Monthly Archives: June 2017

WHAT IS NEOLIBERALISM?

June 5 , 2017 Kelley Kidd. Not long ago a friend asked another of Facebook to explain the term
“neoliberal”. The asker is 70 years old with a lifetime of interest in politics and public policy. He is bright and has shown excellent judgment for over 40 years, held positions of leadership in civic life, and has a degree or so in sociology. So I take his question to be excellent anecdotal evidence that the term “neoliberal” has no widespread use among most contemporary Americans, and I am sure I never heard it until recently. I decided to undertake a little research on this subject. What I found was that the term appears mostly in the rhetoric of a number of commentators that are widely regarded as leftist or radical, and the expression has not been applied as a compliment.

 

I have found one who is “proud” of having been called a neoliberal. James Kirchik, writing an op-ed piece in the L.A. TIMES informs his readers only a few days ago that he was greeted at a college campus speaking engagement “by a left-wing student group denouncing me as a ‘white Zionist neoliberal’.” His reaction was “Guilty as charged”. He then goes on to give a coherent explanation of the term as follows: “Broadly understood neoliberalism describes a set of policies generally aimed at reducing the role of the state in the economy. Neoliberals embrace free trade, capital and labor mobility, privatization, and fiscally solvent welfare systems. Think Bill Clinton in the U.S. or Tony Blair in the U.K.”

Now I think I got it! Thank you Mr. Kirchik. I am recalling Bill and Hillary Clinton’s failed effort to expand medical insurance coverage by creating a Rube Golbfarb machine to protect insurance company profits instead of expanding Medicare; I am also remembering the Affordable Care Act for the same reason. Remember Bill Clinton shouting that his proposals will end welfare as we know it, and his gleeful brag that “the era of big government is over”. Bill had his NAFTA and Hillary was a strong proponent of Obama’s proposed Pacific Trade Pact—both of which were kept out of the public scrutiny during the run up to voting in Congress, and both of which put international businesses in position to fleece taxpayers if government interfered with corporate profits. Recall the enthusiasm with which both Blair and Clinton backed the Bush-led invasions in the Persian Gulf, invasions which did nothing for ordinary people but were mighty helpful to Big Oil corporations.

Neoliberals want to bring everybody under the big tent that is owned and controlled by the investors of the world; the neocons want to do the same, but prefer to seat all the dark folks and gays in the back rows! An ancient radical named Bill Farmer once explained to me that the Republicans were controlled by the big commodity folks and the military-industrial complex, while the Democrats were run by the owners of the big consumer goods corporations; I now think he was talking about “neo” types as this scenario defines them. No wonder the Chomsky followers and Sanders supporters are down on neoliberalism as they see it! Oh, by the way, I have not yet come up with a good justification for conflating “white” or “Zionist” with neoliberalism, but I will give both those matters more attention in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

THE BIG PICTURE OF AMERICAN POLITICS: Part 1

OCTOBER 2016. Guest blog by Kelley Kidd. With only a short time left before the 2016 presidential election I am as enthralled with the process as I have ever been since I watched Harry Truman battle to keep his job in 1948. Presidential elections tend to focus my energy on the big questions of public life, or at least on those I happen to believe are the big questions. I suspect that at the heart of American politics the big questions remain the same in each election. Perhaps the main issues of American life are not now dramatically different from those of other moments and even other nations, although particular occasions and appearances vary over time.

From my point of view one of the most cogent descriptions of the big picture came from a corporate executive last year. That description came in the context of the only game in Baltimore Oriole history which was played without any fans in the ball park. A few days before a young man named Freddy Gray had died in custody after having been arrested for running away from being watched by several policemen. To many Baltimoreans it appeared that for African-American men fleeing from policemen had become a capital crime! Rage led to violence. For the first time since the Rodney King incident in the 1990s an American city was wracked with a several nights of street violence. The word riot was used by more than a few commentators. A scheduled Oriole game was played, but the ball park seats were empty. The executive who ordered the gates closed to fans explained that the park closure was intended to protect the safety of fans. Anyone might have expected that executive to bemoan the loss to Orioles fans and to have harsh words for the rioters. Instead we got a long tweet in response to a radio broadcaster’s complaints about those “rioters”:

“I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful nonviolent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLJ, Gandhi, Mandela and all the great opposition leaders throughout history always preached that precept. I also believe in a democracy it is critical that due process and the completion of any investigation must precede any judgment against any accused police member. That said, my greatest source of personal concern is focused neither on the single night’s property damage or upon the acts, but upon the four decade long period in which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the US to China and others, plunged tens of millions of good hard working Americans into economic devastation and then followed that action y diminishing every American’s civil rights protection in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living at the butt end of an ever more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.”

The executive was John Angelos, the son of the wealthy owner of the Oriole franchise. That same young man made these statements long before the rise of the Trump phenomenon with its emphasis on denouncing the movement of American jobs abroad and its calling for closing our borders, lowering taxes on the very wealthy and corporations to induce the latter to retain employment in the US, and its repetition of the Nixonian call for “law and order’. The greatest issues of our times seem to be linked in concern for both the rise of a police state and the decline of the economic fortunes of the many at the hands of the few. How these issues are linked seems to divide us; that they are linked appears to be a notion that transcends the usual political and economic roles of the very rich. Neither Trump nor Angelos are crowd pleasers with large numbers of us , but they are talking about the same issues.