Neoliberalism and the Infrastructure Package: The Beginning of the End?
By Alan Minsky, Executive Director – Progressive Democrats of America
Help PDA Revive Progressive Federal Spending and Launch a New More-Equitable and Just Era in America
This past week PDA released its latest communique to all Members of Congress. It called upon them to support the entire $3.5 trillion reconciliation legislation that is part two of the Build Back Better infrastructure package and, in particular, to oppose any efforts to shrink the size of the package.
The reason for this is that this huge bill represents a break with neoliberalism, the prevailing economic order that has been the primary organizing principle of American society since the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Here’s a quote from our letter to congressional offices:
For the past forty years, US government policy has emphasized market-based solutions for economic and social concerns – rejecting the approach that was central to US policy from the 1930s to the 1970s, including stricter regulations and direct fiscal spending. We’ve learned a lot over these past forty years. Markets can indeed generate phenomenal wealth. However, that wealth is poorly distributed. Also, deregulated markets have failed to deliver adequately on many fronts, including social necessities like health care, education, childcare, housing, etc. The market has also failed as a steward of nature.
Over the next month, Congress has an opportunity to set a new course. The programs in the reconciliation bill break with the approach of the past forty years. They use a mix of market incentives, regulations, and direct fiscal expenditure, to address endemic problems that markets alone cannot solve in healthcare, education, housing, and the cost of raising a family. All of these disproportionately impact poor, working and middle class households, and communities of color. The reconciliation bill uses similar strategies to address the climate emergency and achieve the necessary result: a rapid transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
At PDA, we’re hopeful that this Reconciliation Bill is only the start. That its success will make clear that the very thing that neoliberalism eliminated – major Federal spending on progressive social programs and policies – is, by far, the best tool that we have to address the endemic inequalities and crises of our time.