Hillary: Here’s a Stake, Find Neoliberalism’s Heart

We need Clinton to take up Bernie Sanders’ progressive charge and end the long reign of market fundamentalism.

Susan J. Douglas August 24, 2016

Hillary Clinton, vampire slayer? (Jeff Swensen / Getty Images)

I am writ­ing in the wake of the Repub­li­can con­ven­tion,” where, inter­mixed with the car­ni­va­lesque moments, vin­tage George Wal­lace law-and-order rhetoric, rank xeno­pho­bia and 1930s-era iso­la­tion­ism, came ide­o­log­i­cal­ly thread­bare calls for the same old, same old: free­dom” from tax­es and gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions, and, as the plat­form insists, the need to rein in out-of-con­trol spending.”

With the 35-year run of market fundamentalism revealing its moral and economic bankruptcy, the American people need you to challenge this failed ideology.

There’s just one prob­lem with this. Dereg­u­la­tion, lim­its on state and fed­er­al gov­ern­men­tal spend­ing, the pri­va­ti­za­tion of basic ser­vices — what aca­d­e­mics call neolib­er­al­ism” — has been a proven and mas­sive fail­ure, except for one group: the top 1%. Wide­spread anger at being left behind, even screwed, by these poli­cies has fueled sup­port for Sanders and Trump, although with very dif­fer­ent imag­ined solu­tions. Even a research wing of the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund (IMF), in a recent arti­cle titled, Neolib­er­al­ism: Over­sold?,” admits that some neolib­er­al poli­cies have increased inequal­i­ty.” Indeed, the top 1% of the world report­ed­ly now has as much wealth as the rest of the plan­et. When the oth­er 99% can’t buy as many goods and ser­vices as they used to, it stalls eco­nom­ic growth. One solu­tion? Redis­tri­b­u­tion” by rely­ing on tax­es and gov­ern­ment spend­ing,” espe­cial­ly to min­i­mize the impact of neolib­er­al poli­cies on low-income groups,” the IMF researchers write. In addi­tion, instate pre­dis­tri­b­u­tion poli­cies” — such as increased spend­ing on edu­ca­tion and train­ing — to [expand] equal­i­ty of opportunity.”

In his con­ven­tion speech, Paul Ryan not­ed that peo­ple want a big change in direc­tion for Amer­i­ca.” But the changes” Repub­li­cans pro­pose rest on a return to dis­cred­it­ed poli­cies of yore: 1920s-style rabid anti-immi­gra­tion (although this time with the infa­mous bor­der wall that could cost an esti­mat­ed $25 bil­lion), the blind­ered iso­la­tion­ism of the 1930s, the anti-black law and order” crack-downs of the 1960s (and beyond) and the trick­le-down eco­nom­ics of the 1980s.

We do need a change, just the oppo­site of what the GOP pro­pos­es. So, dear Hillary, we need you to take up the charge ini­ti­at­ed by Bernie Sanders and dri­ve a stake in the heart of neolib­er­al­ism. Except please don’t call it that. Aside from being jar­gony, it sug­gests that some­how lib­er­al­ism is at the core of these greedy, heart­less poli­cies when it isn’t. It’s mar­ket fundamentalism.

You’ll have to repu­di­ate var­i­ous of your husband’s poli­cies: wel­fare reform” (where now some peo­ple only have food stamps to live on), the 1999 repeal of Glass-Stea­gall that led to the 2008 finan­cial cri­sis, the now-infa­mous 1994 crime bill that led to sky­rock­et­ing mass incar­cer­a­tion (espe­cial­ly of peo­ple of col­or). And then there are your own ties to Wall Street and neolib­er­al eco­nom­ic advi­sors (Lar­ry Sum­mers) and a record of par­tial­ly or whol­ly mar­ket-based pol­i­cy pro­pos­als (health­care). Indeed, one of the rea­sons many pro­gres­sives don’t trust or sup­port you is because of your and your husband’s com­plic­i­ty with advanc­ing the inter­ests of elites — and the mar­ket” — over every­day people.

But with the 35-year run of mar­ket fun­da­men­tal­ism reveal­ing its moral and eco­nom­ic bank­rupt­cy, the Amer­i­can peo­ple need you to chal­lenge this failed ide­ol­o­gy. Despite neoliberalism’s con­quest of much of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, we hoped Oba­ma could change course giv­en how the Great Reces­sion exposed the rav­ages of unchained cap­i­tal­ism. He made some progress, how­ev­er com­pro­mised, with the stim­u­lus pack­age, Oba­macare and Dodd-Frank. But the 2010 elec­tions put an end to that hope and change.

Hillary: The time is now. We need you to rebrand tax­es and gov­ern­ment spend­ing as invest­ments in the coun­try and our future. We need new bridges and roads, rein­vig­o­rat­ed pub­lic schools and uni­ver­si­ties, job train­ing and retrain­ing pro­grams, a much more robust safe­ty net for the poor and vul­ner­a­ble, that $15 min­i­mum wage, stu­dent debt for­give­ness and more low-inter­est stu­dent loans, paid parental leave, and much more. And we must, must reverse the march toward ever-greater income inequality.

With the Repub­li­can Par­ty in sham­bles, it is exact­ly the time to expose mar­ket fun­da­men­tal­ism for what it is: poli­cies by elites, for elites. They have dam­aged the coun­try, our pol­i­tics and too many peo­ple for too long. And wouldn’t it be great if it were a woman who had the guts to do it in?

Susan J. Dou­glas is a pro­fes­sor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan and a senior edi­tor at In These Times. Her forth­com­ing book is In Our Prime: How Old­er Women Are Rein­vent­ing the Road Ahead..
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