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Thu Aug 2, 2012, 04:27 PM

The Real Entitlement Crisis


Published on Thursday, August 2, 2012 by Common Dreams
The Real Entitlement Crisis

by William E. Connolly


According to the Republican Party, Wall Street, “Morning Joe”, Fox News and every neoliberal financial analyst we live in an Entitlement Society. And it is carrying us into crisis. All the entitlements they want to reform or eliminate are provided by the state. Medicare and Social Security are the biggest villains, with Medicaid hot on their heels. So the critique of the entitlement society goes hand in hand with the demand by neoliberals to divest more and more activities from the state so that the market can handle them in its way. The neoliberal claim, in contrast to both the Keynesian liberals and radical democrats they oppose, is that the more activities folded into the “impersonal” market the more rational the world will be and the less taxes the state will gulp down. You can thus have both tax reduction and deficit reduction according to this fantasy. This story is all too familiar.

But why is the fantasy so persistently pressed even amidst abundant evidence that it is not true? Well, part of the reason is a theme that lurks just below the surface of neoliberal rhetoric. The more that the state safety net is handed over to the private sector the larger the number of constituencies who will be totally dependent on the market; they will be locked into a logic of opposing taxes, identifying with entrepreneurs and corporate elites, resisting market regulation, demonizing the poor, and defunding state activities that cannot be defined as military, crime control, or subsidies for “job creators”. Many moderates and Independents are also tempted by this story, as they struggle to make ends meet and wish they could locate an automatic way to resolve our ills without intervening in a gridlocked political process. Neoliberalism both satisfies market ideologues and plays to many people trying to get through the day without adding close involvement in the political dynamic to their heavy agenda of responsibilities.

The most obvious thing to note about the above “entitlements”, of course, is that each generation pays into these funds and each promises to support the next in turn through its payments. They are funded through a cross-generational social contract that builds trust across the generations. They are not welfare, though Medicaid is an exception. Neoliberals do not like such programs in part because they want all social trust to be funneled into market processes rather than into cross generational links between citizens. They also don’t like the fact that these programs work well, setting dangerous counter examples to their chant that the “cumbersome” state can never be successful and efficient.

......(snip)......

When the going gets tough for them powerful, hollow men revert to repression. And this hollow man already has “a base” urging him on, one that could soon control both houses of Congress. If you seek to understand the psychology of a President Romney watch The Conformist by Bernardo Bertolucci. That hollow man first joined the fascists in Italy to protect the fragility of his identity and then attacked the fascists as traitors as soon as the Allied victory over Mussolini was complete. He was not merely a flip-flop artist. He was a hollow man. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/08/02-10



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