The world as given (or taken away)

“The economic turbulence caused by Indochina war expenditures and a sharp rise in oil prices, along with racial and cultural polarization, nourished a conservative backlash. Nixon did not attack the welfare state directly, but he did withdraw the United States from the Bretton Woods agreement. Carter initiated the fateful estrangement of the Democratic Party from its New Deal heritage, which culminated in the Wall Street-dominated Democratic Leadership Council. Ronald Reagan was not elected to dismantle the New Deal and may not even have understood that this was what the rest of his administration was up to. But his large and regressive tax cuts, as well as a cascade of deregulation and non-enforcement, massively increased military spending, and the heavy-handed use of the IMF and World Bank (with an assist from the CIA when necessary) to force a ‘favorable investment climate’ (i.e., low wages and unrestricted capital flows) on the developing world—all these policies began to change America from a middle-class society and mixed economy with countervailing power centers to a sharply unequal, business-dominated society. The Clinton administration increased taxes on the rich and restored a modicum of integrity to the regulatory apparatus. But it also joined the rhetorical assault on ‘big government’ and sponsored considerable deregulation, both on Wall Street and by means of ‘free trade’ agreements, which sought to reduce the leverage of organized labor and democratic governments over American investors. Under the Bush/Cheney administration and the Gingrich/DeLay congress, America degenerated into a thoroughly corrupt plutocracy.” – George Scialabba, “The Squandering of America”

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