Microblog 5: neoliberalism, a primer


Many people are confused about what neoliberalism is. Here, for their reference, is a thing that is definitely neoliberalism. I received a letter from the State of New Jersey Division of Pensions and Benefits informing me that the state employee health plan would be undergoing a “dependent eligibility verification audit.” Every NJ employee who has children or other dependents on their health insurance is going to have to prove that those dependents are eligible. The reason, says the letter, is that “the cost of coverage for dependents… is substantial, and coverage of ineligible individuals unfairly raises the costs of coverage for all members and taxpayers.”

The first thing about this that is quite neoliberal is the idea that I, a “member and taxpayer,” should be mad about the dollar cost to me of other NJ employees’ kids having health insurance when they don’t “deserve” it, and that “fairness” will only have been achieved when I and all other “taxpayers” am only sharing the cost of health insurance for people who do deserve it. But since I actually think that everybody deserves health care, I can’t get mad about ineligible dependents; what I do get mad about is the lack of universal health care. I also get mad about receiving this letter, the rhetoric of which converges with the hard-right case against Medicare for all, on letterhead with the name of New Jersey’s new, supposedly “progressive” governor on it. But that is the second thing that is neoliberal about this: it exemplifies the full complicity of politically liberal parties in transforming all social rights into private goods and limiting the state’s responsibility to ensuring “fair” trading conditions in those newly marketized goods.

But best and most neoliberal of all is that this dependent eligibility verification audit is not being carried out by state employees; no, for the state Division of Pensions and Benefits has “engaged the services of Alight Dependent Verification Services” (which of course also means that “members and taxpayers” are paying for these services; they are also paying for the time all the state employees like me are going to have to waste proving they are actually married to or parents of the people they are married to or parents of). Alight Solutions LLC, “a leading provider of human capital solutions,” has a business in helping organizations kick people off health insurance. Under neoliberalism, the state of New Jersey is just one more client, ipso facto pursuing the same goals Alight pitches to all potential clients on its website: “return on investment,” “fiduciary responsibility,” and decreased “compliance risk.”

There you go: it’s pretty neoliberal, is what I am saying. Very happy holidays to all the responsible fiduciaries in Trenton and their no doubt fully benefits-eligible families.