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Counterpunch columnist Rob Urie tackles some of the political consequences of the neoliberal choices we have made as a society.

 

“The question of bailouts is fundamentally different from that of taking care of people. An adequate response to the pandemic will require years of dedicated effort, not tossing a trillion dollars at ‘the economy’ and hoping for the best. Social distancing and quarantines might require income and material support for tens of millions of people for as long as eighteen months. Nancy Pelosi is reportedly already balking at spending government money to do what is necessary. It would be a benefit to workers if she forced her corporate sponsors to provide paid time off for their employees, but she won’t do this.

The economic fragility behind the rapid descent into economic crisis isn’t a product of nature. It was purposely created by the bi-partisan political establishment at the behest of oligarchs and academic economists. NAFTA was meant to make workers economically insecure. Welfare ‘reform’ was passed to make life outside of capitalist employment intolerably tenuous. The minimum wage hasn’t been a living wage for forty years. And plans to cut Social Security and Medicare are meant to increase economic fragility. Likewise, austerity is the enforcement mechanism to keep the rich in control of American political economy.

This combination of manufactured social fragility and neoliberal governance will sooner or later produce a political rupture. The election of Donald Trump was the first act of one. An extended economic crisis can produce social solidarity or a deeply ugly political response. The Democrats’ choice to stick with their neoliberal program means that they are indifferent between electing Joe Biden and a second term for Donald Trump. Add the widespread unemployment that is already baked into their reflexive austerity and a more perfect formula for fascist ascendance is difficult to imagine.”

Believe the actions, not the words of the political class.  We need to reassert the democratic will in our societies.

 

“The idea that trade is always and everywhere beneficial has been the ‘American’ position, left, right and center, since the reemergence of neoliberalism in the mid-1970s. This is why having labor representatives ‘at the table’ during trade negotiations slowed the evisceration of labor’s power not one whit. To follow the logic, trade is so beneficial that labor benefits from it even though labor’s power has been eviscerated through trade agreements. As even Clintonite supporters of ‘free trade’ like Paul Krugman argued early on, trade creates winners and losers— there is no universal benefit.

Through neoliberal ideology, the prior distribution of political and economic power should have had no impact on the distribution of the benefits of trade agreements. Otherwise, the argument over ‘free trade’ turns into rococo apologetics to benefit the already rich and powerful. As it turned out, oligarchs and corporations got cheap labor in subsidized factories and freedom from environmental regulations and effective taxation. The laboring classes got gradually debased paychecks and benefits followed by exciting new career opportunities as Uber entrepreneurs and greeters at Walmart.

What this means is that understanding power is more important to predicting the winners and losers of neoliberal economic policies than knowing the economics. This is more likely than not the reason why power is assumed out of capitalist economic theory. But what else are establishment politicians referring to when they claim that wildly popular policies in the public interest can’t be gotten through congress? If the people elect representatives to do the people’s bidding, but the representatives do the bidding of business interests, then where does the power lie? It lies with the oligarchs, and that isn’t democracy.

The concept of power at work is as part of an iterative social-political-economic process that neoliberal ideology can’t accommodate. The theorized point of capitalism is to tie economic distribution to economic production. The equal distribution of political power implied by democracy comes from membership in a democratic society, not from a system for meritoriously allocating it. Without perpetual redistribution to place people in equal starting positions, neither capitalism nor democracy operate as the theories that support them claim.”

The populace of the US wants Universal Health Care.  Why don’t they have it?  The important people in society would lose money, thus healthcare for all is ‘too far-fetched’ and idea to work in the US.

 

When people talk about how capitalism raises the tide for all boats my skepticism level begins to slowly creep upward.  One must be careful when it comes to describing capitalism as panacea for the world and the world’s poor.   from Counterpunch takes aim at a few of the more atrocious lies that the ardent defender of Capital put forth.

“Neoliberals love to quote the World Bank’s rosy statistics about capitalism lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty. Unfortunately, those statistics are skewed and manipulated to the point of outright prevarication, as Seth Donnelly demonstrates in his new book, “The Lie of Global Prosperity.” He quotes a breathless World Bank press release, “soon 90 percent of the world’s population will live on $1.90 a day or more.” No matter that translated into local currency at local prices, in many places that $1.90 per day purchases the equivalent of 30 cents a day or that $1.90 per day means the pauperization of billions – for as Donnelly shows, a truer metric of avoiding desperate poverty is over $5 per day. If that far more honest measure is applied, 80 percent of South Asians and sub-Saharan Africans are, Donnelly explains, horribly impoverished. Even more disturbing, achieving a 70-year life expectancy requires $7.40 a day, something the world’s cold and pampered capitalists will certainly not shell out or even allow for the billions of wretchedly poor.

Best exemplifying the World Bank’s ideologically biased poverty measures – biased to glorify capitalism – is how it uses statistics about China. “The free health care, education and food that people received in Mao’s China do not enter into the calculation. As a result, Chinese people, who achieved new levels of food security and saw their life expectancy double in this [Mao’s] period were found to be on the whole ‘extremely poor’…the Chinese only ceased to be ‘extremely poor’ once they lost their collective lands, food rations and medical care and began making iphones and other export goods under atrocious conditions.”

The system is in trouble claims Jeff Cohen writing for Counterpunch. I can see where he is coming from as it would seem like our leaders often listen to the elites more than the people who have elected them. The current system is start to reach the limits of which it can tamp down popular discontent and anger with the system. Trickle down economics is bullshit and the people know its bullshit because they cannot support their families with both parents working anymore. The working poor is an ever widening class as more wealth and opportunity continue to be funnelled upwards in society.

Class warfare is on the horizon and may be with us sooner than we think as disasters driven by climate change may provide the impetus for tipping into mass protests and civil unrest.

“Neoliberalism – whereby politicians first and foremost serve corporate interests (with crumbs hopefully “trickling down” to the masses) – went into high gear 40 years ago. It was called “Thatcherism” in the UK and “Reaganomics” in the US. And neoliberalism has been the driving economic ideology ever since, with wealth and income flowing unrelentingly upward even after “the opposition” took power. In the US, we had corporate-friendly “New Democrat” Bill Clinton (NAFTA, Wall Street deregulation, welfare “reform,” mass incarceration); in the UK, they had Tony Blair and “New Labour” (so pro-corporate that Rupert Murdoch endorsed him).

Unlike past governing crises, today’s are not mere factional fights among elites, with the masses watching from the sidelines. Nowadays, the governing factions have to answer to voting blocs that are increasingly angry, intransigent and demanding. All this makes gridlock even more stubborn.

Since naked service to corporate elites and “trickle-down” promises don’t sell anymore to an insecure middle class, right-wing leaders like Trump (and Europeans being cultivated by Steve Bannon) are now “populist” and “anti-elites” – openly tapping into racism while scapegoating immigrants for society’s problems. Instead of “the magic of the free market,” they sell the magic of steel slats.

Meanwhile, usually pliable Democratic leaders in the US must contend with a younger, more multi-racial, increasingly progressive and uncompromising base. Leadership seeks to appease with rhetoric and symbolic gestures, while resisting the base’s demands for far-reaching economic and environmental reforms that conflict with the wishes of the party’s donor class.

So Republicans and Democrats go to war over wall-funding, while quietly coalescing on bigger issues such as the perilous, anti-democratic power of Wall Street and the diversion of mostfederal discretionary spending to the unaccountable military-industrial complex.

And the U.S. political system avoids the biggest issue of all – the calamity that gives new reality to the old rhetoric about “capitalism’s final crisis”: human-made, profit-driven climate change that keeps burning hotter while liberal and conservative politicians fiddle. Republicans deny the science; Democratic leaders deny and delay the transformative solutions that are needed – like a “Green New Deal” that would undercut certain corporate balance sheets.”

neo_liberalism  Much has happened in the world in the past few months. Especially since November 8, when the “left” or the “progressives” in the USA and indeed the world have been crapping their pants about some orange skinned person with homunculus like hands winning the seat of most powerful person in the world. While as concerning as this is to me (it really is), what has been more concerning to me has been how the Democratic Party and it’s supporters have been acting even before the election and their actions since. What I mean by that is, what difference does it make if Trump is in power if the alternative to him is no different or perhaps worse in some ways.

Enter Caitlin Johnstone into my radar a few weeks ago. Not only is she saying everything I have been noticing going on with the progressive side of the USA, but she does it with style and a flair that is beyond my writing skills. Her voice needs to be amplified by people who feel that the left has been co-opted by the neo-liberals in a drive to make the choice between neo-liberal and ultra-neo-liberal.

Here are some excerpts of what I love about her:

Caitlin Johnstone on the corporate media:

  “It’s been a trippy last few days, and if you’ve been listening to mainstream media it’s even trippier because everything’s on fire and we’re all about to die. In real life though, the world is still turning, the sun is still shining, and Republicans are just doing a somewhat milder version of the same idiotic dance they’ve always done. We’re essentially getting the same anti-science, anti-environment, pro-billionaire schtick we would’ve gotten had any other Republican won the presidency, minus the wars and predatory trade deals that the neocons love.

  This is hardly the goose-stepping, minority-incinerating dystopian apocalypse that the establishment media was promising us in the event of a Trump win. They’re still trying to paint it as though their alarmist prophecies have come true, but they have not. Sure it’s weird and stupid and kind of uncomfortable, but we are unquestionably living in a safer world than we would have been under a President Clinton. This is important for progressives to notice, because by cranking up the alarmism to eleven and freaking out about literally everything Donald Trump says and does, the neoliberal establishment is setting us up for their next move”

This safer world being talk about is because the No-Fly-Zone in Syria is something Candidate Clinton routinely said she would impose. In debates even.

Caitlin Johnstone on the Democratic Party’s refusal to own up to their betrayal of Sanders and refusal to change:

  “To this day, the elites of the Democratic party are doing everything they can to avoid addressing the DNC’s brazen assault on American democracy the way everyone knows they should. In any sort of functional democratic political system this outrageous scandal would have been met with unequivocal condemnation from the top to the bottom, with the President personally overseeing a complete overhaul of the Committee and all the party’s leaders apologizing profusely to the American people and doing everything they could to make it better, including a complete re-do of the primary under close, stringent oversight. Instead they’re babbling about Russian hackers and trying desperately to get the average American to care about Kremlin operatives more than they care about having to work three jobs to make ends meet in the Walmart economy.”

Caitlin Johnstone on just how awesome Tulsi Gabbard is:

  “Gabbard somehow refrained from unleashing the torrent of shrieking, profanity-laced vitriol I definitely would have blasted him with had I been in her shoes, maintained her composure without batting an eye, and patiently explained why Tapper is stupid and wrong about everything. She swatted aside the limp pundit’s feeble protestations as she finally spoke of her findings in Syria, the people’s unbelievable suffering at the hands of the terrorist insurgents, their confusion as to why the United States is backing terrorist factions, and the fact that she did not meet a single person who believed that there were moderate rebels in Syria. It’s definitely worth a watch; here’s a hyperlink if you missed it the first time.”

On why Obama doesn’t deserve special credit for commuting Chelsey Manning’s sentence:

  “In terms of what’s left of his legacy, all that Obama gets from me is one less thing to hate him for. When I’m going to bed at night, there will be one less thing on my extremely long list of evil things that he has done for me to rage about. He’s still the guy who got Chelsea Manning tortured and nearly killed. He’s still the guy who chose to let her rot in isolation long after the United Nations special rapporteur on torture Juan E. Mendez stated unequivocally that Manning’s treatment was “cruel, inhuman and degrading” and after 295 legal scholars signed a letter declaring that she was being “detained under degrading and inhumane conditions that are illegal and immoral.” He’s still the guy who left her in that hell hole after not one but two suicide attempts. He’s still the guy who promised to protect whistleblowers and have the most transparent administration in history, then went on to prosecute more whistleblowers than all previous administrations combined. The man is evil, and his ceasing to inflict more evil in this one particular area does not change that. He’s probably only doing it to bait Assange out of political asylum anyway.”

And finally Caitlin Johnstone on what I consider to be the actual problem, the neo-liberal takeover of the progressive parties in western democracies:

  “The Democrats had taken a severe beating starting with the neoliberal establishment’s evisceration of Jimmy Carter back in the late seventies and early eighties, but Bill Clinton figured out that you can still rake in big bucks from the donor class and give them everything they want in exchange as long as you pay lip service to the things the political left cares about. Under Slick Willy’s leadership, the so-called New Democrats took on the mantra of “fiscally conservative, socially liberal,” which was another way of saying they don’t care what you do in your bedroom or what color your skin is, as long as you help them crush you to death with the Walmart economy and sell your life blood to Wall Street.”

I hope these paragraphs that I have shared has encouraged you to give Caitlin a visit. She’s currently talking about how to retake the Democratic Party and why it’s important to attack the neo-liberals on the left rather than on the right. I hope you find her as awesome as I do!

 

 

 

 

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