads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, privatization has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs. [Privatizing profits, socializing costs, such as despoiling the environment.]

5. ELIMINATING THE CONCEPT OF “THE PUBLIC GOOD” or “COMMUNITY” and replacing it with “individual responsibility.” Pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves — then blaming them, if they fail, as “lazy.”

And with that you have our current situation in the U.S., hotly debated by those focused on the Democratic Presidential campaign between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Sanders has been fighting neoliberalism (or what would become neoliberalism) his whole adult life and Clinton would continue the failed policies of the past, as evidenced (among myriad other things) by her decision to say that USAmericans will NEVER have a Single Payer Health Insurance system (not long after she received $13M in funds from health care and insurance interests) and her “bellicose” speech to AIPAC (3.20.16) also described as “craven, delusional pandering”. My own career in radio was pushed closer to the end by Bill Clinton’s deregulation of the Broadcasting Industry, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the effects of which read like classic neoliberalism:

According to critics, local competition has all but vanished from radio in the wake of a consolidation that Congress did not anticipate. That consolidation, in turn, has cleared the way for listless, homogenized and automated programming, along with a near abandonment of local news, all in the name of rampant cost cutting. (One 25-year radio veteran, and current Clear Channel station executive, estimates the Telecom Act has eliminated nearly 10,000 radio-related jobs.) “It’s been fabulous for shareholders, but terrible for listeners and employees”… (Salon.com)

And we can look to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his attack on public employee unions and the once-great University of Wisconsin and the state’s education system by, doing, among other things:

slash[ing] $250 million from the University of Wisconsin, one of the country’s great public institutions of higher education, and ensures that most K-12 school districts will get less funding than they did last year;

* remov[ing] from state law tenure protections for University of Wisconsin professors, a move that educators say will seriously harm the school’s ability to retain and attract talented faculty;

* expand[ing] the state’s voucher program that uses public funds to pay for tuition at private schools, including religious schools — even though there is no evidence the program has helped improve student achievement in the past — and creates a new “special needs” voucher law that cuts into protections for special needs students.

The handy chart on neoliberalism I posted before is worth reviewing, but suffice it to say that Robert Duncan, among others, saw this coming in the 1960s, as he wrote in his poem Up Rising: Passages 25:

in terror and hatred of all communal things, of communion, of communism.

Think about that. The war is on ALL communal things; the Commons. Infrastructure falling apart? No problem. Get rich enough to afford a helicopter. Higher Education too expensive? Rich kids can get in, those who can’t can go into massive debt, or they are lazy. The list goes on and on and if you think one neoliberal is better than the rest, or “knows how Washington works and can get things done” or “will get progress little by little” or “is not delusional that Single Payer and Free Higher Ed and many other human-centric programs that they have in progressive democracies like SLOVENIA” – if you believe that campaign spin, wait until you see what neoliberalism wants you to swallow next. That Latin Americans, like the ones behind the CorpWatch article that is this post’s main source, were on this 20+ years ago tells you something. It can’t happen here? It’s happening here.

About Splabman

SPLAB and Cascadia Poetry Festival founder Paul E Nelson wrote American Sentences (Apprentice House, 2015), Organic Poetry (VDM Verlag, Germany, 2008), a serial poem re-enacting the history of Auburn, Washington, A Time Before Slaughter (Apprentice House, 2010) and Organic in Cascadia: A Sequence of Energies (Lumme, Brazil, 2013). Founder of the Cascadia Poetry Festival, in 26 years of radio he interviewed Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Anne Waldman, Sam Hamill, Robin Blaser, Nate Mackey, Eileen Myles, Wanda Coleman, Brenda Hillman, George Bowering, Joanne Kyger, Jerome Rothenberg & others, including many Cascadia poets. He lives in Seattle and writes at least one American Sentence every day. http://www.PaulENelson.com. Co-Editor of Make It True: Poetry From Cascadia, he is in year five of a twenty year Cascadia Bioregional Cultural Investigation. www.CascadiaPoetryFestival.org (Oct 12-15, 2017, Tacoma, WA)
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