Carl Davidson : Why Neoliberals Have Trouble Telling the Truth

Newt on Fox. Image from Keep on Keepin’ On.

Media wars and manufacturing consent:

Getting people to vote against themselves

Why neoliberals have trouble telling the truth.

By Carl Davidson / The Rag Blog / August 31, 2011

The Rag Blog will present noted writer and political activist Carl Davidson with a multi-media presentation on “The Mondragon Corporation and the Workers Cooperative Movement,” on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011, 7-10 p.m., at 5604 Manor Community Center, 5604 Manor Road, Austin, Texas. For more information, go here. Carl will also be Thorne Dreyer‘s guest on Rag Radio, Friday, Sept. 9, from 2-3 p.m. (CST), on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin, and streamed live here.

“Newt Gingrich: Obama’s ‘Bureaucratic Socialism’ Kills Jobs” is one of many similar headlines appearing on dozens of web-based news portals in this 2012 election season. This one keeps popping up, and I’m getting sick of seeing it.

The reason? It manages to pack several major lies, each of which you could write a book about, into just five words — and hardly an editor anywhere takes a blue pencil to it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got no problem with “socialism.” My shoot-from-the hip response when someone spits the “S” word out in a political argument is, “Socialism? I’ve been a socialist all my life, and proud of it. We should be so lucky as to have some socialism around here. Unfortunately, we’re not even close.”

First of all, Barack Obama is not a socialist. Even back in his more youthful years in Illinois, at best on a good day, he was simply a neo-Keynesian liberal with a few high tech green ideas. Keynesians believe, among other things, that when markets fail, government has the task of being the consumer of last resort, even hiring people directly to build infrastructure and put people to work,

But these days, surrounded by a “Team of Rivals” largely from Wall Street, Obama has set aside any earlier Keynesian policies he held and has been, wittingly or not, sucked into the black hole of the prevailing neoliberal hegemony.

What’s a “neoliberal hegemony?” That’s a shorthand phrase for the current domination of our government by Wall Street finance capital. It simply wants to diminish any government initiatives or programs, except for those that line their own pockets.

Keynesians and others, in and out of government, have opposed the neoliberals. They’ve advocated a range of reasonable proposals for getting us out of the current crisis — ending the wars, Employee Free Choice Act, Medicare for All, the People’s Budget submitted by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Rep. John Conyer’s HR 870 Full Employment Bill — but these proposals all keep getting declared “off the table” by the neoliberals.

On Gingrich’s second charge, far from being “bureaucratic,” Obama, wisely or not, has actually reduced the number of federal employees, and made other cuts that will cause the states to do likewise.

On the third charge, far from “killing jobs,” Obama’s initial proposals regarding employment have actually created a few jobs, but not nearly enough. Why? Because of the real job-killing votes of Gingrich’s Republican allies in the House.

It doesn’t take a chess champion to figure any of this out. Any decent checker player could make an honest call of the false moves in the “socialist job killer” gambit of Gingrich and other GOP presidential pretenders running the same rap.

But why distort the truth this way? Newt Gingrich is a smart man. He knows that Keynesianism is designed to keep capitalism going, and that socialism is something quite different and has very little to do with this debate. So why does he keep this “big lie” business up?

It’s a smokescreen. At bottom, Gingrich, the GOP and the far right are promoting a grand neoliberal project to repeal the New Deal and the Great Society, the primary past examples of liberal government dealing with market failure.

The right’s problem is that too many things that came out of those periods had some success and are still popular with a majority of voters — the elderly like Medicare and Social Security, labor likes the Wagner Act and the right to bargain collectively, Blacks and other minorities like the Voting Rights Act, and women like Title Seven.

To take them all down, which is what the neoliberal-far right alliance wants, means you have to attack them indirectly, rather than directly.

So how does it work? You have to start with what most people fear most — losing their jobs — and then combine it with the darker demons of our past, such as anti-communism, racism, and sexism. Next you mush all your potential adversaries — the socialist left, the liberals and progressives, and the FDR-loving moderates — into one huge combined bogey man. You make it into a hideous package that’s going to scare voters into casting ballots against themselves.

To put a fancier term on it, it’s called manufacturing consent to combine with outright coercive force in getting you to submit to a renewed hegemonic bloc.

That’s what Newt is doing here. In short, it’s when they get you to think all your neighbors and co-workers are your enemies, while all the guys on Wall Street are your friends. You’re going to hear a lot of it over the next year. Don’t fall for it.

[Carl Davidson is a national co-chair of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, a national board member of Solidarity Economy Network, and a local Beaver County, PA member of Steelworkers Associates. In the 1960s, he was a national leader of SDS and a writer and editor for the Guardian newsweekly. He is also the co-author, with Jerry Harris, of CyberRadicalism: A New Left for a Global Age. He serves as webmaster for and Beaver County Blue. This article was first published on Carl’s blog, Keep On Keepin’ On. Read more articles by Carl Davidson on The Rag Blog.]


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2 Responses to Carl Davidson : Why Neoliberals Have Trouble Telling the Truth

  1. Anonymous says:

    Obaman’s concessions to the Repubs is indicative of the alliance between the right and the neolibs. But the pattern is wearing thin. What Reagan couldn’t accomplish, Clinton set to work on. Similarly, Bush’s failed efforts at privatization are taken over by Obama. And the threat of a rightist president stifles the formation of a third party. The antidote? Grass roots movement! We won’t get fooled again!

  2. anonymous2 says:

    Great article by Davidson, but it seems idiosyncratic to label a politician that is universally deemed a ‘conservative’ as a “neoliberal.” Huh??

    I understand what the doctrine “liberalizes” are controls on capitalism. Got that.

    And this neoliberal labeling of Newt is probably intended partly to ironically show how much he has in common w/ Obama, Clinton, the DNC, etc

    Also, an older meaning of the word liberal (still in use in Europe) is being pro laissez-faire capitalism.

    But it seems ‘precious,’ and academic — doesn’t this headline reinforce that the shrunken left talks to itself in a specialized vocabulary nobody else uses?

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