The Texas black-out debacle is providing as pure an expression of neoliberalism that I’ve seen. The two simple rules of neoliberalism are Rule #1: Because markets. Rule #2: Go die!
As Texas battles a severe snowstorm and mass power outages, Tim Boyd, the now-former Republican mayor of Colorado City, revealed his party’s plan for the deadly extreme temperatures linked to climate change. In a lengthy Facebook post that was deleted soon after it went viral, then-Mayor Boyd told his residents that they were entirely on their own as the brutal winter weather caused mayhem and deaths across the Lone Star state.
His outburst was revealing. “Sink or swim it’s your choice!” he wrote. “The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING! Only the strong will survive and the weak will perish.” For such honesty to come from the elected leader of a city–a man literally chosen by his people to ensure that local government works for them–was shocking.
What was not shocking was that conservative ideologues immediately blamed communist windmills and non-existent Green-New-Deals for the loss of power. However, while the non-weatherized windmills went offline, they were a small part of the story. The real story is that millions of Texans have suffered the effects of a design, invented by economists, aided by a myth, that served the fossil fuel industry and the politicians it funds. One of these politicians, US Senator Ted Cruz, acted in perfect synchronicity with the system’s free-market logic by leaving for Cancún. Meanwhile, former Governor Rick Perry claims that Texans are prepared to sacrifice themselves to avoid the curse of socialism.
The conservative mindset can be counted on to prioritize private interests over public ones. In a Republican utopia, the rich are noble and deserving of basic necessities, comforts, and life itself. If they have rigged the system to benefit themselves, it means they are smart, not conniving. In the future that Republicans promise, “Only the strong will survive and the weak will perish,” as Boyd stated. Our lives are expendable, and if we die, it is because we deserve it and we were not smart enough to survive.
Meanwhile, Democrats, while not as callous, are also down with organizing our country according to the rules of neoliberalism. Take education, another public service that has been privatized through the use of tax credits and charter school funding. Both Republican, Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos and Democratic, Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan believe fervently in the magic of private charter schools with the only difference being that Arne knows to keep the sociopathy on the down-low while Betsy expresses it full-throatedly.
What this latest tragedy makes blindingly obvious is that the 2 rules of neoliberalism apply unevenly. The 1% and their economic and political allies are not held to the same market logic as the rest of us. No, it’s socialism and a vacation in Mexico for them, while the savagery of the “free market” is reserved for the rest of us. And, they certainly don’t go die. They and their malign offspring live forever.
What’s also become apparent is that what happened in Texas is not a bug but a feature. Neoliberalism is an ideology that prioritizes profits above people and maintains that the “market” is sacrosanct then describes its brutality as the workings of the “Invisible Hand”. All of this to keep you afraid of what could happen in case you lose your job or insurance or can’t make rent and end up living under a bridge. Death and suffering isn’t an accidental outcome or an oversight–it’s part of the plan.
What all this means is that if you reside in a neoliberal austerity country like the US, which has spent 40 years de-regulating and privatizing public infrastructure and downsizing the public service into incapability, you end up with a situation where you can’t count on the State for water, food, or power during emergencies.
In the meantime our elected leaders are literally hoping you go die.