"Free Market Reforms"
What do all of these have in common? All of them are rightist, deceptive, and harmful to society. Most importantly, all are efforts to roll back reforms in the name of "reform."
Let's look at "welfare reform." Welfare was a reform that was put into place to take some of the suffering out of an economic system where there never was enough employment for everyone. Yet, while Bill Clinton reappointed a Federal Reserve Board Chair who used monetary policy to keep unemployment even higher than it otherwise would be under capitalism, he also pushed through a set of cutbacks in welfare payments that served as a punishment for women, children, and for people of color which made them pay the price for this needlessly high unemployment.
Non Western countries had put in place numerous reforms to keep their economies from being completely dominated by their own wealthy elites and by foreign corporations. Rightist US governments, using economic leverage through the World Bank, IMF, and private banks, pushed through policies that significantly reversed the reforms that those governments had put into place, all in the name of "free market reforms."
"Pension reform," often called "Social Security Reform" here in the US, follows a similar pattern. Social Security and pensions are reforms that have done a lot to relieve poverty and misery among the elderly. Wealthy elites have decided they are done tolerating this, since they want all the money and wealth for themselves. So, they looted most private corporate pensions in the late 20th Century. Now, they are trying to loot Social Security and public employee pensions, all in this Orwellian use of the word "reform."
Then, there's tenure reform. Sleazy politicians like Michael Bloomberg and Scott Walker are trying to engage in the same age discrimination that private sector employers use. They private sector has been laying off older workers disproportionately and hiring younger workers disproportionately because older workers' experience has put them in a position where their work is worth more in terms of productivity, giving them higher salary scales. Also, older workers cost more in terms of health insurance. So, what do these sleazebags do? They create phony "budget crises" in order to justify massive age discrimination in the name of "tenure reform." Public school teachers have tenure to keep corrupt practices from determining who gets those jobs. While the original corruption tenure was meant to fight was patronage, tenure is an equally valid reform to prevent massive age discrimination.
Then, there is the right's biggest Orwellian phrase of them all, "tax reform." The graduated tax is the most important economic and political reform in US history. It is based on the fairest view of taxation. Those who are wealthier benefit more from society, so they owe society higher tax rates as compensation. Graduated tax rates also reduce social stratification, and make the upward mobility inherent in the American Dream a possibility outside of the world of fiction. Yet, the phony "tax reform" movement is attacking this reform by trying to cut taxes for the rich and raise them for the middle class and the poor through the flat tax.
Real tax reform would involve getting rid of tax loopholes used by the rich and corporations. It would involve raising the tax rates for the rich and corporations. It also would involve luxury and windfall profits taxes. Yet, the corporate shills and the corporate media never talk about real tax reform. They just want to distort "tax reform" as a spin term to divert more and more of this nation's income and wealth to the rich.
"Reform" sounds great. Real reform is great. However, the way the rightists abuse the word to attack important reforms is truly reprehensible. The middle class and the poor need to take back the word reform and make sure that it is no longer acceptable to attack real reform in the name of "reform."