Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton faced off in the 2016 Democratic primary debates. Americans saw the surface of their desired democratic platforms, but as this uniquely passionate primary season draws to a close with a final showdown in June, it is even more important to take a look at where the Democratic party could be headed as the Democratic Convention preparations begin. Part of that is seeing the larger picture of what Neoliberalism is and where it has taken America. Also, what exactly can democratic socialism do to improve the current situation?
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are on the opposite ends of the liberal spectrum. Though Mrs. Clinton is socially a liberal, supporting gay marriage, abortion, and equal rights, these issues have very little to do with money. Economically at least, Mrs. Clinton seems to be far more conservative, which literally means less generous, and there is a reason for that. Mrs. Clinton is a neoliberal and not only that, she was raised as a Republican and campaigned for Barry Goldwater, as described in the Wall Street Shill.
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton both urge the American people to shake off their preconceived ideas and prejudices about other human beings. They want everyone treated equally and with respect, regardless of race, religion, nationality, or gender. Sanders would also like for the American people to broaden their political horizons past cold war propaganda and embrace the truth about European democratic socialism, just a little of which he believes could provide a better life for all Americans. Remember, last time the U.S. economy was really bad, that is what FDR did — and it worked.
Hillary Clinton, and other neoliberals, as well as neoconservatives, favor more republican, Reagan-style ideas when it comes to handling government funds, and dealing with corporations. Neoliberalism was an outgrowth of the Reagan and Thatcher neoconservative theory of government, according to the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI).
“For Clinton and Blair, being progressive in the 1990s meant being a more civilized and kind-hearted Reaganite or Thatcherite. It meant taking for granted, and never challenging, very central neoliberal principles and practices. Their policy programme, which we will call List A, included [the following].”
- Lower corporate and personal taxation to encourage innovation, enterprise and job creation;
- A thinning of the welfare net to avoid welfare dependency and to increase the incentive to work;
- The deregulation of labour markets through the weakening of trade unions;
- The parallel deregulation of the business community, and the celebration of income inequality;
- The privatization of publicly-owned industries and companies, and the exposure of public bodies to market forces.”
Bernie Sanders does not approve of most of this at all. He contends this is what caused the problems we are facing. It is hard to argue with that considering Neoconservatives and neoliberals have controlled our government since 1981. SPERI explains that at first, neoliberalism works well to build the economy, but without regulation, maintenance, and a safety net, something breaks down and apart eventually, usually impacting the poorest first, but eventually impacting nearly all.
Hillary Clinton is a neoliberal, and many people agree with her. After 36 years in the sway of this so-called new way, which is really very old, some people cannot remember it any other way. Investopedia defines Neoliberalism a means of freeing the money, not the people.
“Neoliberalism is a policy model of social studies and economics that transfers control of economic factors to the private sector from the public sector. It takes from the basic principles of neoclassical economics, suggesting that governments must limit subsidies, make reforms to tax law in order to expand the tax base, reduce deficit spending, limit protectionism, and open markets up to trade. It also seeks to abolish fixed exchange rates, back deregulation, permit private property, and privatize businesses run by the state. Liberalism, in economics, refers to a freeing of the economy by eliminating regulations and barriers that restrict what actors can do. Neoliberal policies aim for a laissez-faire approach to economic development.”
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders represent a cycle and a balance. Laissez-faire is an old word that was used to describe the capitalists of the industrial revolution and also the pre-depression era. This suggests a cycle in government seen historically. Consider changes between the beginning of the industrial revolution. Severely low wages and slavery dominated the disenfranchised, and then came the abolition of slavery and the advent of trade unions, which are signs of socialism, to protect the disenfranchised. The great depression was another example of the results of capitalism run amok. Again, FDR came in with something very similar to what Sanders is advocating.
Bernie Sanders describes himself as a democratic socialist. Common sense overrules the propaganda when we consider the real goals and ideals of the hundred-year-old movement. Forbes magazine explains that Democratic Socialism has absolutely nothing to do with Soviet-style socialism. Instead, Forbes contends Sanders form of Northern European democratic socialism is about private ownership, but not creating monopolies, and economic hegemony to the point of causing suffering and death to the poor.
“It’s not about overturning capitalism, which is what socialism means. It’s about knocking the rough edges off capitalism through some redistribution and government provision of goods and services.”
Hillary Clinton knows that neoliberalism worked when her husband Bill Clinton used it during his term of office, but that was in the beginning. Plus, Bill was never uncompromising in his policies, either. He used neoliberalism as just one strategy, not the whole arsenal. The greatest plus? Bill Clinton was intrinsically compassionate, regardless of official policy, and tempered his neoliberalism with concern for the common good. Hillary is considerably further to the right than her husband. Will she, too, temper her neoliberalism with a bit of mercy? Mercy in the case of economics often means just a bit of socialism, as Sanders suggests?
Bernie Sanders explains his Democratic socialism in his own words, describing at least what he means by the term. It is the Americanized version of Northern European democratic socialism. Quotes are via Huffington Post.
“A vision which says that every man, woman, and child in this country is entitled to healthcare as a right of citizenship and that the United States must join the rest of the industrialized world by enacting a national health care system, a single-payer health care system. A vision which says that lifelong quality education is the essence of what being alive is about, and that all of our citizens, no matter what their incomes, should be able to receive a higher education.”
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton don’t argue much. Sanders’ goals are hard to argue with, at least not for those who either need the benefits or want to walk away with a clear conscience. They are charitable and very reminiscent of FDR’s presidency. Clinton may not agree, but few Democrats would be comfortable openly disagreeing with FDR style policies.
“A vision which says that a society is ultimately judged by how we treat the weakest and most vulnerable among us—the children, the elderly, the sick, the disabled. And that we do not cut back on programs which help the weak and powerless, in order to give tax breaks to the rich and the powerful.”
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are representatives of a balance. Neoliberalism is allowing free trade without regulations on corporations on one hand, and Democratic Socialism as a way of taking care of humanity on the other. Without this kind of infusion in the past, America might not have survived as a free country. Will America ever evolve past this cycle of neoliberal arising followed by ruin and then treated by a social democratic recovery?
Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton really questions if Americans want more neoliberalism right now or a little relief in the form of democratic socialism?
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]