This morning, a patient of Dr Rudd’s, Mr Con Emmy wrote a letter explaining how a few years ago he was told that he was suffering from General Fatal Condition, or GFC, for short. Dr Rudd told him that unless they operated, Mr Con Emmy would be dead within the year. Now, several years on, Mr Con Emmy finds that he is not, in fact, dead – and he’s several thousand dollars in debt. Clearly there was no need for anything to be done and that the operation was just a waste of money!
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Debt is bad – I met a man who had no debt. And it seems to me that when the Abbott Government says “Trust us!” they aspire to make Australia like that man. But first let’s look at two other things.
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1. Economics 101 – the study of scarcity, not scare city as Mr Hockey would have you believe!
In the time of subsistence farming, economics was very much in the hands of the gods. The right conditions and things were abundant, but floods or drought could lead to famine. Of course, we progressed to our modern economies, and we’ve found ways of balancing out the good seasons and the bad. Because of technology and changes in our economic systems, we can store for bad times during the good times.
Ok, this is hardly news to you all. Everyone has a basic understand of economics. I still remember some of the quotes from my fifth form economics textbook about scarcity. And also the ones about choice.
It seems to me that in the past few years, many governments and economic forecasters have tried to portray our economic system as being as subject to the immutable laws in much the same way that the subsistence farmer is dependent on the right combinations of sun and rain. When a leader says there is no other choice, he is lying. He or she is always saying that after considering the options (or in some case, not considering), I consider this the best cause of action. Just as we had the money for the fighter planes – because it had allegedly been put aside – but no money for Gonski – because it allegedly hadn’t. Somehow it was beyond their capacity to take some of the “put aside” money from one area and use it in another.
This idea of a lack of choice was what many in the West failed to understand about China during the GFC. The people who predicted the imminent end of growth in China failed to realise that they weren’t playing by the same rules as the rest of the world. Essentially the Chinese government still calls the shots, even if there has been an embracing of capitalist markets in the past few years.
To expand this idea of choice a little further, if we take one of the Audit Committee’s suggestion of a co-payment. Even ignoring the harsh $15 and presuming our “nice” government makes it a mere $6, the suggestion that there’s no choice is absurd. We could, for example, increase the Medicare Levy. Or place a gift tax on bottles of Grange. However, neither of these fit with the “user pays” philosophy of the current government. “User pays” is a philosophical choice; it’s not because there aren’t alternatives. There are ALWAYS alternatives. It’s just that sometimes they’ll be less appealing to the person making the decision. Or – as many people have pointed out – would the Audit Commission’s recommendations have been the same if they’d asked a group of doctors or teachers to do the audit?
Or even a group who didn’t have such a “Business is Everything” focus.
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2. You haven’t had time to think or remember.
Let me tell you about what was predicted for the future when I was growing up, which I’m sure will be familiar to some of you.
Technology was going to take over many of the mundane, meaningless jobs. This would lead to more leisure time. We wouldn’t have to work as hard, and we could retire early. The big problem – it was suggested – was how to deal with our leisure time.
Yet now the reality is that we’re pushing back the retiring age. People are being asked to work longer hours. There are suggestions that we should reduce the minimum wage. We need to increase productivity – which is what technology was going to do for us.
Is this because machines didn’t improve technology as much as we thought? Is it because we no longer have people unemployed?
No, it’s because WE CAN’T AFFORD IT. WE’RE BROKE.
Why are we broke?
WE HAVE A DEBT. IT WORKS OUT AT ABOUT $20,000 PER WORKER.
Mm, I don’t think that I’d be unable to pay off a debt of $20,000 in the next ten years. Particularly, if I were paying the 3% that the Federal Government pays on loans. It’s hardly a debt that I have to worry about my grandchildren having to repay.
THE COUNTRY IS BROKE. WHITLAM BROKE THE COUNTRY BY INTRODUCING UNIVERSAL HEALTH COVER AND TRUST US WE INTEND TO MAKE YOU ALL PAY YOUR OWN WAY.
But who’s broke. And where is the economic benefit of improved productivity gone? To the country, or just to the people who own the machines? If THIS is progress, we need to have a rethink of the meaning of the word!
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Ok, back to the person who had no debt. They were also homeless and had no job.