Moving deck chairs on the Titanic while the band is playing

My ‘post-budget’ blog is off to a slow start. Listening to the commentariat constipates the mind. This is of course intentional. We are not to be enlightened but rather confused and distracted from the big picture.
One little morsel to demonstrate this is the information that an extra 25 dollars for the poorest of the poor was the first real (not inflation related) increase in benefits in 43 (!) years. We did not expect that from a minister of finance of a right wing neoliberal government.
That this was hailed as a big positive surprise just goes to show how over the last 30 plus years of neoliberalism we have been manipulated into accepting mean, nasty, vindictive governments. Vindictive towards the poor and of course generous to their wealthy supporters with tax cuts for the rich and billion dollar plus hand-outs for investors as in Canterbury Finance.
The Razzmatazz around budgets in New Zealand and Australia for that matter is a bit like the Melbourne Cup. Everyone seems to be in an office sweepstake eagerly awaiting the result if you are one of the winners or one of the huge majority of losers.
This is part of the big picture where ‘bread and circuses’ are all that is left in a declining civilisation. We still marvel at the colossal Roman ruins.

Colosseum

And yesterday was – as we are conditioned to accept – very little bread and a lot of circus.

Then I listened to the Minister of Finance this morning. Talking about social policies he told us he was tasking the “Productivity Commission” with overseeing delivery of social service. And now I cannot keep Monty Python’s “Spanish Inquisition” sketch out of my head.

Spanish Inquisition

Both are as ridiculous as each other. You only have to go into the commission’s official government web-site with the heading “Productivity Growth for Maximum Wellbeing”. You have to wonder who comes up with such bull-shit and how stupid do the government spin-masters think we are. We all know that the neoliberal buzz word “productivity” is code for cost cutting, which is the only meaning it can have if applied to social services as there is no “product” produced.

If you watch Michael Palin in the Spanish Inquisition you see another parallel with the Productivity Commission. Both have four weapons: Fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency and a fanatical devotion to the Pope i.e. neoliberal dogma.

We also hear that the finance minister is dangling the old chestnut in front of us: tax cuts in an election year. No prizes for guessing who will benefit most from those tax cuts. One thing is clear however that it is all part of the long term neoliberal agenda to shrink the state / government to make it easier prey for the corporate takeover. So far they managed to introduce charter schools as the first step to privatise education, private prisons, more private healthcare even more outsourcing of social welfare to private providers. There is obviously money to be made even from the poorest of the poor.

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All the while sailing on the Titanic our (rock star) economy is heading for the rocks and our climate is heading for the iceberg.

How long does any sane person think our economy can roll on making the (mostly non-working) rich ever richer at the expense of the (mostly working) poor ? When will the engineers and profiteers of this neoliberal economy start fearing the dispossessed masses  and realise that it will not do to tell them to eat cake ? When do they think the 99% will wake up ? When the top 1% own 70%, 80% or 90% of all wealth ? That is the trajectory we are on. At some stage the manipulation of the majority will stop working.

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As long as we are running this kind of economy we are also wrecking the planet. There is scientific consensus that if we don’t change direction from New Zealand’s “Drill Baby Drill” fossil fuel economy we are heading for not 2 degrees but 4 or even 6 degrees global warming with sea level rises measured not in centimeters but meters in the not too distant future. When will we start making the right decisions ?

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Sailing on the Titanic we just shuffled a few deck chairs around. The government for instance moved money from Kiwi Saver to the 25 dollar social welfare increase and lowering ACC levies and introducing departure and arrival tax. I really don’t want to belittle the importance of 25 dollars to the poorest of the poor. However, in the long run there is only one solution.

We have to change direction and we better figure out how to do it soon.

Right now the Titanic is firmly set on autopilot heading for disaster. But lets look at the bright side. The band is still playing.

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