Monday, May 04, 2015

Democratic Party corporate liberalism, aka neoliberalism with a smiley face, is alive and well

New York is one of the most expensive places in the world to live. So is London. Yet they both remain two of the most important financial centers in the world.

Silicon Valley is also one of the most expensive places to live and is having yet another of the area's chronic real estate booms - or at least price increases. Yet "Silicon Valley" remains a center of the tech industry and even a nickname for it.

That's the framework in which this article by Maryland's Delaware's Democratic Gov. Jack Markell, Americans Need Jobs, Not Populism 05/03/2015. The soul of the DLC's ideology goes marching on in it, though now incarnated as Third Way.

"Globalization means that businesses can hire, locate, and expand anywhere in the world," he writes. And apparently the correct thing for workers, consumer and public officials to do is bow down to their betters and obey their commands.

In Markell's view, the key to prosperity and all things good is our old friend the Confidence Fairy. If government just caters hard enough to business by freeing them of burdens like safety and environmental regulations and the terrible, confidence-destroying horror of having to pay taxes to support their country and communities, the nice businesspeople will create jobs- they're the Job Creators, you know - and what more do those cretinous peons (aka, workers) want?

This is probably the most important "tell" in Markell's piece:

When I was 17, I visited India. Getting off the bus in New Delhi, I found myself immediately surrounded by impoverished children. That visit — and my shock at what I saw — started me on a lifelong journey. I was especially struck by the dichotomy in wealth that I saw in India. It was unlike anything that I had ever experienced in the U.S. The streets seemed to be full of either successful businesspeople scurrying to work or beggars. I didn’t see much in between. Overwhelmed by what I saw, I asked family friends in New Delhi to explain what I was seeing.

Their answer included some discussion of the caste system and the barriers it created for so many Indians. But they also boiled poverty down to one main cause: a profound lack of decent jobs. [my emphasis]
This isn't a statement of compassion. It's an expression of disgust. Disgust at the annoying little Indian beggars. Disgust at the Indian economic system, so obviously inferior to our American one. A statement of American Exceptionalism, in other words. The righteous indignation of the colonist toward inferior peoples.

So he proceeds to tell us how we have to encourage the Confidence Fairy by pandering to business lobbies. If we don't all want to end up like those disgusting Indian beggar children.

Markell presents this as an important learning experience for himself. And India returns to his story later:

Thanks to my time in business and harkening back to those few depressing days in India, I had developed an overriding conviction that a good job trumps all else.
So, his insights into the economic lessons of India for America come from a "few depressing days in India" as a 17-year-old tourist?

Central to my perspective — from that first trip to India, through my work in the private sector, to my efforts as treasurer to help empower the economically disempowered, to finally returning to India nearly four decades later as governor, seeking job opportunities for Delawareans — is the synergy, rather than the contradiction, between economic growth and economic justice. [my emphasis]
So the Happy Ending to his "lifelong journey" inspired by those few depressing days seeing those awful Indian beggar children was that he returned to India - to get jobs for people in Delaware?

In the end, "India" serves in his article as an ideological cautionary tale to promote the Third Way corporatist agenda. He even quotes Third Way in the article.

His more concrete policy proposals include the following.

He supports the TPP corporate-deregulation treaty dressed up in trade-treaty drag. "An Asian trade agreement could lower tariffs and export barriers so businesses can gain a foothold." In fact, there are no significant tariff barriers to trade with the US and the TPP countries. The "export barriers," though, are regulations that annoy corporations that the TPP would empower private, business-controlled tribunals to override. And since a treaty has the same force of law as the Constitution, this decisions would override American legislatures and courts.

Then he offers a Big Four list of reforms he supports that at least sound Democratic: "a reasonable wage, a comfortable retirement befitting a lifetime of work, affordable health insurance, and enough money to save for college."

"Reasonable" wages are good, of course. What's "reasonable" to the owners may not seem so reasonable to the workers. The word "union" does not appear in his article, though "labor" shows up once. He even writes, "Business icons built this understanding into their own business models. American auto pioneers insisted on paying a wage that allowed their own employees to purchase what they manufactured and assembled." Unions? Sit-down strikes? Walter Reuther? No, it was the kindly auto executives who decided all on their own to give higher wages and pensions! Shoot, I bet the unions even delayed all the good stuff the nice auto bosses wanted to do ...

And this guy is a Democrat!

He endorses a Third Way retirement plan he describes this way: "a 50-cent per hour minimum requirement contribution from all employers to all employees that would be invested in a low-fee diversified fund and that would provide a decent nest egg at retirement." Wow, he's discovered IRAs! Which haven't come close to making up for the massive loss of the defined-benefit pensions plans over the last 3 1/2 decades of neoliberal-style reform. His retirement proposal pretty much translates into: You're outta luck, suckers! Try begging in the streets like the Indians that disgust me!

He says he likes ACA, which is good as far as it goes. Add a public option? Surely, you're joking. Instead, he proposes this cryptic rune: "Moving health care away from a fee for service model to one based on value, would help eliminate a system that is laden with rising costs that eat up paychecks, send jobs overseas, overburdens taxpayers, and drowns out public investments." I don't know what that means, if anything. Maybe he's talking about converting Medicare to ACA-style private insurance? That is less clear than your average New Age chant to the Moon Goddess.

And "save for college." Good idea, obviously. He holds up Delaware's free community colleges as an example of what can be done here. But this is hardly new. Nationwide, the amount of support provided by states to the own state college and university systems has declined drastically. Reversing that trend, or replacing it with federal resources, would be a major change in spending priorities. And without some like that, the higher educational system is more likely to reinforce maldistribution of wealth than to ameliorate it. In any case, the neoliberal gospel that education is the solution to all the problems that neoliberal policies have caused or made worse doesn't hold water.

More corporate-deregulation treaties masquerading as "free trade" agreements. Reasonable wages, determined at the discretion of employers. IRAs. Community colleges. Some voodoo conjuring to hold down health care costs. The bold new ideas of a Third Way believer!

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