Eric Cantor and the Chicago School of Economics or shall we say Disaster Capitalism Courtesy of Naomi Kline

This blog certainly is not about sustainability in Bronzeville. Sorry, but I couldn’t sit still this morning until I wrote and posted it. I am absolutely shaking in my undies with outrage.
I received an email this morning from CREDO action. Below are the first few lines of the communiqué.
Vermont is under water. New Jersey is reeling. North Carolina is just starting to pick up the pieces. But Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is already taking Hurricane Irene’s victims hostage.
Truly, Mr. Cantor has no shame. It’s outrageous to take advantage of the urgent needs of hurricane survivors in order to advance his radical crusade to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. But that’s exactly what one of the top Republicans in Congressional leadership is doing with his refusal to allocate money to disaster relief unless Congress first offsets that money with cuts to vital government programs.
This in itself was not what sent me reeling. Yes, Mr. Cantor’s statement is abominable but the policy of cutting off life support to the needy by slashing social programs in the face of a disaster is not new and Mr. Cantor didn’t invent the idea. I know this because I’ve been reading Naomi Klein’s book Shock Doctrine, Disaster Capitalism. The practice of pushing privatization; cutting social programs and in general causing entire populations to receive shock treatment is a well-established form of social-economic revamping called the Chicago School. It’s chief architect and promoter was Milton Friedman of the University of Chicago. The philosophy of the Chicago School can be summed up like this, an uncompromising advocacy of laissez faire and free trade, privatize and slash anything that might even be construed as “socialism”. The best time to implement these changes is during times of crises. As Mr. Friedman declared, “only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.” (Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom). It appears Mr. Cantor knows a bit about “shock therapy” applied to the grieving and crisis beleaguered.
I am loath to state Mr. Friedman was the devil incarnate. There are some who believe Milton Friedman and the Chicago Boys, as his students and followers were known, were the economists answer to the Messiah. I’m no economist. In fact, I have trouble balancing my checking account but I do know firsthand what it’s been like to live through the past Republican presidencies and a smattering of the same during the Clinton years with unchecked, freewheeling, hands off regulations by government. In fact, when I read in Shock Doctrine how the United States, via the IMF and World Bank, pressured Poland and parts of Latin America by coupling aid dollars to pay off the debts left by the ousted oppressive governments to adoption of Chicago School economics I could only see visions of Mr. Cantor chomping at the bit at this opportunity to apply shock therapy. Let us not fool ourselves that this could never work in America. Just ask the people in New Orleans what happened to public housing and the public schools or read Naomi Klein’s book. I never thought I would have trouble putting down a book on economics. Fascinating read.

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Tags: City Life, Economics, Politics

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