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Tag Archives: inequality

Why we need Donald Trump, President of the United States

Over the past eight years, Australians have joined the rest of the world in being entertained and amused by the absurdities of American politics. Some amongst us thought Sarah Palin represented the nadir of democratic politicians worldwide, and the pinnacle of politics as satire.

We were so wrong. It appears that politics can become far more absurd than the gun-totin’ moose-slaying soccer mom. First we had the rise, froth and tumultuous fall of Tony Abbott. And now we have Donald Trump. For months we have watched in horrified fascination as The Donald utters a never-ending stream of non-sequiturs and racist jibes and calls them politics. We watch and wait for the inevitable fall and await the rise of a more reasonable contender – a presidential candidate capable, perhaps, of being Presidential. And still we wait, while Donald Trump rides high through every poll and, after a few shaky first steps, each Republican primary.

In short, it now seems relatively likely that Donald Trump will be the Republican party’s contender for the US election at the end of this year. How could it have come to this? And, more importantly, what does the rise of Donald Trump mean for America, for the world, and for Australia? It’s worth thinking about these matters now as Trump’s unstoppable momentum becomes clearer.

Donald Trump, POTUS

From the very beginning, Trump has been written off consistently by most political pundits and media outlets. Like us, the electoral sages wait for the awakening, the moment when the public wises up to the character of the man. Calculations are made about Trump’s lack of support from his own party, about the consistent polls which have his “would never vote for him” rating higher than any other politician in history, and about the likelihood of a collapse in Trump’s support once he loses a Primary or two.

Despite these predictions and analyses, Trump is still on course to securing the nomination. Every primary sees his lead bolstered. According to Trump’s own rhetoric, he is a “winner”, and in the American system, success breeds success. As his competitors in a broad field fall away, Trump’s own support just increases. It is difficult to see a situation now where Trump does not pull together the popular electoral support to secure the nomination, against the wishes of his own party’s leadership.

Trump’s stump speech of being politics’ answer to Kanye West – a winner, who beat the Chinese and can do it again, who made a fortune and can turn those skills towards making America great again – speaks to the heart of American self-identity. Americans truly believe that theirs is the world’s pre-eminent culture and the civilisation before which all others must bow. The psychological dissonance caused by needing to rationalise both this treasured, deeply-held belief, and the reality of the world around them – with high unemployment, declining industry, poor healthcare and literacy and constant crime and violence – leads a great many Americans to anger and a suspicion that, somewhere, corruption and betrayal are at fault.

Donald Trump speaks directly to that anger.

Trump’s entire political existence has revolved around manufacturing anger at the political elite. From his invention and support of the “Truther” movement, claiming betrayal and treason on a grand scale by Barak Obama, to his frothing pronouncements of Mexicans as thieves and rapists, his perorations towards Chinese encroachment on American jobs and industry, and his decrying of the “fat cats” in boardrooms and in Washington, Trump’s world is one where the good people of America have been governed by credulous fools, sold out by Wall Street and global trade organisations, and manipulated by corruption on a grand scale.

We see this kind of anger bubbling away across the western world. There are many contributing factors, but two in particular deserve mention. Primarily across Europe, but also a factor in Australia, there is fear and resentment of the tide of refugees. Right-wing politicians play directly to the prejudices of the electorate, blowing the size and resultant risks of refugee resettlement out of all proportion. A few thousand refugees in Australia become an existential threat. In Europe, the tens of thousands arriving annually are perhaps more justifiably a concern, but they still pale into insignificance next to existing populations. Regardless, some voters are scared that refugees are bringing with them disease and radicalism and an impenetrable culture, and stealing their jobs and welfare.

The other major cause of voter disaffection is the rise of inequality. Across most of the capitalist world, the gap between the haves and the have-nots continually grows. Unconstrained capitalism rewards the elite, suppresses the downtrodden, and thins out the middle class at the same time as it convinces them that they are poorly-off. For the majority of battlers, it is easier to blame corrupt politicians, greedy bankers and faceless international trade barons for their misfortunes, than to accept that their societal structures rely on there existing a pauper class. Politicians – always from the elite – are all too happy to shake a finger at the upper class and pretend to be on the side of the masses. Just as long as that will buy their vote. Donald Trump claims that his tax policies will hit the rich and improve the lot of the poor. Independent analysis shows that they would have the opposite effect, and likely bankrupt the country in the process.

Hillary Clinton, Trump’s most likely opponent from the Democrats, is the consummate product of the political elite that is the target of the people’s rage. If Trump secures the nomination and goes up against Clinton, the conflict will not be between persons: it will be between the old guard and The Rest of Us. This is ironic, because Trump has never been part of The Rest of Us and bears little but contempt for them, but anger is a powerful blindfold. In that kind of general election, the consensus is that Trump will be the hands-down winner.

Who still stands against Trump?

Ironically, the Republican party is the most sizeable stumbling block between Trump and the Presidency. The Republicans are desperate to stop Trump. They are afraid of the stubborn polls showing the highest levels for any candidate ever of “would never vote for him”. They don’t want to be beholden to a candidate who defies them, is not interested in bedrock Republican policy, and simply won’t work with them effectively. They are terrified of the prospect that Trump might irrevocably split the Republican party. If Donald Trump is still the forerunner after Super Tuesday, there is a decent likelihood that the Republican party leaders might attempt to destroy Trump, notwithstanding how fundamentally undemocratic that would be. “That’s assuming party officials don’t override the will of voters and tear him down at a contested Republican convention in July.”

If Trump is able to win the Republican nomination, he still needs to face a general election. General elections are a much different proposition than the primary race. In America, with voluntary voting, there are far fewer swinging voters than in Australia, where everyone must choose a side. The Republican powers that be fear, with some reason, that come polling day, many bolted-on Republican voters may just not vote. They won’t turn out for Hillary Clinton, but may not be comfortable enough to vote for Trump either. On the other hand, fear of a Trump presidency may be enough to ensure a high turnout of Democrats in support of Clinton (or Bernie Sanders, should he be the Democrat contender).

What this doesn’t take into account is the possibility of Trump earning votes from centrist Democrats, and from non-aligned new voters. Trump’s few stated policies borrow liberally from both Republican and Democrat playbooks, and he’s non-establishment enough to have some polled support amongst Democrat voters – whose opinions play no role in the Republican primaries. If controversies over Hillary Clinton’s candidacy – such as the unresolved issue of her use of a personal email address to do State business – cause her support to wane, some of those votes may fall to Trump. In any case, Trump’s chief appeal is not to the rusted-on base. He has wide support amongst swathes of the general population who may never have voted, and who also are not represented in the Primaries. If he can persuade them to attend voting booths in November, this could prove a deciding factor.

A wild card has also presented itself, in the form of the death of Supreme Court judge, Antonin Scalia. In the US, the appointment of a Supreme Court judge is a big deal – arguably more important than the general election itself. With one open position on the court bench, suddenly the 2016 election has turned into a contest for the future of law in the country in a way that Congress is not. How this plays out is anyone’s guess, but it again raises the stakes of this election and may work in Trump’s favour – or against him.

After her thumping win in South Carolina, Hillary Clinton is by far the most likely Democrat nominee. Unfortunately for Democrats, polls are not favourable for her. Clinton is a product of the same political elite that Trump has gained such momentum criticising. Her rhetoric is civilised, even warm, as opposed to the bombastic threats and insults of Trump. Her speeches might play well amongst the Democratic donor class, but can they sway the electorate? Many analysts think not. The general consensus – admittedly, still a long way out from the election – is that Trump would soundly beat Clinton for the Presidency.

If Bernie Sanders were to pull off a surprise victory and become nominee, would he do any better? Perhaps not. Sanders is a self-described “socialist”, which is still a pejorative term for many Americans. Sanders may well prove to be too progressive for Americans. As some have said, Americans will never elect someone who calls himself a socialist. This may not be eternally true – but it is likely true in 2016.

What would a Trump presidency look like?

So it is starting to look likely that Donald Trump will be the next American president. As with any fact-light political candidate for high office, it can be difficult to identify exactly what the policy positions of his Presidency would be, but we can make some educated guesses as to the kind of leader he would be and the choices he would make. None of it is pretty.

It seems inevitable that a Trump presidency would be defined by goals not met. Trump appears to have a highly individual view of the role of Commander-in-Chief, a role that he seems to expect has sole and unfettered executive power. As more than one President has found before him, this is very far from the truth. Many of the things Trump most wants to achieve cannot be done without the support of Congress, and on his road to power Trump is eagerly offending members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. It was a given that President Trump would receive little support in Congress from the Democrats, but on his present form, he will also find Republicans hard to rally to his side.

That is not to say that Trump will have no power at all. As Barak Obama has shown, in the face of a hostile Congress, there are a wide range of executive powers that are available to the President. Particularly in the fields of national security and international diplomacy, Trump will have some power to make unilateral decisions. Even where he has no real power, the President is a figurehead and a head of state. Trump has shown no hesitation in insulting and annoying heads of other States where it suits his electoral needs, and if Trump is not reined in by his advisors, he may well set America on a path to greater isolation. Bureaucrats in his administration are due for a torrid time of mending bridges.

There will be limits to the extent of the damage Trump can inflict even at his most perverse. Diplomats will continually point out to him that actions have repercussions, and forswearing some treaties for the sake of political capital may have implications for other treaties that work to America’s favour. As President, he will find himself constrained by the powerful military lobby and his Defense chiefs. He is unlikely to start any shooting wars on his own behalf – but he may well be more susceptible than Barak Obama to being baited into one.

It is perhaps some small consolation that most of Trump’s big-ticket policies will be impossible for him to implement. His idea for a Great Wall of Mexico will certainly not be paid for by Mexicans, which may give him an excuse not to build it with American dollars. His tax plan, according to all analyses, is nonsensical and unimplementable. There is no budget for his plan to forcibly deport all illegal immigrants from the country, and to do so would drive a spike into the heart of the American economy. And it is certain that Trump’s promised register of Muslims, were it even possible to implement, is entirely unconstitutional. Even the President can’t get around that.

President Trump could be disastrous for environmental policy in the US, and thus for the world. Trump is an avowed climate skeptic. A Trump presidency could see most of the gains made by Barak Obama overturned at the stroke of a pen. At the very least, America’s commitment to the Paris agreement would not be matched by its actions: Trump’s first budget would see to that.

Finally, a more isolationist America, at the hands of a President who feels that the US already spends too much holding up its end of military treaties, could have major ramifications for defense policy in Australia. Trump has little interest in protecting other countries’ interests. Trump is an opponent of the treaties that bind the US to come to the aid of allies in Europe and Asia. A Trump presidency might seriously undermine Australia’s own defense policy, which relies strongly on the strength of the US as a deterrent.

America’s Abbott

Many of Trump’s promises and policies are either impossible to deliver or are designed to sound good but never be implemented. His tax plan would reduce US government revenue by $9.5T over a decade and require “significant new borrowing or unprecedented spending cuts beyond anything Mr. Trump has detailed in his campaign”. According to Trump’s policy platform, “The Trump tax cuts are fully paid for by: Reducing or eliminating most deductions and loopholes available to the very rich…” However, the scarce details released fall far short of this, and analysis shows that the tax plan would actually benefit the rich at the expense of the poor. To Australians, a politician promising an economic plan to help the poor that actually ends up hurting them might sound familiar.

Other Trump promises will cost billions. “Immediately and fully enforcing current immigration law, as Trump has suggested, would cost the federal government from $400 billion to $600 billion.” The labour force would be decimated. Trump’s plans are a recipe for an immediate, long-lasting and devastating collapsed economy. There is no way he could get away with implementing them, even caring as little about the establishment as he does. Trump’s policy platform is a magic pudding: reducing taxes for all, spending more on the military and big-ticket policy promises, whilst making no cuts to social services. Once again, Australians have seen this pattern before, and are witnessing its apotheosis in the Turnbull government’s inability to chart a popularly acceptable way forward.

Trump is a bully. He is not above making sexist remarks when talking about his opponents – including other Republican contenders. He makes a virtue of playing the man, blithely insulting his opponents on the basis of race, gender, appearance, health and, in one notable instance, on the basis of having been captured by the Viet Cong. Like a recent Australian leader, the most outrageous bullying behaviour earns him dividends that more than outweigh the disapproval they cause.

Donald Trump is another Tony Abbott in the making. Trump is making grandiose promises to a desperate electorate, playing to people’s basest instincts and sowing fear and division, but has no way to implement the promises made. One wonders what Malcolm Turnbull thinks of Trump’s rise. In Turnbull’s case, the promises to the electorate were not so much on-camera statements of things he will not do – such as the promises Tony Abbott blithely betrayed soon thereafter. Rather, Turnbull’s promises are about things he will do, but which his backbench has now forced him to remove from the table: a GST rise, changes to capital gains or negative gearing or superannuation. In the end, politicians who ride to power on the strength of grandiose promises find they cannot fulfil those commitments and have to turn their attention to apologising to the electorate as to why they did not.

Trump is not a man to apologise.

Why we need Donald Trump, President of the USA

If it cannot be avoided, then it is best to consider some of the silver linings that a Trump presidency might bring. The truth is, the world needs Donald Trump, or somebody like him. It appears that we learn only from example, so here are some of the things we could learn.

Progressives need Donald Trump. They need him to demonstrate exactly how powerful anti-establishment feeling is, and how easy it is to underestimate fringe/extreme candidates. If a country like America can elect a racist, sexist, elitist bully, then it can happen anywhere. This will be a salutary lesson. Australian politics is very different to America’s; we can’t have an establishment outsider shaking things up like The Donald because our party political systems won’t let them. But the rise of Tony Abbott shows us how political parties can be shaped by extreme candidates and this can lead to perverse victories. Tony Abbott, as terrifying as this might sound, is not by any means the worst that could happen.

Conservatives need Donald Trump. They need him to demonstrate how bad things could get if they allow extreme candidates to rule the roost. A failing Trump presidency could have the effect of pushing Australian politics back towards the middle. It is easy for progressives to belittle the Coalition as a collection of ideological zealots, but very few in the ranks of the Coalition are stupid. Recent years have seen the Liberal and National parties embroiled in a conflict between hard-liners and moderates, and Turnbull’s constant capitulation to his back-bench indicates that the hard-liners are winning. The moderates desperately need the ammunition a Trump presidency could give them.

The political debate needs Donald Trump. We all need him, because his is the logical extension of conservative ideology. “…the party’s economic platform — cut taxes for the wealthiest and everything will somehow work out — long ago lost its purchase on public opinion.” Trump strips away a lot of the confusing rhetoric and claims such an extreme position that when his policies fail – and fail they must – progressive parties around the world will have no end of ammunition against that worldview when it appears.

The anger in the electorate is real, in America, in Europe and here in Australia. Partly it is a response to the formation of the political class, the concentration of power in a group of people born for it, groomed for it, and privileged above the average couch-dweller. (Even in the progressive left, politicians are born, not made – with the exception of the few superstars of rock music and literature whose names are enough to carry them.) But the anger is deeper than just a distrust of political dynasties.

Donald Trump is the living embodiment of truth-free electioneering. If Sarah Palin and Tony Abbott, Mary Le Pen and Geert Wilders have shown us anything, it is this: this brand of populist, fact-deprived anger-mongering must have its day. We need President Trump, because hopefully after him it will be a long time before another like him arises.

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Plutocrats and Pitchforks

The word ‘revolution’ has throughout history been synonymous with the cry for equality and social change. The French Revolution of 1789, the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Cuban Revolution of 1959 to name a few, all began because the divide between the haves and the have nots became intolerable. In the examples above, social inequality was at historically high levels and getting worse by the day. Something had to happen and it did, much of it violent and bloody.

Revolutions were generally born of peasant unrest, dissatisfaction, a sense of betrayal by once revered heroes who were seduced by their own power and their accumulation of vast wealth. When that peasant dissatisfaction reached a tipping point, revolution became the only recourse.

Today the wealthiest 1% in our society enjoy a lifestyle that much of the 99% could not even imagine. Furthermore, the gap continues to widen such that the line between middle and lower class workers is now blurred, while the gap between middle and upper income levels grows wider and easier to see.

While any high functioning capitalist economy will always have inequality to some degree, the divide as it exists today is so geared toward greater wealth for the fewer that the middle class is in danger of disappearing altogether. The message for all those living in their gated compounds and ivory towers is, it cannot last.

Statistics are not needed to reinforce these claims. They simply confirm what the 99% already know. But, for the record, in 1980 in the USA, the top 1% controlled about 8% of the national income while the bottom 50% shared about 18%. Today, the top 1% share 20% of the national income while the bottom 50% share just 12%.

In Australia, similar comparisons are difficult to find but in measuring wealth by quintiles, the ABS found that in 2011 the top 20% of households owned 62% of the wealth while the bottom 20% held less than 1%. In fact the top 20% held more wealth than the rest combined. The conclusion was that wealth inequality was rising fast.

Free market capitalism in its present form is no longer a recipe for a sustained, prosperous, happy, healthy society. Today, capitalism is synonymous with inequality, unfairness and discrimination. With today’s capitalism we are drifting toward feudalism.

trickle down Inequality has grown so dramatically over the past thirty years that our once great egalitarian Australia of the 1960s and ’70s has all but disappeared. And to quote Joseph Stiglitz, “one of the major culprits has been trickle-down economics—the idea that the government can just step back and if the rich get richer and use their talents and resources to create jobs, everyone will benefit. It just doesn’t work; the historical data now proves that.”

If ever world leaders had an opportunity to revolutionise capitalism it was in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). Just six years on from that incredible opportunity, we can see they have failed and have done so, spectacularly.

Bank bailouts without conditions will be a dark legacy for Barack Obama in an otherwise reasonable presidency and now the opportunity has all but passed. The US stock market has not just recovered but surpassed pre 2008 lows. The rich are richer and the poor are poorer in far greater numbers than before. For the 1%, the plutocrats, it’s business as usual.

The Reagan trickle-down effect is back with a vengeance and is now the hallmark of the present Australian government despite a plethora of information, data, and recent history to demonstrate its failure. They still expect business to lead a national recovery with investment in goods and services. What they don’t get, is that an underutilised workforce cannot afford it. Business knows this. That is why they will not commit.

The government cannot see that a vibrant, active, well-educated workforce is an essential component of a strong, robust economy; a component that creates demand that results in stronger growth, stronger investment and stronger taxes.

Blinded by the advice from bankers, investment houses and those whose fortunes are derived from manipulating stock markets and overvaluing mortgage stocks, Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are no more than a mouthpiece for the 1%; the plutocrats. They are victims of their own self-serving ideology. While they are in power nothing will change, no improvement for the 99% will ever eventuate.

nick Any realistic observer can see that this trend is unsustainable and its future unpredictable. While the plutocrats continue to build their wealth, billionaire Nick Hanauer thinks they might inherit pitchforks.

While the 1% enjoy their wealth, blind to the signs of desperation around them, a single act of defiance by someone desperate and destitute enough could mobilise thousands in support and roll across the country like a tidal wave. The 1% could be caught like the frog in the saucepan unaware the water has reached boiling point. But by then, it will be too late.

I don’t think anyone in government, least of all Scott Morrison, anticipated riots leading to murder and self-immolation when he embarked upon his ruthless policy of deprivation detention on Manus Island. That crept up without warning. And now, I don’t think either he or his party foresee all the possible outcomes if they embark upon a policy of reducing welfare at a time of fiscal contraction.

He may not even care but he could well be responsible for creating a new underclass that has no respect for law and order. He could well extend existing poverty further into the realm of the middle class, bringing welfare agencies to their knees trying to cope. This is where that one defiant act could likely emerge.

pitchforks History is littered with such circumstances and the consequences of doing nothing. The 1% won’t see it coming, but governments should. And they should do something to stop it, or they too will feel the pitchforks. They can plead ignorance but that won’t save them.

They can say their hands were tied but their complicity will be all too obvious. The plutocrats will never change voluntarily. The government is running out of time to do it for them.

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Where is Labor?

The despair at the inaction of Labor is growing louder. The groups they are supposed to represent are under attack and all we hear is endless support for Tony Abbott’s warmongering.

Labor have been gifted a first year of Abbott government that has been so bad that they should be seizing the opportunity to reshape themselves as a viable alternative but all we hear is “our policies will be revealed in good time before the next election and they will be fully costed” or “we aren’t the government”.

A quick look at the last few days news stories provide endless material that, for some unknown reason, Labor seems too ineffective to capitalise on.

Our Prime Minister for Women has delivered a budget which modelling shows that the worst hit – by far – will be women in low-income households.

Just as Tony Abbott releases one of his ‘earnest and sincere’ videos saying that his government’s main motivations in future will be “protecting the vulnerable”, it might be opportune to point out that analysis, conducted by the Australia Institute, shows women in the poorest 20 per cent of households will be $2566 worse off in 2017 as a result of the budget. Women in the wealthiest 20 per cent of households will be only $77 worse off on average in 2017.

Or perhaps, as our Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs jets off on his long-awaited trip to Arnhem Land, it might be worth mentioning the report in the SMH saying

Tony Abbott’s takeover of indigenous affairs is in “disarray“, public service insiders allege, with hundreds of specialist public servants retrenched, funding and programs stalled and staff morale in the “doldrums”.

Senior leaders in the Prime Minister and Cabinet department’s Indigenous Affairs Group have based themselves in Canberra’s dress circle, nearly 10 kilometres away from their rank-and-file workers, who are still reeling after repeated restructures to their workplaces.”

Now would be a good time to remind people of how much Tony Abbott has cut from the Indigenous Affairs budget and how many services are closing.

“For decades the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) has been providing legal aid in the remote town of Nhulunbuy, on the northern tip of Arnhem Land, as well as in the nearby community of Yirrkala and surrounding outstations.

But the agency is set to close its doors in Nhulunbuy at the end of the year, in anticipation of severe budget cuts, and is seeking a meeting with the Prime Minister during his visit.”

With the revelations from ICAC proving just how endemic corruption is in our political system, now would be a good time to push for a Federal ICAC.

As Errol Brandt points out at nofibs

“there is a deafening roar from social media calling for the establishment of a federal ICAC. Not because the public wants cheap entertainment, but because the revelations in NSW confirm what many have long suspected: entrenched unethical and illegal behaviour is festering in our the nation’s political shadowlands.”

Does anyone believe Bill Shorten when he says

“I think we’ve all been shocked at the revelations that have come out in NSW ICAC… I don’t believe the same case has yet existed to demonstrate these problems are prevalent in the national political debate in Australia.”

Rob Oakeshott certainly thinks otherwise as he calls for reform in the area of political donations.

“THE rules are simple: fight the bastards, bankroll the other side of politics, cause them damage until they learn to ignore treasury and finance advice and start listening instead to that grubby leveller in politics – money.

Whether it’s tax or carbon or gaming, this is the policy inertia of Australia today. Money is beating our long-term standard of living to death. It has sent many necessary policy reforms to the doghouse, and it keeps many others on the short chain.

Our key decisions for the future of Australia are now being outsourced at a level never before seen. Parliamentary democracy is going through its own sort of privatisation….”

Oakeshott points out the undue influence that wealthy people exert on political decisions which are no longer made in the best interests of the people. This is underlined by Gina Rinehart’s latest call for assistance as iron ore prices fall. Rather than facing business risk like the rest of us, she wants the government to change the rules to increase her profits.

“Mrs Rinehart singled out red tape, approvals and burdens as addressable bureaucratic policies.

“Each one of these adds costs and makes it harder to compete successfully, risking Australian jobs and revenue,” Mrs Rinehart told The Australian. “The government needs to better recognise this and world conditions, including various falling commodity prices and the contraction in jobs in Australia’s ­mining and related industries – and urgently cut bureaucratic ­burdens.”

The government needs to act to help reduce the costs placed on Australian miners, who are disadvantaged against international competition, Mrs Rinehart said.

Mrs Rinehart has previously warned that Africa is a much cheaper investment option, with workers willing to take jobs for $2 per day.

It was estimated at the time that while Mrs Rinehart was talking about pay rates for African workers, she was earning $600 a second.”

Andrew Wilkie is also angry at the influence of vested interests with Barnaby Joyce promoting the interests of his mates.

“The Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce is reportedly set to exempt Saudi Arabia from the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System, which would be the first step in undoing the modest animal welfare reforms of the last parliament.

“This is the government saying loud and clear to overseas markets: `we don’t care how you slaughter our animals’,’’ Mr Wilkie said. “This will have horrendous consequences for Australian animals that will be sent overseas to cruel and shocking deaths with the blessing of the Australian Government. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Australian Government is a pack of sadists who seem to get some sort of unholy thrill out of knowingly promoting animal cruelty.

Barnaby Joyce in particular is beholden to money and his mates in that tiny part of the red-meat industry which exports livestock. But even there he is incompetent because the only way to ensure the red-meat industry is commercially sustainable over the long term, and have broad public support, is to end the cruelty.”

As Tony Abbott woos the Chinese in search of a Free Trade Agreement, someone should warn him that they are likely to impose tariffs on our exports as they move to an ETS.

“Just two months after Australia trashed its carbon price because it was “too high” and would “trash the economy”, China has flagged that its planned carbon trading scheme will cover 40 per cent of its economy and be worth up to $65 billion.”

Tony Abbott keeps telling us that repealing taxes will create jobs but, on so many fronts, his actions show little regard for creating employment.

The main public sector union is demanding urgent talks with the Australian Taxation Office over a proposal to move outsourced backroom functions to Asia.

The CPSU says it is “deeply concerned” after revelations that a giant multinational contractor wants to take ATO work to the Philippines and that Health Department work has been going to India for years.

Support for mining and agriculture will do little to help as, at its peak, the mining sector employed less than 2 per cent of the workforce, and agriculture, forestry and fishing employs about 3 per cent.

Withdrawing support for the car industry will see a huge number of job losses with even more for South Australia if the government chooses to buy Japanese submarines to replace the Collins class fleet.

But at present, the only policy the government has to tackle unemployment is lowering wage rates by, for example, getting rid of penalty rates and introducing low junior wages.

As Paul Malone points out

“The conventional response that our tradeable services will compete successfully on the world stage, significantly adding to our export income and keeping large numbers of our population employed, is laughable. If we can sell architecture services via the net, so can lower paid Indians.

The currently much vaunted sale of education services is in reality an immigration marketing program, where many students study here in the hope that they can win the right to live and work here.”

While our students become increasingly concerned about changes that will see them saddled with huge debts, Scott Morrison is busy announcing a new type of visa that will allow foreign students to come and study diploma courses at private colleges like the one Frances Abbott attends which has benefited from a great deal of favourable government legislation since they gave her a scholarship.

‘The number of international students seeking to study in Australia continues to rebound positively, with an increase of over 27% in the number of visas granted to offshore applicants in the 2013/2014 programme year,’ he pointed out.

‘Extending SVP arrangements will help capitalise on these trends, reducing red tape and helping to attract further students from overseas,’ he added.

Invitations to participate will be sent to eligible providers in the second half of 2014. The government proposes to implement this extension by early 2015, under the stewardship of Michaelia Cash, Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.”

Even though small business is a huge employer, they too have been attacked by the Abbott budget. It seems only billionaires and global corporations rate a mention nowadays.

“The Coalition has scrapped the tax concessions linked to the mining tax, including the company loss carry-back provision, which allowed loss-making businesses to claim back tax they’d paid in previous profitable years. Also cut were accelerated depreciation allowances or asset write-offs.

“The Coalition have said that they would be small business-friendly, they understand we are the backbone of the economy, that we employ a lot of people – all those sorts of things – and they would do anything they could to make sure our lives were easy enough so we could run our business, and they’ve done the opposite with this decision,” said Peter Strong, the executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia (COSBOA).”

While Abbott talks of growth, he seems to have little idea of how to achieve it and is actually working against measures to reduce inequality.

“The federal budget took active steps towards increasing inequality and that sits in stark contrast to the discussions held at the G20 and now the L20 meetings. Youth unemployment is a critical issue for the Australian economy but has largely been ignored in favour of a crackdown on ‘dole bludgers’ and ‘welfare queens’.

There is a clear disconnect between our federal government and the L20, who are promoting a return to more inclusive growth, which benefits workers across the income distribution. The L20’s focus is long overdue — the national income share from wages has been declining for decades — but it’s a message that has clearly fallen on deaf ears in Australia.”

Abbott tells us that we must be innovative but at the same time cuts funding to research and ignores the advice of scientists, much to the chagrine of our chief scientist Ian Chubb.

“In the space of a fortnight we were encouraged to be advocates for science and then rebuked for “whinging” by a minister who in the same breath claimed to be on our side. That came as something of a shock.

Much has been said and written about how Australia punches above our weight in research and innovation in the past and present. We have in no way reached our capacity. We need long-term research funding, clear translational mechanisms and strong links with business. We need more blue sky research, not less, and we need to figure out smarter ways of funding and translating it.

Most of all, scientists need allies in parliament, and increasingly it appears we have none. Acknowledging that isn’t being a “precious petal”, and it’s not whingeing. These are big-picture issues, these are long-term issues, these are dreams and ideas about what we think our country can do and how we can bring it into the future.”

These are just a few of the stories from the last few days yet the nation, including the Labor Party, have been mesmerised by talk of terrorism even though there is no discernible threat other than “tens” of angry young men who our police force already seem to be watching.

If Shorten cannot man up and start presenting some credible alternatives to the disaster that is our current government then I am very fearful for our future.

 

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 368 total views

Malevolent

redactedfamilyoutcomes

 

The 2014 budget omitted the table of adjusted family outcomes that had been in every previous budget since 2005. The analysis was done by treasury and available for inclusion but that it was not there indicates it was deliberately omitted. The figures went to Cabinet, so they were fully aware of the allegedly inequitable outcomes. Was it omitted for political reasons? The Coalition and its budget already have a problem with the public believing (and increasingly, and justifiably so) that it is unfair. Long-term observers have held the suspicion that the Coalition governs for its mates, the well-to-do, the elite, the born-to-rule set, and nothing in the budget, nor the Coalition’s rhetoric and off-budget policies since, have given cause to doubt this. For just a few examples, consider:

  • University FEE-HELP changes to impact disproportionately on poor graduates
  • A permanent hit to pensions and welfare vs. a short-term levy for the rich
  • The $7/visit co-payment for GP visits (the well-to-do might complain over a copayment but it is the poor who will simply stop going.) This might also reduce rates of vaccination in Australia, putting the whole country at greater risk.

The perception that the budget is unfair is widespread and even having an effect on business support for the Coalition’s policies. Could the Coalition cope with further documents showing that the poor would pay disproportionately for the Coalition’s fictitious “budget repair process”, and that the Coalition knew about it and went ahead anyway?

Fairfax and other outlets have sought this information, and failed to receive it. Accordingly they and other analysts have done their own sums on the basis of published figures. The analysis confirms that the poor will be harder-hit than the wealthy.

Joe Hockey has been up in arms about Fairfax publishing this analysis. “It doesn’t tell the whole story,” he says. “It doesn’t reflect the fact that the rich pay more tax, and that the taxes of the average wealthy person pay the social support for an average four recipients of welfare.” Fairfax’s reporting “failed to take account of the higher rate of income tax already paid by higher-income households”. “Fairfax reporting has been malevolent,” he says.

Let’s pause for a moment and consider Hockey’s reported statements on the issue of equality, tax and welfare.

“In fact, just 2 per cent of taxpayers pay more than a quarter of all income tax. Maybe these taxpayers would argue that the tax system is already unfair.” “The average working Australian, be they a cleaner, a plumber or a teacher, is working over one month full time each year just to pay for the welfare of another Australian.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-11/hockey-tries-to-set-straight-perception-budget-is-unfair/5516718

What does this say about Joe Hockey’s fundamental concept of social welfare? In a nutshell, it suggests that he is either beholden to, or at least panders to, selfishness. In Hockey’s world, it is portrayed as a bad thing that people with resources assist those without. This is a profoundly anti-charitable approach.

Our society has put in place progressive tax systems, effective social welfare structures and a range of subsidies, payments and tax breaks in an ongoing and long-term attempt to find a comfortable middle ground, where the privileged can continue to prosper whilst the downtrodden are assisted to keep their heads above water. Obviously Mr Hockey, and the Coalition, believe that the middle ground has trended too far in one direction. The problem is that society as a whole does not appear to agree with them.

Of course higher income households pay more tax. That’s the whole point of a progressive tax system. To argue that it’s justified to penalise low income workers more because they pay less tax is an attack on the very principle of the sliding scale. That’s an ideological position and it’s a valid choice, but it should be understood as such. Penalising more or less on the basis of tax rates entails an effective change in those rates. In other words, arguing that you can implement changes that hurt the poor more than the rich because the rich already pay more tax, is effectively arguing for a tax cut for the rich, or an extra tax for the poor, depending on how you want to look at it, and it is in no way an equitable outcome.

Let’s take a step backwards and approach this differently. Assume that every Australian is going to pay the maximum $844/pa as a result of the 2014 budget. Now you start handing some of that money back in concessions. $50 to this group, $100 to that, $327 to the top bracket. Why do you do this? Because they’re already paying a lot of tax. You are levelling the playing ground. You are moving closer to a situation where everyone pays the same amount of tax. This is the opposite of a progressive tax system.

Malevolent: adj. “Wishing evil or harm to another or others.” With his 2014 budget, Mr Hockey is seeking to specifically do harm to those who belong to a different socioeconomic class than himself. Now who’s being malevolent?

Yes, Mr Hockey, the 2014 budget is indeed unfair. It does increase inequity. You’ve known it since well before the budget was announced. And the way you’re talking about it, and responding to the questions about its unfairness, seems to indicate that the unfairness is quite deliberate. I’m not entirely sure that’s the message you were trying to achieve.

 95 total views

How big is your world?

world

I think we can all agree that we want to see the world a better place. We all live here after all so surely we don’t want to shit in our own nest? The differences arise from the size of our worlds.

For some people their world only contains one person. Others may visit their world on a ‘useful’ visa but they are all expendable, their visa expiring when they are no longer useful. Well-known uniterrarists include Gina Rinehart and Rupert Murdoch.

Others populate their world with their family, either immediate or extended. Wealth, belongings, and resources are shared only within the family and protected from outsiders. These familiaterrarists include the Packer family, though they have, on occasion, given gifts to other worlds.

The xenoterrarists only allow people who are just like them in their world – people who look like them and talk like them and dress like them and belong to the same organisations as them. They fear other terrarists and avoid all contact with them. This includes people like Corey Bernardi.

The centriterrarists have a world that revolves around a single issue. They have many small worlds dedicated to different single goals like gun ownership, or growth at all costs. The Coalition government lives on one such world.

Whilst ostensibly holding out the hand of friendship, the religioterrarists only allow people who worship the same way as they do into their world. They have been known to try to infiltrate other worlds, and some see world domination as their goal. The Christians have been fighting and winning a battle against the Muslims for millennia but they are torn by factional fighting, and women are only given associate citizenship. There are some religioterrarists who want to change the old ways, who preach tolerance and compassion and inclusion, but they are often punished for so doing.

The natioterrarists have a world with very distinct boundaries determined by a line on a map or some geographical feature. They protect the edge of their world fiercely, though they give some safe passage to their shores whilst towing others away and incarcerating many more. Their criteria seem to depend on your mode of arrival, whether you said “Please Mr Morrison may I cross your golden river” before moving, and whether you are poor or scared enough to accept whatever conditions are imposed on you in silence. Scott Morrison is their fiercest warrior and he’s no wimp!

The corporaterrarists are the most feared group of all. Where the religioterrarists failed the corporaterrarists have succeeded in world domination. They do not own a world of their own but they have taken over the board of all the richest worlds and are now in the process of looting them of anything profitable. After they wring a world dry, they move onto emerging worlds where the looting continues.

And then we come to the poor, benighted omniterrarists, sometimes called universalists. Their world encompasses all worlds and the responsibility for their well-being. They try to keep an eye on every world and every individual living in that world. They try to fight for the collective common good and are often resisted by the very terrarists they are trying to help. The uni- and familiaterrarists see them as a distinct threat and have carried out a propaganda campaign to discredit every action by the omniterrarists to help the poor and disadvantaged worlds. The corporatists devote their huge resources to eliminating them by whatever means possible.

The omniterrarists are tired. Their hearts are breaking as they spin from one horror to the next, diverted and distracted and unable to make a concerted defence because they are fighting on so many fronts. But their numbers are growing. Their voice is getting louder. The ones who know are holding the fort as the young and disillusioned come to join them.

One candle in the darkness is hard to see. Millions of candles can light up all worlds.

light the dark

 72 total views

A different drummer

Photo: ABC Net

Photo: ABC Net

In the lead-up to the 2013 election, I don’t know how many times I cringed at the thought of Tony Abbott as President of the G20, and now he is there and it is even worse than I anticipated.

The ceremonies at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland opened with words sent by Pope Francis where he implored the elite in business and politics to exert their influence to reform economic policy with the poor and disadvantaged in mind.

“Those who have demonstrated their ability to be innovative and improve the lives of many people by their ingenuity and professional expertise can further contribute by putting their skills at the service of those who are living in dire poverty.”

In the Davos message he referred to his treatise Evangelii Gaudium, where he said the challenge of the world today is economics and inequality. In an era of considerable change and progress in areas like technology he said, “We must praise the steps being taken to improve people’s welfare in areas such as health care, education and communications.”

An annual risk report compiled by the World Economic Forum queried its members about what they think is the most pressing problem threatening the global economy in the next decade. They responded with inequality as the most likely risk.

The creator of the Davos Summit, Klaus Schwab, was pleased with the inequality finding because his philosophy is that capitalism cannot survive if income and wealth are concentrated in the control of a few, which is confirmed by the US Census Bureau statistics.

Oxfam executive director Winnie Byanyima, who will attend the Davos meetings, said: “It is staggering that in the 21st century, half of the world’s population — that’s three and a half billion people — own no more than a tiny elite (85 individuals).” The wealth of the 1 percent richest people in the world is 65 times as much as the poorest half of the world.

These fears are palpable and the concentration of economic resources is threatening political stability and driving social tensions and unrest globally. The pope’s message echoes concerns by others as well.

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, is concerned that the fruits of economic activity in many countries are not being widely shared. Likewise, the humanitarian organization CARE says inequality around the world centres on lack of access to education, public health, chronic diseases, income gaps, and social inequalities such as gender discrimination.

A World Economic Forum report says the failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change is one of the top 10 risks facing the world in 2014.

Scientists say man-made climate change is likely to worsen starvation, poverty, lack of water, flooding, heat waves, droughts and diseases, raising the specter of more conflict and war, unless drastic action is taken to lower emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of coal, oil and gas from their current trajectories

The global economy may continue to grow, scientists say, but if the global temperature reaches about 3 degrees F warmer than now, it could lead to worldwide economic losses between 0.2 and 2.0 percent of income.

Lord Stern, former World Bank chief economist and author of the key 2006 Stern review on the economics of climate change, also warned that scientific projections and economic predictions were underestimating the risks of global warming. He will be addressing the meeting this year and speak on topics related to the economics of climate change.

Saadia Zahidi, Head of Gender Parity and Human Capital at the WEF said:

“This year is very relevant because we have collaboration with the United Nations Secretary General and the UNFCC, to try to build up towards the UN Climate Change Summit in September and use Davos to try to spark off a very large number of public-private collaborations. That’s going to be happen through approximately 35 climate change and sustainability sessions. We’re going to be looking at themes as diverse as scaling energy efficiency, reducing deforestation, looking at resilient cities and scaling investment for green energy.”

Al Gore spoke at a private session on how leaders can help prevent – and better communicate – catastrophic effects on public health, anti-poverty efforts, clean water and energy supplies from a rise in global temperatures above 4 degrees F.

“The climate conversation has to be won by those who are willing to speak up,” Gore told them. “It is a race against time, but we are going to win.”

The World Wildlife Fund joined many other groups calling on governments to commit to action.

“There’s a rising recognition that we simply have to find a way to break through,” Jim Leape, director general of Geneva-based WWF International, told AP. “The big governments each need to renew their commitment.”

South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye told the forum “the world must act as one” to tackle climate and environmental challenges.

The meeting was dominated last year by the Euro-crisis, but this year Schwab says will be different. “It will be an exciting meeting and it will be different from the last year’s because it will not be overshadowed by one single crisis.”

There will be a number of topics addressed including social inclusion and job creation. He did not elaborate on “social inclusion,” but this could suggest the social and economic inequality the members believe is a global concern.

Other topics are the war in Syria, structural changes in China’s economy, building resistance to natural disasters.

“What we want to do in Davos this year in this respect, is to push the reset button. Let me explain. The world is much too much still caught in a crisis management mode, and we forget that we should take ‘now’ into our hands and we should look for solutions to the really fundamental issues. We should look at our future in a much more constructive, in a much more strategic way. And that’s what Davos is about.”

Tony Abbott has used his opening address to the G20 Economic Forum in Switzerland to advertise that Australia is “open for business”, a line he apparently stole from David Cameron. He has stressed that the private sector should lead the way to prosperity while governments clear the path by removing regulations and lowering taxation. In fact, his speech was almost exactly the same as his election speeches, even to the point of criticising our previous government, something usually avoided on the international stage.

Abbott has had meetings with Australian big business people, who presumably accompanied him, and avoided any discussion of ‘unpleasantness’ like Syria or whales. He has stressed that the focus for the G20 under his presidency will be how governments can facilitate big business and free trade.

It was interesting to read a tweet by Chris Giles, Economics Editor for the Financial Times UK, who said

“Sign of the times. Rouhani packed out the hall. everyone is leaving before Tony Abbott explains Australia’s ambitions for the G20 in 2014″

So why the walkout? Were they not interested in our fearless leader’s economic guidance? Or is his agenda so far removed from the rest of the world that they just couldn’t be bothered wasting their time.

I think our Tony may be feeling a little out of his depth and somewhat alone, or he is purposely marching to the beat of a different drummer.

 193 total views