The intensification of neo-liberalism
Many, myself included, thought the collapse in 2007 represented the dramatic finale of the three decade old neo-liberal regime. I still think it ultimately will since the contradictions seem too vast to be overcome. But there’s little doubt the balance of power remains firmly with capital and has even shifted further to its side. Publics everywhere seem to have bought into the incredible idea further self punishment via austerity is a reasonable policy.
There was a time Europe was seen as a possible alternative to neo-liberalism; a different model where widespread social protections could offset at least some of the brutal features of capitalism. This view became untenable though after the fall of communism. The elites of Europe – the business barons and related entourage in the media, economic establishment, and political parties, along with the ancient aristocracy of princes and dukes – have completely reversed any movement toward social democracy. In every country, the right wing is in control or a center-left regime is doing its work. Austerity is the rule. The population has no institutional place to turn as the labor unions and social democratic parties have all been co-opted. There is no organized voice against the paradigm of capital.
Japan continues in crisis, having had five Prime Ministers in the past four years and deflation for the past two decades. No meaningful spending program is being proposed by current Prime Minister Naoto Kan and he’s endorsed an increase in the consumption tax in order to reduce the deficit.
And we could go on, looking at the miserable living standards in China, Latin America, India, Africa, Russia, etc. We strain to find any evidence of progressive politics. Cuba, despite its dictatorship, offered to some a hope of a different system. They’ve just laid off 10% of their public workforce. Hugo Chávez in Venezuela still stands out as an opponent of neo-liberalism but we’ll see how long that lasts.
In the US, Obama has no plan to reduce unemployment and his few minor proposals are nothing but warmed over republicanism. His infrastructure bank idea has received little notice but it could radically change how infrastructure is funded in a very regressive manner. Republicans and many democrats are openly campaigning on the need to cut social security, medicare, and medicaid. Expect social security benefits to be cut after the election. Obama, through his failure to lead in a progressive direction, has greatly strengthened the forces of the status quo.
And so it continues worldwide. Unemployment remains high, living standards are declining, insecurity is rising, and the wealthy are getting wealthier. The logic of this horrible system will continue until the public somewhere decides to wake up and see it for what it is.