From Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect <[email protected]>
Subject Kuttner on TAP: The Return of Tony Blair
Date February 23, 2024 8:04 PM
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**FEBRUARY 23, 2024**

On the Prospect website

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Why Four Million Student Borrowers Got Debt Relief

It's just a matter of Biden's Education Department fixing
existing forgiveness programs that previous presidents failed to follow
for decades. BY DAVID DAYEN

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Beating the Clock

The Supreme Court can rule quickly when Trump's election
interference case is tried. But will it? BY MICHAEL MELTSNER

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Crunch Time for Government Spying

Congress has a few weeks left until a key spying provision sunsets.
Both reformers and intelligence hawks are plotting their strategies.

Kuttner on TAP








**** The Return of Tony Blair

The former prime minister has all but taken over the Labour Party and
pushed it to the right. Didn't Tony Blair, nicknamed Tory Blur, do
enough damage last time?

When Bill Clinton was the U.S. president and Tony Blair was the British
prime minister, they were soulmates. They brought us neoliberalism. Both
Clinton's New Democrats and Blair's New Labour turned away from
progressivism and working families in favor of globalist corporate
financial elites.

Neoliberal deregulation of finance in turn produced the economic
collapse in 2008. The failure of the center-left party to maximize the
moment, contain capital, and rebuild a pro-worker economy led to the
defection of working-class voters and ultimately to Trump in the U.S.
and Brexit in the U.K.

At home, Joe Biden has at last broken with Democratic neoliberalism. In
Britain, the Conservative Party has lurched from blunder to blunder and
from failed leader to failed leader, setting up a return to Labour.

The Labour Party, under Keir Starmer, is the odds-on favorite to win the
next general election, which could be as early as May or as late as next
January. But Starmer, rather than rebuilding a progressive party, has
virtually outsourced his entire program to Tony Blair.

Based on its recent pronouncements, a Starmer government, if anything,
would be worse than Blair's.

Blair, now 70, as elder statesman and policy entrepreneur, is even more
corporate than he was as prime minister. His modestly named Tony Blair
Institute for Global Change was created
in 2017. It consolidated Blair's other for-profit and nonprofit
enterprises into one
including the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, the Tony Blair Sports
Foundation, the Tony Blair Governance Initiative, and his consulting
firm Tony Blair Associates.

Blair's institute takes money from the Saudis and from several large
corporations. Its ideological stance is pro-business, pro-balanced
budget, and aims to solve social and economic problems with technocratic
solutions. The institute has a staff of over 800 and a budget of around
$100 million. It's common knowledge in British political circles that
a Starmer government would be heavily staffed by Blair Institute people.

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Earlier this month, the British government announced that Britain has
been officially in a recession for the last two quarters
This would indicate the need for a large economic stimulus, of the kind
that Biden used to keep the COVID downturn from turning into a recession
and to rebuild crumbling U.S. infrastructure and create a greener

Britain's collapsing infrastructure makes ours look modern. As it
happens, one of the core commitments of the Labour Party manifesto is
the pledge to commit 28 billion pounds (about $35 billion) a year for
four years to green infrastructure-not Biden-scale but not bad. But
after the Treasury's announcement of a recession and a wider projected
budget deficit, Labour backtracked and cut its commitment to only 4.7
billion pounds a year
in order to stay within its fiscal targets.

This is of course backwards. A recession requires more countercyclical
public investment, not less.

Britain faces dire economic and social challenges. The National Health
Service and public education are grossly underfunded. Brexit destroyed
Britain's financial and industrial links with the EU. A Labour
government has to repair relations with Europe, whether by rejoining or
by working out a Norway-like arrangement that gives Britain the benefits
of membership but without voting rights over EU policy.

Labour also needs to break the grip of organized business and finance on
acceptable policy, and raise taxes on capital to finance its other
needs. But Starmer is doing the opposite.

His shadow chancellor (finance minister), Rachel Reeves, recently gave a

to Labour's "Business Conference" in which she promised a friendly
business climate and pledged, "I will not waiver from iron-clad fiscal
rules ... we will strengthen the Office for Budget Responsibility
through a new fiscal lock."

The NHS, as noted, is starved for funds. Blair's institute recently
released a report

citing all the savings that could be realized by giving greater emphasis
to prevention and wellness, an approach pioneered by the NHS-with nary
a word about addressing the shortfall in basic NHS funding.

Neither a fiscal straitjacket nor Blair-style corporate technobabble
will solve Britain's deep problems nor make life better for ordinary
Brits. When nominally left parties get captured by the corporate
center-right and fail to solve problems, at best we get inconclusive
oscillation between the major parties, and at worst working people give
up on the system and support neofascists.


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