Friday, 21 August 2009

The rabid free market right is bringing America down

Is America still a superpower? In military terms it still is but can the USA continue to be a dominant force politically and economically? Much depends on what happens in the next few years after the recent crash brought about by free market financial capitalism. The US economy is in dire straits and there is no sign of where a revival is going to come from - as I described in this post.

The great irony here is that those who would make America great are largely responsible for this situation. The rot started with the election of Richard Nixon in 1968, but really got going with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1981. Reagan's election ushered in a generation of domination of US politics by the free market right. Neoliberals - that is right wing Americans who adhered to the idea of American supremacy as a global superpower and the untrammeled operation of the free market - the Washington Consensus - through globalisation and bodies like the IMF and WTO - became the dominant force in American and global politics.

Reaganomics consisted of tax cuts for the rich, privatisation and de-regulation but also involved increased military spending and budget deficits. Taxes for the rich were lowered from 70% to 28% whilst the national debt increased from $700 billion to $3trillion. This was 'trickle down economics', the 'theory' being that as the rich had more money in their pockets and businesses were freed from 'red tape' by small government, the benefits would eventually reach the bottom of society. Predictably, they didn't.

Reagan was followed by George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W Bush. Despite the election of a democrat, Clinton, in 1993, little changed. The free market right still dominated and Clinton followed suit. The Project for the New American Century was typical of right wing neoliberal American thinking and had a great infuence on the government of George W Bush, notably on the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The election of Barak Obama last year has given Americans hope that a generation of selfishness and greed can be tempered by social justice. But many on the right refuse to accept democratic change, just as they did when Clinton was elected and they tried to bring him down over the Lewinsky affair. Now they have retreated into ever more bizarre and rabid rantings. One of the wackier manifestations of this are the 'birthers' who believe, despite the facts, that Obama isn't American and therefore can't be President. We have recently had to contend with crazy remarks and lies about the NHS because of Obama's healthcare plan.

So what has neoliberalism achieved for America? Greater intolerance, injustice, inequality, debt, and poverty for many of its people. A loss in standing for America in the eyes of the global community. But most of all economic decline. Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad (ancient proverb) - maybe the birthers are just the start. Is this the beginning of the end for the USA?

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