Managing the Decline


We are witnessing the first presidential campaign since the Great Depression that directly challenges the essential features of the US economy. All the controversy over social issues and immigration is just so much distraction from the bi-partisan economic policies that have made inequality the story of the 2016 presidential election. Presently, both parties serve the 1%, who’ve been using the ideological cover of neoliberalism to engage in an orgy of looting.

Neoliberalism is set of economic theories and policies that replaced New Deal economic policies during the crisis of stagflation in the 1970s. Neoliberal’s argue that prosperity will occur only if we cut taxes on the wealthy, cut government regulations, and cut or privatize government social programs that aid average Americans. This combination of policies, they argue, maximizes economic efficiency and increases economic incentives which together will super-charge our economy.

40 years on now and the results are in. Neoliberalism has failed the vast majority of Americans. We live in a nation whose infrastructure is falling apart. Where the quality of life for the non-wealthy deteriorates year in and year out. As the recent leak of the Panama Papers reveals, the wealthy and the corporations they control, have decided, like Leona Helmsley famously declared, that, taxes are for the little peopleand have been stashing their money in secret offshore bank accounts to avoid contributing to our welfare.

Americans may not understand the specifics but they get the outline of the neoliberal economic policies that have resulted in the raging inequality that now plagues our country.  For instance, in 1970 the gap between the top 100 CEOs and the average worker was $45 to $1. Today it is an incomprehensible $844 to $1. Neoliberalism has been horrible for average Americans, yet stunningly successful for the 1% and the corporations they control.

Maybe that was the plan all along.

With the wild and wacky presidential election of 2016 drawing attention to this pernicious state of affairs, it’s probably time to ask the million-dollar question. Do you think that our elite intend to fix these problems, or manage them and muddle along?

Writer Gaius Publius says that the goal of the neo-liberal consensus is to “manage the decline, and manage your acceptance of it. And that’s what this election is about — on both sides. Acceptance or resistance.”


The establishment candidates, like Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz, intend to manage the decline and not fundamentally change the US economic system of neoliberalism. Donald Trump has issued some blunt challenges, but I suspect that he’ll fall in line with the ruling consensus. After all, he’s a businessman who negotiates.

That leaves Bernie Sanders as the only candidate to challenge neoliberalism, and the resulting inequality. Everyone is talking about is income inequality but the fundamental cause of income inequality is almost always how power is distributed in society. That’s what Bernie is challenging.

No wonder he’s getting such shitty press.

I’ll let professor Corey Robin have the last word. “The American ruling class has been trying to figure out for years, if not decades, how to manage decline, how to get Americans to get used to diminished expectations, how to adapt to the notion that life for the next generation will be worse than for the previous generation, and now, how to accept low to zero growth rates as the new economic normal. Clinton’s campaign message isn’t just for Bernie voters; it’s for everyone. Expect little, deserve less, ask for nothing. When the leading candidate of the more left of the two parties is saying that — and getting the majority of its voters to embrace that message — the work of the American ruling class is done.”





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