Miserable Bankruptcy of Neoliberal “Takeover” Reports

For decades, one of the main strategies used by neoliberals to destroy public enterprises and eliminate the public interest has been: Starve It, Demonize It, Discredit It, Privatize it.

Since the late 1970s, neoliberals and their state have made greater use of the “Takeover” reporting method to justify wrecking and privatizing social programs and public enterprises, especially public education.

In practice, this neoliberal strategy means continually cutting funding for public enterprises and making it very difficult, even impossible, to do things properly and effectively, even though an enormous amount of money actually exists. Then the targeted public entity is vilified and blamed for not surviving brutal funding cuts. The targeted entity is methodically and repeatedly disgraced, shamed, and reproached. It is blamed for everything under the sun even though it is the victim of numerous neoliberal assaults. Then, once antisocial public opinion is consolidated, the targeted public enterprise is privatized—handed over to powerful private interests in the name of “efficiency,” “accountability,” “sustainability,” “competition,” “choice,” and “results.”

Neoliberals call this attack on the public “restructuring.” Such language debases the meaning of things and sanitizes assaults on the public. It is an attempt to conceal the fact that “restructuring” always enriches owners of capital and has nothing to do with improving public services or advancing the common good.

In recent years, neoliberals and privatizers have increased their cookie-cutter production of lengthy, glossy, high-sounding “Takeover” reports produced by “experts,” “prestigious institutions,” “commissions,” or “special task forces.” These unelected “experts” and entities—often chosen for their neoliberal credentials—zealously over-document “inefficiencies,” “cost over-runs,” “redundancies,” “waste,” “dysfunction,” and “governance problems” in the targeted public enterprise.

“Takeover” reports bend over backwards to make the targeted public enterprise look incompetent, unsustainable, and mired in constant turmoil. Thick descriptions of “internal conflicts” and “conflicts of interest” are invented, exaggerated, or highlighted to add extra sizzle and sensation to the report. The smallest details and all manner of secondary issues are self-servingly magnified ten-fold. A salacious vibe is generated about various functions and procedures. In this way, the focus is removed from the crimes and failures of the rich and their neoliberal state and placed instead on the victims of the rich and their neoliberal state. Perpetrator and victim are cynically inverted.

Not surprisingly, “Takeover” reports follow the same template everywhere and never investigate real social, economic, and political conditions and the crises they produce and perpetuate. Top-down austerity reports cover-up real problems and are self-serving, anti-intellectual, and unscientific. One will never find a “Takeover” report soberly examining the root-cause of problems and thinking through problems and issues in a serious manner. This is why so many public school “Takeover” reports, for example, ignore poverty, unemployment, segregation, homelessness, racism, and inequality, even though thousands of researchers and others have been highlighting these leading causes of poor achievement for more than 100 years. Neoliberals self-servingly claim that such problems, which are constantly worsening, are “too big to solve.”

Nor is there any recognition in “Takeover” reports that changes in governance, aim, policies, functions, and outcomes must be determined by the people themselves. Instead, the narrow interests of neoliberals and privatizers are placed center-stage.

“Takeover” reports are used to fool the gullible and to create antisocial public opinion in favor of “restructuring.” Such reports fabricate alarm and hysteria in order to convince people to be outraged and to beg the rich to “do something” to “fix the terrible situation at hand” that neoliberals themselves created. In this context, the dangerous notion that “anything other than what we have now” will “supposedly do” is heavily promoted. Jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire is presented as rational and desirable.

But even a child knows that any institution starved of much-needed funds for decades is being set-up to fail. Everyone knows high-quality public services and social programs can’t be done on the cheap. Real investments must be made to meet people’s needs in the 21st century. A modern society comprised of hundreds of millions of people and a mass industrial production system cannot operate on constant cuts and growing political, economic, and social inequality and instability.

For more than 40 years, the neoliberal state has been slashing funds for a range of social programs and public enterprises that serve millions of people, causing many to disappear and bringing many others to the brink of extinction. This is conscious and deliberate, not some accident or oversight. It is not the result of the “bad intentions” of “some people.”

Fortunately, there is an alternative to antisocial and antiworker “restructuring.” Privatization, corruption, and all manner of assaults by the rich on the public can and must be combatted.

However, the old way of thinking, the old “social contract,” and liberal institutions are all part of the past and no longer work, which means that they cannot provide a way forward. A new politics, outlook, and arrangements are needed. A new orientation, free of the influence of both parties of the rich and their media, is needed to open the path of progress to society.

A pro-social alternative begins with discarding the old. It means consciously rejecting capital-centered ideas and developing a human-centered outlook that recognizes that all humans are born to society and have rights by virtue of being human and that society is duty-bound to provide these rights with a guarantee in practice. Putting the narrow interests of the rich ahead of everyone else is unethical and unacceptable.

Social programs and public enterprises need more funds, not fewer funds. Society must stop paying the rich and make greater investments in social programs and public enterprises since these social programs and public enterprises are key to the continual improvement of the health, skills, and overall well-being of the people, the economy, society, and the nation.

Public funds must never be funneled to narrow private interests driven by the obsolete aim of maximizing profit as fast as possible. The rich must be blocked from accessing any public funds or deciding the affairs of any public enterprise. Public monies should always remain under the full control of a public authority worthy of the name.

If “restructuring” is needed it is “restructuring” to empower people, not major owners of capital, to become the decision-makers in society.

Shawgi Tell is author of the book Charter School Report Card. He can be reached at stell5@naz.edu.. Read other articles by Shawgi.