Neoliberalism began its assault by Marc Batko 5/21/2024

Back in 1980, neoliberalism began its assault and redefinition of the state and society with Reagan and Thatcher.  The latter repeated her mantra: there is no society, only families and individuals.  Private, special interests muzzled and pretended to be the general interest.  Privatization and the austerity policy led to the housing crises of unaffordability and homelessness.  A corrupt government and a corrupt media, state failure and market failure normalized generalized insecurity.

In Portland, Oregon, the old, abandoned downtown post office could have become a village of four or five SROs (single resident occupancy) hotels.  Instead, it is a gigantic, empty parking lot too far from businesses and shops to be useful.

Resist the beginnings of fascism!  Did we hear the wake-up calls?  Did we see the writing on the wall?  

Did we hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor?

1. What lessons did we learn from the homemade horrors of Vietnam, Nicaragua, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Ukraine and Gaza?

2. Have we been “bright-sided” so we don’t see failure, tragedy and collapse or evil, war and violence?

3. Have we fallen for the neoliberal myths like the self-healing market, money out of thin air, money as a private matter, lifting oneself up by one’s bootstraps, dishwashers become millionaires and financial markets returning to equilibrium?

4. Have we preferred the liar, deceiver, insurance and bank fraudster, con-man, insurrectionist, xenophobe, homophobe and misogynist to the selfless Messiah Jesus of Nazareth?

5. Have we learned that militarism has not contributed anything, that wars always have two losers and that hatred (including China-hate and Russia-hate) leads to blindness?

6. Did we glory in Trump’s eight years of media hate after George Orwell’s warning of two minutes of hate uniting the nation?

7. Did we embrace cheap grace and cheap citizenship and mock costly grace (cf. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship) as escapism?  Did we think the market was a self-contained ethic or a total ethic in itself absolving us of responsibility?  Did we identify sickness with sin, cars with success and longevity with life?

8. Are wars based on fear, greed. scapegoating and projecting power?

9. Did the encirclement of Russia begin in 1999 with Clinton?

10. Do Americans (or Westerners) love their scapegoats more than their dogs?

11. What are our models of liberation and enlightenment?  How did neoliberalism encourage financialization and irresponsible financial markets?  How did Reagan and Thatcher make the poor invisible and exempt corporations and the super-rich from fair taxation?  Why aren’t neoliberal myths, tax havens, stock buybacks, the tax avoidance industry micro-second betting (casino economy) and insider trading discussed in economics departments?

12. How did Trump divide and ruin the country by nonstop name-calling, mud-throwing, slandering women, minorities, immigrants, the Department of Education, the Department of Justice (e.g. Obama judges), the EPA and the mass media?


Erich Fromm’s “Escape from Freedom” analyzed the human desire for a strong man and the German willingness to exchange autonomy for dissolving in a group for social acceptance.  Other reasons may be the completely deficient socialization in capitalism, conformity pressures in the work society, media demonization of rebels, complacency, lack of social movements, political paralysis and polarization and the veiled media power of right-wing extremism.

As a professor in Europe and the US, Elisabeth Bronfen said “When reading declines, diversity goes out the window.” Reading enables us to recognize the ambivalences, inconsistencies, and hypocrises in history, literature and current relations.  Illiterate persons are very susceptible to simplistic black-white thinking, stereotyping and scapegoating and normalizing militarism, war, and violence.

Loic Wacquant, a professor in Chicago and currently at the University of California in Berkeley, wrote a book titled “The Punishing State” and explained the stabilizing ghetto-prison connection.  For centuries, education and universities defended and encouraged dissent and independence; now universities are often machines of social conformity.  To be published in leading journals, professors must repress system criticism and system alternatives!

Astonishment is a theological reality.  Our age has promoted science and technology and denigrated the human sciences (philosophy, history, language, play and the arts.  We stand on the shoulders of writers and dissidents in a time of endless war-making and propaganda.  Authentic existence begins when we demystify the market and break the chains of false needs, false consciousness and alienation (cf. Herbert Marcuse, “The One-Dimensional Man”)!

The fire of youth will never be put out.  Students and professors speak out against the 6-month massacre of the poorest of the poor in forgotten Gaza.  Truth will make us free but the truth is a process, not a cudgel.  Peace education should replace military training. A Marshall Plan for journalism run not by the state but by progressive foundations and philanthropists could give the hope of meaningful work to a generation abandoned to Amazon assembly lines and Uber drivers!

We cannot remember what we never learned!  Understanding the future is impossible without referring and immersing ourselves in the past.  Now we find ourselves in the US in a time of generalized mistrust in institutions.  The US has had a history of 240 years of war and seemingly never learned lessons from the horrors of Vietnam, Iraq, Nicaragua, Libya, Afghanistan, Ukraine and Gaza!

In 1963, Ulrich Beck, a German sociologist, wrote an important book “The Risk Society.”  Albert Einstein lamented that the bomb changed everything (e.g. security, strength, health, power and powerlessness) except the way we think. Nuclear weapons are destabilizing!  The more we have, the more insecure we are.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the pastor, theologian and martyr, said “Peace is a risk and a venture and cannot be found on the way of security.”  

More and more people are recognizing the fragility, ambivalence, vulnerability and dystopia of developed societies. The rule of the stronger is the rule of the jungle!  Defending the oppressed and human dignity should be our priority as efficiency and success become absolutized by our consumerist, hyper-individualist and hyper-materialist culture. Become post-materialists!


More jobs are replaced by technology, computerization and robotization than are created.  Reducing growth, shriveling the financial sector and expanding the public sector should be vital lessons from the 2008 financial meltdown.  Awareness of the mounting scarcity of resources and of the wastefulness of Western society is growing. Generation Z lives without yearning for a single-family home or a car.

In the 1960s, people in all classes and occupations recognized that investments in education lead to far more living-wage jobs than investments in the military.  The military is also the most environmentally destructive sector that releases greenhouse gases and darkens the future on the quiet.  Education investments representative qualitative growth and enlightened reason that often fall to the wayside in an economic system fixated on profit maximization and capital accumulation.

In his eleven years as the Argentinian head of the Catholic Church, the non-conformist Pope Francis has pleaded for the poor, encouraged social movements and decried the worship of profit.  In an encyclical, he protested “This economy kills!”  On the eve of the Ukraine war, he warned “NATO barks at Russia’s borders.”  Encircling Russia and China with military bases, expanding NATO from 16 to 31 states and ignoring Russia’s legitimate security and sovereignty interests make a global war a frightening possibility!  The West is certainly complicit in provoking Russia’s vicious attack on Ukraine.  Wouldn’t the US become nervous if China and Russia built bases in Canada and Mexico?

How can we transition to a sustainable society that elevates common goods and public investments and no longer turns a blind eye to fair taxation, affordable housing and bank security?  The US has an economy of indebtedness and enrichment that now spends a trillion dollars annually to finance its $33 trillion debt.  The richest three Americans have more wealth than 160 million people! (cf. Bernie Sanders’ and Robert Reich’s many articles on pernicious inequality). While inflation rose 7% per year since the COVID pandemic began in 2020, corporate profits exploded 31%.  Neither magic thinking nor wishful thinking can turn urban skid-rows or the humanitarian crisis of homelessness into zones of human dignity! 

Massive state investments in SROs (single-resident occupancy) and affordable apartments, learning from Germany’s partial state subsidies for part-time workers and emulating Vancouver’s 26 community centers and 2014 Welcoming Center for Refugees could be crucial steps to a more human mixed economy.  Community centers could be a third way beyond the state and the market.  Can we imagine an economy more open to sustainable change and qualitative growth than our market-oriented economy and publishers only seeking blockbusters and maximum profits?


1. Human labor is praised as the most important core of the capitalist economy.  Nevertheless, workers are often expendable.  More work is replaced by machines, computers and robots than is created.

2. Seventy years ago, 90% of investment was productive.  Today, 90% of investment is speculative (cf. Noam Chomsky). With Clinton’s abrogation of the Glass-Steagal Act, the firewall between commercial and speculative banks was torn down.

3. Citizens United, a 2010 Supreme Court decision, ruled that money was speech and corporations were persons.  As a result, US elections are often auction.  Incumbents, able to gain most campaign contributions, win 95-96% of the contests.

4. In the past ten years, the Electoral College gave the presidency to two candidates who came in second in the popular vote.  Six or seven “battleground” states decide elections.  Millions become irrelevant and superfluous; distrust and cynicism replace public spirit and confidence in the future.

5. Nixon introduced a Technology Assessment Office so legislators could judge which investments would create more living-wage jobs and best preserve the environment.  This Office no longer exists!

6. The financial markets expanded and become a controlling force in all areas of society through financialization. After making themselves independent of the real economy, they deprived the real economy of crucial resources.

7. In the 1960s, 40% of federal revenue came from corporate taxes.  Now in 2024, only 7% of federal revenue comes from corporations.  States and cities face revenue shortfalls and must choose between food, heating and housing assistance.  Most multinational corporations shift their profits to tax havens like the Cayman Islands, Switzerland, Delaware or Wyoming.  Trillions in profits are spent mischievously on stock buybacks (Apple spent $110 billion on buying back their own stock according to Robert Reich).  Socialism and guaranteed incomes for the rich and the brutal, unforgiving “free market” for everyone else!

8. The welfare state is not Bolshevism but the human future.  Educational systems indoctrinate students in anti-communism and ignore the pressing need to build ant-fascism coalitions.  We clean the outside of the cup and leave the inside filthy! We see the speck in our brother’s eye but not the log of militarism or the casino economy in our own system!  

9. Since 2000, the US has had an average trade deficit of $600 billion.  We import twice as much as we export.  We are a wasteful, war-mongering predator who fantasize ourselves as exceptional, irreplaceable and eternal! 

10. The multi-polar world has superseded the uni-polar or bipolar world of our parents and grandparents.  BRICs (Brazil, China, India, China, South Africa and others) have a greater GDP than the G7.  In Chinese, existence means co-existence.  China, the workbench of the world, has had an average annual growth rate of 7-9% that is either two or three times the rate of the West or of the rapidly declining US hegemon.

11. In their Project for a New American Century, the neocons boasted: We are an empire and make our own reality to which all other nations must adjust.  Anthony Blinkin and Victoria Nuland replaced the old neocons, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and others.

12. The future can only be understood by reflecting and learning from the past.  The world is no longer running after Coca Cola, rock-n-roll and incomprehensible financial products!  The world has changed dramatically.

China has built 600 schools in Iraq and airports in Africa.  Can’t we say a positive word about China? They lifted 700 million persons out of absolute poverty and manufacture cell phones and solar panels while working for almost nothing!

America is a former empire in rapid decline that disguises its contradictions and refuses progressive corrections. It pretends to still dominate the world as a hegemon with an unsustainable economy of indebtedness and enrichment and a foreign policy of permanent war, scapegoating and projecting its power.   The US and Germany are like dwarfs on steroids or three-year olds firing threats at a heavy-weight champion! 

Teachers and nurses should be trained.  A four-day work week would grant workers better long-term health and more time sovereignty and would safeguard the rights and integrity of nature.  The capitalist system must radically change to survive!

Peace education should replace military training.  Admitting our economic, social and political decline and accepting the multi-polar world are imperative if we want to generate trust and confidence after our predatory past of veiling, deceiving and scapegoating.  Telling the truth in a corrupt age is a revolutionary act! (cf George Orwell)

Be a critic!  Be a prophet!  Be a post-materialist!

See through the advertisements, seductions and phony right-wing populism!  Resist the beginnings of fascism, threatened mass detention camps, demonizing leftists as vermin, trashing migrants, the media, Obama judges, the Department of Education, the EPA, language, democracy and the rule of law!  Trump is a socio-pathic narcissist and an attention-whore enamored with himself.  He is neither “the Chosen One,” “the Nelson Mandela of our time,” or the only one who understands economics and taxation, immigration and international law!

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