Thursday 3 August 2017
When the lady with the awful hairdo uttered these villainous words of inequity …
”There is no such thing as society. There are only individuals making there are only individuals making their way” (paraphrased)
… and when the second-rate actor aligned his politics with the Christian Right, the scene was set for what we now call the inequality of neoliberalism.
Neo-liberalism can best be described as a political conservative capitalist theory holding that limiting government interference in the economy is the best way to maximise personal liberty.
In other words, it suggests that allowing the rich to grow richer and the poor to grow poorer is the better economic model.
The effects of neo-liberalism and the resulting inequality in Australia over the past 25 years are only now being questioned.
In a piece for Business Insider, the Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh laments that:
Unfortunately, the Abbott and Turnbull Governments have proposed a plethora of policies that would make Australia more unequal. Since 2013, their governments have proposed slowing the rate of pension increases, cutting the income support bonus, and removing consumer protections from the financial advice market.
When Scott Morrison claimed that inequality has “actually got better”. From a twitter troll, the claim might be laughed off. But when the Treasurer of Australia is making up the numbers, it’s nothing to chuckle about.
Since 1975, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has collected data on earnings inequality. Over this period, real wages have grown by 72% for the top tenth, but just 23% for the bottom tenth. Put another way, the top tenth of earners earned twice as much as the bottom tenth in 1975, but by 2014 they earned nearly three times as much. If low-wage earners had enjoyed the same percentage gains as the highest paid, they would be $16,000 a year better off.
Conservatives can’t just brush of inequality as if it doesn’t matter. It is caused by politics and therefore can be treated with politics It is a political choice, not an economic incapability without a cure.
Whilst economics can manifestly bring about a more equitable society it is the underlying effects where the damage can be seen to do the most damage. Equality of opportunity in almost every sphere of society makes for a better one.
It is not just in welfare that inequality exists. Even though the facts of it stare then in the face, conservatives continue to roll out the same old moronic verses from the same old hymnbook.
Take these from Tony Abbott:
… it doesn’t matter how fair our society is, in terms of its political arrangements or its economic arrangements, there are always going to be some people who do it tough because of unfortunate personal choices, or because of what might be described as acts of God.
… the poor will always be with us” and therefore everything from homelessness to dispossession caused by colonisation was a ”lifestyle choice”.
When Joe Hockey produced the 2014 budget that proved to be the most draconian in Australian political history. One that will forever be remembered for its brutishness toward the young. Joe Hockey dismissed all the criticism by saying that it was “political in nature’’ and raised the old class warfare lines. The politics of envy. It was a budget that pursued inequality with a vengeance.
”I would argue that the comments about inequality in Australia are largely misguided, both from an historical perspective, and from the perspective of the budget,” he said
Like climate deniers we now have inequality deniers. Conservatives could choose to do something about it but they wont because the have a vested interest in keeping wages low.
The unemployment payment has not risen since 1994. Shameful to say the least except it is the inequality deniers who govern for those who have, not those who have not. Housing is now almost out of reach for young people.
Penalty Rates are being slashed for low paid workers while the rich and privileged are receiving tax cuts or not paying any.
It’s a political choice to do something about this glaring inequality but the fearsome lovers of capitalism just can’t bring themselves to share anything. What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable they say.
A YouGov poll in 2015 found that 64% of Britons believe that capitalism is unfair, that it makes inequality worse. Even in the US it’s as high as 55%, while in Germany a solid 77% are sceptical of capitalism. Meanwhile, a full three-quarters of people in major capitalist economies believe that big businesses are basically corrupt.
Every time the perils of inequality are highlighted conservatives cry the music of denial. Class warfare is the song they sing but a choir of voices across the world sings the lyrics of protest.
As Warren Buffet put it “There’s class warfare alright, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
Just ask those who carry, on heavy shoulders, the burden of inequality as wages and social security payments are undermined and social expenditure is cut to make way for generous “welfare”
There is hope in this recognition of inequality that is growing and growing. A fight is emerging, one that must be won if we are to attain social equality.
LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Over the next year or so you’re going to hear a lot about inequality.
Bill Shorten’s made it central to the political strategy that he plans to take to the next election.
Tonight Labor’s former Treasurer, Wayne Swan, tells 7.30, that capitalism, as we know it must change because of inequality.
Political correspondent Andrew Probyn takes a look at how much traction that inequality message might be able to gain.
ANDREW PROBYN POLITICALCORRESPONDENT: Inequality, it’s become the political byword in Western politics. And it’s made rock stars out of white-haired men.
JEREMY CORBYN: Looking to global policies that actually share the wealth. Not glory in the levels of injustice and inequality.
BERNIE SANDERS: There is no justice when so few have so much and so many have so little.
ANDREW PROBYN: Even younger, more photogenic politicians have leapt on the bandwagon.
JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Increasing inequality has made citizens distrust their governments. Distrust their employers. It turns into us versus them.
JEREMY CORBYN: That politics that got out of the box is not going back in any box.
ANDREW PROBYN: In Australia, inequality is well and truly out of its box as a political weapon.
BILL SHORTEN, OPPOSITION LEADER: Inequality kills hope. It feeds that sense that resentment that the deck is stacked against ordinary people, that the fix is in, the deal is done.
ANDREW PROBYN: It’s contested territory.
SCOTT MORRISON, TREASURER: This idea that people and inequality and incomes has been going in the wrong direction. That’s not borne out by the facts. It hasn’t got worse, inequality. It’s actually got better.
ANDREW LAMING, LIBERAL MP: Governments should be focused on alleviating poverty. Inequality staring over the fence and noticing another guy has got a jet ski and you don’t have one. Inequality doesn’t cause suffering or falling out of the education system or poor health.
SAUL ESLAKE, ECONOMIST: You would have had to have had your eyes and ears closed for almost 20 years to believe that inequality hasn’t increased in Australia.
BEN OQUIST, THE AUSTRALIA INSTITUTE: For many people it’s a real lived experience, we’re there seeing their wages not grow. Meanwhile, they’re seeing other parts of the economy or other companies and people doing very well.
JENNIFER WESTACOTT, BUSINESS COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA: Anybody who tells Australians that the way to deal with inequality is to weaken the business sector is actually being very dishonest with people.
ANDREW PROBYN: So what do the statistics show? Since 1995, incomes for the top 10 per cent of wage earners have steadily increased. By comparison, incomes for the bottom 10 per cent of earners have only marginally improved.
The gap between the richest 10 per cent and the poorest has increased by 78 per cent over two decades, even with inflation taken into account.
CHRISTINE LAGARDE: Well I hope people will listen now.
ANDREW PROBYN: Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund surprised many economists in 2013 when she warned that inequality was an economic risk. This view is spreading as Reserve Bank Governor Phillip Lowe showed today.
PHILLIP LOWE, RESERVE BANK GOVERNOR: If workers are getting no real wage increase year after year after year that’s insidious and it reduces support for sensible economic policy.
REPORTER: Do you think inequality is rising or getting better in Australia?
PHILLIP LOWE: Well, it’s risen.
BEN OQUIST: Interestingly, the pointy heads have changed their view on the economic orthodoxy. We know that inequality is bad for economic growth.
WAYNE SWAN, FORMER LABOR TREASURER: Rising income and weath inequality is hollowing out the middle class around the developed world. Creating vast armies of working poor and leading to stagnant economies and political polarisation. It is the pre-eminent issue of our time.
ANDREW PROBYN: Former Treasurer Wayne Swan says inequality has redefined the economic rules.
WAYNE SWAN: There’s no question about that. The economic model that has delivered the inequality is trickledown economics, which is basically tax cuts for the rich, deregulation for the powerful and wage suppression for the rest.
ANDREW PROBYN: Are you saying capitalism has to change?
WAYNE SWAN: Unquestionably. Capitalism needs to be saved from itself. That’s what people like the Governor of the Bank of England are saying. It’s what the financial institutions around the world are saying. Capitalism is thoroughly discredited at the moment because it’s produced rampant income and wealth inequality
ANDREW PROBYN: It is quite extraordinary to hear from a former treasurer. Is your thinking different to what it was when you were Treasurer?
WAYNE SWAN: It is somewhat. I’ve talked about inequality all of my political life but what I’ve discovered when I was Treasurer was just the extent to which powerful vested interests would try and drive policy to make outcomes even more unequal.
ANDREW PROBYN: The next target of the inequality campaign is going to be those tax cuts to the big end of town. Are these calls and is this fight going to get even louder?
WAYNE SWAN: It certainly is. The Labor Party is going to lead this battle because it needs a whole set of policies for inclusive growth.
JENNIFER WESTACOTT: We have got to remember that if we want people’s incomes to rise. If we want to create jobs, we have to have a strong and competitive business sector.
ANDREW PROBYN: Bill Shorten has set about rebranding existing policies under the inequality banner. And you get the sense the Government has been caught flat-footed. Labor’s policies on housing affordability through curbs on negative gearing and capital gains tax are now framed as inequality issues. So too are ALP policies on tax and superannuation. It’s part grievance politics where identifying irritations is far easier than solving them. But it’s very effective. And Mr Shorten’s next target will be family trusts which some say vastly favor the rich.
BEN OQUIST: Inequality is reshaping economics and it’s reshaping our politics.
ANDREW PROBYN: New lines loom in the inequality war cry.
JEREMY CORBYN: Nothing was given from above by the elites and the powerful. It was only ever gained from below.
My thought for the day
”Invariably when I read about how successful people are. The measure is always the value of their assets. Why is this so?’’
PS: Further reading to debunk the Treasurer’s accretion that inequality is in decline.