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Related Categories: U.S. | Labor & Workers
Neoliberalism prevents forward-looking policies
by Ines Schwerdtner
Sunday Apr 11th, 2021 12:30 PM
Never learned! Not only since 30 years, please, it is round about 200 years since Rockefeller and Standard Oil. Today now we have to bitterly accept that the planet is not a factory and not a limited company. Capitalism is not an option for life!
30 years of neoliberalism prevent forward-looking policies.
Welfare Germany is lurching into the third wave, some speak of state failure. But the malaise goes deeper
By Ines Schwerdtner

[This article published in April 2021 is translated from the German on the Internet, Wohlfahrt ǀ Sorge, Staat, sorge! — der Freitag.de.]

Worry, state, worry!

Let's imagine for a moment how the pandemic would have gone if the state had taken precautionary action a year ago. So lessons were learned from the first wave, because people understood what was important: clinics were better equipped with materials and, above all, with personnel, production was quickly switched to proprietary masks and filters, and all available research funds were put into widespread vaccine production. During the summer, schools and administrations underwent a general digital overhaul, and new findings on the incidence of infection were widely discussed from virological as well as psychological and social perspectives. Farms were required to comply with mandatory hygiene measures and were supported to transition to home offices or curtailed production. Policymakers transparently communicated both the short-term n and a medium-term plan for pandemic response on a weekly basis at both the state and federal levels. Everyone knew it would take patience to get everyone vaccinated, but people remained optimistic because they felt informed and because there was a sense of collective effort.

Things went differently. After the first spirited intervention in the spring of 2020, the gaps in the state made themselves felt instead. Not necessarily in immediate financial terms, as the supplementary budget allowed for both the short-time allowance and urgently needed bridging aid, but rather in terms of general services of general interest. It seemed as if those in power were relying all too much on the individual's own responsibility, which at a certain point, however, could no longer be shouldered by individuals at all. As the months went by, it became increasingly clear that the state at all levels was apparently unable or unwilling to effectively prevent a second wave. The state was once again sliding into an uncontrollable situation and is now lurching into a third, possibly more dangerous wave, following the same pattern without any recognizable learning progress. There is still no legal obligation to test in companies. Not until 2022 is the supply of in-house vaccine production to be ensured. Companies are still shirking the home office, and the government cannot even enforce a day of economic shutdown.

The fact that it has come to this is due to a complex web of incompetence, powerful business interests, an apparently relatively immobile administrative and government apparatus, the failure of the Chancellor's Office in the federal system - but above all to decades of undermining what we think of as a preventive state. The malaise lies deeper than masked scandals or poorly run conferences of prime ministers suggest on the surface. The process of undermining services of general interest goes back further. It begins with the false promise of an efficient state through privatization and flexibilization.

After the welfare state was abandoned as a political consensus in almost all industrialized nations in the 1980s and 1990s, all social safeguards were put to the test. Many areas of services of general interest, from health, education, housing, water and energy supply and transportation to administration and even government itself, were thrown onto the market and had to function under its principles. Criteria of economic efficiency replaced criteria of the common good. The ideological effect to this day is that individual responsibility has largely supplanted the common good.

Health saved away, sorry
This was supposed to make the state more sustainable, leaner and more effective. In the pandemic reality, we then see that no state institution is any longer capable of fast and effective action: underfinanced, bureaucratic and paralyzed by a lack of personnel. The main beneficiaries of the processes have been those who, even now in the crisis, are raking in juicy returns or earning millions as advisors to the government - with no discernible benefit to the general public.
But neoliberals are still whistling from their old holes. Ulf Poschardt, editor-in-chief of Die Welt, recently called for less bureaucracy and (even) more McKinsey. In 2020, the German government spent a record 433 million euros on external consultants, more than ever before. In view of the state's failure, the McKinseyization of politics is not a blessing but a curse. If ministries themselves are no longer capable of acting, if they don't plan for the long term and with foresight, if they don't train the competencies themselves, then they make themselves dependent on consulting firms that, for their part, only have their own profit in mind. And not precaution.

In March 2020, the federal and state governments decide on "contact restrictions" - the new reality of the pandemic intervenes in our psychological, social, political condition. The day after, Carolin Emcke begins her "journal". Just as she notes nightmares, she analyzes nationalistic reflexes of Europe and the authoritarian seduction of the virus.

And Poschardt, representing his brothers in the spirit of neoliberalism, also errs in the comparison of crises: namely, that Angela Merkel failed as she did in the "refugee crisis" in 2015. It is precisely this comparison that one should not even get involved in, in the sense of standing by the crisis, because it leads in the wrong direction when it comes to the question of supply. When around one million people fled to Germany, this did not burden the approximately 80 million others in the Federal Republic at all. There was a crisis only for those who arrived. Where state provision was insufficient, civil society stepped in. The supporters only got into the crisis when the state did not use their intervention to expand the supply structures locally. However, the state was by no means overwhelmed: In truth, new workers were more than welcome; they just didn't want to admit it for political motives and fear of the right-wingers themselves.

In the Corona crisis, however, Angela Merkel is facing a problem that she knows neither from 2015 nor from the years after 2008 during the financial crisis: that really all state institutions and almost all parts of the population are affected. While it was still possible to save "system-relevant" banks and manage a large part of the euro crisis from the position of the strongest, it is now becoming apparent that too many cuts have been made to the supporting pillars of society in Germany as well. Socially absolutely necessary work such as care, education, health and administration came under an austerity squeeze in recent decades that is now catching up with us again, something the chancellor had to admit in an interview on Anne Will, at least for the health offices. She took responsibility for this. This is hardly any consolation to those affected.

Beyond the profit horizon
Merkel's grand gesture of apology cannot hide the fact that her various cabinets continued and radicalized austerity policies for years. The austerity was imposed not only on the southern European states, but also on the country's own population. Contrary to all sober calculations, they failed to invest in the municipalities. According to the KfW Municipal Panel 2020, the perceived municipal investment backlog amounts to 147 billion euros. The Corona crisis highlights what has been missed in education, digitization, administration, infrastructure and health in recent years. Under these conditions, a forward-looking policy cannot be implemented at all.

This insight will hit us even harder in the coming years when, after the pandemic, the climate catastrophe is followed by the next, far greater crisis. If the state does not manage to invest in a green industrial policy and intervene massively, this will have devastating climatic and social consequences. Even before the pandemic, industry and trade unions were calling for 450 billion euros of investment in the future. For in the climate crisis, the sensitive areas of energy, agriculture, housing and transport are added to the equation. Here, too, it would be disastrous to leave a few large companies to carry out a transformation that needs more landmarks than the optimization of individual returns.
A break with the neoliberal form of governance would not mean more or less state, but a different state that takes the tasks of provision seriously. To some critics of the state, this may seem paternalistic; to others, it may conjure up the specter of a planned economy. But the state alone, through its individual institutions at the various levels, is in a position to keep an eye on the complexity of society and make it possible to plan for the future. It is able to take out loans and invest in structurally weak regions, to redistribute resources, to steer the economy with foresight and to shape it sustainably in time, because it looks beyond the profit interests of individual sectors. It is capable of modernizing the administration. A state oriented toward the common good could have relied on mask and vaccine production during the Corona crisis; as an industrial state, it could have distributed the technical know-how and capacities for retooling in schools and factories. It would have proceeded in a planning manner, out of sheer necessity, not for economic reasons, not even for ideological reasons.
The precautionary state would be the end of the McKinsey state - but not the end of history. It is not a bold socialist idea, but rather the condition for the possibility of a socially secure life. With all its well-known contradictions. But from here we can fight: so that nationalization can grow into socialization.

Saloonleft | Community8 days ago@ eigentlichschon
The pandemic will not be fought. Not here in Germany.
It is a great way to distract from politics.

It is simply the capitalist profit logic that is behind all as a cause. You can wish for different action in as many articles as you like - there is simply a lack of forces opposing it. The few existing clusters of anti-capitalist forces achieve no effect in the direction of redirecting.
In addition, some left forces believe that if they sit in parliament, talk about things that the population is practically not interested in, write programs and press releases, then that would already be a revolt. No, it is capitulation with red paint.

Fro | Community8 days ago
The restrictions on freedom or fundamental rights are necessary to this intolerable extent to mitigate the consequences of neoliberal policies. Absurdly, they are also rescue measures for neoliberalism. During the entire period of the pandemic, neoliberalism was not questioned by politicians at all. There has been no talk of a century-long reform of the health care system and care for the elderly, which has been necessary for a long time. Not even in other countries, where the neoliberalization of basic care with all the disastrous effects that have become visible is already further along : Italy, France, Greece ...

Crazy: we are supposed to renounce liberties - with all the terrible consequences - so that the neoliberals can continue as before. And how brazen they are, you can read here.

Avatar
a good immune system costs and brings the pahrmabranche nix. therefore spahn u co also has no interest.
right, there is only corona, no age poverty, no environmental problems, no income poverty, no h4 chicanery....
what's so precautionary about poor people not being able to afford meat anymore, but wealthy people can? a precautionary state, would make sure that everyone saves. spd and green- all hypocrites, preach water, drink wine.

Fro | Community7 days ago@ Fro
I am not anti-vaccination. Those who are at risk should get vaccinated with a safe vaccine. And those who want to avoid an unpleasant course of infection for themselves should also be allowed to (free of charge). A safe vaccine in sufficient quantity must be procured by the state. But this is a complete failure - in every respect.

The vaccination strategy is also flawed. Family doctors should have been activated much earlier. They know their risk patients ... And they have a better overview of the side effects of the vaccines, which would be important at the beginning of a vaccination campaign with new vaccines.

mahe | community7 days ago@ Fro
I don't think so, she is a stone cold neoliberal who comes in the guise of a scientific angel thanks to media.

Merkel internalized the neoliberal ideology very early. As an inexperienced politician, she was taken under the wing and 'worked on' by all the smart-seeming masters of the interest groups from business and the financial industry. Democracy was not her thing. Didn't anyone teach her.

Haikoderanwalt | Community6 days ago
Crisis of trust. Who is to blame?
The German President, Mr. Steinmeier in his address to the people spoke of "crisis of confidence..."
Where does this come from?

Causes should be sought from politicians themselves!
Mr. Seehofer recently refused to be vaccinated with Astrazeneca. The offer/demand came from Mr. Spahn to regain trust in the population - towards strategy of vaccination from the federal government in general and regarding vaccination with Astrazeneca in particular.
Why does Mr. Seehofer not want to be vaccinated with Astrazeneca. Does he know something about Astrazeneca that we don't? After all, he used to be the Minister of Health.

If he does change his mind, the press should also be present - as in the case of Mr. Steinmeier's vaccination! This also applies to the other politicians who will still take part in this image campaign.
"This to me is the big fail."

Why a big failure? We live in a capitalist country with corresponding governments since 1949. To expect more than a few breadcrumbs of social from them is naive.

In addition, for the last 30-40 years, neoliberalism has brought corruption and party haggling, always on the backs of the people in the lower half. The companies write in the legislation and build everywhere the useful for them backdoors with. Elections do not change this.

Fro | Community6 days ago@ rioges
Yes, absolutely right. I have no illusions and unfortunately do not see any "hopeful" in the entire party landscape. But if we no longer make any demands on our political personnel, they do all the more only what they want. I like to look at it from the citizen's perspective: Actually, our political personnel should behave completely differently ... A change in the situation can only come from the citizens themselves. And for that, they would first have to formulate their tough demands on politics. Will probably take some time ...;)

Hatchet | Community 5 days ago
Unfortunately missing the mark...
In her rage at the bogeyman that is neoliberalism, the author unfortunately misses some crucial points. Having worked in a county government leadership role for a little over 2 years after 16 years in the private sector, the following has become clear to me in the Corona crisis:

- Hardly any creativity, hardly any efficiency, no solution-oriented approaches, always pushing responsibility away, official channels and form are almost always more important than content, and in case of doubt, it is better to do nothing, then you can't do anything wrong.
- Anyone who opposes this system is simply ignored in the best case or simply dumped.
- In case of doubt, the legal department puts the brakes on everything. Or the staff council. Or the gender equality officer...
There was hardly anything broken. But dusty and stubborn. But you can blame that so badly on the neoliberals, right 😂.

Haikoderanwalt | Community 5 days ago@ Fro
Hope dies last.
Something unexpected can always happen.
The further vaccination was stopped mainly because several EU countries did this (vaccination stop) before and informed the worldwide press about it.
Just for this reason there was a stop on the part of politics (federal government) in Germany, to see how people in Germany react to the deaths, thromboses etc. caused by the Astrazenesca vaccination...
But many people don't even get to see what is really happening.
What if not nationally announced information would be announced just before the federal election? There were always publications that the nationwide public would have a legitimate interest in, and yet this information was only announced regionally. Possibly one reason for this was that such information was useless for the current goals and strategies of the federal government.
It is only a starting point to say that there is potential for success or that Germany is not yet "lost".

Haikoderanwalt | Community5 days ago@ rioges
Major crises bring (unexpected) changes, so the elections could at least make a difference. One problem, however, is time. For example, the merely temporary bogus solutions that have no (at least medium-term as well as long-term) durability, such as Kurzarbeitsgeld (short work money)or Überbrükungshilfen (transition help) are dragged out until the general election.

Also the opposition does not notice it that it is a calculability to spend as much money as only possible on the part of the Federal Government now, in order to help the Bevökerung of Germany allegedly. In reality however thereby - the next elections to win!

rioja | Community4 days ago
Heidegger speaks of worry as the existential of man. Good morning, dear worries! Daily! Whole industries live from pre-care and others from post-care. The Germans are, pardon me, the worry world champions. Instead of just living! Never learned! Not only since 30 years, please, it is round about 200 years since Rockefeller and Standard Oil. Today now we have to bitterly accept that the planet is not a factory and not a limited company. Capitalism is not an option for life!

Frank Mögling | Community4 days ago
In the third year after the outbreak of the Corona pandemic on our blue planet, some existential questions arise for the further coexistence of the populations, which may simply need to be deliberated in a global public debate space based on the already existing global reports and documentaries.

Since until today in 2021 the 193 member states of the "United Nations" have regrettably not succeeded in really and truly uniting to a union of ethical thinking and acting, it might make sense to found a "Planetary Culture Parliament" to jointly search for the best solutions to the problems at hand
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