The cold war against the people

Apart from the cold war waged by the religious in the attempt to continue to impose their beliefs on those who do not want it1, there is another war going on at present. This is the war against the people in the western democracies and the prosecutors of this war are parts of the corporate class and their political cronies. Before you whine choice epithets about class war, anarchy and the like, you should know that in my opinion and that of many others, democracy is a very poor way to run a country, but happens to be better than all the others. Similarly, capitalism is a poor way to run an economy, but it also just happens to be better than all the others. The problem with democracy and capitalism is that they constantly have to be attended to, so that corruption of either cannot flourish. A government of any persuasion cannot simply pass laws to prevent a corrupt activity and then wash its hands of the process, intimating that the problems have been fixed. The greedy will always attempt to circumvent the latest sweep of legislation, while the antidemocratic will always attempt to find ways to circumvent the democratic process to their own benefit or the benefit of their political party. Both are happening more often and more intensely these days than they have in the recent past, and this seems to be because of the general policy paralysis of political parties. This paralysis stems from the lack of enthusiasm to pass laws or regulations that may impinge on the profits of a political party’s donors.

Among western democracies, this war against the people has reached its apotheosis in the US with the election of the corrupt buffoon-led Trump kleptocracy. Many of the people who voted for Trump in the presidential election heard what they wanted to hear, rather than what was actually said by Trump during the campaign. If they had actually listened and comprehended, like many of us did, they would have realised that they were listening to a pathological liar2 with malignant narcissistic personality disorder. The fact that they didn’t realise this and voted for him, speaks volumes about their lack of education, something that most Trump voters do not have beyond high-school level3. The fact that it can easily be demonstrated, from his tweets and his televised speeches, that Trump is a pathological liar, makes his conning of the uneducated even more pathetic.

Trump wants to give huge tax cuts to the wealthy, to the tune of many billions of dollars. Part of this is cutting the US corporate tax rates from 35% to 15%. No doubt Australian businesses and their lobbyists will latch onto this and start whining that the government must decrease corporate tax rates to keep Australia ‘competitive’. The Liberal and National parties plan to lower them from 30% to 25% in the next decade. The tax on companies with a turnover of less than $10 million has already been lowered to 27.5%. It is planned to extend this to companies with a turnover of $100 million next financial year. This is simply a race to the bottom, with the eventual aim of business lobbyists being to have corporations paying no tax. Many multinationals do this anyway, simply by offshoring profits. The government will tell you that such decreases in corporate tax are a way of boosting the economy, but this is based on the fallacy of trickle-down economics, which was a lie perpetrated by Reagan and Thatcher and enthusiastically adopted in Australia. All it has done is increase the disparity between rich and poor.

One of the features of the US system that most people in other western democracies find hard to comprehend is the strange arrangement the US has for healthcare. In the US, life expectancy at birth (in 2013) is about 78.8 years, while in Australia it is 82.2 years. Yet the US has a health expenditure rate of well over US$8,000 per capita, while in Australia, it is less than half that (in US dollars)5. That is because the US system is based around private industry, and much of the extra money goes into the coffers of the insurance industry and their shareholders. Over time, the US per capita expenditure has been diverging from that of all other western democracies; in the US, life expectancy rises more slowly as expenditure increases dramatically5. It is clear that the US system is admired by some people in the Liberal and National parties. That is why they occasionally harp about the dramatic rise in health expenditure being unsustainable6. This is simply a lie. What they would really like to do is to shift it all over to private industry, thereby abrogating responsibility for health and keeping donations from private industry flowing into their re-election funds.

In the US, under the Trump ‘presidency’, some state Republicans have actually attempted to lower minimum wages by overturning local minimum wage laws: Missouri overturned a local St Louis minimum of US$10/hour, knocking it down to US$7.70 (fortunately, the governor refused to sign this). Such local laws have already been overturned in Maine and Kentucky. It almost goes without saying that Trump, during his campaign for the presidency ‘appeared to support’ (how could you tell?) raising the minimum wage to US$10 per hour (~A$12.50). Of course, since taking office, he has done nothing toward promoting this7. In Australia, the minimum wage is now A$18.29 per hour after the Fair Work Commission (FWC) recently raised it. However, at about the same time, the FWC cut Sunday penalty rates to be in line with Saturday penalty rates in the hospitality, fast food, retail and pharmacy awards8. Of course, politicians and senior public servants never have to argue for a pay rise, having recently obtained a 2% pay increase, such that a lowly backbencher now earns over $203,000 per annum. The Prime Minister’s salary went up to $527,852, which is about the same as the President of the US gets. Given that this did not pass the sniff test, as it occurred at about the same time as Sunday penalty rates were cut and the minimum wage increase was only a modest 3%, most politicians started to protest that there was nothing they could do about it, pointing out that it was the Remuneration Tribunal that sets their salary, not the politicians themselves. This is what they have said every time they get a salary increase when members of the general public question it. The record is starting to sound worn. As you would expect, the members of the tribunal comprise a company chairman, a company director and an investment advisor, all part of the corporate club.

All this has happened while real public servants; those who actually do the work, have been subjected to significant restrictions on their ability to negotiate pay rises over the last few years, with wage freezes in place while they negotiate10. This has got to a stage now where, for example, the Bureau of Meteorology has been locked in pay negotiations for three years, where workers have not obtained a pay rise at all for nearly four years11. Based on CPI increases, that is effectively a decrease in pay of over 5%. You can bet your life most politicians would scream like a banshee if they had to go through such a process.

Politicians, particularly those on the conservative side of politics, will tell you that all these measures of privatisation and decreasing wages, while decreasing taxes on the wealthy and corporations will grow the economy, and will increase employment. I mean, if you pay people a pittance, companies can afford to employ more people, especially if they only need to also pay them a pittance. But this also is a lie. Politicians know that the trickle-down theory does not work effectively, and that a better method is making sure that workers are paid more, to give them more disposable income. After all, if a billionaire gets a $10 million tax cut, how many more pizzas, books or pairs of jeans will he buy? However, if you give ten thousand people a $1,000 tax cut, they will spend much more on such consumable goods12.

Politicians are in the pocket of billionaires and large corporations and that is to the detriment of everybody except the powerful and wealthy. It has got to a stage now where the people are starting to fight back. Brexit was the first symptom of this, Trump the second, and Theresa May’s near-death experience the third. The people Trump conned were the poor, uneducated people whose lives had been upended by corporations attempting to maximise their profits while not caring about the wellbeing of the populace. Being corporations, it is not their job to care. They are supposed to look after their shareholders, first and foremost; it is the government’s responsibility to look after the populace. However, because the government is run by politicians corrupted by corporate money, they must do what they are told. The people Trump conned, and those conned by the Liberal and National parties, will still be forgotten and nothing will change, unless we make it change. Those forgotten people are just the detritus that remains after the wealthy and their collaborating politicians have lined their pockets. These forgotten people deserve to be listened to.






  • Arthur Baker says:

    Well, you can say what you like about capitalism being the superior system, but under socialism I can guarantee you one thing: the Remuneration Tribunal wouldn’t comprise a company chairman, a company director and an investment advisor.

    OK, hit me with your best shot.

    • admin says:

      It depends what you mean by socialism. The thing I was aiming at was capitalism is much better than a planned economy, because planning is not what most people do at all well. As a consequence, the shotgun approach is much better, and capitalism is precisely that. If we had a planned economy with the current bunch of drongoes, we would be investing tax-payer funds in coal-fired power stations, rather than running away from investing in them in response to economic reality.

      • Arthur Baker says:

        I think you’re painting the contrast too black-and-white, when in reality both capitalism and planned economies display, of necessity, many shades of grey. So-called “planned economies”, for instance that of the former Soviet Union, were not 100% planned, and always included some element of free market enterprise because, let’s face it, it’s impossible to plan every last little detail, even if you’re good at planning. And capitalism doesn’t work all that well if you just let the free market run the show and plan nothing. Not only does trickle-down turn out to be bullshit, capitalism just ain’t all that good at distributing the wealth fairly and efficiantly. That’s why we have a Treasurer and a Finance Minister and an annual budget – you have to plan some stuff. Not every darn thing, but quite a lot.

        The cognitive dissonance this causes among the right wing of the Liberals and Nationals is a constant source of amusement to me. When the market fails, as it often does, it contradicts their ideology which says it can’t, or at least shouldn’t. So they experience this internal struggle to reconcile two irreconcilables. Hilarious. If they would just acknowledge the fact that the free market is OK in its own way, but it’s sometimes going to screw up and fail to provide the optimum outcome, they’d get on a lot better. You can let economic reality run its course most of the time, but any well-run nation (or family, for that matter) also includes a swag of factors that absolutely require advance planning or the finances go to hell in a handcart. Shades of grey.

        • admin says:

          Not much I can disagree with there. To explain all the shades of meaning and nuances would require more space than on a blog. In my opinion, capitalism is the only way to go, but it needs to be moderated so that the travesty of ‘vacuum-up’ economics does not continue. The only way that will happen is to remove corporate money from politics.

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