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It is hard to fathom what a hateful place Australia has become

The last decade changed Australia.

We became a country who held asylum seekers hostage in concentration camps where they were regularly abused and offered no hope for the future. Various Australians were demonised – Muslims, those of Lebanese and African descent, the Chinese diaspora. The superiority of Western Christian civilisation was to be taught in schools.

We cut off services to remote Indigenous communities, unwilling to support their “lifestyle choices”, placed them on income management despite no evidence that it improved anything, took their children and locked up their youth in record numbers, some as young as ten years old, and rejected the invitation offered by the Uluru statement.

Our aged care system is in an appalling state. Lack of regulation and oversight has led to a private industry whose prime motive is profit rather than care. The heart-breaking stories from the Royal Commissions into the aged and disability care sectors should shame us all.

Prominent women have been bullied, harassed, intimidated, demeaned and silenced. Julia Gillard, Gillian Triggs, Yassmin Abdul-Magied, Christine Holgate, Sarah Hanson-Young have all been treated deplorably and it’s worth noting that Peter Dutton was one of the prime offenders.

During Dutton’s failed leadership coup against Turnbull, Liberal women were reduced to tears and threatened with the loss of their preselection. No-one denies this happened – many women spoke out at the time – but there were no consequences.

The rainbow community have been used as political footballs in the Coalition’s attempt to woo the religious vote. The country had publicly debated their right to marry, to study or work, to play sport, to aged care, to order a wedding cake or flowers, to pronouns – even where they go to the toilet had been endlessly pored over by conservative media.

The Coalition set about demonising and undermining unions in order to remove the ability of workers to have a collective voice. They have kept unemployment benefits below the poverty level and cut penalty rates to the lowest paid workers. Wages have stagnated whilst cost of living has soared.

We gave tax cuts and concessions to the wealthy and then, in the name of budget repair, illegally pursued welfare recipients for historical debts with the onus on them to prove they didn’t owe anything.

So much has been made by the government of the need for coal and gas to provide cheap reliable power, that they refuse to admit that it is our very reliance on these fuels that is driving up prices. We stupidly sold our resource development to foreign shareholders who then determine to whom they will sell and for how much. It’s all about profit and nothing about benefit for local consumers.

Supposedly fixing this would risk national sovereignty – investors would be wary, they say. I would suggest any slack left by fossil fuel investors would be quickly picked up by investment in renewable energy, storage and transmission. But that wouldn’t please Gina and Clive and a few coal miners in Queensland who want to keep their exorbitantly high-paying jobs.

Housing has become unaffordable, not because of a lack of supply, but because of tax concessions and low interest rates that have seen the market swamped by investors. A look at politicians’ property portfolios, Peter Dutton’s for example, may explain why they are so reluctant to change this.

We have fallen from a world leader in introducing a price on carbon to a pariah, labelled the Colossal Fossil for our resistance to any action on climate change. We are now a global leader in wildlife extinctions.

Water has become a commodity for the use of miners and large-scale irrigators, or for landowners to sell to the government. The abuse and corruption has been exposed many times, but still it continues as our waterways dry up, fish die, and towns truck in water to survive.

There is no better example of this than John Norman – a cotton farmer charged with defrauding the Murray-Darling plan of tens of millions of dollars and causing significant damage to neighbouring farms. His property was in David Littleproud’s electorate and he is Littleproud’s ex-wife’s cousin. Despite being charged in 2018, I can find no record of prosecution to date though it appears he may have sold his property along with its significant water allocation.

Barnaby Joyce and Angus Taylor are also up to their eyeballs in this. Tanya Plibersek will have an uphill battle trying to sort this mess out.

One of the most disturbing factors of the previous government was their increasing secrecy – refusing to release reports, shutting down FoI requests, employing consultants rather than using the public service, contracts awarded without tender. But what is most chilling has been their attacks on press freedom.

Journalists’ homes and offices have been raided and they have been threatened with prosecution or defamation suits. The ABC has had its funding cut and had countless complaints from government and endless inquiries into its supposed bias, all concluding it is not. Respected journalists like Emma Alberici and Nick Ross have been sacked because the government didn’t like what they wrote.

We have had to have spelled out to politicians that pork-barrelling is, in fact, illegal – something they refuse to accept. The arrogance of government using public money for political gain, or the enrichment of associates, has become so entrenched that they believe it a legitimate right of power.

Bestowing positions as rewards for party loyalty rather than on merit and expertise is endemic. Appointing Sophie Mirabella to the Fair Work Commission in the dying days of government, a job she will hold until age 65 at a huge salary, was a prime example of this. They also gifted her husband Greg a senate seat in Victoria. Sophie has always had an eye for the prize.

Universities have also been under attack – locked out from Jobkeeper assistance, no foreign students, funding cuts, interference in research grants and courses, demeaned as out-of-touch indulgent “elites”. Anti-intellectual, anti-science rhetoric has emboldened climate change deniers and anti-vaxxers – groups the government actively supported and pursued.

We have become a hateful place over the last decade – suspicious of each other, greedy, unprincipled, uncaring, focused only on what’s in it for me.

The election showed the country is ready for a reset. It will be up to all of us to be part of that. We can and must do better.


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  1. Phil Pryor

    It has been getting worse, decade by decade. USAn attitudes, Merde Dog pollution, general unawareness, blinked old post imperial attitudes, disrespect for expertise, laziness, indifference.., the old ways done up badly as a new off cool. This badly edged conservatism is reaction, brownshirt bullying, sicko supremacist attitude, silly snobbery, greed, acquisitiveness, Me, Me again.

  2. Andrino Apolloni

    so what your saying is that all the hate, vitriol and belittling we received from the “born to rule with no brains ” people is something we have to accept and forgive? Sorry, i will forgive when they change their ways, not before. They played for keeps, thats something i will never forget, LEST WE FORGET.

  3. Kaye Lee

    No, I don’t want acceptance and forgiveness. I want to shine a light on it so it never happens again. I want a federal ICAC or Royal Commission to look into water and grant slush funds. I want the power taken away from politicians to act on their own.

    I want Australians to stop condoning and enabling and rewarding this behaviour.

    And I want us to all stop being so greedy. Wouldn’t it be great if the rich said we don’t need a tax cut and the country can’t afford it right now. Or even if they just paid the tax they should rather than giving millions to accountants to avoid paying any.

  4. Baby Jewels

    I couldn’t agree more, Kaye. It has saddened me for years. I hope we can reverse at least some of that hatefulness with a more compassionate, decent government, especially with regard to refugees, two of whom I help support financially (on PNG) Without the help of friends, they would not be able to buy the glasses they desperately need, buy phone credit, or even a new phone when they are beaten up so badly and have their one, vital connection to the outside world, stolen. They go hungry much of the time and often bare foot, as their small stipend isn’t enough to buy food, let alone clothing or shoes. My disgust has been overflowing for many years to the extent I can no longer listen to the voices of Morrison or Dutton et al.

  5. Albos Elbow

    Driven by the corrupt right wing Murderoch Media Empire.
    Print and make up any old devisive, alienating, antagonistic, controversial, racist, hateful, political white supremitist, climate denying garbage as long as it sells more newspapers and gets more ratings, views, likes and clicks.

    Poopert Murderoch has a lot to answer for in the way he has supported, mentored, bankrolled and influenced democracies and their senior politicians to get corrupt stooges like Trump, Howard/Abbott/Morrison and Boris Johnson into power and do all he can to keep them there.
    Of course they then changed the media ownership and publishing laws so that he could get a bigger piece of the pie to stuff into his fat, piggish gob.

    The sooner he and his family die out, the better.

  6. leefe

    Murdoch and Howard are the two biggest offenders in this. A pox on both their houses.

  7. Terence Mills

    A short time ago an acquaintance mentioned over coffee that the transfer of asylum seekers to offshore islands was to resettle them and allow them to start a new life ………….on Manus Island and Nauru.

    I was amazed that this sort of nonsense was being peddled mainly by the Murdoch media in concert with the coalition government and that some people were swallowing it.

    I couldn’t let that go through to the keeper and I explained that the sole reason for taking these people offshore and holding them on these islands was so that they had no access or ability to appeal their detention in a properly constituted court of law : it was the Guantanamo solution.

    I didn’t make myself popular with those people who thought I was making it up.

  8. corvusboreus

    For me the first investigatory priority the new government should delegate should be a thorough probing of robodebt.

    Seperate RCs into water theft & grant rorts could be necessary, especially if the promised federal anti-corruption commission is a bit slow in pupation.
    Bear in mind that, If there is sufficient breadth of reach in the formative NACC brief, a lot of those ‘business as usual’ ‘favours’ and ‘sweeteners’ could well fall under it’s scope

    A Royal Commission into robodebt, on the other hand, is an explicit election promise of Albanese’s ALP.
    Robodebt was a government sanctioned abuse of federal welfare to inflict traumatic injustice inflicted upon swathes of innocent and vulnerable Australian citizens,
    Robodebt was pushed through bureaurocracy by ministry despite blatant critical failings (both mathematical and legal),
    Robodebt destroyed families & homes and claimed lives,
    Robodebt was stubbornly defended by a succession of government ministers and mandarins against a growing clamour of public & legal objection,
    Robodebt was eventually deemed a complete travesty by the official legal conclusion of the highest court in the land (“illegitimate and illegal”),
    Robodebt ended up costing Australian taxpayers billions to pay back billions stolen from Australian citizenry by government agency.

    None of those directly responsible (including Morrison, Porter & Tudge) have ever been held to public account.

    I am not sure that the incompetent malice of robodebt would fit into the ‘bog-standard’ definition of political corruption.

    Methinks, in terms of inquisitorial RCs, robodebt rates special urgency of priority.

  9. Michael Taylor

    I hope I’m not the only person who wants Albanese to go in mean and nasty at the former government.

  10. leefe

    Not at all, Michael. My desire for tolerance and understanding and consensus disappears when it comes to that mob. ICAC ii mandatory.

  11. corvusboreus

    I’d rather he go in with righteously disciplined determination (and some cold phuqqen steel).

  12. Michael Taylor

    If we don’t hold them accountable for all their rorts, Indue, RoboDebt, water theft, jobs and money for mates etc etc etc etc etc … then they’ll do it again.

    If Abbott can have a Royal Commission because of six (avoidable and unnecessary) deaths from the Home Insulation Program then one should be ordered over RoboDebt deaths.

  13. Stephengb

    Fantastic – article Kaye Lee.

    I hope that Labor do not let us all down, yes they have hit the ground racing and have made an encouraging start.

    I can’t see a Federal ICAC, getting established before Xmas, they have to create the enabling Act and then find the expertise to discover accountabilities and that will not be easy. Let’s face it they don’t even open parliament until the last week in July.

    I suspect they could start with a RC who sole job is to identify matter to investigate and refer to the ICAC.

  14. Jack sprat

    Looking on the positive side, here is something to cheer you up Kaye Lee ,l have lived most of my 63 years in a very safe conservative state and federal electorates in the red neck wonder land of Qld ,but in recent times my state seat of Maiwar and my federal state seat of Ryan have been won by green candidates. I can only explain this massive change due to the influx of young voters in my area who are better educated and more politically aware than my selfish peers ,for as Bob Dylan stated “The times they are a changing”

  15. corvusboreus

    By comparison:

    The ‘pink batts’ deaths were caused by unscrupulous private operators exploiting regulatory flaws in an otherwise socially beneficial government scheme (economic stimulus + household energy efficiency).

    The ‘robodebt’ deaths were caused by a government agency using illegitimate process and illegal means to extort revenue from people requiring welfare.

  16. Kaye Lee

    The pink batts many inquiries pointed out some interesting results.

    “The royal commission into the pink batts program reveals the need for well-resourced government departments, not gutted shells only able to dish out money to the market.

    Eight weeks of hearings have revealed the picture of a worthy program turned lethal by a lack of public service capacity, and by the decision to outsource an inherently dangerous program to the market.

    Under the eventual market rebate model the Commonwealth was the funder, not the provider of the program.

    …10,000 companies sprang up to take advantage of the HIP. Qualifying as a “registered installer” under the HIP meant you were able to “supervise” an unlimited number of subcontractors and employees.

    …the required industry white card could be obtained online in an hour or so, while a training session was meant to be two days but was more commonly “a couple of hours in the morning, couple of hours in the afternoon”.”

    A prime example of the dangers of lack of regulation and oversight when handing over public money to the private market – exactly what John Howard did with aged care. When will they learn. Gutting the public service, privatisation and deregulation have harmed this country….yet they remain the mantra of those who enrich the few at the expense of the many.

    Transferring public funds to private hands has become the raison d’etre of the “party of small government”.

    PS Jack sprat, we also changed hands in Robertson. It’s strange being able to comment again on my local member’s facebook page. After years of being blocked by government MPs, I feel strangely shy now I can speak again.

  17. corvusboreus

    Basic pink batt lesson;
    Don’t aggressively inflate an inherently dangerous specialised industry without an attendant increase in regulation & oversight, particularly when operating within an already excessively deregulated environment.

  18. Kaye Lee


    This one left me speechless….

    ” The secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department, Roger Wilkins, has confirmed that $6.7 million in savings from the child sexual abuse inquiry’s budget last year were redirected to the home insulation royal commission.”

  19. Michael Taylor

    That was an appalling episode, Kaye.

    Speechless and gobsmacked.

  20. Kaye Lee

    Latest facebook post from Jacinta Price…..

    “Mark my words with federal Labor abolishing the Cashless Debit Card and NT Labor opening the flood gates to alcohol in vulnerable remote communities rates of DV and sexual abuse of children are about to sky rocket.
    The blood of the innocents will be on Labors hands! I hope you are pleased with yourselves Anthony Albanese and Natasha Files.
    It’ll take less than 12 months for the elites to destroy this country. The Teals and the Greens will be turning themselves inside out to cry about Climate Change while people in the bush die.
    Very grave times lie ahead.”

    On the one hand, Ms Price argues that Indigenous people should not be treated any differently. On the other, she supports income management and prohibition.

    “The St Vincent de Paul Society does not support the cashless debit card. There is no evidence that it improves the wellbeing of individuals or communities, either by reducing substance abuse or by increasing employment outcomes. The cashless debit card also carries a high risk of unintended and expensive consequences across government and the community, including social exclusion and stigmatisation, increased financial hardship, and the erosion of individual autonomy and dignity. Ultimately, this is a
    punitive and paternalistic measure that is driven by ideology rather than evidence.”

    The cashless welfare card is set to be terminated after a new report from the Australian National Audit Office found that the program failed to prove a reduction in social harm.

    “The cashless debit card program extension and expansion was not informed by an effective second impact evaluation, cost-benefit analysis or post-implementation review,” the report reads.

    The cost of the program in 2020-21 reached $36.5 million. Surely this money could be better spent on actual services?

  21. sickSadWorld

    When the Right say elites, they mean anyone with a conscience and the power to make a change. According to certain theories beloved by Maggie Thatcher, such people must be replaced by the corrupt, who respond to “incentives” in pursuit of the utopia of ruthlessly competiting, paranoid, isolated individuals.

  22. Kaye Lee

    According to Marx, capitalism depends on having an ignorant docile maleable workforce. They don’t want educated critical thinkers. They want to keep workers in debt and in insecure jobs or on temporary visas so they won’t make waves. They certainly don’t want them organising in unions that would give them a collective voice or the power to value their labour and expect a share in the profits it generates.

    Engels developed the theory further, suggesting this emasculation of workers in their workplace contributed to domestic violence – asserting the authority they lacked at work and venting the frustration they felt at home instead, demanding the discipline and obedience from their wife and children that their bosses imposed and expected of them. Keep the women at home in domestic servitude, isolated and financially dependent.

  23. Anne Byam

    On May 21st this year, we put behind us the evil cabal that called itself a ‘government’ and it was a cabal as there was no transparency, truth or responsibility taken for the dire straits we found ourselves in because of their lies, and most egregious running of our country. They acted daily like a secret society. The scumbag at the head of things set such a low standard of humanity and compassion, ( he didn’t even get to minus 10 on that score ) … that people began to divide and try to keep ‘alive’ in spirit and living standards, against all the odds … and this led to changes in all manner of living ideals and moral compasses. It led to a sense of life not being worth living anymore in many instances.

    Although I agree with your excellent article Kaye, in the description of the previous / past government, to which we have thankfully waved a big goodbye – I don’t believe we have become a hateful place at all – but rather a very oppressed community. Oppression causes greed, violence, lowered self esteem and abuse in the form of e.g. racism ( and more ) and it has been caused over this past almost decade, by the powers that were. A more vile selection of politicians and particularly, Prime Monster, could not easily be found – except maybe in Nazi Germany all those decades ago.

    Under a new government, and hopefully a new and renewed sense of collective worth when things get done that were shamelessly ignored by the now opposition mob, we might try to be kinder, less stressed, hopeful and happy to be led by a party who shows the goodwill, sensible leadership and thoughtful and proper decisions, and compassion we have not seen for 9 years.

    So – – – we just might be able to lift the darkness and gloom … just a little bit ?

  24. Fred

    Kaye: Excellent article. CB: You’re correct, but the Pink Batts programme highlights the challenge faced by any government trying to make significant changes in any market. Our capitalistic system is a balance between supply and demand… ref: cost of masks, ppe, rats etc. during the various phases/variants of Covid (and currently with some of the highest daily death rates). The home insulation industry was stable with a range of the usual great to really bad operators before the scheme. Once started, demand outstripped supply and a lot of “how hard can it be to install batts” shonks got into the market.

    As a licensed electrician, I’m in awe that more lives were not lost during the scheme – most older houses don’t have a “safety switch” and some of the really old wiring has no “earth”, is brittle or worse the insulation has turned into “jelly”. Extreme care needs to exercised to ensure no wiring is disturbed/contacted. In addition, conductor sizes were changed (a long time ago) to cope with insulation “surrounding” the wiring which makes it run hotter. While the scheme was a good initiative that was rolled out quickly as was needed, by allowing large numbers of inexperienced installers into the market, safety was likely to be compromised and more training/oversight should have been applied.

  25. Max Gross

    A particularly satisfying quote savaging the execrable Morrison did the news rounds, attributed to an anonymous “senior Liberal Party official”: “He fucked us and his fingerprints are absolutely fuckin’ everywhere on that. The bloke thinks he is a master strategist. He is a fuckwit.” Bliss. Here’s hoping the LNP tears itself apart.

  26. wam

    The beginning of ‘civilisation’, in Australia, was waves of uneducated socially hardened whites boat people.
    Whilst the imported standard of ‘hate’ and prejudice, by non-Aboriginal Australians since the first fleet, has been high. The stoic acceptance of their fate, by Aborigines, is legion.
    In the white waves since, acceptance of out of sight out of mind, has allowed society to ignore Aboriginal Australians. They, as assessed by a cruel and hateful society, were, and still are, conceived as being intellectually, socially and culturally inferior to all other mankind. The overarching ‘terra nullius’ allowed teaching children the Aborigines had no relationship with the land or had a culture and would die out. Ergo they became invisible and lived as best they could on the edges of towns. They became ‘half-castes’, ‘yellowfellers’, ‘blackfellows’ and ‘full bloods’. Racism was rife at two levels ‘part’ or ‘full’. At the institutional level the former escaped the ‘grade three’ intelligence limit and left the paternal control system. The first thing learnt by ‘new Australians is our special hatred of Aborigines. The more descriptive term, since Mabo, is ‘First Nation’ people with the added benefit of removing the terrible 200 year stigma of “Aborigine” or, as most australians(red line) prefer ‘aboriginals'(no red line). Still, kaye, as collingwood’s history shows, as long as they behave like us they are welcome in the club.
    The ideas that emanate from a hard core think tank are so biased as to produce terrible outcomes but ideas from a benevolent rich racist are so laced with personal profit as to be disgusting.
    What sort of people accept their words?
    Time for the libs to reject the IPAs, the twiggys and the duttons.

  27. Kaye Lee

    That has always troubled me wam – that we arrogantly assume that everyone wants to live as we do. That they must aspire to be like us. We seem unable to conceive that they may not be motivated by or interested in the same things as us. We fail children by making school irrelevant to them. Education is one area where we really must improve.

  28. Graeme Bullock

    Thanks Kaye lee for an excellent article and the discussion it stimulated. I’d only add that this was not just the last decade of LNP government. The divisive tactics and destruction of Australia’s much vaunted egalitarianism really took off under Howard, from the boat people fiasco at the start, to the odious Workchoices at the end. After Workchoices was ended, the subsequent LNP govt simply found another way to deny workers any pay fairness.

  29. leefe


    “stoic acceptance” was not the main reaction, and you do a grave disservice, both to history and to Aboriginal people, by suggesting it was. There were plenty of fighters and plenty of resistance, from Cape York to Cockle Creek, from Byron to Burrup.

    That we don’t know the names of all the Mannalargennas and Jandamarras, and that the frontier wars were not taught the way Anzac was, is a national disgrace.

  30. wam

    yes kaye,
    the education system has been my greatest failure.
    My family lived with Aboriginal young people for all their formative years.
    Mostly at the weekend where up to 8 high school boarders would arrive friday after school till sunday morning.
    (Our 3 bedroom house often had 4 moirs, 4 NE Arnhem and 4 Alexandria, Brunette, Tennant and Katherine.)
    The department and teachers are fixed that the first nation people need us, arithmetic and english to be educated.
    Bullshit, as anyone from the second largest greek speaking town in the world would know. English is not necessary.
    (As an aside all my rabbottians can reluctantly listen to latin based languages but are annoyed if I play african, or asian songs because they have connection to english. Last century I wrote of the permanent damage the oogbooga amercan white jewish films did to language and the boost to white extremists) I have many friends for whom english/arith is not used in their daily lives.
    Where Aboriginal languageS, spatial and numerical relationships(especially in a card card game based on baccarat played by enumerate Aborigines, even children play the game which is beyond most white Australians and certainly beyond xstian missionaries) are vibrant and essential.
    The curriculum for a general education pegs Aborigines at grade 3 even after 12 years, and takes no cognisance of Aboriginal teaching and learning methods. Those students who stoically last(leefe I have never under estimated the power of Aborigines and if you have accompanied Aboriginal people to a public service meeting or even to a shop you would understand the stoicism of the people in response to our systemic racist ignorance) till year 12 are functionally illiterate and enumerate. The universities have 10s of thousands of students who need ‘bridging courses’.
    The most stark example was a Barkly girl with excellent skills in maths(not arithmetic) and science.
    Her weakness was inconsistency and she would fly, run or ignore topics, at her will, whilst teachers cannot understand individuality and want consistency.
    Some teachers and the intransigent school counsellor, wanted her to repeat year 10 but I convinced the school to allow her to year 11.
    Unfortunately I was ill for the start of school and the idiots put her back in year 10. She left, the next weekend and became the second wife of an outstation elder.
    Until the education department and teacher understand:
    You cannot teach without understanding those you teach and accepting that you must learn from them.
    All teaching/health/government staff stationed in communities must be paid to learn and use an Aboriginal language.

  31. Bruce White

    Very well thought out and said Kay Lee. My sentiments exactly, developed over the last 3 years or so.
    Also many very erudite and incisive thoughts from ‘the regular commentariat’ of repliers.
    Keep it coming.
    My additional thoughts are that
    1.A Royal Commisssion into the media (as requested by the Rudd/Turnbull petition) with special emphasis on Murdoch media, as well as social media, should be something to be commenced this year, but perhaps extending for a year or more.
    It’s a big topic.With lots of power plays.
    It would have a strong influeence on ethical behaviour.
    And at a realpolitik level, would be a powerful distraction to powerful interests from misusing their muscle over the voice of the people.
    2.The other point I would make would be, whilst we have a lot of teal independents, etc, that the whole subject of political funding, accountability, transparency, for elections etc, should be ccanvassed and reformed. Taxpayer funding of election campaigns should also be investigated.

  32. andy56

    while we are at it, why not make them pay for Fraudband, out of their own pockets, Abbott , Turnbull and all.
    Lets make it impossible to try it on again. Policies that are absolute fuckery.
    Water ambassador, now there is clearly a payoff for support. Nothing to show for 6months. Robocop needs to investigate.

  33. Andy56

    there are so many ships to right for Albo. The list is pretty exhausting. The whole centrelink fiasco has to get a hammering. If your on the dole, its like the system is determined to put you in poverty. Instead of being a support, your constantly reminded that any effort is a zero sum game. So you learn to game the system to stay put. Earn a few bucks more and those few bucks are taken off your dole payment, zero sum for effort. Same if your a pensioner, earn a few bucks more and your pension drops. But if your in a SFS with a million in the bank, well, you were earning $100,000 a year tax free. ( about 50% of that now). For shit sake, your only allowed to earn a few thousand a year before the pension drops. I would imagine its the same for most benefits. But an $11,000 tax cut for the richest just doesnt seem raise an eyebrow.

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