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Money and power completely out of balance

Reading today of Bill Gates being once more top of the tree of billionaires left me feeling a bit sick.

I do realise that he is a philanthropist and does much good work, particularly in Africa.

I also realise that America prefers to have individual philanthropists meeting the needs of the poor, because if the government were doing it, they would be seen as socialists – and that is totally unacceptable in a land where you have to look after your own needs if you want to rise to the top.

That’s right isn’t it, Mr Donald Trump?

To be honest, I struggle sometimes these days to understand why we elect and pay politicians, because it is increasingly hard to find any benefits to the general population of such work as the politicians might do to justify the level of benefits they claim!

We also pay public servants to support the government, but it ignores their advice and spends zillions on consultants, who come largely from firms which both help business prepare their accounts, finding every loophole in the tax laws, and then go on to audit the financial statements. Conflict of interest? Oh, really!

The following information regarding national leaders basic benefits might be slightly out of date and there are indications that some countries believe that if leaders are paid more, they will be less open to corruption. I think the jury might still be out on that one!

But, seriously, when it comes to CEOs of mega businesses, including banks, it is really hard to find any justification for the amounts that are paid. Even more so for the rate of tax which they are charged!

It used to be said that people would lose the incentive to work harder if their tax rate increases the more they earned. But in business these days, unlike a bricklayer or a concreter, most of the mega-wealthy have acquired their stacks by letting money make money, rather the sweat of their physical labour or even the length of their working hours! Capital not labour wins every time!

And – of course! – having wealth goes having hand in hand with having power, which is why our governments’ policies are more influenced by wealthy business CEOs than by the needs of the poor.

In recent times, government policies have steadily eroded support for the vulnerable.

Centrelink has spent incredible amounts of time and money developing a flawed system which demands money with menaces from thousands of people, who, they claim, have – not just in the last year or two, but more than 7 years ago in many cases – received benefits to which it is claimed they are not entitled.

Many are puzzled as to how this can happen. After all, if you are made redundant and cannot immediately find other employment, it is not as though you can just waltz into Centrelink for help and get it at the drop of a hat!

You have to have exhausted pretty much all of your reserves and prove it by having your finances gone through with a fine toothcomb!

Simply put, Robo-debt works like this.

A Centrelink computer will access your tax return for the year in question, divide your annual taxable income by 26, and compare the resulting amount with your fortnightly benefits for the period in question.

This completely ignores the fact that you might have skills which mean that, normally, you earn a handsome salary, but it may involve appreciable outlays at the same time, so your ability to set money aside is limited. If you are made redundant, and remain out of work for, say 3 months or more, during which you eventually obtain some benefits from Centrelink, the amount you are actually receiving will be well below your previous regular salary.

It will also be well below what the inappropriate Robo-debt algorithm will have calculated, using the notional average income you were receiving – as any experienced Centrelink staff member could tell the idiot who dreamed up the system.

Being out of work is stressful.

Being put through the hoops of the Centrelink processes is stressful.

Being told to find proof of what you earned several years ago, while at the same time you are being accused of defrauding the government – and also being threatened by debt collectors – is not just stressful! It can push people over the edge!

And there are rumours that this flawed process will be extended to other Centrelink beneficiaries, including age pensioners, some of whom are living below the poverty line.

Oh – and being dead does not exempt you from attention!

Another group of people who are being disadvantaged by government policy are those being forced to use the cashless debit card – which is provided by a private organisation which makes lots of money out of it! Money which ought to be going to help the people concerned!

Again, the system has major flaws. Many people cannot afford to buy new, branded goods – assuming they are retailed by a firm which has registered to recognise the card. The alternative is to buy privately second-hand through, say, eBay or Gumtree.

But they definitely cannot use the cashless debit card in those systems.

And how about cash for school outings for the kids?

What is becoming abundantly clear is the massive gaps – not just between rich and poor, but also between policymakers and those directly affected by the policies.

This has always been the case with policies affecting the people of our First Nations. Lack of effective consultation has always been the complaint.

Now, whatever the colour of your skin, if you are not employed in a reasonably well paid job, sooner or later you will fall foul of policies, devised by people who have almost certainly never experienced severe hardship, and who lack the ability to even realise that this will almost certainly mean their policies will fail to produce valid outcomes.

The most recent example of a government organisation trying to recover recently established old debts comes from South Australia.

Whatever happened to the Statute of Limitation?

Meanwhile – in the millionaire’s haunts, life rolls on smoothly while governments work their butts off, taking from the poor to give to the rich.

Sorry – Robin Hood. It is a whole new world. You are better off being dead!

At least you do not now have to deal with the insanity of a world that lives, with its head in the sand, while fires are burning out of control, releasing even more carbon into the atmosphere, in amounts which inexorably increase, creating a climate of continuing self-destruction!

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6 comments

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  1. Ill fares the land

    You are spot on. Unfortunately, I am something of a purveyor of doom on this.

    As much as our awareness of the gap between the rich and poor and the corruption of governments by and in the interests of the rich and powerful has grown markedly, I think we have crossed the Rubicon.

    The way Western countries are organised, the flow of wealth and power is, I fear, too great to be reversed in any meaningful way.

    The rich and powerful also include media barons and the crazed outliers like the corpulent Palmer who can spend enough to influence voter opinions even if that doesn’t get them seats in the Parliament. Look at the Koch brothers in the US. The last thing they want is to be public with their influence so they don’t need to and won’t run for office – but their influence on US politics is staggering.

    That doesn’t mean that nothing can be done to help those living in poverty or disadvantage, but until we get smart enough to vote out of office the corrupt and incompetent liars that are increasingly dominating politics around the world (and, like Morrison, thriving on building their tribal supporter base), there is no chance even that can happen.

    And I see no indication that we are smart enough to vote out abominable leaders like Morrison (“none of us is as stupid as all of us”). We have access to more information than ever, and yet our views are becoming more polarised and less informed. Increasingly, we have been manipulated by marketers, who are building their personal cults based around hatred, fear and suspicion and so the opinions we hold are now held more doggedly and aggressively than ever before.

  2. corvus boreus

    I do not know who wrote this, but it ignores the fundamental problem at the heart of the Robodebt algorithm.
    Robodebt is calculated by comparing yearly income vs yearly welfare entitlements as an annual aggregation, whereas Centrelink payments are allocated on a fortnight by fortnightly (aka emergency need) basis.
    When an abstract survey-audit is conducted with complete disregard of any ground-proven parameters, benchmarks and topography, any correlative accuracies are bound to be purely coincidental.
    Still, the arbitrary imposition of unjust punitive hardship on the already impoverished never hurt anyone, did it?

  3. corvus boreus

    Rosemary J36,
    My main corrective point was that a person does not have to have temporarily fallen from a ‘handsome salary’ to have been hurt by robodebt, it has probably been more impactful on people just scraping above the poverty line (those envious of the ‘average wage’) by juggling various precarious employments in the casual gig economy with occasional supplements from centrelink payments.
    Either way, the algorithm was designed to give false positives, it’s enaction removed the basic legal principle of benefit of the doubt and replaced it by dumping the onus of disproof upon the accused, and the means of appeal were deliberately designed to impose bureaucratic impediments to any attempted remediation.

  4. Anarchy rules

    American capitalism survives by selling the ultimate consumer product the American dream . A product which cost nothing to produce but when purchased promises great rewards . But buyer beware the purchase of the dream costs the compliance of its citizens to the rich and powerful.

  5. Tom

    Centrelink pays far more money to job network members than to actual recipients. the job network members sole purpose is to hound people off centrelink, and they make huge profits because the politicians set this up to line there own pockets….and reducing likelyhood of providing sufficient resources for survival thus pushing the poor into crime, and increasing state police powers, for your own good…

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