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Day to Day Politics: Inequality – a moral challenge of our times.

Friday March 9 2018

We are experiencing a new form of government. Something approaching fascism. Well it’s certainly not Liberalism.

I have long been an admirer of Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labour under President Bill Clinton, from 1993 to 1997, who was named by Time Magazine as one of the ten most successful cabinet secretaries ever. He writes eloquently on the subject of inequality.

Inequality has been described as one of the two universal moral challenges of our times. The other being Climate Change.

Reich has produced a film on the subject. In it he makes a simple proposition:

“What is a good society, and what role does the widening income gap play in the deterioration of America’s economic health? We are endeavouring for ‘’INEQUALITY FOR ALL’’ to be a paradigm-shifting, eye-opening experience for the American public. We want to accurately show through a non-partisan perspective why extreme income inequality is such an important topic for our citizens today and for the future of America.”

Traditionally two-thirds of the American economy has relied on consumerism. Wages are still at levels they were 30 years ago. Even people on average wages require food stamps to survive. People no longer have the disposable income to feed the hungry giant of consumerism.

In Australia, a similar situation is developing. Wages growth is at an all-time low and the government seems intent on keeping them so. The problem though is that without wages growth consumers don’t have expendable income sufficient to meet consumer demand for goods and services. America has found that out. Conservatives don’t seem to comprehend that you may be able to obtain growth on the back of low wages but if the low wages prevent people from buying what you produce. You have defeated your purpose.

Of course, inequality is not just confined to the United States. It is truly universal. The two countries with the highest populations have chosen to improve the quality of life of their citizens with greedy economic capitalism which is the same system that has caused inequality in the advanced economies.

The advances in China, particularly over the past forty years has been spectacular. And at the same time, it is breeding billionaires like confetti. And all on the back of a low wage workforce. In 50 years or so, if they continue on the same path, they will face the same problems that the West faces now.

Robert Reich outlines a plan to resolve the issue which is sound in economic rationale.
In the absence of another economic system, capitalism is what we have. The problem with it is its inherent greed and misuse. It is a system that could be moulded and shaped for good. However, the conservative forces of the right of politics seem determined to enshrine the existing hungry evil greed of unregulated capitalism on us.
Revolutionised morally regulated capitalism could if legislated and controlled enable everyone an equitable opportunity for economic success. With equality of opportunity being the benchmark of all economic aspiration and legislation.

Some Facts

In America 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined.

Non-union wages are also affected by the decline of unions.

Tax cuts to the wealthiest have not improved the economy or created more jobs.

The incomes of the top 1% have increased exponentially since the GFC.

Conservative Republicans couldn’t care less.

The problem is the politics.

In Australia, although not yet at the same level as the US, inequality is manifesting itself in a similar fashion. At the end of Peter Costello’s tenure as treasurer, he was asked why the rich had become 7% richer. His answer was to say that at least the poor had not become poorer.

Joe Hockey said that:

“The bottom line is we have to lift the tide so that all boats rise.”

Time will prove that to be nonsense.

The government’s actions since the 2013 election have been anything but an attempt to bridge the gap. To the contrary, there has been an unashamedly concerted effort to take from those less well off (there is no need for me to list them) and give to the rich. And all indications suggest that this will continue with unabated irrationally.
The problem is the politics.

Richard Dennis, executive director of the Australia Institute writing in the Canberra Times had this to say:

“Political debate is broken and those with money and access to power are the beneficiaries.”

“Political debate in Australia is broken. There are no rules. There is no blow that is too low. There is no sanction for lying or character assassination and there are enormous advantages in simply shouting louder than anyone else. Groups with privileged access to political power and the money to run large campaigns are distinctly advantaged, in the short-term at least, using their money to silence public debate and leapfrog over democratic process.”

The economic gap is of course but one part of the equation. The other is the influence gap. Who has the influence? At the moment there is not a current enquiry that is not being led by an influential businessman or conservative thinker. The ability of the ordinary citizen to influence the system has all but gone.

As Dennis says:

“The gap between those with the most and those with the least continues to rise in Australia but the gap is no longer simply financial, it is political. Money talks and civil society has silenced the fact the gulf between the capacity of an unemployed factory worker and a billionaire mine owner to influence the political process grows ever wider.’
The Australian political process fell apart with the rise of Tony Abbott. He found a formula for obtaining government predicated on mass propaganda, negativity and lies.”

To quote Dennis again:

“It has taken thousands of years to develop structures that prioritise honest debate over the passions of the mob. The Coalition and their backers in big business successfully rode into government on the votes of a mob they helped to whip up. While it was obviously an effective way to win office, history suggests it is a poor plan for holding it.”

The problem is the politics.

I recall writing on Facebook in 2013 about intellectualism. Ralf Kluin responded:

“We have developed a kind of individualism based on “the gotcha-moment” in which two sides oppose each other constantly. This is particularly so in our political system where the hegemony of main stream media is the culprit, seeking to maximise advertising revenue. And as this adversary system pervades our political law-making process, our courts, our business decisions, it filters down into day-to-day life causing great pain amongst families and friends alike. And now with the election of the LNP we have become handcuffed to this type of social behaviour as our only method of change and that will weaken us as a nation amongst other nations.”

The problem is the politics.

Thus far on the evidence available, it is clear that the Abbott/ Turnbull Governments have taken us on a journey of inevitable inequality. Every action, every decision seems to be designed to advantage wealth and privilege. And they are doing it aided and abetted by big business, the IPA, mining corporations and lobbyists plus the influence of one of the most corrupt and malevolently obnoxious media barons that ever walked this earth.

The Turnbull government is willing to suppress information if it suits their aims and one has to wonder what other information they are suppressing.

Lying is so common and frequent in Government that it has invaded our normal vernacular to the point where the average punter is no longer able to distinguish between it and truth.

And this raises another question. Are the political ideologies of today suited to address the problems of tomorrow? I’ll leave that one for another time.

My thought for the day.

“Sometimes, just sometimes, one’s own problems can be resolved by helping others with theirs.”


  1. Terry2

    With Trump’s bizarre ever changing pronouncements on tariffs and world trade the fictional book and film The Manchurian Candidate, about a presidential candidate who has been brainwashed and implanted with a controlling micro-chip by a foreign power, is becoming a nightmare reality.

    It is also pointing to the defects in the American constitutional arrangements which allow an unstable president to bypass the houses of Congress with irrational, ill-considered pronouncements and little oversight or control.

    A salutary lesson in democracy gone wrong from which the world needs to learn.

    We must recognise that this emperor has no clothes and call him out as a fake.

  2. Jack

    Terry2 – Trump said during the election he wanted to change the trade imbalance that the US was getting. You can’t knock him now for doing what he said.

  3. wam

    Sam got it right, Lord John. He is backed by an Australia scrabbling for a crumb from a dangerous sandwich.

    When the world’s great leader is told:

    Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam to sign the TPP-11 in Santiago.

    Will he react??

    ps is it moral to know what is wrong but still seek a favour?

  4. Matters Not

    Terry2 re:

    constitutional arrangements which allow an unstable president to bypass the houses of Congress with irrational, ill-considered pronouncements

    Not quite. Re the unstable aspect. There’s always Amendment 25 which says in part:

    In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office,

    It’s this Inability to discharge that’s aroused some interest in the US. Then there’s Pence – another nutter of the religious variety – who would be his successor.

  5. Matters Not


    Even people on average wages require food stamps to survive

    Food stamps might be headed for the historical dustbin. They are considered to be too expensive. (Besides they allow people to buy fresh food.) Thus there is a proposal to replace food stamps with boxes of food:

    The Trump administration is proposing replacing a portion of the federal food stamp program with actual boxes of food delivered to recipients’ front doors, putting the U.S. government directly in charge of what goes on the dinner plates of more than 16 million low-income households.

    … The White House said the new boxes would go to households qualifying for $90 or more per month in food stamps, representing about 81 percent of those participating in what is formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Currently, SNAP recipients can choose what they spend the money on while shopping at any approved retailer.

    Now this would be a contract worth having. Probably the ‘mate’ already knows of his/her luck.. Maybe KFC or McDonalds.
    ? More likely – PAL. or PEDIGREE

  6. helvityni

    Your Facebook friend Ralf Kluin says it well for me; those ‘gotcha’ moments happen here (AIM) too, it’s the mode of operating for some commenters, they wait and bait to finally jump on someone, winning is important to them: I got you…. Gotcha !

  7. guest

    There seems to be some disquiet among the countries of the European Union. Some countries want to get out and outside countries want to get in. The main problem seems to be that the Northern European countries complain about propping up countries of the South. It is about inequality.

    So how United is the United Nations, especially when decisions can be vetoed by a few? How united is the Transpacific Agreement when the USA withdraws and isolates itself as “America first”? How united is the Commonwealth of Australia when states fight against each others’ interests with regard to, say, water?

    There has always been inequality. It is institutionalised. Any talk of sharing is reviled as ‘socialism’ or even ‘communism’. There is no community, said Thatcher, only individuals. Competition is required. Greed is good.

    If the European Union cannot remain united, what hope for ‘globalisation’ to reduce inequality? Globalisation is about the ‘haves’ exploiting the’ have-nots’ in the pretense that the ‘have-nots’ are being lifted out of poverty. That model lasts as long as the ‘have-nots’ do not realise they are being exploited, that the dream of wealth for all remains despite evidence to the contrary.

    Just look at history over the past 500 years in particular when Europe has exploited the rest of the world. Look within any of those pioneers of industry and colonisation and we see that there is a considerable number of citizens languishing on the bottom of the heap, a small group isolated and impervious at the top. Look at the exploited: First Nation people, the poor, women, foreigners, intellectual ‘elites’, anyone ‘different’, the powerless…

    Thursday’s child has far to go.

  8. Sartu

    “The bottom line is we have to lift the tide so that all boats rise.”

    Too bad for the boats anchored to the bottom … they get sunk

  9. diannaart

    Never fails to bring on a moment of face-palm when so called proponents of the free market, plan such “nanny-state” tactics as the Cashless card or delivering food chosen by the state to those they deem “helpless”.

    Cheaper to introduce a liveable income for all – but that is not the laissez-faire way – which is ironic (again) given the term is supposed to mean freedom FROM government intervention.

  10. Harry

    At a minimum, we all should have a life where one does not have to struggle to be able to obtain healthy food, to be able to access education and develop skills and knowledge to the best of one’s capacity, to be able to live in safe and affordable housing, to derive meaning, enjoyment and a sense of fulfilment through a contribution to one’s community and society. to share and be able to take pleasure and comfort of love and the company of friends and others who care about you, to enjoy the natural world and its wonders, to be exposed to the arts, to be taken care of when one ages and can no longer live alone.

    There is nothing stopping that from being achieved and maintained except political will and power. We have plenty of resources, they just need to be more equitably shared and accessible.

  11. Diane Larsen

    Harry, if only more people thought like you we would all be in a much better place and a lot happier

  12. Roswell

    Harry, I’m not an expert, but one would have hoped that those expectations should have been enshrined in the Constitution.

  13. helvityni

    Harry, if you want to be happy, you have to move to Denmark….

  14. Harry

    Roswell: yes they should have but are not. Our Constitution is a relic from a much different past.

    I’d like to see a truly progressive and inclusive party make it so. The New Democracy Party comes close with its ideal and policies. Its a minnow at present though.

    helvityini: Denmark’s inequality is among the lowest in the developed world but rising, unfortunately.

    Diane Larsen: Thanks.

  15. silkworm

    Inequality is one of the major goals of Neoliberal policies. The only antidote is the application of the principles of Modern Monetary Theory towards progressive ends.

  16. Roswell

    Says a lot about the Constitution doesn’t it, Harry. 😡

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