When we defend Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid we should take care to ground our support in the life experience of social classes. These programs are of vital importance to poor people who are unemployed or under employed and to the working class that has limited sources for retirement or health care. These programs are not personal investments, they are social investments. They provide, or should provide, a basic standard of living and health care for all our citizens. The expenditures should help rectify some of the class-based inequality of our capitalist system.
Quote from page 118 of Philip Mirowski’s new book.
“The neoliberal dismissal of effective social categories has had other consequences. For instance, during the 2008-10 crisis, the Obama administration encountered great difficulty in rolling back regressive tax cuts of the previous administration, because it had equally invested in the ludicrous language of “not raising the taxes of the middle class.” They became bogged down in a game of guessing where the upper tax boundary of that elusive middle class might be found: $100,000, $200,000, $250,000, $1 million? This was occurring when the median household income in the United States (2009) was $51,221 and the average per capita annual money income was $27,041; the public discourse was consequently conducted in a pristine fact-free zone. Or in another instance, all social insurance schemes that are necessarily based upon membership in economic classes are undermined by the abolition of class as a voluntary category of self-identity. Pension and Social Security schemes can be personalized and then privatized only when the target population has been stripped of all notions of justice as rooted in class solidarity; once the authority begins to recast its provision of an insurance scheme as a “personal investment,” and retreats to justification of such schemes as “getting back what you (alone) put in,” then the neoliberals have won half the battle.”
Mirowski, Philip. 2013. Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown. London & New York: Verso. http://www.versobooks.com/books/1416-never-let-a-serious-crisis-go-to-waste.
If the label neoliberal confuses you, it helps to know that is not part of the media labeling of US ideologies that range from conservative (Sen. Orin Hatch) to liberal (Sen. Elizabeth Warren). The term neoliberal is applied to economists, legal scholars, and other social scientists who emphasize the concepts of “markets” and “freedom.” They don’t trust democracy or populist social movements to maintain a well ordered market society. They extol individualism and reject any sort of class or community solidarity. Neoliberal policies may be advocated and enacted by a wide range of Republican and Democratic politicians. Bill Clinton and Barrak Obama are strong advocates of neoliberal policies (school choice, vouchers, welfare reform, private health insurance, marketization of everything and so on ad nauseam). Neoliberal ideas are behind most of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank structural adjustment programs imposed on countries around the world, especially in the 1980s and 1990s.