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Neoliberalism comes to Missouri by Marc Becker

In the 1980s, conservative governments across Latin America implemented neoliberal economic policies allegedly as a mechanism to reign in soaring inflation and to stimulate economic growth. The policies were a reaction against a large state participation in the economy. In the 1970s, military governments had run up large debts. Investment banks had urged Latin American governments to take out loans at high interest rates in the belief that deficit spending would grow their economies. Unaccountable to civilian oversight and without the interests of the general population in mind, the military generals wasted the money on white elephants and corrupt enterprises. In the 1980s, a debt crisis hit the region. The prevailing wisdom shifted to a belief that governments were inefficient, and that private initiatives would result in a more effective administration of the economy. The United States government and international lending agencies, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, began to require that governments privatize previously state-run sectors of the economy as a condition to receive development loans and debt relief. These austerity policies required the slashing of subsidies for transportation, food, utilities, and other resources. The argument was that users should pay more of the true cost of the resources and services that they used. These cuts fell disproportionally on the most impoverished and marginalized 6

members of society. While the wealthy politicians who implemented these policies traveled to their highly paid positions in chauffer-driven limousines, common people now spent most of their meager salaries on public transit simply getting to work. Prices rose and the earning power of salaries for the common people fell. In one of the most famous reactions to these savage neoliberal policies, in February 1989 people in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas took to the streets in protest. The government responded with a ferocious force, killing hundreds if not thousands of people in order to squash their demands. With Republicans now in power on both a state and federal level, our politicians are implementing these same vicious neoliberal policies in this country. Gov. Eric Greitens, along with the collaboration of Republican legislators including our own local Nate Walker, are pushing through a state budget that slashes education funding. The argument is that we do not have enough revenue to fully fund Truman State University, and that students will have to pay more for their education. The Republicans made this decision even as they cut corporate tax rates that would more than cover educational and other expenses. Truman State University’s new president Sue Thomas announces that we all have to pull together to cover what looks like a permanent cut in funding for higher education. Students will have to

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the monitor February 2017  

the monitor February 2017