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Upside down downunder

We sure do things upside down downunder.

Tony Abbott’s chief business adviser first tells us we are unprepared for global cooling, followed by lashing out at the UN response to the Ebola outbreak and labelling the world body a “refuge of anti-western authoritarians bent on achieving one-world government”.

Newman wrote an opinion piece for the Australian newspaper in which he said the UN’s “leanings are predominantly socialist and antipathetical to the future security and prosperity of the west”.

“The philosophy of the UN is basically anti-capitalist,” he writes. “Countries that pay the most dues, mostly rich Anglo countries, are those to which the world body shows the greatest disdain.”

Is he suggesting that we should receive foreign aid in thanks for using up all of the world’s resources while killing the planet?

Aside from Maurice Newman’s bizarre ravings, our inaction on climate change, our inadequate response to the Ebola crisis, the chief executive of Whitehaven Coal telling us that coal “may well be the only energy source” that can address man-made climate change, and the sheer bastardry of cutting real wages and entitlements to defence personnel as we send them off to war…..we are also ignoring the call from the rest of the world to take action to address income inequality.

Despite being one of the richest nations on earth, one in seven Australians are living in poverty. Thirty per cent of Australians who receive social security payments live below the poverty line, including 55 per cent of those on unemployment benefits. Fifteen per cent of aged pensioners live in poverty.

So it seems unfathomable as to why these people would be targeted when the government is looking for savings.

Since 1980, the richest 1 percent increased their share of income in 24 out of 26 countries for which the IMF have data.

In the US, the share of income taken home by the top one percent more than doubled since the 1980s, returning to where it was on the eve of the Great Depression. In the UK, France, and Germany, the share of private capital in national income is now back to levels last seen almost a century ago.

The 85 richest people in the world, who could fit into a single London double-decker, control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population– that is 3.5 billion people.

With facts like these, it is no wonder that rising inequality has risen to the top of the agenda—not only among groups normally focused on social justice, but also increasingly among politicians, central bankers, and business leaders.

Our politicians are telling us that they want to provide the opportunity for each person to be their best selves but the reality is that we do not have equal opportunity. Money will always buy better-quality education and health care, for example. But due to current levels of inequality, too many people in too many countries have only the most basic access to these services, if at all. Fundamentally, excessive inequality makes capitalism less inclusive. It hinders people from participating fully and developing their potential.

Disparity also brings division. The principles of solidarity and reciprocity that bind societies together are more likely to erode in excessively unequal societies. History also teaches us that democracy begins to fray at the edges once political battles separate the haves against the have-nots.

A greater concentration of wealth could—if unchecked—even undermine the principles of meritocracy and democracy. It could undermine the principle of equal rights proclaimed in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Redistributive policies always produce winners and losers. Yet if we want capitalism to do its job—enabling as many people as possible to participate and benefit from the economy—then it needs to be more inclusive. That means addressing extreme income disparity.

One way to address this is through a progressive tax system but instead, our government is looking at regressive measures like increasing the fuel excise and the GST. These will impact far more greatly on low income earners.

Another avenue is to expand access to education and health but instead, our government is cutting needs-based education funding, making the cost of tertiary education prohibitive, and introducing a co-payment to discourage people from seeing the doctor.

Abbott, Hockey and Cormann assure us that if we make the rich richer we will all benefit. Everyone from the Pope to Rupert Murdoch knows this is rubbish.

Two weeks ago In Washington, in a speech to the world’s most powerful finance ministers and central bankers, Rupert Murdoch accused them of making policies to benefit the super rich.

In it, he blamed the leaders for increasing inequality, said the ladder of generational progress was now at risk, and warned that a moment of great global reckoning had arrived.

I note that his criticism of poor policy does not stop him from taking advantage of said policies. “I’ll only be as good as you make me be” seems to be the prevailing principle.

Hockey’s response to Murdoch’s barrage was interesting.

“Certainly, as he says, loose monetary policy has helped people who own a lot of assets to become richer, and that’s why loose monetary policy needs to be reversed over time, and we’ll get back to normal levels of monetary policy, normal levels of interest rates,” Mr Hockey told AM’s presenter Chris Uhlmann.

“Governments, on the other hand, have also run out of money and can’t keep spending money – particularly on the credit card – to try and stimulate growth.

“So, if loose monetary policy is not available and actually makes the rich get richer, and governments have run out of money, how are we going to get growth going in the world economy over the next few years? And the only way to do it is through structural changes that make us better at what we do.”

The structural changes suggested by Mr Hockey will increase inequality and send more people into poverty which is indeed what Coalition governments are good at doing.

Pope Francis recently tweeted “Inequality is the root of social evil.”

In last autumn’s essay, Evangelii Gaudium, Francis wrote that: “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘Thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills … Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalised: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape. Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded.”

The claim that human beings have an intrinsic value in themselves, irrespective of their usefulness to other people, is one that unites Christianity and socialism. But if you think the market is the real world, it makes no sense at all, since in the market, value is simply the outcome of supply and demand.

A recent article by Lissa Johnson (on Ne Matilda) discusses decades of research into political psychology.

“Another ubiquitous finding is that conservatism is inversely related to the pursuit of social and economic equality. Conservatism correlates strongly with a preference for fixed social hierarchies entailing inequality between social groups, along with punitive attitudes towards marginalised and/or non-conforming members of society, who are seen as destabilising elements that threaten social cohesion.”

Australia is indeed a wondrous place where coal will save us from climate change, where helping the rich to get richer will make us all happier, and where the poor will be asked to pay off the nation’s debt.

21 comments

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  1. Matters Not

    Did you hear the one about the billionaire mogul who thought the way to fix inequality was to cut corporate taxation? But wait, here’s the kicker – he’s one of the world’s biggest tax dodgers, but he wants a crackdown on the tax dodging of his competitors.

    World’s biggest tax dodger wants competitors to pay theirs

    While some of us know all about it we seem incapable of action. On the other hand, many simply know and don’t care.

  2. John Fraser

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    Yeah …. looks like Murdoch is going to start telling us he is doing his bit to redistribute wealth by keeping "The Australian" going.

  3. Kerri

    What is Socialism???
    A fairer go for all?
    What is the opposite of Socialism???
    Sociopathy??
    Maurice Newman is, if not the antithesis of Socialism, most certainly it’s opposite!!!

  4. stephentardrew

    Great article a usual Kaye. Just keep on keeping on with those facts and critique.

    The great problem as I see it is that so called democracy allows ignorant fools to be elected. It is an issue of vital concern. There is no expectation of scientific literacy: comprehension of basic axioms of propositional and applied logic; knowledge of critical thinking; openness to real innovation and change; separation of practical applied problem solving from ones personal metaphysical predilections and ideological beliefs. In fact all attributes that are required for a forward thinking technology based society that recognizes many problems are practical engineering problems are ignored for unsupportable ideology that blames the poor for being poor and then punishes them in the name of some fantasy figure in the sky. Keep your fantasy figure but for “God’s” sake stop hurting people for no other reason than you are born to rule superior ideologues. The onus of proof should be on you to empirically prove your claims not me to disprove them because there is nothing you can do to disprove the non-existent because it is, in and of itself, proof enough.

  5. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Maurice Newman and Rupert Murdoch are two old men, both successful, with vastly different beginnings, but similar contempt for how social and economic mechanisms can be made fair for the Australian people regardless of their socio-economic circumstances.

    Do they care what legacies they will leave behind them? If not, why not?

  6. winstonclose

    Brilliant article, very well written.

  7. stephentardrew

    Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson was Chief of staff to Collen Powell:

    He is one of the most thoughtful Conservatives in the US and this three part interview by Paul Jay of The Real News is worth a view.

    Especially relevant for those fundamentalist conservatives.

    His assessment of neo-conservatism is not pretty.

  8. Lee

    What is the point of having an organisation called the United Nations that functions solely for the benefit of wealthy, powerful nations?

    When are these conservative numb nuts going to realise that they are only living in a relatively wealthy and peaceful nation by sheer dumb luck? They did not choose their parents, nor the location of their birthplace, nor the circumstances of their existence, any more than a poor, uneducated person living in a war torn nation in sub-Saharan Africa chose theirs.

  9. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Every person is responsible for their own actions despite society imposing conventional expectations on each of us, no matter our circumstances.

    But there are universal values that shine through. When those values of life, dignity and self-fulfilment are contravened, I give myself permission to make judgements on those who would deny to others what they would want for themselves.

    Through this prism, I maintain my right to sit in judgement on the likes of Newman and Murdoch, as well as their sycophantic LNP tail-waggers.

    This is why I respond with dark vehemence to anybody, who makes the decision that excludes the same rights to other people.

    When we grassroots people forget or ignore our fundamental responsibilities to our wider community, that’s when other levels of authority lack moral judgement and responsibility.

  10. spiraledi1

    We may know all or some of the points mentioned in this well thought and written article,but thank you Kaye for reinforcing our thoughts on these issues,it does help..

  11. corvus boreus

    I enjoyed the last post by Jennifer M-S, and agree wholeheartedly(mind and gut too).
    The universality of standard mentioned means any judgement upon others needs critical assessment of the self(the quote attributed to Jesus regarding rock-chucking).
    My own contribution to the greater needs constant work at marginalising my worst tendencies and habitualising my best attributes, that I may lay claim to any expectation for improvement in the conduct of others.
    The comment about application of values at the grassroot level reflecting in authority also apply conversely.
    I believe there is a general decline in individual behavior when operating under corruption of administration.
    The decency of public behavior is majorly influence by the dialogue conducted by public figures, political and media(and intertwinings thereof).
    Seeking google information on political misconduct, I came upon a site(Michael Smith News.com) with allegations regarding B Shorten(Union RC allegations made by B Kernohan et al). I did not at first realise that Michael Smith was a 2UE shock-jock.
    It was sketchy in details and loaded in language, and made no attempt to address wider(interparty) issues of political corruption.
    Once I reached the vox-populi comments my stomach turned.
    There was no contribution of information bar gloating gossip about fundraising achievements, and the main theme of conversation was insults of person rather than conduct (‘botulism Bill’, ‘toxic Tanya’).
    Then I reached this doozy; “Tanya”(Plibersek)”would only be acceptable face down with head bagged and mouth taped”(Shilo). The comment was not rebuked or moderated by the public figure responsible for the site, nor any subsequent contributors.
    As I reflected upon what such dialogue reveals about the character of those who conduct such discussion, I decided that I shall here-on-in try to keep tones of visceral loathing out of my posts unless I am addressing matters of particularly despicable personal or collective conduct, and I shall never again express a desire for the suffering of any person, bar legal repercussions for misconduct.

  12. Kaye Lee

    I’m surprised you don’t know Michael Smith cb. He is a slightly less vulgar version of Larry Pickering. He led the unrelenting campaign against Julia Gillard and the AWU slush fund. George Brandis and Barnaby Joyce claimed $3000 in entitlements to go to his wedding.

    “Senator Brandis has confirmed he claimed nearly $1,700 on flights, accommodation and a hire car, but says he attended the wedding primarily for work purposes.

    He told Fairfax that he used the wedding as an opportunity to collaborate with Smith over his work covering the Health Services Union scandal involving former MP Craig Thomson.”

  13. corvus boreus

    Kaye Lee,
    Morning clarity.
    I got the dots, now I get the lines between.
    In my defense, I have personally known 4 Mike Smiths, and I don’t get much shock-jock in my life.
    Thank you for the info. 🙂

  14. Kaye Lee

    I have never heard Smith on radio either but have also come across his tirades and connection to the Coalition when googling. The more I read about George Brandis the more concerned I get that this man holds the highest legal office in the land.

  15. Equipe á Grumeaux (@veloaficionado)

    The more you look at the right, the more you see a fearful approach to the world, followed by loathing, all wrapped up in bland, shiny, inoffensive, designed-to-produce-envy surfaces. At the very bottom of their psyches, you will see an overwhelming fear of death. However, if they can denigrate and ridicule and destroy the lives, livelihoods and aspirations of those who believe that people are essentially good, and the world is actually a benign place – with only their own fear and attendant aggression to make it otherwise – then they can amuse themselves, that, or take and deal drugs, until death occurs. It passes the time, in their essentially meaningless lives. Those who die with the most toys, or campaign medals, or ‘awards’, wins, in their arid and stunted philosophy. However, they’re now embarked on a bigger project – the death of everything. If they can’t kill us with nuclear weapons, then they will destroy the environment, and turn us against each other until all that remains is their little walled egoistic fortresses, surrounded by wasteland. The further right and/or totalitarian you get, the more the evil is apparent. Jesus, or Buddha, or even Mohammed (in his more lucid moments), or any biophilic religions/philosophies would say the opposite.

  16. Lee

    “Then I reached this doozy; “Tanya”(Plibersek)”would only be acceptable face down with head bagged and mouth taped”(Shilo). ”

    But these people are Christians and pro-lifers. Cough, cough….

  17. stephentardrew

    Corvus:

    Recently a friend wandered the web of right and left wing blogs and was shocked to see the vitriol passing as informed critique. I try not to enter that world because I treasure my moments of personal reflection free from the burden of violent discourse. Have to keep sane somehow. It is a fine play between humour, satire and legitimate assertion supported by empirical facts. The boundary between assertion and aggression is somewhat muddy however it’s pretty obvious when pure rage or conspiracy takes over. I too do not desire for the suffering of others because invariably there are causal contributors to dysfunction however one can still use humour and satire and be a bit edgy without compromising those values. Hell who doesn’t tell some pretty suspect jokes in the privacy of friends who share a little bit of interest in the dance of the macabre.

  18. Kaye Lee

    They are only pro-life in certain situations. They are against contraception and abortion and euthanasia and stem cell research. But they have little idea of “the instrinsic value of human beings”.

    To “stop the boats” they are willing to inflict untold harm on people who have fled their homes to escape persecution and violence. To achieve a surplus they are willing to cut young unemployed people off from any form of income for 6 months and to discourage low income earners from seeking medical attention by “sending a price signal”. They judge people’s value by their economic contribution.

  19. Matthew Oborne

    I agree Kaye, but from what I understand pro life is only a position to persue conservative morality, which supports traditional families, and helps to demonise single mothers, gives conservatives a sense of legitimacy because they have found a high moral ground. Just look at the propaganda surrounding Abbott pre election, his moral values his being a family man. It is all conservative smoke and mirrors. They reset the standard for decency by narrowing it so they can claim it as their own. Their is nothing decent about people who would see Australians and indeed refugees treated the way the conservatives desire.

  20. Annie Byam

    Good article again Kaye.

    Perhaps someone should refer the oh-so-religious Jesuit Catholic Abbott, to his ‘Prince’ of the Church, and the tweet he issued recently :

    ,,,,,,,,,,,,( Pope Francis ) ” Inequality is the root of social evil “.

    D’ya reckon he would listen ? I doubt it – he seems to place himself above the rest of the world, and perhaps above the Pope himself.

    Such is the ego of this PM. …… then again, perhaps he has a very warped ego …. this link explains a lot about that particular psychological dilemma.

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/enlightened-living/200911/ego-insecurity-and-the-destructive-narcissist

    A small excerpt that may kindle your interest :

    ……….. ” The bully’s ego is artifice. His arrogance is a hollow confidence. His condescension is a need to belittle. His rage is a need to control. This ego for him is a fragile thing, driven by fear and narcissism, not by power, nor by the power he wishes so desperately to possess. In fact, the bully is actually quite powerless, for he is only as powerful as the power we give him. He feeds on our fear, but his hunger is driven solely by his own. ”

    Anyone we recognise there ?

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