DeVos and the “Free Lunch” Flimflam: Orwell, Neofeudalism, and the Destruction of the Welfare State

Photo by Michael Vadon | CC BY 2.0

Photo by Michael Vadon | CC BY 2.0

Elite class warrior and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is making headlines as she lectures presidents of historically black colleges and universities about the alleged virtues of school choice, and brags to conservative activists that she was the first one to inform Bernie Sanders that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” DeVos’ supporters no doubt interpreted the latter comment as a stab at Sander’s support for expanding the American welfare state via free college tuition, universal health care, and other social programs. Under the neoliberal, pro-business policies of modern government, “welfare” benefits – particularly those aiding the needy and poor – are widely derided as a “crutch,” and as “rewarding” the “lazy” and “undeserving.” What America’s poor need, we are told, is tough love, which is the only way to truly empower them to earn their own keep and learn the value of an honest day’s work. On the education front, both parties have embraced a toxic “market” approach that is producing disastrous results for our nation’s youth.

Modern proponents of the neoliberal paradigm embrace a profoundly ahistorical, appalling, and Orwellian ignorance, which was apparent in DeVos’ celebratory attack on Sanders, and her bizarre comments on school choice. DeVos has little interest in public education as a stabilizing force that enriches society and contributes to civic knowledge and the…

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