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The Mexicanization of the United States

Posted on Mar 13, 2016

By Chris Hedges

  Workers at one of the maquiladoras in Juarez, Mexico, raise flags in 2013. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, such factories have proliferated, but critics of the pact say its effects have been economically devastating on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.  (Ivan Pierre Aguirre / AP)

The neoliberal ideology that is the engine of corporate capitalism spews its poison around the globe. Constitutions are rewritten by judicial fiat in a mockery of democracy. Laws and regulations that impede corporate exploitation are abolished. Corporations orchestrate legally sanctioned tax boycotts. Free-trade deals destroy small farmers and businesses along with labor unions and government agencies designed to protect the public from contaminated air, water and food and from usurious creditors and lenders. The press is transformed into an echo chamber for the corporate elites. Wages stagnate or decline. Unemployment and underemployment soar. Social services are curtailed or abolished in the name of austerity. The political system becomes a charade. Dissent is criminalized. The ecocide by the fossil fuel industry accelerates. State enterprises and utilities are sold to corporations. The educational system mutates into vocational training. Culture and the arts are replaced by sexual commodification, banal entertainment and graphic depictions of violence. Infrastructures crumble.

The working poor—sacrificed on the altar of corporate profit and suffering job losses, bankruptcies, foreclosures, harassment and arrest—watch helplessly as their dreams for themselves and their children evaporate. Some are forced into an underground economy dominated by drugs, crime and human trafficking. Some turn to opiates to blunt the despair. (Heroin use in the United States has doubled since 2007.) Suicides mount. (There are more than 40,000 a year in the U.S.) Hunger spreads. (Some 48.1 million Americans, including 15.3 million children, live in food-insecure households.) The state, to prevent unrest, militarizes the police agencies and empowers them to use lethal force against unarmed civilians. It fills the prisons. 

From Mexico to Greece to the United States, the scenario is the same, varying only in degree. Neoliberalism and globalization create a vast race to the bottom. Duplicitous political elites, epitomized by Barack Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton, are or will be highly compensated for doling out trillions in “quantitative easing” to banks and other financial firms while delivering credulous voters to the corporate guillotine. Everyone and everything, including the natural world, is transformed into a commodity to exploit for profit.

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The corporate pillage, as the Argentines have recently discovered, is limitless. The new Argentine president, the right-wing Mauricio Macri—put in office by corporate backers—has agreed to pay billions to a handful of hedge funds that bought up the country’s debt for a pittance and then demanded full repayment. Paul Singer’s Elliott Management alone will make $2.4 billion, as much as 15 times its initial investment. 

The corporate looting is impervious to regulation or reform. It will continue until there is nothing left to exploit or is halted by popular revolt. It is creating frustrated and enraged populations that are being seduced in the United States, Europe and elsewhere by demagogues and protofascists. “Fascism, like socialism,” the economist Karl Polanyi wrote, “was rooted in a market society that refused to function.” Left unchecked, the present system will usher in a dystopia ruled by criminal power structures, including Wall Street, and inflict tremendous suffering and poverty on societies rent apart by global warming as well as internecine and nihilistic violence. Mexico is not an anomaly. Mexico is the future.

In the U.S. there is the added dead weight of the war industry. We have spent or obligated $4.4 trillion for the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. In 15 years of war we have produced hundreds of thousands of dead, millions of refugees, wholesale devastation in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, tens of thousands of Islamic terrorists, a series of failed states that stretches from Iraq and Syria to Libya, and obscene profits for the arms manufacturers, who constitute the only real reason these wars are still being fought. The national treasury is being drained for military adventurism that makes us one of the most reviled nations on earth. At some point the entire house of cards, including the speculative financial markets, will collapse. And then, as John Milton wrote in “Paradise Lost,” “engorged without restraint,” we will eat death.

We are devolving into a nation that increasingly resembles countries such as Mexico and Greece where the destruction is more advanced. We are undergoing a slow-motion crash. The continued reliance on established mechanisms of political participation and reform—the chief mistake made by the supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders—will not work. The entire system has to be demolished, as radicals in parties such as Syriza and Podemos understand. The effort is not only a war to bring down financial systems. It is a war to bring down political systems. It is a war that requires widespread and sustained popular revolt dedicated to overthrowing all the mechanisms of corporate power.

“To allow the market mechanism to be sole director of the fate of human beings and their natural environment, indeed, even of the amount and use of purchasing power, would result in the demolition of society,” Polanyi warned in “The Great Transformation.”

“In disposing of a man’s labor power the system would, incidentally, dispose of the physical, psychological, and moral entity ‘man’ attached to the tag,” he went on. “Robbed of the protective covering of cultural institutions, human beings would perish from the effects of social exposure; they would die as the victims of acute social dislocation through vice, perversion, crime, and starvation. Nature would be reduced to its elements, neighborhoods and landscapes defiled, rivers polluted, military safety jeopardized, the power to produce food and raw materials destroyed.”


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