On Thursday 25 August 2016, Treasurer Scott Morrison delivered a speech in which he continued the Liberal Party's war on the poor. Following on from former Treasurer Joe Hockey's societal split of 'lifters and leaners', Morrison maintained the class war by declaring there was the 'taxed and the taxed nots'(1).
This could have been exciting news for Australians. It could have signalled that the government was going to get serious about tax avoiders, those multi-national companies who turn over billions in profit while not paying a cent in tax ... but no ... sadly, Morrison was blaming Australia's alleged economic woes on those who are on welfare.
According to Morrison's logic, those with no money are responsible for Australia's debt.
So Morrison's solution to too many on welfare? Cut welfare. There will still be unemployed people but they won't be earning as much. Problem solved.
What could possibly go wrong?
|Treasurer Scott Morrison - blaming Australia's 'debt crisis' on those who have no money|
Oh, let's count the ways. Lower welfare payments would make it harder for people, mainly young adults who've just finished school or university, to have some sort of income while they look for work. Without this support, without welfare, many will be homeless and may resort to crime just to live. Is this the world that the Liberal Party wants or are they just plain ignorant of the effects of poverty. And then there is of course the impact on their spending, which could impact the profitability of many businesses resulting in further job cuts and ... ironically ... more people out of work requiring welfare.
We all know that young kids of today are lazy mofos who expected to be showered in phat stax while sitting around smoking synthetic hooch, hooking up on Tinder and Instagramming their every move and thought. And Morrison blames unemployed youth for Australia's economic crisis. After all, youth unemployment is the highest unemployment.
Well, as a Baby Boomer I'd like to say sorry to the youth of today.
Sorry for screwing everything up for you. Sorry for loading you up with unaffordable housing, sorry for over-regulating the crap out of you because of the need to legislate against dumb-ass Baby Boomers (but we had fun, you know like hooning and drugs and stuff), sorry for expecting you to pay for basic human rights (you know like health care and crippling you with debt for your education), sorry for only offering you part-time work instead of a full-time career and then blaming you Gen Y noobs for wanting to be more mobile, sorry for the whole global warming thing (but hell nothing like a V8 smoking up that high-lead fuel), sorry for extincting a few species here and there (black rhinos I'm looking at you), over-using resources (who needs rainforests anyway, it just sits there doing nothing but taking up valuable space), declaring war on people with no reason other than making the rich richer and expanding the American Empire (we didn't invent war but we've had a phat time blowing up innocent people and facilitating terrorism. Oops), sorry for the increased airplane security (we all used to have a hoot going into the pilot's cabin on international flights, I guess you'll never know the joy), racism (again, we didn't invent it, but many of us are certainly exploiting it for you), truly sorry for reality TV (really not our finest work) ... oh, also sorry for AIDS. Our bad.
As a disclaimer, I'd like to point out that personally I'm opposed to most of those things listed above that muh-muh-my generation has unleashed on the world. No wonder the young people of today tell us to all fuh-fuh-fade away ... or words to that effect.
But I digress.
A recent report showed that there was a fall in the number of full-time jobs but an increase in part-time employment. The truly delusional Employment Minister, Micaelia Cash, stated that this was good. Apparently it is a good option for many people and that it was people's choice(2). For some this may be true, but for the majority it means they are under-employed and unable to provide many of the essentials in life, including housing, adequate food, education and health. Few people chose under-employment and poverty regardless of how Ms Cash tries to spin it.
|Minister for Part-Time Employment Micaelia Cash|
I agree there are too many on welfare. However, the solution isn't to cut government benefits because the people receiving it are still going to be here, as will their essential and unmet needs. Instead the solution is to provide jobs with living wages so they don't need welfare. Preferably, create careers. Just like in the olden days when Baby Boomers and their ancestors could rock up to a workplace and not leave until they were ready to don the fluffy socks and bust out the briar wood pipe wiling away the twilight of their lives in a rocking chair on the verandah overlooking the street they've lived on for 50 years and bitching about 'kids of today'.
When university students struggle to find work, there is clearly a problem. When qualified and experienced people struggle to find work, there is clearly a problem.
That problem isn't the fault of the people on welfare. It is the fault of corporate greed which has resulted in job cuts to increase profits for greedy share-holders, it is the fault of a neo-liberal government agenda that believes in cutting expenditure programs which would help maintain industry and business, driving innovation and job creation.
Attacking welfare is attacking the symptom not the cause.
If Morrison, if the Liberal Party, genuinely want to reduce the number of people on welfare, then they should be stimulating job creation not enabling job cuts.
Australia's manufacturing industries are almost non-existent and on life support. The car manufacturing industry has practically gone. Steel factories are on their last legs. Yet instead of investing in the industries of the future, the government is cutting funding to renewal energy and the National Broadband Network. It would rather see us return to the 1950s with a reliance on coal and copper. This is a backward thinking party, not a forward thinking one.
The Liberal Party has for years been criticising Australia's debt and using this to justify the need for austerity measures. Remember the GFC? The countries that ran austerity programs all went into recession. However, then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his Treasurer Wayne Swan invested in stimulus programs from the start. As a result, Australia was the one western nation that avoided recession. This stimulus added to Australia's debt, but it also saved more than 200,000 jobs(3). For this the Labor Party has been ridiculed by economic simpletons.
Sometimes government's need to spend money to earn money.
The Liberal Party whinges about spending, with welfare at the top of their hit-list, however, they haven't considered the need for revenue as a measure to pay down debt or fund government expenditure. Some government expenditure, predominantly at the hands of the Liberal Party, is unnecessary and only serves to cause harm and division, such as the billions wasted on the systemic physical, sexual and emotional abuse of innocent people seeking asylum. Similarly, Australia kowtowing to the United States led 'war on terror' cost billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives, created the conditions for the rise of ISIL and furthered radicalisation throughout the globe. Good one, John Howard.
The need for government stimulus at this time is quite clear. After all, how much more indication does the government need? The Reserve Bank of Australia has been cutting interest rates for the last few years. Currently, the official interest rate is at an historically low level. The reason the RBA cuts interest is to stimulate the economy. With interest rates at such low levels, the RBA doesn't have much more room to move. The economy needs stimulating and it is the government who should be providing this through investing in job creation programs. Instead, we see the economically incompetent Morrison wanting to cut spending on welfare and other areas.
The government is attempting to get its 'Omnibus' bill passed which will result in more than $6 billion of cuts. All of this is a result of the inability of the Liberal Party to pass elements of its previous budgets. The reason they weren't passed? Predominantly they were unfairly targeting the poor and low income earners. The Libs haven't learned.
Morrison's latest mantra of the 'taxed and taxed-nots' ignores the fact that those on low-incomes or welfare are paying tax through the broad-based tax regime of the Goods and Services Tax. The economy benefits when the government maintains welfare programs because those receiving it will pass that money into the hands of small, medium and large businesses, who then continue to employ people and pay tax. Oh wait! The only way the government won't benefit is if businesses avoid tax and continue downsizing just to fatten their shareholders dividends. This gets back to revenue and means the government needs to stand up to the tax avoiders and ensure they are paying the tax that they should. Perhaps, the government could start by targeting the legislation and use of tax havensthat are facilitating the avoidance of tax, and which are used by big business and people such as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Morrison says that Australians are not earning enough, yet the Liberal Party has waged a war against Unions and workers for years, including a Royal Commission aimed at destroying Unions, not to mention trying to damage Labor through their historical Union ties.
In contrast to Morrison's attack on the poor, former Labor Party Treasurer Wayne Swan co-chaired a report by the Chifley Research Centre, entitled 'Inequality: The Facts and the Future', which detailed how Australia should fix wealth inequality(4). The report didn't recommend waging war on the poor. Instead, it suggested redistributing the wealth. Funnily enough, Australia is a very wealthy nation. There is no excuse for record levels of unemployment, for record numbers of part-time jobs or for people to be on welfare for prolonged periods of time.
Australia's wealth can be shared. This may come in the form of, dare I say it, lower CEO salaries in order to create more jobs and better sharing of the profits among workers and the community. Rather than down-sizing and off-shoring, corporations should be encouraged to keep jobs local and re-invest in their own people, in innovation and in the community as a whole. Rather than being driven by short-term greed, they should be driven by long-term gain. Corporations will argue that their raison d'être is profit therefore it goes against the grain for them to share their wealth like some radical 19th century Marxist. However, sharing wealth begets wealth as more people have more to spend which boosts consumption and business longevity.
As an aside, corporations are in the business of making profit on the goods and services they deliver, while government is in the business of delivering services without a focus on profit. For this very reason, government should be very selective about what they privatise. Essential services should remain government-owned and the focus be on the service not the profit, furthering the redistribution of our wealth.
Unfortunately, business is putting profit ahead of people and the government blames the people.
Ideally, government and business working together for the good of the community through job creation programs and more equitable sharing of wealth will result in much less reliance on welfare.
Instead, Morrison sees the results of a problem and attacks its symptom. Dr Amos Wilson commented on those who did a similar thing in America:
'If you want to understand any problem in America, you need to focus on who profits from that problem, not who suffers from the problem'.
Morrison is attacking those who suffer from the problem and lacks the fortitude to address the cause of the problem.
1. The Guardian, Gareth Hutchins, 'Scott Morrison hits out at 'taxed-nots' and warns of recession risk', 25 August 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/aug/25/scott-morrison-hits-out-at-taxed-nots-and-warns-of-recession-risk. Accessed 27 August 2016.
2. Sydney Morning Herald, Peter Martin, 'Labour force: We're moving part-time jobs as the jobs market hollows out', 19 August 2016, http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/labour-force-were-moving-parttime-as-the-jobs-market-hollows-out-20160818-gqvlqu.html. Accessed 27 August 2016.
3. ABC News, 'Stimulus saved 200,000 Australian jobs: oeCD', 17 September 2009, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2009-09-16/stimulus-saved-200000-australian-jobs-oecd/1432016. Accessed 27 August 2016.
4. Chifley Research Centre, 'Inequality: The Facts and the Future', August 2016, http://www.chifley.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Chifley_ResearchDocument_19.08.16-FINALV2a-min.pdf. Accessed 29 August 2016.