Michael Hudson: Millions Around the World Fleeing from Neoliberal Policy

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On the Real News Network, Michael Hudson gives evidence of the economic and lifespan cost of neoliberal policies.

The Real News Network transcripts are rough, and I’ve cleaned it up but forgive any errors that remain.

SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.

After decades of sustained attacks on social programs and consistently high unemployment rates, it is no surprise that mortality rates in the country have increased. A research team from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York has estimated that 875,000 deaths in the United States in the year 2000 could be attributed to clusters of social factors bound up with poverty and income inequality. According to U.S. government statistics, some 2.45 million Americans died in the year 2000, thus the researchers’ estimate means that social deprivation was responsible for some 36 percent of the total deaths that year. A staggering total.

Now joining us to discuss all of this from New York City is Michael Hudson. Michael is a Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri Kansas City. His latest book is Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy. Michael, good to have you with us.

MICHAEL HUDSON: Good to be back here.

PERIES: So, Michael, what do you make of these recent research and what it’’s telling us about the death total in this country?

HUDSON: What it tells is almost identical to what has already been narrated for Russia and Greece. And what is responsible for the increasing death rates is neoliberal economic policy, neoliberal trade policy, and the polarization and impoverishment of a large part of society. After the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, death rates soared, lifespans shortened, health standards decreased all throughout the Yeltsin administration, until finally President Putin came in and stabilized matters. Putin said that the destruction caused by neoliberal economic policies had killed more Russians than all of whom died in World War II, the 22 million people. That’s the devastation that polarization caused there.

Same thing in Greece. In the last five years, Greek lifespans have shortened. They’’re getting sicker, they are dying faster, they’’re not healthy. Almost all of the British economists of the late 18th century said when you have poverty, when you have a transfer of wealth to the rich, you’’re going to have shorter lifespans, and you’re also going to have immigration. The countries that have a hard money policy, a creditor policy, people are going to emigrate. Now, at that time that was why England was gaining immigrants. It was gaining skilled labor. It was gaining people to work in its industry because other countries were still in the post-feudal system and we’re driving them out. Russia had a huge emigration of skilled labor, largely to Germany and to the United States, especially in information technology. Greece has a heavy outflow of labor. The Baltic States have had almost a 10 percent decline in their population in the last decade as a result of their neoliberal policies. Also, health problems are rising.

Now, the question is, in America, now that you’’re having as a result of this polarization shorter lifespans, worse health, worse diets, where are the Americans going to emigrate? Nobody can figure that one out yet. There’’s no, seems nowhere for them to go, because they don’’t speak a foreign language. The Russians, the Greeks, most Europeans all somehow have to learn English in school. They’’re able to get by in other countries. They’’re not sure where on earth can the Americans come from? Nobody can really figure this out.

And the amazing thing, what’’s going to make this worse, is the trade, the Trans-Pacific trade agreement, and the counterpart with the Atlantic states. In today’’s news there’s news that President Obama plans to make a big push for the Trans-Pacific trade agreement, essentially the giveaway to corporations preventing governments from environmental protection, preventing them from imposing health standards, preventing them from having cigarette warnings or warning about bad food. Obama says he wants to push this in after the election. And the plan is the Republicans also are sort of working with them and saying okay, we’’re going to wait and see. Maybe Donald Trump will come in and he’ll really do things. Or maybe we can get Hillary, who will move way further to the right than any Republican could, and bring the Congress.

But let’’s say that we don’’t know what’’s happening after the elections, and the Republicans don’’t want a risk. The’y’re going to do a number of things. They’’re going to approve Obama’’s Republican nominee to the Supreme Court that he’s already done, figuring, well, maybe Hillary will put in someone worse, or even Trump may put in someone worse. They may go along, at this point, with ratifying a trade agreement that’s going to vastly increase unemployment here, especially in industrial labor, turning much of the American industrial urban complex into a rust belt. And they’’re also talking about an October surprise or an early November surprise. It’’s the last chance that Obama has, really, to start a war with Russia.

And there’’s Stephen Cohen and a number of other sites have warned that there’s going to be a danger when they put in the atomic weapons in Romania. President Putin has said this is a red line. We’’re not going to warn. We don’’t have an army. We can only use atomic weapons. So you have danger coming not only from domestic decline in population, you have a real chance of war. And Obama has stepped things up. Hillary has, I think, almost announced that she is going to appoint Victoria Nuland as secretary of state, and Nuland is the person who was pushing the Ukrainian fascists in the [inaud.] assassinations and shootout.

So it looks, this trend looks very bad. If you want to see where America is going demographically, best to look at Greece, Latvia, Russia, and also in England. A Dr. Miller has done studies of health and longevity, and he’’s found that the lower the income status of any group in England, the shorter the lifespan. Now, this is very important for the current debate about Social Security. You’’re having people talk about extending the Social Security age because people are living longer. Who’’s living longer in America? The rich are living longer. The wealthy are living longer. But if you make under $30,000 a year, or even under $50,000 a year, you’’re not living longer.

So the idea is how to avoid having to pay Social Security for the lower-income people, — the middle class and the working class that die quicker, and only pay social security for the wealthier classes that live longer? Nobody ’has plugged this discussion of lifespans and longevity into the Social Security debate that Obama and Hillary are trying to raise the retirement age, to ostensibly save Social Security. By save Social Security she means to avoid taxing the higher brackets and paying for Social Security out of the general budget, which of course would entail taxing the higher-income people as well as the lower-income people.

PERIES: All right, Michael. Thank you for your report today, and we look forward to seeing you next week.

HUDSON: Thank you.

PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.

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29 comments

  1. pretzelattack

    obama is such a tool. this is the true obama–yet you still get people defending his record, and his brilliant 11th dimensional chess triumphs like the aca.

      1. Arizona Slim

        Edith Wilson was our first female President. She was in charge after Woodrow had a stroke.

  2. Larry

    It’s taking time, but I feel that at least in America there is a strong counter movement emerging against this neoliberal tidal wave. I would say that it started with the election of Obama, when young people were fooled into voting for a marketing ploy of hope and change after a devastating economic collapse proceeded by an unpopular and clearly foolish war. Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matters were the early rumblings of extreme dissatisfaction with the status quo. The popularity of both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are pointing to probably the middle stage of this movement. The fact that Bernie nearly took the Democratic nomination while having zero national name recognition and having the entire media aligned against him shows that people know the game is rigged and they need a bigger change. I don’t know how long it will take to counter what has really been a 50 year enterprise of aligning global capital against Western labor power, but it seems that the scales are slowly tipping back towards people over capital.

      1. RBHoughton

        I hope you are right Slim.

        Our willingness to put atomic bombs in Rumania regardless of Russian or Rumanian objections is not the wish of the American or Rumanian people.

        How tragic that we drift into world war because our political managers disallow democratic oversight of their acts.

        We need to restore a proper weighting of our opinions in the policy-making process and that means discarding Congress and starting over with popular representatives who are beholden to their electors.

    1. sgt_doom

      Chomsky?

      Isn’t he the guy who urged us to vote for Obama, and now for Clinton (I recall, on the other hand, voting for the Green Party since 1996)?

      Isn’t he also the same dude who believes in the Warren Commission Report, makes up stuff about the Kennedy Administration, and also supports the Federal Reserve?

      (I was having a conversation the other day with somebody, and recall stating that based upon both my first hand experience [Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco], viewing Federal Reserve personnel such as the IG being grilled by Alan Grayson some years back, and reading extensively about them, I am UNAWARE of any honest and ethical person ever working for them, other than the possible exception of Prof. Shiller who was an advisor. If anyone knows of anyone honest who has ever worked for the Federal Reserve, I’d be interested in their name?)

  3. Ché Pasa

    Millions and millions of people were pushed into poverty by the economic unpleasantness that started for many Americans a decade ago. In poverty they have largely remained, and they will likely stay there the rest of their shortened lives. It’s not due to Natural Law, or any particular fault of the victims, it’s due to long-standing bipartisan neoLibCon government policies that force into and keep people in poverty.

    We can see it operating in other countries such as the Euro-periphery, but the fact that it also operates in the United States as well is largely obscured by relentless distractions and media obsessions that mask the devastation of lives and communities, or worse, that normalize the devastation.

    It’s important to point out that mortality rates for the not-so-well-off are increasing, lifespans are shortening, and this is a reversal of history. Again, this is due to deliberate economic and social policies not Divine Will.

    Elections — in the short term anyway — will have little or no effect on those policies. They’ve become nearly Iron Law; immutable.

    We see how little elections matter overseas, where electorates have voted time and again to end the neoLibCon reign of exploitation and terror only to see their votes canceled by fiat or their elected governments co-opted. It’s happened again and again. If Bernie Sanders had had a genuine chance of being elected president (he didn’t), it would have happened here, too. The numerous election irregularities that have taken place during the primary season were harbingers demonstrating just how easy it is to manipulate elections and outcomes.

  4. Jef

    Liberalism, neo or otherwise is simply a symptom. As if doing away with it would fix anything.

    All the focus on this is missing the greater issue of capitalism coming up against constraints.

    1. hunkerdown

      Hayek’s crack-talk is the supposed solution to that, at least from capital’s perspective. Create new markets by stealing from the commons, enforce the new markets at gunpoint, capture more of human society under GDP. What constraints are there when private human behavior can be mined for permission slips? Not many.

  5. Larry

    I’ve sadly lost hope that anything will ever change. The neoliberal system is just too strong, too deep state, and have us out armed 100-to-1 in terms of armed police as well as lobbyists with endless amounts of cash to buy politicians, who lie left and right at every turn.

    Personally, I’m 35, broke, and can’t hold down a steady job and constantly see things deteriorating at a snail’s pace. I don’t have a college degree. I can’t afford rent. I can’t afford health insurance. I can’t afford kids, and no woman don’t want a man who can’t afford kids/car/etc. I have no retirement savings, and pretty much punting on the fact by the time Social Security comes for me, that’s going to be gone as well and if it’s not it won’t be robust enough to actually provide security with the way costs are inflating. 75% of people in my age bracket are in mega debt. They are about to pass another trade bill that will cut more jobs in the U.S. It’s pretty bleak.

    I’ve never voted in my life and I am glad, because I would have fell for the hope and change bullshit as well and would have felt complicit in putting in politicians who are war criminals and Wall St sycophants. From looking at twitter and the profession class regime, it seems as if there are millions who believe in this failed system too. This whole election just brings about a depression and a despair that I am really uncomfortable with. There’s an inevitability that is similar to playing in a basketball game and your team is down 15 with 1 minute to go. I often think civil war might be the only way to change the way people think; violence doesn’t take you far, but it’s sure farther than incrementalism.

    1. Lambert Strether

      I reject the deep state as a concept. I think it can be replaced, without loss of generality, with the old-fashioned “ruling class.” (Gramsci believed that the distinction between state and civil society was valid only for purposes of exposition or study.) Class has the additional advantage that classes split into subclasses, which can give an account of events like those in, oh, 1789, which “deep state” cannot. So don’t despair, or at least not on those grounds.

      1. sgt_doom

        Mr. S, when I was much younger I believed exactly as you. Too many years later, I have learned that the Deep Staters were indeed right.

        Just examine closely the major players involved from all angles with the global economic meltdown, and try to find one who wasn’t connected to David Rockefeller.

        Next, examine the financial history of the World Trade Center, from original financing, laws surrounding it, and up to an after the attacks of 9/11/01, and tell me how the Rockefellers weren’t involved at every point?

        Sorry, that Deep State is much deeper than any of us can imagine. . . .

      2. Percy

        All this reminds me, uncomfortably, of the society of Russia and its nobility under Czar Alexander — the age of Tolstoy. And how did that work out?

  6. ckimball

    What about, almost as an aside, ” And they’re also talking about an October surprise or an early November surprise. It’s the last chance that Obama has, really, to start a war with Russia.” Okay now I’m feeling frightened and sick and sad and contemptuous disgust. Who are these people, that may have no reverence for any life at all.
    How crass. They are fleas. They have no culture. I spit on them.
    I knew something was screwy when Obama sent people to Georgia way back, when? with for me, unfathomable reasons. What were WE doing there? No thing good. They are talking about a surprise….
    I hope they, whoever they are, get a surprise.

  7. steelhead23

    Perhaps a bit OT, but just this morning I read of a small village in Arizona that has for years provided residents with uranium-laden water. And as we all know, Flint is not alone in having undesirable levels of lead in their water. I consider water sanitation and hygiene to be among the greatest accomplishments of modernity – and yet, many of us are still drinking tainted water. To relate this to Hudson’s concern, water is, or should be, a part of the commons, a concept neolibs eschew. What we are really losing isn’t just life expectancy, it is the commons in general. As our commons are neglected (oceans, rivers, atmosphere, biosphere) humans suffer (die sooner). Rather than trying to privatize everything in sight, our leaders should be working to improve the commons.

  8. Sound of the Suburbs

    Michael Hudson should frame his work in all time and in (nearly) all societies.

    Here you go …… “Killing the Host” big picture.

    Just because no one mentions the upper class anymore they still exist.

    Throughout history the people at the top have been afforded a life of leisure and luxury while doing very little, they design the system.

    Every social system since the dawn of civilization has been set up to support a Leisure Class at the top who are maintained in luxury and leisure through the economically productive, hard work of the middle and lower classes.

    The lower class does the manual work; the middle class does the administrative and managerial work and the upper class lives a life of luxury and leisure.

    The UK’s aristocracy has seen social systems come and go, but they all provide a life of leisure and luxury with someone else doing all the work.

    Feudalism – exploit the masses through land ownership
    Capitalism – exploit the masses through wealth

    The system itself always provides for the idle rich.

    We have been sold a lot of nonsense about Capitalism, it is just another system to look after an idle, upper class but coincidentally, it had other aspects that were efficient and even impressed Marx.

    The classical economists distinguished between the two sides of Capitalism, the productive side where “earned” income is generated and the parasitic, rentier side that looks after the idle rich through “unearned” income.

    Adam Smith:

    “The Labour and time of the poor is in civilised countries sacrificed to the maintaining of the rich in ease and luxury. The Landlord is maintained in idleness and luxury by the labour of his tenants. The moneyed man is supported by his extractions from the industrious merchant and the needy who are obliged to support him in ease by a return for the use of his money. But every savage has the full fruits of his own labours; there are no landlords, no usurers and no tax gatherers.”

    Adam Smith saw landlords, usurers (bankers) and Government taxes as equally parasitic, all raising the cost of doing business.

    (Moving taxes to “unearned” income, removes the tax over-head on labour making nations more competitive.)

    He sees the lazy people at the top living off “unearned” income from their land and capital.

    He sees the trickle up of Capitalism:

    1) Those with excess capital collect rent and interest.
    2) Those with insufficient capital pay rent and interest.

    He differentiates between “earned” and “unearned” income.

    The Classical Economists suggested putting all the taxation on the parasitic side of Capitalism to fund the productive side.

    Of course today we do the opposite and use income tax as the main tax base, a tax on “earned” income.

    The rich get richer and the poor get poorer as the Classical Economists would have predicted.

    1. Sound of the Suburbs

      “The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions”, by Thorstein Veblen.

      The Wikipedia entry gives a good insight. It was written a long time ago but much of it is as true today as it was then.

      This is the source of the term conspicuous consumption, his forgotten “conspicuous leisure” is still very popular today.

      1. jrs

        leisure like wealth needs to be redistributed, so that all have a larger share of it.

      2. sgt_doom

        And the great social economist, Thorstein Veblen, was also the professor of economic surplus, and how the plutocrats destroy it!

    2. sgt_doom

      My reading suggestion to you in case you haven’t read it yet:

      Wealth, Power, and the Crises of Laissez-Faire Capitalism

      by Donald Gibson

      1. Sound of the Suburbs

        I’ve just had a look on UK Amazon and that is one very expensive book.

        I read the one review on US Amazon (none on UK) and can see it would be interesting, I’ll have to wait till it comes down in price.

    3. different clue

      Oh? I thought many of the Indian Nations did something rather different. Am I wrong about that?

  9. Praedor

    Mission accomplished. The purveyors of neoliberalism KNOW it kills, and that is considered a FEATURE, not a bug. Neoliberals WANT depopulation of the “little people” or the “poors”.

  10. Hide

    Entirely true that purveyors of neoliberalism want depopulation of plebs. This is a function of neoliberalism that’s overlooked perhaps because it’s hard for the western mind to accept that genocide exists in more methods than the holocaust.Genocide can be systemic as we are witnessing, yet not decrying. As resources dwindle, the powerful will need that fresh water. The more people who are cut off from resources i.e., heathcare, education, safe food and water, community resources etc., the less people will be left to fight for equality. Either you play their money game on their terms or you will die invisibly. Are the numbers of people dying from lack of heathcare not genocide? Are the numbers of people dying from sytemic poverty and racism not genocide? Are the numbers of people dying from the endless war on terror in the middle east not genocide? Or the numbers of dead from the war on drugs not genocide? Neoliberalism and austerity through sytemic violence equate to sytemic genocide. I don’t think it is too much of a leap to equate sytemic violence and occupation to genocide. In fact I’m surprised that there is little analysis drawing these conclusions short of extremist and conspiracy theorists. It’s as if there’s a market on the term genocide which exists only for those who draw sympathy from the masses. If the market could sell genocide, they would. After all, it is the market which is driving this genocide ( as it’s driving extinction i.e., elephants, rhinos, tigers etc.). It’s not work that brings freedom, money brings freedom. The slaves of money are not entitled to money, they are only entitled to work.

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