There’s this drumbeat at state legislatures to pass what I think is a scam to milk dollars out of public schools [… .] If you’re an investor these days, with the economy going down, where are you going to invest? Oh, look, there’s a trillion dollars in public education funds waiting to be manipulated.
This entire article is essential reading if we are to understand how policy gets made. In this case, it is about education policy being guided by powerful interest groups, many of whom stand to gain financially from the deals. This has been true for several decades and it represents one of the crucial genetic traits neoliberalism shares with all other ideologies: the ability to adapt to a set of circumstances.
The ideology of neoliberalism says that faith in the outcome of the market requires that we remove all power from the economic process: there can be, in other words, no intervention in the market. Honest merchants of this faith admit that this is a slightly ambivalent demand: the crux of their market requires property be respected and contracts honored. The state remains the most reliable vehicle for this. Thus you must have the state to protect the neutral (“negative”) rights without actively protecting “positive” rights. You must protect and honor every contract - especially those of labor - without any comment or intervention as to the content of those contracts.
It’s a pretty tall order given the polarizations in terms of income, education, race, gender, and sexuality in our society. But for a time it was easier to argue it on relative terms because our perception was that the government was pretty engaged in managing our lives - and providing a fair bit of protection and padding to people.
In industry after industry, the ideology has worked its way into dominance. Flexibility, privatization, freedom of capital, and “freedom” of precarious labor: these are the by words of the enterprise. In order to bring these about, it has taken a patchwork of ideological evangelizers, positioned to assess and argue how it is that a more “liberal” economic environment would produce better - and/because freer - social outcomes.
They conquered manufacturing, trade, finance and the communication sector in the 1980s and 90s - where deregulated trade and finance abroad was mirrored in a wave of corporate media consolidations, first in the US and then throughout the world. And since virtually decimating those industries, they have had to get even more creative by turning to a more reliable source of lucre: the state itself. Prisons, utilities, health care, education, and the military have all become, in some way, subcontracted to a range of powerful private entities. Though they crow about the need for a tiny little state that would drown in the bathtub, they really rely on it for a great deal of help.
There is no need to recycle arguments many others have made on this score: the point is merely to note this particular instance and the highly orchestrated process corporate interests are going through in order to manipulate policies that serve their interests. We should note two things from this: first off, that the economic and social environment we encounter is not natural, not inevitable. It is the result of a political and cultural process which could be re-shaped with different interests in mind.
This is what these lobbyists understand. They know that if they don’t shape it, someone else will. Aside from eagerly vilifying these particular interest groups, I would point us to the second more important point, which is that we can be doing this too. And many groups are trying. We are not alone in this and there is hope to change it.