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Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Maxwell’

Is this the defining quote for the 21st Century?

10 August 2015 1 comment

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615 rich poor Gina Sanders shutterstock

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Create a society that values material things above all else. Strip it of industry. Raise taxes for the poor and reduce them for the rich and for corporations. Prop up failed financial institutions with public money. Ask for more tax, while vastly reducing public services. Put adverts everywhere, regardless of people’s ability to afford the things they advertise. Allow the cost of food and housing to eclipse people’s ability to pay for them. Light blue touch paper.” –  Andrew Maxwell, Irish comedian

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If it’s not, it must come pretty damn close.

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Categories: Social Issues Tags:

Living in John Key’s “rock star economy”

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This piece, from a regular Facebook user and commentator on public and political issues, caught my attention;

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Dear Mr. Key.

The following report is indicative of the reality of living in your Rockstar economy. This crap is the daily norm in the lives of Mum & Dad victims all over the country. Some of them are fortunate to just get robbed as against getting stabbed to death. Do these sort of issues ever affect you in Remuera or Omaha or Hawaii ? Why not have a quiet word to the comedy duo Collins and Tolley and see if one or both are remotely interested in fulfilling their sworn oaths of office ?

Have a self centered weekend.

Edmond.

 

Jenny Petera works hard to make a go of Birdie’s Cafe in Kaitaia’s main street. So…

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It reminded me of something John Key said, in one of his many election speeches ranting about the many supposed “failures” of the Labour government. Specifically, on 29 January 2008, in a speech entitled A Fresh Start for New Zealand;

 

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This time a year ago, I talked about the underclass that has been allowed to develop in New Zealand. Labour said the problem didn't exist. They said there was no underclass in New Zealand. But who now could deny it? 2007 showed us its bitter fruits. The dramatic drive-by shooting of two-year-old Jhia Te Tua, caught in a battle between two gangs in Wanganui. The incidence of typhoid, a Third World disease, reaching a 20-year high. The horrific torture and eventual death of three-year-old Nia Glassie. The staggering discovery of a lost tribe of 6,000 children who are not enrolled at any school. The list goes on and on. The fact is, that under Labour, there has been no let-up in the drift to social and economic separatism. We don't need more of their hand-wringing, their strategies, and their interdepartmental working groups. What's needed is the courage to make the tough calls to fix these problems. Today, I'm going to announce a new set of policies which will leave you in no doubt that National has that courage.

“This time a year ago, I talked about the underclass that has been allowed to develop in New Zealand. Labour said the problem didn’t exist. They said there was no underclass in New Zealand.
But who now could deny it? 2007 showed us its bitter fruits. The dramatic drive-by shooting of two-year-old Jhia Te Tua, caught in a battle between two gangs in Wanganui. The incidence of typhoid, a Third World disease, reaching a 20-year high. The horrific torture and eventual death of three-year-old Nia Glassie. The staggering discovery of a lost tribe of 6,000 children who are not enrolled at any school.
The list goes on and on. The fact is, that under Labour, there has been no let-up in the drift to social and economic separatism.
We don’t need more of their hand-wringing, their strategies, and their interdepartmental working groups. What’s needed is the courage to make the tough calls to fix these problems.
Today, I’m going to announce a new set of policies which will leave you in no doubt that National has that courage     […]      Violent youth crime is at an all-time high. Robbery is up. Grievous assaults are up. Aggravated robbery is up. Young criminals are graduating from petty crime to more serious crime; unexploded time-bombs on a fast-track to Paremoremo. The victims are people like you and me. Innocent Kiwis randomly beaten by teens on the North Shore. A Wellington Uni student beaten to a pulp on his walk home. A dairy worker stabbed to death in South Auckland last week. A 14-year-old arrested at the weekend for a fatal stabbing in Tokoroa. The list goes on and on. Rather than being the hope for our future, these young people represent our future fears. The habit of the Clark Government is always to shy away from these problems. They prefer to poke their noses into the lives of good parents while ignoring the ticking time bombs right in front of them. That’s not my approach. Today, I’m going to outline some new policy that forms part of National’s plan for giving young people the future they deserve. This Youth Plan will have two major aspects to it. One part is about education. The other part is about rolling up our sleeves to prevent New Zealand’s youth crime problem from becoming tomorrow’s crisis. This plan is about giving all young people the opportunity and responsibility to better themselves, no matter what their circumstances, abilities, or track record. That’s the Kiwi Way.”

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Beware of Tories banging on about “being tough on crime”;

 

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National Party staying strong on crime

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Electioneering on being “tough on crime” is easy. Any loud mouth Tory fool, desperate for our votes, can do it.

Actually addressing the root causes of crime – unemployment, poverty, increasing inequality, social dislocation, youth alienation, easy availability of cheap liquor, viewing humans as “consumers” rather than citizens; and the neo-liberal cult of selfishness/individualism all contribute to social stresses on the individual.

Let me point to two different commentators on the concept of society;

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“And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour…”

“And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour…” – Margaret Thatcher, Former UK Prime Minister

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"Create a society that values material things above all else. Strip it of industry. Raise taxes for the poor and reduce them for the rich and for corporations. Prop up failed financial institutions with public money. Ask for more tax, while vastly reducing public services. Put adverts everywhere, regardless of peoples ability to afford the things they advertise. Allow the cost of food and housing to eclipse people's ability to pay for them. Light blue touch paper." - Andrew Maxwell, Irish Comedian

“Create a society that values material things above all else. Strip it of industry. Raise taxes for the poor and reduce them for the rich and for corporations. Prop up failed financial institutions with public money. Ask for more tax, while vastly reducing public services. Put adverts everywhere, regardless of peoples ability to afford the things they advertise. Allow the cost of food and housing to eclipse people’s ability to pay for them. Light blue touch paper.” – Andrew Maxwell, Irish Comedian

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So which view is closer to the truth?

It may be worth pondering that if Margaret Thatcher was correct, that there is no such thing as society“, then the notion  of “anti-social” behaviour is difficult to sustain. How can one be “anti” something that does not exist?

The free marketeers; the neo-liberals; those who promote the Individual rights over Community needs, seem surprised that after decades of implementing their philosophy that only the Individual exists – that there exist individuals who care very little (if anything) for their communities and other people.

For those individuals, as Margaret Thatcher once maintained, there is no such thing as society, or community.  There is only Me. And what I want.

Now… light blue touch paper. Let’s see what happens.

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References

Facebook:  Edmond Slackbladder

Northern Advocate: Second raid leaves cafe owner fuming

John Key: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

Margaret Thatcher Foundation: Woman’s Own – interview – 31 October 1987

Previous related blogposts

Random Thoughts on Random Things #6


 

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Kirk

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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319 million reasons not to part-privatise our power companies

26 February 2013 9 comments

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SOEs

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There are at least 319 million reason why it is sheer madness for National to be considering part-privatisation of  state-owned power companies,

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Half year profit jump for Meridian Energy

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Genesis Energy half-year profit

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Mighty River Power profit quadruples

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Acknowledgement for above media reports: Radio New Zealand

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The half year (not even a fullyear!) profit for the above three power SOEs is: $319.5 million.

Combined dividends paid the the government will be: $224 million.

If 49% of all three SOEs is sold to private investors, the State (ie, You and Me) will lose out on approximatelt $110  million.

That will be $110 going into bank accounts of  institutional investors, or the pockets of wealthy New Zealanders with sufficient income to buy shares.

It will mean a drop in government income.

Worse still, going by historic events in the late 1990s when the  ECNZ (Electricity Corporatrion of NZ)  was split up, and the newly formed Contact Energy was split off and fully privatised, power prices will continue to skyrocket,

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power-prices-set-to-soar

National-led government – NZPA – 12 May 1999

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Privatisation will not mean competition resulting in cheaper power prices any more than competing fuel companies are giving us cheaper petrol prices.

In fact, as Economics Professor, Geoff Bertram said on 13 February 2013, at an anti-asset sales rally in Wellington,

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“… It’s my view that probably the  most important political consequence of the part-privatisation of SOEs is to place private investors in those enterprises  and thereby immunise them against possible future policy that might reduce their value.

And since  I think an important part of an improved government policy would indeed reduce their value, I am opposed to the asset sales…

…The companies have a very high valuation. The reason why they have a very high valuation  is that they have successfully participated in a long-running rort to extract cash from residential electricity consumers by the inexorable driving up of prices of electricity.

That rort, has been possible, because government policy has allowed and has indeed supported the emergeance of a cartel of five, large, vertically-integrated, generator-retailers – three of whom are SOEs  – which have been able to operate without any effective regulation, at the expense of  consumers who were too vulnerable to protect their interests against price hikes.

And if you looked at the tracks of electricity prices over the last 20, 30 years you will have noticed that large industry has protected itself very successfully; commercial electricity buyers have done fine; residential who are the dis-organised, unrepresented, undefended, captive group of customers have seen their prices go up in real terms 100% since 1986.

And the main consequence of the electricity reforms has indeed been that doubling of the cost of electricity to ordinary  households. 

That’s a major cause of energy poverty; it’s been an important part in the growing  inequality of income and wealth in this country; and it’s something that a socially responsible government would,  in my view,  be taking serious action to reverse.”

Geoff Bertram continued,

“Just to put that doubling of the residential price in context. New Zealand’s pretty much on it’s own in the OECD and if you look at  the figures for other countries around the OECD, from 1986 to the present, the price of electricity to residential consumers  in OECD Europe, in Australia, and in the United Kingdom, is still the same as it was in 1986. In the United States, Japan, and France, prices are down 25% , compared to where they were in 1986, in real terms.  In South Korea they’re down 50%, compared to where they were in 1986.

New Zealand is the only only OECD country that has gone out there and driven up electricity prices 50%. We’re also pretty much the only country that doesn’t have a regulator in place, and where government doesn’t have any particular social policy relating to the pricing of essential services to the public.”

Prof Bertram explained,

And here’s how it works.

You take a bunch of assets with a given value, and you look at the existing price, to consumers of the product, and you say “well look, we can get the price up”; so you project  that higher price; you capitalise that; and then if you can get the price up the asset will be worth more; so then you re-value the asset; and then you go and use the higher value of the asset to justify raising the prices, and then you repeat.

And this is the circular process which has been going on in New Zealand now, in electricity, for more than a decade. It is completely legal under New Zealand law.

It is not illegal to profiteer or  to gauge captive customers in this country. [In] very few countries is that true.

And it’s consistant with New Zealand’s generally accepted accounting practice which basically tells you that there’s a rotteness at the core of accounting practices in this country.”

And added this shocking insight,

Here’s the problem. Electricity was once an essential service provided to households at the lowest price, consistent with covering the industry’s costs. 

Since 1986 the sector has been corporatised and part-privatised, and it’s pricing has been driven by the quest for profit by giant companies that have the market power to gouge their consumers.

As the owner of three of those companies, the New Zealand government has therefore become a predator. And now the Treasury wants to cash in on that rort by selling out half the government’s stake.

What that means in terms of the options for the future for government to turn around and come back from the predator model and return to a social service approach  for energy supply, is being closed off.”

Concluding with,

But if you want to deal with energy poverty and get kids out of hospitals with asthma and other respiratory diseases and so on, one of the really good  things that you can do is get cheap energy into New Zealand households and that would be sustainable on the basis of the current government owned assets.

About 300 kwh free. [But if] you sell Mighty River and what’s feasible comes down to 200 [kwh]. You sell Genesis and what’s feasible comes down to 100 [kwh]. You sell Meridian and it’s gone…

What I’m saying is the contract  that supplies the Rio Tinto smelter down at Bluff, the old Comalco contract, is the contract New  Zealand households should have had from the start.

And it still could be done.”

See previous blogpost: Wellingtonians rally to send a message to the Beehive! (part rua)

As Radio NZ reported on 21 February,

“Electricity prices paid by Mighty River customers rose 2% over the period while costs fell 22%.”

See: Mighty River Power profit quadruples

Which leads us to these points to consider,

  1. Despite a glut of electricity, prices continue to rise. There is price-gouging going on by all power companies, whether State Owned or by privately-owned Contact Energy.  There is no competitive force driving prices down. There is no indication that part-privatisation will create any competition.
  2. At least state ownership means that most electricity profits stay in New Zealand and contribute to the State, to pay for health, education, roading, etc. However, one wonders if this sort of punitive,  indirect-taxation, on low income families is fair, whilst more affluent households can afford insulaion, solar power, and other energy-saving strategies.
  3. As Prof Bertram maintains, partial privation will most likely close off future progessive governments’ abilities to reform  the electricity industry and return to a  social service approach.

See also previous related blogpost – with Max Bradford’s response on this issue: History Lesson – Tahi – Electricity Sector “reforms”

Meanwhile, some of our past political leaders are waking up to the realities of historical state asset privatisations,

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Bolger -Telecom sale a mistake

See: Bolger – Telecom sale a mistake

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Better late than never?

Nah. Better now than later.

These mistakes are too expensive and we all end up paying.

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And so it came to pass…

12 August 2011 4 comments

It is a basic tenet of belief, amongst the Left, Liberals, and Social Democrats, that everything in a society is inter-connected, whether we like it or not.  That inter-connection applies as much to macro-economics and  governmental policies as it does to how much money you and I have in our pockets to spend.

Accordingly, where there are severe social problems such as mass unemployment; poverty; lack of opportunity; an alienated, angry youth; easy availability of cheap alcohol; dislocated communities; and a general sense of despair and hopelessness – which co-exists with a consumerist society; upwardly mobile professionals; and wealth accumulated by a small minority – there is a powder keg of frustration waiting to explode.

Four days ago, the explosion happened in London.

It was predictable.

And the UK’s  “Guardian” newspaper did predict it, here,

Note the date: Friday, 29 July:  one week before the riotting exploded onto London’s streets.

The article describes severe cut-backs to various local community groups. These are the groups trying to pick up, and hold together, the fragmented pieces of a society stressed by the inhuman forces of neo-liberalism.  As unemployment escalates and even the safety net of the welfare system is cut back – wealth continues to accumulate in the hands of a privileged few.

Unfortunately, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, just doesn’t seem to get it,

This is not about poverty, this is about culture,’ David Cameron told parliament. ‘In too many cases, the parents of these children – if they are still around – don’t care where their children are or who they are with, let alone what they are doing.

The man is either deluded, or is playing to a very angry public audience.

In case my fellow New Zealanders believe that the powder-keg of social unrest cannot happen in Godzone, it may do us well to reflect in the following;

»  We have a National-led government that is pursuing policies similar to the Conservative-led government in the UK; cutbacks; attacks on welfare beneficiaries; resisting wage-growth; opening up the economy to foreign control; and not addressing unemployment in this country in any meaningful way.

»  Tax cuts in April 2009 and October 2010 benefitted the highest income earners in the country. Those on the bottom recieved not just less in tax cuts – but found themselves paying more for food, goods, and services as GST increased from 12.5% to 15%.

»  The top 150 wealthiest individuals in New Zealand increased their wealth  from $38.2 billion to $45.2b – about a 20 percent increase.

»  Unemployment is still high, at 6.5%. Youth unemployment in NZ is at nearly 18%. The figure for Maori (25%) and Pacific Islanders (28%) remains high.

»  Government is cutting back on social services; reducing government workers via forced redundancies; and has launched an election-year campaign targetting welfare recipients.

»  Despite the devastation in Christchurch, employment in the construction sector actually  fell by 12,700 people compared to a year ago.

As Irish comedian, Andrew Maxwell put it, so very succinctly,

“Create a society that values material things above all else. Strip it of industry. Raise taxes for the poor and reduce them for the rich and for corporations. Prop up failed financial institutions with public money. Ask for more tax, while vastly reducing public services. Put adverts everywhere, regardless of people’s ability to afford the things they advertise. Allow the cost of food and housing to eclipse people’s ability to pay for them. Light blue touch paper. “

In essence, the same conditions that exist in Britain, as ouitlined in the “Guardian” article – exist here in New Zealand (though probably not yet on the same scale).

The riots on the other side of the world should serve as a salient warning to us all; society cannot endure severe social problems such as mass unemployment; poverty; lack of opportunity; an alienated, angry youth; easy availability of cheap alcohol; dislocated communities; and a general sense of despair and hopelessness  – without consequence.

With the economic mess in Europe and a near-bankrupt United States, it is obvious that the unfettered unregulated “free market” has left us all much worse off. The neo-liberal experiment is as much a failure in economic ideology as the old Soviet marxist-leninism. Both are extremes. Both are inflexible and thus vulnerable to crises. Neither offer a practical solution to the demands of society and commerce.

The question is – do our leaders have the wit to realise this?

Or more important still – do we?

And what are we going to do about it?