Friday, 21 April 2017

Normalising Nuts: How Trump Hornswoggled America Into Loving Neoliberalism

Conservatism being pulled rightwards, by Wendy Cockcroft for On t'Internet
The Trump regime in America has, to date, alienated allies, prostituted the office of president, made a huge fool of itself over and over again, and is in the process of bringing the government to a standstill even though it holds both Houses. Why is he still in office?

I'm not keen on the boogeyman politics on offer at the moment. Back in the day it was socialism V neoliberalism and neoliberalism won because socialism got at the sherry, or something. With the enemy defeated, neoliberals took to trying to make the world a better place by bombing and shooting the hell out of it. They never saw the new enemy coming but, opportunists that they are, they've turned the argument into Far Right Nutters V Neoliberalism with socialism warming up on the sidelines. Why do the neoliberals keep winning and how can we get our own team to the top for a change?

They have three weapons they deploy to devastating effect:

  • ownership and control of much of the media
  • agenda for change attractive to moderates
  • chameleon-like ability to blend with other viewpoints

Let's take a closer look.

The media

The Establishment media is in love with Hillary Clinton and has been laying flowers on her political grave amid loud cries and lamentations. Blogger Peter Daou is a case in point. Someone needs to tell him the election is over and Hillary lost.

Those of us whose brains are working properly have been having a damn good laugh about it. Let me get this absolutely straight: I absolutely loathe this neocon war hawk but her administration would have been business as usual, not "LOLwut? Go home, Uncle Sam, you're drunk." She would have been the least worst choice. How did it come to this?

Red Scare politics

Red Scare politics is very much a thing in America and the Establisment Democrats have been feverishly exploiting this in a vain attempt to bring down the Trump administration. If cringe humour is your thing the hilarity is strong with those ones. One presumes they think that turnabout is fair play given that they've been demonised as leftists by the Republicans (or GOP - grand old party) for decades till they went neoliberal, pushing the GOP so far to the right that Trump was the natural outcome. In fact I'd even go as far as to say that marginalising the left created the opportunity for Donald Trump to aim for the White House; had there been a viable left, the right would not be as hard as it is and America would actually have a middle ground. It doesn't; neoliberalism is being cast as the middle ground. Neoliberalism can not survive without boogeymen. It needs an us-or-them polemic to hang its flag on — or be exposed for the pack of lies it is.

Fake news

When truth is in the eye of the beholder, this happens:

Notice I've been blocked for asking awkward questions. At no point is he engaging with me. He's not going to. Trump either is or isn't shilling his hotels while in office. He either did or didn't let Kellyanne Conway shill his daughter Ivanka's tat from the White House. He either did or didn't have trademarks granted to himself and his daughter from China after espousing policies friendly to Chinese interests. The neoliberals consider themselves the grown-ups and are themselves joining in the anti-Trump rhetoric. Notice that this happened on neocon David Frum's thread. Neoliberals have been making out like bandits over fake news because they are able to frame the narrative and broadcast it via the media outlets they have influence in.

Agenda for change

Donald Trump was elected because the people were hungry for change. Echo chamber dwellers are too busy writing off the opposition as white trash to see what the problem is: them. People tend to think they're voting in their best interests when voting for people who don't slag them off. This is why people defend Trump; he and his cohorts not only appeal to their prejudices, they appeal to them — even when cutting funds to the state agencies they depend on.

The Affordable Care Act

Once the consequences start kicking in people's attention is turned back to the policies they rejected on the grounds that they're not quite as bad. The Affordable Care Act is a mess because it's a boondoggle for the insurance industry. However, millions of Americans are better off with it than without it — or the proposed replacement. This is why some Congressmen can't face their constituents: they've got to serve this turkey — and they can't. Basically Americans have got a choice between the current mess or something worse; that is the only choice neoliberalism ever has to offer. Their agenda for change is always attractive at first glance but in the end it's either a boot off a cliff or a slap in the face. Choose.

Ability to blend

Neoliberals are chameleon-like in their ability to get on board with moderates — then to get the moderates on board with them. To advance their agenda for change they'll harp on about the electability of certain popular politicians.


Neoliberals have currently got the left-leaning Glyn Moody on the Corbyn-bashing battle-bus. He seems to be planning to vote Lib Dem, forgetting that they've got no chance of winning the election and that the only chance we have of rolling Brexit back is if the right-wing press get on board. As I have predicted, this has begun: The Sun has noticed that Brexit might cause economic problems for drivers. Neoliberals want to reverse Brexit: they want to remain because of the advantages to business and society. The hard right is too busy singing "Rule Britannia" to notice the problems it's causing now. That they whinge about EU agencies leaving Britain is the icing on the hilarity cake. This is where the neoliberals get in: they take advantage of stupidity on the right and disarray on the left, making friends with the moderates on either side to push their agenda. If they get what they want, we will sigh in relief at the near miss and it's back to the democratic deficit and ever-closer union we were trying to get out of.

Is Trump turning neoliberal?

The Trump trainwreck continues but now it has a neoliberal/neocon flavour: Nikki Haley has spoken openly about regime change in Syria. Why? He got sick and tired of the neoliberals taking the ever-living mickey out of him for accepting everything the alt-right media broadcasts as gospel. Ethical irregularities are dogging his administration but they're being quietly settled, leaving the Establishment media to rag on him for running America like a banana republic — now with extra nepotism. I'm not even joking: son-in-law Jared Kushner was invited to Iraq by the Joint Chiefs of Staff because he's a senior adviser to the President. Isn't that Rex Tillerson's job? Meanwhile, Ivanka Trump will participate in a panel discussion on women's economic empowerment during an official visit to Germany next week. Isn't that Melania's job as First Lady? Expect the neoliberals to keep on tugging at the threads until the cloth unravels; Obama was much more amenable to them. Trump is still alt-right but unless they can come up with a way of making him look respectable on the world stage, he is more likely than not to continue heading in a neoliberal direction, if only to save his brand.

Is there an alternative?

Yes, there's an alternative. It's called "Middle-out," and I believe in it wholeheartedly. We don't need a revolution, we just need to think for ourselves. The trouble is, we don't. We fall into the see-saw them-or-us game every time because the neoliberals convince us there is no alternative; there's only "bad" or "worse." Why can't we have "better" instead? I've been banging the Middle-out drum since I discovered it because it actually works in practice. The basic principles:

  • raise the minimum wage to increase spending in the retail and service sectors (where most of us work!)
  • create more social housing programs
  • free education and healthcare
  • tax the most wealthy at a higher rate

What I propose would go a lot further:

  • Raise taxes on those earning over £500k PA to £65%
  • Cap CEO/Senior officer pay at x15 times that of the lowest-paid member of staff. When they get a pay rise, so do the staff
  • Encourage the proliferation of profit-sharing schemes to give employees more of a stake in the company
  • Increase the minimum wage to £7.50 PH (this was 2014. I'd make it a tenner now)
  • Cap prescription charges at £10 for multiple items
  • Subsidize public transport for those earning less than £14k PA as part of a co-payment scheme with employers (this was 2014. I'd make it £16k now)
  • Create a co-payment scheme for childcare where the Government pays for half and the employer pays the rest
  • Build more social housing
  • Tax second homes and empty properties at an incremental rate to force them onto the market
  • Invest in education, healthcare, and infrastructure to support workers and encourage people into work
  • Get rid of mass surveillance. Targeted surveillance is more effective for catching criminals
  • Use OS
  • Eliminate waste
  • Reform IPR, reduce copyright terms to 10-15 years, and promote alternative business models for artists, inventors and creators
  • Break up the big corporations using anti-trust laws to encourage competition and free up the market
  • End the war on drugs and treat them as a health issue

This would bring more tax revenue in using a two-prong attack: more revenues via taxes and savings on unnecessary expenditure. I'm all for cuts when they're on programs we don't need. I've tried to get people talking about this but it tends to run into an ideological brick wall because people are stuck on the left-right see-saw. I'd like to get us all talking about it as urgently as possible. Only Middle-out can put a stake through neoliberalism's cold black heart; Socialism doesn't work in practice, Middle-out does. Think about it: everyone against a rise in the minimum wage is demanding that workers in low or no-skill jobs should work for a pittance so they can get things cheaply. That's just wrong. Prosperity for whom? In any case, competition keeps costs down. Look: we can either pay more for things or be taxed or tapped more by charities to pay for food for poor workers. I'd rather have them stand on their own two feet.

What now?

We will either remain on the see-saw, waiting to see what America does, then follow suit, or we'll get off the damn thing and try something new. I'd like to believe we would at least consider something new. Can we at least discuss it?

No comments:

Post a Comment