Ian Welsh has a new post on understanding American elites and the problems they create for the rest of us. In it, he states that “our era is built on three ideological assertions.”
There is no such thing as society.
Greed is good.
There is no alternative (TINA).
That last item refers to our position as non-elites. It means we are in a system designed to leave us without options. It means your cards are face-up on the table as interlocutors decide how little they can get away with offering you or one of the many others who you are trying to shoulder out for an opportunity. It means take-it-or-leave-it.
I view the way working people are treated at this moment as a sort of inverted slavery. No, we are not owned as property. Instead, we are left to our own devices. It’s an oligopolist system in which our collective time is a pooled resource that has more than is needed by design. You might find a way to carve out a decent life on the margins, but diminishing prospects are the norm.
As society became uncivil, the safety net became a bottomless pit. Your employer is not responsible for your well-being and neither is your government. You’re on your own, but you’re told you’re in a system that fosters success. Meanwhile, most struggle to get by. It is the neoliberal dream world come true.
The US government creates the appearance of democracy, but the processes were long ago perverted. Neoliberals contorted systems to ensure their desired outcomes and then fumbled the reins.
That brings us to our current circumstances. Ian gets at that nicely:
Neoliberal elites are predators. This is true in every neoliberal country, it is simply most advanced in the United States. They view ordinary people as prey or useful tools. After the 2007/8 financial crisis, banks set up assembly lines to sign false paperwork so they could sieze people’s homes. The Federal government knew, aided them, and later immunized them by making them pay fines far less than the value of what they stole.
You are the food or the money producing asset to elites.
You are not human, you do not have a right to anything. Not due process of the law. Not food. Not housing. Not affordable medicine or health care. Those things are for people with enough money, and if that’s not you, you don’t deserve them.
This is THE most important thing you can understand about society today. You can’t count on America’s elites to care about you at all. If it is in their best financial interest to impoverish you, kill you or any other thing, they will do so.
This may seem hyperbolic, but it meets the most important test of truth: it predicts their actions far more than any other hypothesis.
How else can you explain the Republicans putting forth the HEALS Act, which offers workers a 2/3 reduction in federal unemployment payments (down from $600 to $200 per week), alongside the desire to introduce coronavirus liability protections for employers and schools? In doing so, they’d force millions back to work, while stripping them of protection against the disease. (They also went after top pandemic-related priorities like military funding and building a new FBI HQ, but I digress.)
On the other side, you have the Democrats voting 36 for and 125 against putting Medicare for All in the DNC platform in the midst of a global pandemic in which millions have already lost their insurance, and millions more are expected to join them soon.
Both of these parties seem more concerned with ensuring the system they’ve built stays in place, rather than trying to do whatever they can to help people through this time of crisis. (If you continued to pay people to stay home, we’d eventually realize that much of the work we do is unnecessary and that the system was in need of change. If you gave everyone healthcare, they’d be better positioned to walk away from bad jobs.)
Both parties’ efforts seem an endorsement of Ian’s hypothesis.