Hillary Clinton’s Belief In Meritocracy

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Hillary Clinton is bad, maybe as bad as they come.  Her saving grace is that she is going up against her old friend, and the man who has chosen to sell lunacy to the public, Donald Trump.  Her record has been one of inconsequence (her time as First Lady) or outright failure (foreign policy).  Yet, the fact that her opponent is a 70 year old buffoon, makes her far more palatable to the public.  This alone will give her the endorsement of all the major media (for what that’s worth), and will give the neoliberal policies that motivate her politics an even greater free pass.

Only critics like Robert Scheer, whose record of speaking truth to power is unblemished, will have any sort of voice in publicly calling out her horrid record of violence and self-enrichment. (There are probably many more journalists who are publicly calling out Hillary in a reasonable manner, but I just haven’t had time to read them).

The fundamental difference, to me, between what Hillary Clinton believes ails America economically and what Bernie Sanders does is the difference between equality of opportunity and the equality of outcomes.  Clinton (and those more or less riding her wake, including our leader Justin Trudeau), seem to believe that if surface level markers of discrimination are removed, the market will properly sort out winners from losers.

What she fails to realize is that the winners in our society (Canadian and American) are not created by merit alone.  Chelsea Clinton is not a multimillionaire due to sheer ability.  Justin Trudeau does not lead Canada because of his innate skill.

In their 1976 work “Schooling in Capitalist America: Educational Reforms and the Contradictions of Economic Life“, Samuel Bowes and Herbert Gintis diagnose the problem of Clintonian liberalism, before it was even being practiced:

A  fundamental error in the liberal theory of a trend toward equality of economic opportunity, we believe, is the notion that inequality of income and inequality of economic opportunity are fundamentally distinct and analytically separate phenomena.  Our approach is to explain both forms of inequality as inseparable manifestations of the underlying structure of economic life.  Specifically, we offer evidence that both forms of inequality are directly related to the market and property relationships which define the capitalist system, to the social relationships of work, and to the tendency toward uneven development” (p. 88).

Some might argue that given deeply entrenched tendency to compromise in the American republic system, even if a Clinton wanted to increase equality of economic opportunity by altering the rewards of the capitalist system, they would not be able to.  This argument may be true, but neither Hillary or Bill has ever tried.

The “The Welfare Reform Act” of 1996 had, at its core, a belief that if people just started working, any sort of work, they would be better off.  Yet, though some states (particularly those in the Deep South, those with a higher proportion of black people collecting welfare) have decreased their recipients, actual income inequality has only increased.  We now that since Bill Clinton’s neoliberal nightmare began the 62 richest people in the world now have as much wealth as 50% of the world’s population.

Is this merit?

My belief is that if Bernie Sanders had managed to scrape out a victory in the Democratic primaries and actually become president, the conversation in the United States would have moved away from the failed neoliberal policies of the past thirty years.  And though I have no say in the American election, I do read and hear about it everyday.  In Canada’s largest media conglomerates the horse race is front-page news almost everyday due to its sheer entertainment value.

Let’s not be fooled into thinking that Hillary will do anything different from what she has always done: promote hot wars between America and those who stray from its hegemony and attack the poor, telling them to go get a job.  This will be done in the name of merit, and those who will benefit will be her friends and family, The Donald included.

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