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.