Neoliberalism isn’t like the other two American (and to some extent, global) political ideologies that were active earlier in our history. The first ideology, classical liberalism had outspoken activists and so did modern liberalism. Neoliberals don’t proclaim their political or economic interests in public dialogue the way that Thomas Paine did during the classical liberal period or that Walter Lippmann did during the modern liberal period. Instead of pursuing political activism through public rhetoric, they engage in the remodeling of our political system through lengthy drafts of new rules that benefit themselves and externalize problems to others. They do this by buying influence in Washington D.C..
If you want to understand neoliberalism, you can’t ask a neoliberal. Instead of doing that, you have to examine winners and losers as new legislation rolls out of the halls of Congress. Ask yourself, when the legislation passes, will you be better off? Who will pay for the consequences of the legislation? Will it cause your taxes to increase? Will it cause your opportunities to diminish? What negative outcomes will come your way after the legislation passes? How many persons will benefit who are like you? How long is the legislation as it is written? Modern laws can be hundreds of pages long and full of favors for influential political donors.
In Washington, today, debate continues about HR 1, the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. When I first heard about this bill, I read that it would simplify the nation’s tax plan. And that simplification would save people money. Lately, I’ve been disappointed to hear that it probably won’t simplify the nation’s tax structure.
At first, I heard that it would even the playing field between small businesses and large corporations. Small businesses have paid a high U.S. tax rate that large transnational corporations have mostly avoided. That rate varies from 15% to 35%. Often we read that large transnational corporations don’t pay any taxes because of tax loopholes of which they can take advantage. Yesterday, I read that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as it is drafted doesn’t give the same tax breaks to small businesses that it gives to large transnational corporations. Too bad about that.
Keeping that tax differential in place would give transnational corporations a perpetual advantage over small businesses in America. The tax differential between what small businesses pay and what transnational corporations pay has destroyed many small businesses in our country since 2007’s economic crash (during the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the bank bail-outs). Small businesses couldn’t compete with large corporations in a recessionary environment because they had fewer tax advantages and less capital. As I look at the development of this tax bill, I guess that the bigger fish want the biggest tax advantages just for themselves. But I don’t think that’s been good for America, so far.
As the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act gets debated in Congress, I hope that more Americans are watching the debate and asking themselves what good government is about. I think that it isn’t only about keeping the big fish happy. What do you think? And what do you want this bill to accomplish for you after the debate is finally over? Will it get passed and will it help ordinary Americans without costing them a lot of money in order to help big transnational corporations?
If you’d like to learn about our nation’s ideological leanings across the arc of American history, get a copy of Political Catsup with Economy Fries at Amazon.com. You can learn about classical liberalism, modern liberalism and neoliberalism. You can find out how they differ and what motivated the political and economic changes that can be observed in the evolution of American policies.
additional sources that you may want to read:
Jacob S. Hacker, Paul Pierson, Winner Take All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer–and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, New York, 2010.
Charles H. Ferguson, Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America, Crown Business, New York, 2012.