Neoliberal Asphyxiation

by Robert Hunziker

Neoliberalism sucks the air out of the middle class, and it suffocates politicians.

It likely makes no difference who wins the November elections because the course of neoliberalism is already powerfully set in place, and it sets the course for America, not politicians; they simply follow orders. This reality, in turn, serves to anticipate disruption of the American capitalistic system. It is very likely doomed to utter failure by caving in under its own vibrations, its callousness, its self-indulgence, its narcissistic tendencies with a high probability that a major disruption of the neoliberal capitalist state is dead ahead.

By definition, a capitalistic democracy must function with some semblance of equanimity that embraces the body politic. If otherwise, frustration, anger, and violence erupt in a maddening force of destruction as social classes clash. This is already brutally evident in the electioneering process in America today.

These sequences are self-fulfilling dilemmas intertwined within tenets of neoliberalism, a socio politico economic system that undercuts the American dream, smashing it to smithereens, politically redirecting the avenues of capitalistic development away from production and labor to high finance, thus, scorching the pathway for upward mobility for all but the elite, leaving the broad-reaching middle and lower classes in a choking dust-filled vacuum of indignation. Anger displaces hope. In turn, this manifests in popular support for candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. And haplessly, this expression of utter frustration is merely a symptom of much deeper trouble.

How did this happen?

Neoliberalism alters the wealth-creation processes whereby opportunity is shifted from the middle and lower classes to an exclusive avenue populated by the wealthy. This is accomplished by elected politicians who utilize trade pacts (NAFTA), and manipulate taxation law (“15% carried-interest” tax rate for people like Mitt Romney), and deregulate protective public interests like abandonment of the Glass Steagall Act, which prohibited commercial banks from market speculation, all in order to shift money from the pockets of the lower/middle to the upper class. The result is the rich get a lot richer, unbelievably richer, and everybody else gets really pissed off, signaling outright failure of this brand of capitalism, i.e., neoliberalism, to coexist within the precepts of a democratic republic.

It’s all about privatization and profit and deregulation whilst cutting average people off at the knees. It’s little wonder that people are casting votes of retribution. They’ve been had, turned upside down, sideways, and assailed from the rear. After a while, it hurts.

Meanwhile, the country is broke. How else explain an $18 trillion government debt and fiscal deficit spending year after year after year to the tune of hundreds of billions. Over time, this is how bankruptcy happens. Meantime, the banker of last resort (a telling phrase), the Federal Reserve, is pumping trillions into a bottomless pit. This is unprecedented economic behavior, never before in American history. “What’s Up” is a very, very good question to ponder.

Still, why the shortfall in government revenues, resulting in a huge debt burden? Is it too much largess or is it too little tax collection?

According to Thomas Piketty (Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Harvard University Press, 2014): “Taxes are the only weapon that can put a stop to the insane explosion of very high pay,” Peter Coy, Thomas Piketty Has Learned a Thing or Two About Capitalism, Bloomberg News, March 30, 2016.

In that regard, here’s what the ledger says about taxation amongst major countries (Source: CIA, The World Factbook 2015 of total taxes and other revenues received by national governments expressed as a percent of GDP. Taxes include personal and corporate taxes, value-added taxes, excise taxes, and tariffs. Other revenues include social security and hospital insurance, and grants).

Here then is a random sampling of total taxes as a percentage of GDP from lowest to highest:

Cuba 3.5%
HK 20.7%
China 21.3%
USA 25%
Saudi Arabia 29%
Switzerland 32.8%
Australia 34.3%
Japan 35%
Canada 37.2%
UK 38.4%
Spain 38.8%
Netherlands 44.8%
Germany 45%
Kuwait 49.6%
France 51.7%
Sweden 51.8%.

The worldwide average is 27.3%, which number is artificially low as it includes lesser-developed countries that offer few, if any, public services.

The ultra low USA tax base is a reflection of neoliberalism’s penchant for turbo-charging wealth creation for the wealthy whilst diminishing funds, or alternatively going into debt, for public services, thereby $18 trillion in national debt. Concurrently, neoliberalism’s affinity for “profits at any and all costs” dispatches good-paying American jobs to low-paying China, thereby exporting/offshoring decent wages (gone with the waves across the sea); meanwhile American corporations like Apple pick up extra bonus profits for shareholders and CEOs because of lower wages paid to Chinese workers. Thus and therefore, neoliberalism crunches the American middle class from both ends, meaning cuts in government programs and cuts in wages whilst the public takes on more responsibility for national debt to fund their own public services. This is insanity! And, it’s probably why people are seriously angry, whether they fully understand the reasoning or not.

It is little wonder then that Americans vote for anti-establishment presidential candidates because it’s the closest they can get to outright anarchy. It is the only available outlet to release pent up anger, fueling anarchistic feelings. They know the system is rigged. But, what happens once this pent up anger seizes upon the reality of election finality, as the neoliberal spin continues? Then what and where does the anger channel?

Since anarchism holds the state to be undesirable or harmful, where are the voters to go once the reality of November 2016 passes, when the neoliberal status quo continues marching ahead? The answer is found in the streets as civic warfare spreads throughout America. Detroit, Chicago harbingers of more to come. Killings, disrupted public services, police/citizen confrontations, mass shootings, arbitrary shootings and military-armed police can only add up to one conclusion. Civic warfare. It’s already started. None of this nonsense happened during the pre-neoliberal 1950 or 1970 eras. Why now? Police departments did not have grenade launchers, MRAPs (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protection Vehicle), camouflage uniforms, assault rifles, .50-caliber machine guns, and bayonets in the 1970s (although thankfully, post Ferguson, Obama issued an executive order recalling some military equipment from local police departments).

Still, “Police in peer nations like Germany, Denmark, the UK and other liberal democracies — meanwhile — rarely kill civilians. Even accounting for population size, the frequency with which American police kill civilians is shocking. Not twice as often, or three times as often. We’re talking factors of 20 to 70,” Timothy McGrath, GlobalPost, American Police Kill Civilians at a Shocking Rate Compared to Other Developed Countries, Los Angeles Daily News, May 4, 2015.

Neoliberalism’s natural tendency to separate society distinctly into haves and have-nots is like adding kindling to civic warfare fireworks displays. It’s explosive! And, Americans are armed to the teeth.

So far, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are merely lighting rods for public dissent. People are angry. According to several polls, they hate Congress. They hate the government. Hate has filled the land from coast to coast. Beware, Americans are armed to the teeth.

Meanwhile, near zero interest rates are the death rattle of neoliberalism, the final push to revive a sinking ship filled with gapping holes. Too much debt because of neoliberalism’s fancy for enriching the rich at the expense of the middling middle is piling up in the form of growth-inhibiting debt, which undercuts the economy at the very moment anger turns white hot. This can only spell trouble. After all, America’s over-loaded with firepower.

“An online petition to allow firearms to be openly carried at July’s Republican convention quickly garnered 51,000 signatures,” Nora Kelly, Trolling for Open Carry at the GOP Convention, The Atlantic, Mar 30, 2016.

Robert Hunziker View more

Robert Hunziker
Robert Hunziker (MA, economic history) is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide. He can be contacted at: roberthunziker@icloud.com

Leave a Comment