Monday, March 21, 2016

Will Neoliberalism Die Where It Was Born?

For a good many of us, those under 40 certainly, neoliberalism in all its permutations is all we've ever known. Free market fundamentalism, corporatism, globalization all seem like components of our standard operating procedure. Like all flawed ideologies - secular religions - they lead to consequences unforeseen, initially unintended. In this case those consequences include rampant inequality, largely unchecked environmental degradation, economic and fiscal imbalance, democratic atrophy and a fracturing of social cohesion. Welcome to 2016.

Some of the best and the brightest began proclaiming globalism and, in effect, neoliberalism failed and dead for more than a decade. Yet free trade agreements are still inked, each adding a fresh layer of lost sovereignty. Environmental degradation proceeds apace to the point where climate change now presents a possibly unstoppable existential threat. Good jobs are gone, lousy jobs created in their place. A population angry succumbs to charismatic hustlers. This, we are told, is the face of an interregnum, a period in which our leaders cast around for the next great thing to replace globalism.

AlterNet's Thom Hartmann touches on this floundering in his essay, "What happens when neither political party answers to the bottom 90%?"

Both parties right now face a great crisis of leadership/ideology as well as a great opportunity for reinvention, and whichever party first reinvents itself successfully will begin winning elections the way the Democrats did in the 1932-1968 era.

If neither does, our nation faces a massive crisis provoked by the loss of democratic representation of the majority of the American electorate. Neither party today does much of anything for the bottom 90% of Americans, as so clearly demonstrated by a recent study out of Princeton that showed that the likelihood of legislation passing that represents the interest of that bottom 90% was equivalent, statistically, to white noise.

Thomas Frank’s new book Listen, Liberal: Or, Whatever Happened to the Party of the People? offers the fascinating premise that starting with the McGovern Commission of 1972 (which largely excommunicated Labor from having a large role in Democratic Party decision-making) and going into a full-out embrace of the “professional class” – i.e. the top 10% economically – the Democratic Party has largely abandoned the American working and middle class – the bottom 90%.

...With both political parties captured almost entirely by the interest of the top 1% (Republicans) and the top 10% (Democrats), the bottom 90% feel they have nowhere else to go. For the past few decades, they’ve expressed this reality of being unrepresented by simply not voting and not showing up for politics, which they correctly saw as rigged and not working in their interest.

Now, with both Trump and Sanders exposing complex trade deals as unwieldy and destructive to the bottom 90% (but very useful and enriching to the top 10%), as well as the politically corrupt environment that supports the top 10%, people on the right and the left are waking up.

...Thus, whichever party embraces the 90% will probably win the 2016 election.

If that’s Trump and/or Sanders, it’ll either splinter the Republican and/or Democratic Party or may reinvent that party in a way that it can begin to build and hold multigenerational national political power.

If Trump is the Republican nominee, he’ll almost certainly win as a change-candidate in a change-year against establishment-candidate Clinton.

The danger to our nation, though, is that Trump’s belligerent nationalism and militarism represents the same sort of sentiments of the 1930s European National Socialists, and could reform America in a really ugly way, even as he could maintain popularity by being the “I’m here for the 90%” candidate by producing a few real social and economic reforms (yes, the largest part of the early popularity of the European fascists in the 1930s was that they did real social reforms and rebuilt their nation’s respective infrastructures and middle classes).

If the 2016 reform candidate is on the Democratic side and it’s Bernie Sanders, he’ll almost certainly win against any non-Trump establishment Republican (and could also easily beat Trump, according to the polls). His presidency would force the Democratic Party to re-embrace the 90%, and, combined with Bernie’s positive values of social and economic justice, could take America back to another era of a strong middle class, with peace and prosperity.

(And either a Trump or Sanders candidacy would only succeed over the loud, powerful, and probably very, very ugly screams and actions of the top 0.001% and the Koch Network. It’d be a titanic battle.)

...The choice between an establishment Republican or an establishment Democrat will depress overall political turnout, turn an emerging generation of Millennials into radical cynics, and feed growing explosions among the base of both parties (Tea Party and the latest version of Occupy/BLM). It could mean chaos in our streets for a decade or more.

No matter what happens in this 2016 election, though, the bottom 90% has had enough.


Hugh said...

It's mind-blowing how Canada is still even considering the TPP, with its ISDS provisions.


"Moreover, there is ongoing risk associated with current (ISDS) cases. In addition to the Eli Lilly case ($500 million), CEN Biotech is seeking nearly $5 billion in a NAFTA (ISDS) case filed against Canada last year over a refusal to grant a medical marijuana licence, Windstream Energy is demanding US$522 million over suspension of a wind farm project, and Mesa Power wants almost $1 billion for government measures related to renewable energy."

Corporations are ganging up to sue the Canadian taxpayers for $billions under ISDS.

A whole industry is apparently popping up to take advantage of ISDS.

ISDS is in NAFTA, CETA, China-FIPA, TPP etc.

The Mound of Sound said...

At times we seem to be running on cruise control.

Unknown said...

The picture on this post says it all Mound. Has no one sat Trudeau down and explained to him what Neoliberlism is? Has no one told him that these "trade" deals ultimately benefit the Global Neoliberal Corporate elite at the sacrifice of Canadian sovereignty? It's good that he treat the refugees with the respect that they are due, or that he focus on womans rights, or the reopening of the much needed Veterans offices or any number of other issues that he is dealing with in a positive way. When asked the question,"why did you sign the deal,of selling military vehicles to Saudi Arabia, one of the worst violators of human rights" his answer was that the deal had already been signed by the previous government and he could not renege on it. This is pure BS. New governments have cancelled deals that previous governments have made before. What bothered me about his answer was I realized he is not only quite capable of making decisions for political reasons, but he is also capable of being dishonest, even cowardly in his explanation for those decisions.I no longer give him the benefit of the doubt. In fact I think he will extend the Neoliberal policy agenda that Harper has implemented. I realize that Martin and Goodale did to some extent implement neoliberalism, but nothing to the degree of Harper and now Trudeau, who may fully realize Harpers Neoliberal dream. I wanted to ask you Mound. Have you ever consider writing a book?I'd be surprised if you haven't. The reason I ask is because you have an ability to take very complex ideas and explain them so the reader can understand their meaning. And I don't mean just in Neoliberalism, or environmentalism,or military defense. I mean in an all encompassing subject like the rise and fall of Canadian democracy.Just curious.

The Mound of Sound said...

No, Pamela, I've never written a book although I have listened to people tell me I must for years. There was even an English girl who thought me marriage-worthy because she was positive I would go on to write, presumably successfully. I have a fair mind for details and connecting dots but, when it comes to writing at any length, I have the attention span of a 3-year old.