Governor Rick Scott – Born again neoliberal?

Governor Elect Rick Scott poses for portraits at the Hilton Marina Hotel on Thursday, November 4, 2010, in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Photo by Shealah Craighead

As Governor, Rick Scott barnstorms the state and its airwaves in his official capacity his political committee is busy at work creating an image of a Chief Executive who is using Government as Florida’s leading advocate. For Scott, the policy may not be different when it comes down to it but the tone and rhetoric seem positioned differently than his first six years as Governor. While Scott has governed as a strict and ineffectual conservative, recent developments such as the Scott alliance with President Trump (though evidently not on trade) and the opposition of House Speaker Richard Corcoran have pushed the Governor into a new ideological space.

What exactly is neoliberalism? Let’s ask Ivestopedia.

What is ‘Neoliberalism’
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.

Governor Scott’s public advocacy of agencies such as Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida , both public-private partnerships has a certain neo-liberal, DLC Democrat tinge to it. Scott’s embrace of government as a facilitator to enhance capitalism in the state is nothing new – but advocating for it conflicts with the conservative vision pushed by entities such as Americans for Prosperity who have previously backed Scott and now embrace Corcoran –  on ideological grounds since Scott after six years of governing seems to have gone wobbly from a purely free market and conservative perspective.

Scott’s embrace of corporate welfare and crony capitalism is indicative of the governing class in both parties – but Scott who pledged to run government like a business has fallen in line with the prevailing political culture has disappointed many of his supporters with this apparent shift. The neoliberal philosophy also includes open market and free trade – something Scott has pushed hard with his international focus including issues such a port dredging, infrastructure development in general and advocacy of the PortMiami Tunnel to facilitate greater international interaction with Florida.

Under Scott, Visit Florida’s push to raise awareness of our state as a travel destination in Europe and Latin America has resulted in an aggressive use of state dollars abroad – under the theory it opens new markets for Florida. Reality is that Florida competes with far flung destinations that don’t have the restrictions on spending we have and whose tourist industry is almost entirely state sponsored, so Scott’s gambit makes sense however in the narrow prism of Florida and US politics it looks like crony capitalism to many as well as being a clear case of government taking an active role in the state’s largest industry- something that would align Scott more with Bill and Hillary Clinton ideologically than with the tea party movement that elevated him to power in 2010.

This shift ultimately puts Governor Scott’s economic ideology more in line with free-market oriented Democrats like Bill and Hillary Clinton, Evan Bayh and Chuck Schumer among others. While Scott remains a social conservative at his core as evidenced by his rigid adherence to the death penalty,opposition to all forms of reproductive rights and his opposition to any reasonable form of gun control. But since so much of the battle politically is about money and economics, Scott appears to be more aligned with national Democrats in some respects than with the leaders of his own party, including Donald Trump whose opposition to free trade and embrace of protectionism puts him in direct conflict with the Florida Governor’s behavior in office.

Since the Democratic Party has become obsessive about identity and focused on social issues, the movement of politicians in the party toward neoliberal economics has been simply accepted by many though the Sanders movement pushed back on this development. Neoliberalism might be a safe landing ground for Republicans like Scott who face intra-party strife, meaning the third way is carrying the day in some respects within both parties – for better or for worse.

One comment

  1. With this insight, if you graphed Rick Scott’s ideology using that famous x-y axis/quadrant (collectivism/neoliberalism vs anarchism/fascism), his policies and priorities resemble that most closely hew to Thatcherism, which is halfway between fascism and neoliberalism. I believe the rise of neoliberalism and Thatcheresque Republicanism primed voters for Trump’s brand of fascism.

    That’s why neoliberalism is distressing to many who are familiar with these ideological waves that take place over time. When the “left” unburdens itself from the economic axis of the graph (relying only on the social side), we create the space for Thatcherism and emerging fascist ideology to seem reasonable.

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