Election Commentary

Neoliberalism’s siren song of freedom

How “free” are we as individuals and as a collective nation when the upper 10% of families controls approximately 75% percent of the accumulated wealth in 2013 and 85 percent of the stocks and bonds, when the wealth gap between white families and families of color is enormous with the mean net worth of white families standing at $679,000, Latino/a families at $112,000, and black families at $95,000, and the Right’s agenda will only increase this enormous imbalance?

And how “free” are we as individuals and as a collective nation when before the Affordable Healthcare Act, 50 million people in our country went uninsured and their only form of health care was the hospital emergency room, which the remainder of the population paid because our government will not provide a single-payer health care system, but instead, we all must accept the exorbitant profit-motive insurance premium rates of private healthcare insurers?

How “free” are we as individuals and as a collective nation when governmental entitlement programs are cut or privatized, thereby eliminating the safety net support systems from our elders, our young people, people with disabilities, people who have suffered hard times, and others struggling to provide life’s basics?

How “free” are we as individuals and as a collective nation when the rights of women to control their bodies have increasingly and incessantly come under attack, and when doctors and others are intimidated and even killed at family planning clinics?

How “free” are we as individuals and as a collective nation when lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans people are still denied their basic human and civil rights in many states that are accorded to heterosexual and cisgender people on a daily basis in employment, housing, and public accommodations, and when they are vilified, scapegoated, attacked, and murdered, or when affirmative action programs to improve the chances of people of color and women are branded as nothing more than “reverse discrimination,” and steps are taken to abolish these strategies without replacing them with acceptable alternatives? I ask, when will the political Right take the Black Lives Matter movement seriously?

How “free” are we as individuals and as a collective nation when conservative politicians push for school vouchers to funnel public money into parochial institutions at the expense of public education, when forces are gathering to reintroduce prayer into the public schools? And how “free” are we as the political and theocratic right tear down the wall separating religion from entering into the affairs of government and push legislation based on their notions of “morality”?

How “free” are we as individuals and as a collective nation when politicians and business owners attempt to co-opt and decertify labor unions and eliminate collective bargaining?

How “free” are we as the National Rifle Association claims in its literature that “GUNS SAVE LIVES,” or when people can own and use assault rifles, and carry concealed firearms into bars, political rallies, and college and university campuses, and when the NRA and its supporters fight to dismantle governmental regulations further on weapons ownership and use?

How “free” are we as college and university tuition increases and governmental student assistance programs dry up, and students are left with gigantic debts following graduation or are pushed out entirely from the institutions of higher learning?

How “free” are we as individuals and as a collective nations when the Right passes legislation to build walls, to deport, and to further restrict immigration and social and educational services to young people, and breaks up families?

How “free” are we as individuals and as a collective nation when some presidential candidates promise to abolish the Consumer Protection Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Education, and other governmental agencies, as the U.S. Congress threatens to privatize our national parks, and to loosen environmental and consumer protections of all kinds, and when mining, oil, and lumber companies lobby to exploit the land further, and when they are granted enormous tax breaks and subsidies?

How “free” are we as individuals and as a collective nation when residents of the U.S., who represent approximately 5 percent of the world’s population, according to the Sierra Club’s Dave Tilford, “…uses one-third of the world’s paper, a quarter of the world’s oil, 23 percent of the coal, 27 percent of the aluminum, and 19 percent of the copper. Our per capita use of energy, metals, minerals, forest products, fish, grains, meat, and even fresh water dwarfs that of people living in the developing world”? And in spite of this, some on the Right are calling for further deregulation of environmental standards.

How “free” are we when we deny the youth of our nation their basic civil rights to make many of their own decisions in the guise of “protecting them”?

We must not, therefore, let the promises of neoliberalism’s “freedom” seduce us into inaction, because the words to the legendary song, “Me and Bobby McGee” hold true when it says that “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

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