Whatever the outcome of the Federal Election on Saturday, inequality will continue to widen over the long term.
The real difference offered by political parties essentially breaks downs to whether the right wing or the left wing of the "Democracy Incorporated" (DemCorp) monopoly party wins.
Whoever wins must ensure at least 90% of wealth remains either directly in the hands of, or directly controlled by, the 0.1%.
This is the reality of the capitalist neoliberal economy.
Capitalism always has been hostile to democracy. At the micro level, the modern-day corporation is the most anti-democratic institution in existence. The threat of democracy to capitalism has been neutralised through the destruction of organised labour, the collapse of alternative system offerings (in other words, the end of the Cold War), globalisation and the literal buying of political parties by the 0.1%.
Don’t believe me? Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal has said capitalism and democracy are antithetical and democracy is a threat to freedom. Billionaire Warren Buffet acknowledges the reality of a class war — and points out his side, the super-rich, has won.
So, who wins the Australian election on Saturday? DemCorp wins it, that’s who.
During the third, 2019 election debate between Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten, Morrison got stuck into Labor’s policy of a 20% tax-payer subsidised wage rise for child-care workers. Scomo banged on about how that’s a “subsidy” which is tantamount to socialism.
How would it be fair to not give a similar rise to hard working aged care workers and nurses and cops on the beat, doctors and lawyers, bankers and CEOs?
Morrison was right to point out the distortionary nature of the ALP’s child-care wage subsidy policy. But, he then immediately and seamlessly segued into another policy area — private health insurance (PHI). Morrison assured the gathered faithful that Hell would freeze over before he would let anyone touch the PHI rebate.
Clearly, Morrison hasn’t got a clue what a subsidy is. After raising issues about the distortions of the child-care subsidy, without drawing breath, he went on to declare how he would never stand by and let anyone touch his own side’s wasteful PHI rebate and subsidy policy, propping up inefficient PHI insurers with their snouts firmly stuffed into the public largesse trough.
Perhaps Morrison thinks a subsidy is when Labor spends public money on anything and is not when the Coalition spends public money on anything.
When Labor was last in office it cut the PHI rebate from “high” income earners, even though the bar for high-income earners is pretty low with the ALP. Fair enough, maybe. But what wasn’t fair was that while the ALP took the carrot away it didn’t take the sticks away — keeping in place the policy premium and additional Medicare Levy measures.
That was a cynical and unfair money grab. If the policy is bad scrap it, not bits of it. But I guess as the sticks were kept in place the PHI industry could live with it and business went on as per usual.
Mr Shorten has said many things over the past six years. Certainly, the personality makeover specialists and facial expression architects have had a fair go at re-imaging Bill into something more relatable. The new "smiling Bill" face is awkward to watch and you can see it causes him great distress to "perform".
But, any sacrifice is worth it if it gets him a chance to sit in the big chair.
Comparisons to Hillary Clinton, by calling him Hillary Bill, maybe a little unfair. Bill is nothing like the war-mongerer Clinton is. And he might not be quite as disdainful towards the working class who have empowered his career.
However, Bill does convey an impression that it is his manifest destiny to run the "big show" and is awaiting his coronation eagerly, as Hillary was. And like Hillary, Bill has certainly worked hard to let the top end of town know he’s their market-friendly man, a safe pair of hands for their interests.
Our dear former leader, Malcolm Turnbull certainly saved his best question time taunts for getting stuck into Bill about how he couldn’t get away from union work sites fast enough to go and “tuck his knees” under the Pratt’s table for a spot of fine dining. Like Hillary, Bill seems to be a self-declared “pragmatic progressive".
This is essentially a contradiction in terms. What it really means is an apologetic turncoat back-flipper, but pragmatic progressive sounds less negative.
When being interviewed about things like the outrageous price gouging of energy utilities and their ineffective and toothless regulators, Bill has got on a roll about how he will fix such outrages. When pressed on how he will “fix” such things and ideas like re-nationalisation, or legislating to empower effective and real regulation are suggested, Bill generally seems to take a bit of a backward step, with words like he will look into it and do everything that’s pragmatically possible, within reasonable boundaries.
It’s the same when it comes to banks too. I haven’t heard a word from either side about the banks during the election campaign. Presumably, it is all over and fixed now, is it? Job done? After all, several leading bankers have said sorry.
That should be enough.
Time to cut to the big issue. Who’s going to win the election? The answer is, it doesn’t matter. "DemCorp" – the 0.1% – has already won it.
It’s not that there aren’t some real policy differences up for grabs this time around. Labor seems to have a few sensible offerings. Scrapping income tax cheque refunds for people who don’t pay any income tax is astute. Halving capital gain tax concessions on property investments and restricting negative gearing to new dwellings, sure, seems sensible. Cancer treatment investment seems a decent enough idea.
The Coalition seems to be offering pretty much more of the same old. And with growth going sub 2%, interest rates at 1.5% and due for cuts, unemployment rising, outrageous underemployment and wages still tanking, more of the same seems inadequate.
It doesn’t matter how many times Morrison yells from the soapbox how wonderful and brilliant he is, it just won’t cut it, with the real world lived experiences of so many going backwards.
Policy platforms and promises don’t matter anyway. They all lie. John Howard set the standard back in 1996 when he said there would “never be a GST". In 1998 we discovered never, ever actually means the term of a parliament, which in that case was a bit over two years.
When it comes to lying, Morrison is up there. The lie about how he stopped the boats, particularly seems to get under John Menadue’s skin. Time and again, Menadue has shown how Morrison, Abbott and Dutton didn’t stop the boats. As recently as Monday of this week Menadue reposted an article on his brilliant website Pearls & Irritations (P&I), illustrating that the boats had almost completely stopped coming before Operation Sovereign Borders commenced.
The Coalition endlessly bangs on how Labor can’t manage money, how taxes will always be lower under their governments and so on. This is demonstrably untrue. As a percentage of GDP, the highest taxing and spending federal governments we have had were Coalition governments.
It’s a strange coincidence the acronym of the 2013-present Coalition Government of Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison is "ATM" because that has been the way the LNP has handled money.
Not for the economically, socially, politically and physically weak. No, the Coalition has kicked them in the teeth with measures such as cuts to social programs, erroneous robocall debt collecting, cashless welfare cards, drug testing for “dole” bludgers and so on.
That’s what prudent expenditure management is about. But the same rules don’t apply when it comes to handing out other people’s money to your powerful mates, for them, it’s an ATM. Vast sums have moved into private hands under the Coalition's watch, often seemingly without due diligence and required procedures being followed – collectively hundreds of millions of dollars handed over to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, Paladin, Helloworld and $80 million to a company in the Cayman Islands tax haven through the Watergate scandal, just to mention a few.
Presumably, this is what Morrison means when he talks about “how to manage money.”
Bill Shorten has had around 2,000 days to convince the 0.1% he can be their man. After assuring everyone he is a pragmatic progressive, he has done enough to convince them he can be given a go in the big chair. That doesn’t mean he is a certainty. In a two-horse race with preferential voting, anything is possible.
The neoliberal new world order of the past 40 or so years, is reaching its peak, or nadir (depending on your perspective). But neoliberalism is not dead yet, although the destruction it has wrought is obvious. And, it has literally bought and smashed our democracies. Income and wealth inequality will continue to widen, no matter who “wins” on Saturday.
Rob Stewart is a retired economist and former Senior Executive in the Australian Public Service, with experience primarily in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (AusAID) and The Treasury and The Department of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development.
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