25 Years of Neocon-Neoliberalism: Great for the Top 5%, A Disaster for Everyone Else
CHARLES HUGH SMITH
It cannot be merely coincidental that the incomes and wealth of the top 5% have pulled away from the stagnating 95% in the 25 years dominated by neocon-neoliberalism.
One unexamined narrative I keep hearing is: “OK, so neocon-neoliberalism was less than ideal, but Trump could be much worse.” Let’s start by asking: would Syrian civilians agree with this assessment? The basic idea in the “OK, so neocon-neoliberalism was less than ideal, but Trump could be much worse” narrative is that the modest problems created by neocon-neoliberalism will pale next to what Trump will do, implying jackbooted Waffen SS troops will soon be marching through America on Trump’s orders.
This narrative is yet another example of American parochialism: since neocon-neoliberalism didn’t cause American cities to be bombed and its institutions demolished, it’s really not that bad.
Try telling that to the Iraqis, Libyans and Syrians who have been on the receiving end of neocon-neoliberalism policies. The reality is very unpleasant: for those targeted by America’s neocon-neoliberalism, nothing worse is imaginable, because the worst has already happened.
The cold reality is America’s 25 years of neocon-neoliberalism has been great for the top 5% and an unmitigated disaster for everyone else in the U.S. and the nations it has targeted for intervention.
Those defending the Democratic Party’s 16 years of neocon-neoliberalism (Clinton and Obama) and the Republican Party’s 8 years of neocon-neoliberalism (Bush) are defending a system that benefitted the few at the expense of the many.
Rather than admit the past 25 years have been catastrophic for the bottom 95%, the apologists speak darkly of fantastical visions of a Nazi America as a diversion to the grim truth that they have blindly supported an evil Empire that has stripmined the bottom 95% in America and laid waste to entire nations abroad.
Neoconservatism’s malignant spores hatched in the Reagan years, and spread quickly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Stripped to its essence, Neoconservatism is American Exceptionalism turned into a global entitlement: it’s our right to intervene anywhere in the world we choose to defend what we perceive as our interests, and it’s our right to impose our version of democracy and a market economy on other peoples.
Self-interest melds seamlessly with moral superiority in neocon-neoliberalism. The moral justification is: since ours is the best possible system, we’re doing you a favor by tearing down your institutions and imposing our system on you. The self-interest is: garsh, the “market” we imposed extracts your resources and benefits our banks and corporations. Amazing, isn’t it, how “free markets” benefit everyone?
But not equally. The claim of neoliberalism is: everything is transformed for the better when it is turned into a market. Once buyers and sellers can meet in a transparent marketplace, everybody prospers and everything becomes more efficient.
Stripped to its essence, neoliberalism is: the markets we set up are rigged to favor those at the top. All that talk about free markets is just public-relations cover to mask an intrinsically rigged quasi-market that has features of “real” markets while beneath the surface, it’s rigged to the advantage of big players at the top of the wealth-power pyramid.
Neoconservatism and neoliberalism are both inherently global, and so globalization is the necessary outcome. There is no market that cannot be skimmed for outsized profits once it has been globalized, and so once bat guano becomes a global tradeable commodity, Goldman Sachs establishes a bat guano trading desk. (This is a spoof, but you get the point.)
Neoconservatism entitles the U.S. to have an “interest” (as in profitable interest) in every nook and cranny of the planet. Policy changes in Lower Slobovia? It’s in our “interest” to monitor those changes and intervene if the policies are “not in our interests.”
Neocon-neoliberalism is brilliantly evil because it masks its true objectives behind such warm and fuzzy PR. Those looking for enemies of the people will find them not on the streets of America in cartoonish display but in the corridors of financial and policy power.
Dear apologists of the status quo: do you understand you’re defending this?
Notice how the wealth of the bottom 90% nosedived once neocon-neoliberalism became the de facto policy of Democrats and Republicans alike. No wonder Obama’s two terms seemed like Bush terms 3 and 4–in terms of a continuation of neocon-neoliberalism, they were.
Yes, profound changes in technology, automation, and geopolitics have influenced finance and wealth, but it cannot be merely coincidental that the incomes and wealth of the top 5% have pulled away from the stagnating 95% in the 25 years dominated by neocon-neoliberalism:
ER recommends other articles by Charles Hugh Smith
Find out about our great (WOW) TLB Project Membership package and benefits, add your voice and help us to change the world!