In the past decade, criticism of neoliberalism has become widespread in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. In the 1970s, the argument goes, many Democrats embraced the pro-market, anti-government views long associated with opposition to the New Deal and the modern welfare state. In the name of efficiency, growth and lower prices, the Carter administration deregulated airlines, freight and other sectors. The Clinton administration embraced free trade and the unbridled flow of capital across national borders. In response to the Great Recession, President Obama’s economic advisers focused on the health of the giant banks and tolerated an excruciatingly slow recovery.
The problem, critics argue, is that these policies ignore underprivileged Americans who don’t benefit from broad market-driven policies. Markets, they say, are indifferent to equitable results. The focus on total growth comes at the cost of fairness, which requires benefits and opportunities aimed at marginalized groups. Through regulation and wealth transfers, the government must lean against the markets to achieve acceptable results.