The Neoliberal Lie And the Rise of the Working Poor

The neoliberal lie postulates that the reduction of state interventions in economic and social activities and the deregulation of labor and financial markets, as well as of commerce and investments, liberates the enormous potential of capitalism to create an unprecedented era of social well-being in the world’s population. The partial economic recovery in European Union member countries has in no way contributed to easing poverty among workers. The ‘working poor’ is a class now identified as those working hard but unfortunate enough not to fit into skilled labour – for the most part whose unions and rights have been taken from them and whose weekly wages have all but stagnated, but mostly declined over the past decade, have been propelled into chronic poverty and underemployment. Corporations, along with their international partners in crime, siphon off billions via secretive off-shore accounts to avoid paying taxes. This leaves countries cash starved for social programs for the poor and ill.

George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, two of England’s foremost literary figures of the last century, each wrote a compelling description of a future dystopia, both of them nightmare visions of society totally under the control of a ruling clique whose only purpose is the enjoyment of power. The most striking parallel of course is that both men foresaw the future as totalitarian rather than democratic and free. Today economic elites control corporate and media interests who continue to hollow out democratic principles to further their goals. This new world-totalitarianism is a panoptical world constructed on the basis of fear and authority. Governing occurs by providing individuals with choices and holding them accountable for the choices they make. Neoliberalism creates insecurity through the use of indicators and measures to assess the performance of an individual. In turn, alternative media maintain the illusion that merely hides crime, hypocrisy, and moral bankruptcy, that is threatened by truth and honesty.

There is no difference between the fake news, misinformation, disinformation of today – such lies have been churned out for years, and it is all designed to support the oligarchs. Today there is a new battleground – social media. This so-called fake news made to look like credible journalistic reports are easily spread online to large audiences, often to naïve and wide audiences who end up spreading it. The disease is dubbed ‘post-truth politics’ which are finely tuned and sophisticated appeals based around peoples fears and emotions rather than facts and policies required to make informed rational decisions. Donald Trump denounces in the mainstream media any news story or news organization that displeases him as fake news. Trump surrogates lie every time they open their mouths to persistently push mistruths of Trump’s alternative reality (making Trump one of the leading sources of fake news around).

First, the amount of misinformation available grows proportionally with the availability of valid information. In fact, it may grow even faster because of the lack of fact-checking in much of the new media. The main reason that people are more likely to believe false information (for example, that climate change is a hoax) is because it actually takes less brainpower to believe a statement is false than to accept it as truth. Whether we believe something is true boils down to something psychologists call processing fluency, i.e. the ease with which we mentally process information. Fluency plays a subconscious role in many of the conclusions we draw about the world around us. Judgements of truth, require time and effort: for example, under the original GOP repeal of  Obamacare everyone would get a tax cut, but in fact, there would be a significant tax break for high earners – the top 0.1% earners would get a $207,000 tax cut, while the bottom 20% would receive an average reduction of $150.00.

It is commonly believed that people’s long-term memory records events that we experience exactly as they happened, just like a DVR records episodes exactly as they first appeared on television. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, researchers have found that long-term memory is very prone to errors and can easily be altered and molded. The inaccuracy of long-term memory is enhanced by the misinformation effect, which occurs when misleading information is incorporated into one’s memory after an event. Reliance on misinformation differs from ignorance, which we define as the absence of relevant knowledge. Ignorance, too, can have obvious detrimental effects on decision-making, but perhaps surprisingly, those effects may be less severe than those arising from reliance on misinformation. Ignorance may be a lesser evil because in the self-acknowledged absence of knowledge, people often turn to simple heuristics (strategies derived from previous experiences with similar problems) when making decisions.

The postmodernist’s premise is that no definite terms, boundaries, or absolute truths exist – facts are socially constructed. Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective efforts to explain reality. Now enters Trump, a man who has great distain for facts – a man who can make two conflicting statements in a day without blinking an eye. In Trump’s world, the “image” is all there is. In 2016, to the frustrated and disillusioned, Trump promises a better path. The political lies of the last forty years include: the deception used by false intel to sell the invasion of Iraq; the need for austerity, which is merely ideology to make the rich and powerful more rich and powerful, and the great lie of neoliberalism. The highlight is the May and Trump talk of re-skilling, re-equipping, and re-industrialism of the homeland – which is an absolute reversal of the experiment we were all mis-sold for forty years.

Social classes are hierarchical groupings of individuals that are usually based on wealth, educational attainment, occupation, income, or membership in a subculture or social network. The class system in America puts those with the most wealth, power, and prestige at the top of the hierarchy and those with the least at the bottom. In the second decade of the 21st century the middle class has been stripped of jobs, income, and security. People are motivated by custom or tradition, by emotions, by religious or ethical values, and by rational goal oriented behavior. All human behavior, Max Weber (1864-1920) claims, is motivated by various combinations of these four basic factors. However, just because an action is rational in terms of fulfillment of a short-term goal, Weber asserts, does not mean it is rational in terms of the whole society. It often happens, he writes, that an excessive focus on short-term goals undermines the very goals of society. Reducing business income taxes and reducing taxes on repatriated foreign earnings would provide little incentive to hire or invest.

It is necessary to replace socioeconomic status with class as the significant structural factor in determining whether people reach their potential. Class represents structural characteristics of society. Recently the structural class perspective is the rise of the working poor. Social inequalities, such as income, are a consequence of structural change in class power. It is about the rise of business power and the decline in labor power (as part of the era of globalization) along with the attacks of the “new right” on the welfare state – consequently there is a rapid rise in social, income and health inequalities. But in terms of income and wealth for the top 1 percent, neoliberalism was a dramatic success. The truth is policies that would have the largest effects on output and employment per dollar of budgetary cost includes reducing employers’ payroll taxes, increasing aid to unemployed, and providing additional refundable tax credits for lower and middle income households.

In summary, finding the truth takes time and effort that people often don’t care enough to spend on particular issues that aren’t of immediate concern. The main reason that misinformation is sticky, according to the researchers, is that rejecting information actually requires cognitive effort. Weighing the plausibility and the source of a message is cognitively more difficult than simply accepting that the message is true – it requires additional motivational and cognitive resources. If the topic isn’t very important to you or you have other things on your mind, misinformation is more likely to take hold. How do we combat the mental apathy that helps reinforce misinformation? A big part of it is engaging audiences with fact-checking and verification rather than just pushing information to them. If we want evidence-based practice and policy in a democratic society, then science communication, journalism, and education will have to take on the challenges associated with misinformation.1

The American system of education is rooted in the Socratic tradition where questioning and skepticism are the foundation to the teaching-learning process. With respect to trickle-down economics, the effects of neoliberal capitalism with the 2008 financial crisis is the greatest broken promise (or lie) of our lifetime. People support democracy and capitalism, just not the version espoused by the present economic elite. We need to re-introduce into the universities the type of critical thinking that helped illuminate the way for the thinkers during the Enlightenment and created a cultural revolution that produced new ideas and values. This new intellectual revolution needs to question the workings of society and government, explain the purpose of government, and describe the best form of it to create a new middle class wealth boom.2

1 Cousins, Farron. (24 Sept 2012) Psychological Study Reveals Why Misinformation Is So Effective. https://www.desmogblog.com/2012/09/20/psychological-study-reveals-why-misinformation-so-effective 

2 Part 2 of 2: The Class System and Education http://questioningandskepticism.com/part-2-of-2-the-class-system-and-education/

 

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