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San Francisco Bay Guardian

Arnold, Milton, and the California Nightmare

Naomi Klein on The Shock Doctrine, California style

Rebecca Bowe

Speaking at the University of California at
Berkeley yesterday evening, award-winning journalist and author Naomi
Klein lamented the sweeping budgetary cuts to education, women's
shelters, and a host of critical social services that have rocked
California in recent months.

“When these cuts are imposed, it’s constantly portrayed in the media
as if it’s an unfortunate and painful necessity,” she said. On the
contrary, she argued, the gutting of the public sector in California is
no coincidence.

Klein pointed to an overarching conservative agenda that touts
free-market capitalism and limited government, and resists raising
revenues with tax increases. (We referenced Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, in our cover story last week. So it’s also not a coincidence that our cover package, “The California Nightmare,” touched on many of the same themes.)

Klein showed a brief film clip that included footage of California
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger praising the ideas of conservative
free-market economist Milton Friedman. “What you always have to
remember in this discussion is that your governor is a hardcore
ideologue,” Klein said after showing a clip in which Schwarzenegger is
seen gushing, “Dr. Friedman changed my life!”

“These pet Republican policies have been lying around,” Klein said.
“These ideas are still incompatible with democracy, still deeply
unpopular.” Nonetheless, they’re being rolled out in uncertain times
and unstable places, according to Klein, while masquerading as
emergency measures.

the federal bank bailout last fall, there was a lot of talk about
pending disaster and burning houses to justify saddling taxpayers with
such an extraordinary sum, Klein noted. “You really know how houses
were on fire in California -- but these were metaphorical houses.” She
also mentioned that Goldman Sachs handed out $23 billion in bonuses
this year. “That is the same size as California’s budget shortfall,”
she pointed out.

“A private sector debt crisis was turned into a public sector debt crisis,” Klein said. “And the bills are coming due.”

Speaking directly to UC Berkeley students who will be affected by
pending tuition increases, Klein characterized the impact on the public
university system as “a physical embodiment of a great injustice that
you are being asked to pay for.” She urged the students to fight it.

“Maybe there could be strategy where all of the people who are under
attack can intermingle and converge,” Klein said, “so you actually
become too big to fail.”

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