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Opinion: Neoliberalism at City Hall Will Continue to Fail St. Louis

April 12, 2017 Featured, Politics/Policy No Comments
This dawn photograph of the Lambert Main Terminal was taken in June 1956, less than 4 months after its opening. Photograph by Ralph D’Oench, Missouri Historical Society Collections

Anyone who has lived in St. Louis during an election knows Democrats win in this city, but not all Democrats are the same. Outgoing mayor Francis Slay is in the group with Bill & Hilary Clinton, Claire McCaskill, Jay Nixon, etc. — a neoliberal:

Neoliberalism is a policy model of social studies and economics that transfers control of economic factors to the private sector from the public sector. It takes from the basic principles of neoclassical economics, suggesting that governments must limit subsidies, make reforms to tax law in order to expand the tax base, reduce deficit spending, limit protectionism, and open markets up to trade. It also seeks to abolish fixed exchange rates, back deregulation, permit private property, and privatize businesses run by the state.

Liberalism, in economics, refers to a freeing of the economy by eliminating regulations and barriers that restrict what actors can do. Neoliberal policies aim for a laissez-faire approach to economic development. (Investopedia)


From an economic context, neoliberalism is essentially a modern version of lassez-faire policy. Neoliberals advocate for free and unfettered trade, removing restrictions on capital moving across borders, and cutting government budgets through austerity measures. They argue that free markets and so-called “frictionless capitalism” is the best engine available to create growth and lift people out of poverty. (Fortune: Even the IMF Now Admits Neoliberalism Has Failed)

You can read the International Monetary Fund paper here.

In the municipal context neoliberalism often means privatizing public services.  In Slay’s 16 years as mayor he’s pushed for private charter schools, in 2013 Slay backed a plan that would have led to the privatization of our water system:

City Hall, led by Mayor Francis Slay, had said a $250,000 consulting contract with Veolia Water North America was necessary to help reduce costs and keep water rates down for city residents. But the process was colored by heated protests of the company’s environmental and business practices, with some residents worried the company would try to seize the city’s water and reduce its quality.

Slay’s staff on Tuesday told the aldermanic Ways and Means committee that the company had dropped itself from consideration for the contract. (Post-Dispatch: Veolia Water drops proposal to consult St. Louis water division)

In his last month in office Slay set up a study to privatize our airport.

A majority of readers in the non-scientific Sunday Poll are opposed to privatizing Lambert.

Q: Agree or disagree: St. Louis should privatize our airport by leasing it to a private firm.

  • Strongly agree 3 [8.33%]
  • Agree 4 [11.11%]
  • Somewhat agree 0 [0%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 4 [11.11%]
  • Somewhat disagree 4 [11.11%]
  • Disagree 5 [13.89%]
  • Strongly disagree 15 [41.67%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 1 [2.78%]

Hopefully mayor-elect Lyda Krewson will reject neoliberal policies that have failed St. Louis, Missouri, and the nation for years.  Voters who blindly back neoliberal Democrats might not be aware of policy alternatives from the left.

— Steve Patterson



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