By Colin Jenkins
Feb 7, 2018
Neoliberalism is a mature stage of capitalism - a reciprocal process of concentrated wealth taking control of the public agenda via government. Capitalist economists like Milton Friedman were instrumental in paving the way for neoliberalism. The idea gained prominence in these circles during the 1970s before manifesting itself through the Reagan administration in the 1980s. It has been the modus operandi for the federal government ever since.
"Starving the Beast" (lowering tax revenue available to the government) was one of the goals of this agenda. Proponents disliked all types of government-run social programs and believed the most effective way to end them was to create an environment where they simply could no longer be funded. Cutting taxes on corporations and the wealthy would accomplish this. If carried through, they thought, successive budget cuts would surely follow until each program was virtually gutted or at the very least, minimized.
A rhetorical push for "personal responsibility" paralleled this agenda. Proponents encouraged individuals, communities, churches, and non-profits to fill the eventual void that would occur from "starving the beast." In other words, we were all warned of the struggle ahead. And we were told to simply figure it out amongst ourselves.
Clinton's welfare reform in the 1990s further cemented this agenda. Over the course of three decades, we can see this process playing out. Many poor/working people have been forced to support one another. Children are now living with parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles well into their 30s. Others are packing studio apartments with three or four roommates. Church programs and food pantries have been pushed to their limits. Radical working-class political groups are creating service programs. Anarchist-led programs are feeding the hungry. Socialist-led programs are distributing women's hygiene products, so on and so on.
Despite such efforts, people only have so much to work with. Without resources, we have been set up to fail. Feelings of hopelessness and despair have become pervasive in our households and communities. Drug epidemics are skyrocketing. Prisons have effectively replaced public housing for many. And we continue to lash out at one another, rather than at those who placed us in this position.
And one of the tragically ironic things about this whole situation is that, despite the profound misery that has been thrust upon us, working people are still burdened with crippling taxation. However, the revenue we create is not even used for our good. Instead, we pay taxes to feed the American military machine. Or to fund the police who harass us in our communities. Or to fund corporate subsidies. Or to fund foreign coups. Or to provide foreign aid to apartheid states like Israel. In other words, not only are we being systematically decimated by this agenda, we are also being forced to fund our own demise.
In 2006, Warren Buffet told the NY Times: "There's class warfare, all right... but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning." For several decades, the class war has had us cowering in a defensive posture. It's time to get offensive.