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Posts Tagged ‘neo liberals’

The gentrification of Te Papa

28 June 2013 4 comments

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Te Papa logo

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Te Papa – Our Place?

What does $17.50 buy at  a supermarket? Or $10.50?

For a low-income family who are struggling to pay rent ($300 – $400  p/w);  power ($30 – $50 p/w);  medicine ($5 per prescription); insurance; school fees; car rego and fuel; debts; etc,  $17.50 or $10.50 can mean the difference between food in the pantry or fridge – or running out of bread, milk, potatoes, eggs, cheese, before the next pay-day or State social security payment.

If you’re earning $1,100 a week (gross), $17.50 or $10.50, you have discretionary income for to buy tickets to a Te Papa exhibition.

If you’re on minimum wage ($13.75/hr) and earning $550 a week (gross), buying tickets to a Te Papa exhibition is the last thing on your mind.

Since 1984, the concept of User Pays has been firmly embedded in our society. It was part of neo-liberal “reforms” where, in exchange for six tax cuts since 1986, individuals were expected to pay for services that, previously, had been free (collectively paid for by everyone).

The most well-known example of this is tertiary education. Once upon a time, it was free. Post 1992, student fees were introduced, along with student loans, and a measure of  User Pays resulted. (See previous blogpost:  Greed is good?)

The rationale for the implementing a new User Pays regime was that higher education was a “private good”. However, as more and more highly trained/skilled professionals leave New Zealand, that notion of “private good” seems to be questioned more and more.

If the loss of thousands of professionals and tradespeople migrating to Australia weakens our economy, this becomes a socio-economic loss for us. For Australia, it becomes a socio-economic good. This part of the equation seems to have escaped the attent of “free” market neo-liberals.

We lose out when we assign an arbitrary monetary value to something that benefits society as a whole – as well as it’s individuals – and some or many are excluded, solely on the basis  of inability to pay.

Because in the final analysis, that is what User Pays is; if you can’t pay, you can’t use it.

This was highlighted (again) to our household recently when we considered attending an exhibition that Te Papa is currently holding,

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te papa andy warhol exhibition

Source: Te Papa – Warhol Immortal

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The description of the Exhibition was intriguing and it seemed to offer an interesting way to spend a few hours on a Saturday afternoon.

Then we saw the price of admission,

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te papa andy warhol exhibition admission prices 9.6.2013

Source: IBID

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$17.50 admission price!?

No thanks.

One of us in our household, with a strong interest in art, will still visit the exhibition. For the rest of us, for whom it would only have been a mildly entertaining/interesting event, we would rather spend that money elsewhere.

However, the thought occurred to me; how many low-income families, or individuals, would not have the same choice whether to attend or not, as we did?

How many people would see $17.50 as the difference between food for the mind or food for their bellies? For a low income family of four, the Family “Concession” of $46.50 could buy food for a several days, or make a payment on their power bill to stave off disconnection for a while longer.

I put this to Te Papa in a recent email,

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From:               Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
To:                   bridgetm@tepapa.govt.nz
Date:                9/06/2013 at 12:51 p.m.
Subject:           Exhibitions

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I am aware  that it has long been Te Papa policy to charge for various exhibitions.

For example, you current exhibition on Andy Warhol has the following charges for entry;

Adult – $17.50
Child (5–15 years) – $10.50
Child (under 5 years) – Free
Family (2 adults + up to 3 children) – $46.50 Concession – $15.50 Friend of Te Papa (adult) – $11.50 * Friend of Te Papa (child) – $6 *

10+ adults (per person) – $11.50
School group (self-guided, per person) – $8 Audio guide – $5

I would submit to you that the amounts listed above are beyond the ability of many low income families to pay, and therefore this policy excludes a sizeable sector of the community.

Whilst I understand that many of these exhibitions incur a cost, that your current charging regime means that many miss out.

I would remind you that Te Papa is a public facility which has been paid for by tax/ratepayers.

I would like to suggest that Te Papa reconsider their admission fees policy, with a view to making it more inclusive for those on low/fixed incomes.

My suggestion is that Te Papa make the last two days of an exhibition,

1. Free entry for Community Services Card holders

or,

2. Entry upon a coin donation for Community Services Card holders

and,

3. Free entry for all schoolchildren from low-decile schools.

The current system, I submit is totally unfair and maintains a two-tier class structure  where some are deemed second class citizens simply by their inability to pay an entrance fee.

This is especially unfair on children of low income families who miss out on cultural and history aspects of our nation.

Enjoying our culture and history should not be predicated on ability to pay.

– Frank Macskasy

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To their credit, Te Papa responded promptly,

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From: ridget MacDonald <BridgetM@tepapa.govt.nz>
To: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Jun 10, 2013 at 4:15 PM

   

Kia ora Frank

Thank you for your email comments and concerns regarding Te Papa’s exhibition pricing. I will pass your comments on to relevant staff for consideration for upcoming exhibitions.

We are very conscious of the need to make our exhibitions as accessible to a wide range of people.

You may not be aware that for every charge-for exhibition we also have the Wellington Free Day in partnership with the Wellington City Council.  This means that upon proof of local residence, for example a library card, rates invoice or utility bill with a local address, all Wellingtonians can attend the exhibition free of charge on that day.  This has been very popular for past exhibitions and we have been delighted to have a large number of families attend.

The Wellington Free Day is held on a Thursday, open late till 9pm, and advertised by us and also the Wellington City Council online and in The Dominion Post. The date for the Wellington Free Day has not yet been announced for Warhol: Immortal.

Our free events programme complements our exhibition programme and offers our visitors opportunities for insight into related subject matter through films, performances, floortalks, workshops, children’s Discovery Centre activities and much more. We have also included a selection of works from the exhibition on our new website http://www.arts.tepapa.govt.nz/on-the-wall/warhol-immortal. This site and activities such as our blogs support our programmes and offer behind the scenes information and glimpses into collections and exhibitions.

Thank you for your interest in our exhibitions at Te Papa.

Ngā mihi

Bridget

Bridget M [full surname redacted]

Senior Corporate Affairs Adviser

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa | 55 Cable Street, PO Box 467, Wellington, New Zealand
[other contact details redacted]

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I wrote back to Bridget,

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Kia Ora, Bridget,

Thank you for your prompt reply.

The Wellington Free Day is a good start. As Te Papa is New Zealand’s National museum, it would be even better if all low income families could somehow benefit from a special day or on-going discount upon presentation of a Community Services card.

This would encourage out-of-towners to participate, as well as Wellingtonians.

The Wellington Free Day is a step in the right direction.

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As I pointed out, Te Papa is New Zealand’s national museum. As such, the benefits of exhibitions  should be made accessible to as many people as possible.

Whilst the “Wellington Free Day” is a good start – for which I applaud Te Papa – one has to ask; why Wellington only? Shouldn’t we have a “National Free Day”* where as many New Zealanders as possible can have the opportunity to visit their own museum?

As I pointed out in my 9 June email, the last two days of an exhibition could be easily made free-entry for all Community Card-holders (and their immediate family).

Otherwise, Te Papa’s admission policy will continue to be discriminatory,  excluding those New Zealanders for whom User Pays is a barrier to enjoying part of our culture that the rest of us take for granted. In effect, this creates a two-tiered society, with those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder missing out. (Though some might argue – with justification – that free access based on presentation of a Community Services card, also constitutes a form of discrimination. The Lesser of Two Evils Factor might apply here.)

Not only is this a dangerous thing, to discriminate and  alienate a group of people from society; but it is also morally wrong. This is another indication that our society is fracturing, splitting  along a socio-economic rift.

The fact that this is happening, and New Zealanders think this is ok, is a sad reflection of the times we live in.

This is the neo-liberal paradigm. We are living it now.

Te Papa – Not everyone’s  place?

Addendum

A link to this blogpost will be emailed to Te Papa.

This blogger wishes to thank Bridget for her timely and candid responses to my emails.

* Postscript

I don’t mean a day free of  the National-led government. Though that is a tempting thought. Post 2014 will be a National-free government.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 June 2013.

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Greed is good?

28 August 2011 54 comments

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As we look back on the last 25 years of neo-liberal “reforms”, including User Pays; the canning of “Labour’s” superannuation savings plan in 1975 (by Muldoon – after being elected into office with his infamous “Dancing Cossacks”  TV ad); and National’s continuing high popularity in the polls, despite their avowed proposal to sell-down 49% of several State assets,  – it seems abundantly clear who has been  pulling the “strings”.

No, it’s not Washington. Nor the Bilderbergers. Nor the UN/New World Order/Illuminati.

The answer is mind-numbingly far more prosaic:  it’s us – the Baby Boomer generation. The 1960s and 1970s rebellious youth  weren’t just an “aberration” – they were a clear signal that the Baby Boomers had arrived; could be inclined to  incredible selfishness (hence the term the “Me Generation”); and we voted individually for personal gain – on a collective basis.

Yep. We have seen the “enemy” – and it’s us; graying; self-centered; resentful of the young (who we’ve well and truly shafted);  and looking back at ourselves in the mirror, wondering where it all went wrong.

The case of  Surgeons Ian Penny and Gary Hooper, who tried to rort the tax system using Trusts  and companies – even though they had graduated BEFORE student loans and fees were implemented in 1992 – is the clearest example ever of our collective unbridled selfishness.

To re-cap;

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A court battle is over for two surgeons who challenged Inland Revenue over claims they tried to avoid tax bills worth tens of thousands of dollars.

The Supreme Court has ruled unanimously against Ian Penny and Gary Hooper, saying they underpaid themselves from their own businesses to avoid the top personal tax rate.

The issue arose after the previous Labour-led Government raised the top personal tax rate to 39%, compared to the company rate which was then 33%.

The orthopaedic surgeons openly paid themselves a lower salary than the market rate, arguing that they had a choice about how they operated their business.

They tried to challenge a Court of Appeal decision that found in favour of Inland Revenue, which said the surgeons had paid themselves salaries too small to be commercially realistic.

It said they were therefore able to avoid paying the top tax rate, while the balance of their businesses’ profits went as dividends to family trusts.

The trusts funded items such as a loan for one surgeon, and a holiday home for the other.

Inland Revenue said using those business structures to create artificially low salaries amounted to tax avoidance, saving each man between $20,000 and $30,000 a year for three years, beginning in 2002.

Supreme Court Justice Blanchard on Wednesday delivered a judgement supporting that argument, ordering Mr Penny and Mr Hooper to pay Inland Revenue $25,000 in court costs.

Mr Hooper told [Radio New Zealand ]Checkpoint the court has created a salary benchmark that is higher than the one countless private practitioners have been using.

He says they have been following Inland Revenue advice and calculating their salaries based on public hospital rates.

An Inland Revenue deputy commissioner welcomed the ruling, telling Checkpoint it clearly states and reaffirms what the department’s commissioner felt was the case all along. Carolyn Tremain says IRD has yet to fully absorb the implications and consequences of the ruling.

PricewaterhouseCoopers John Shewan, who appeared as a witness for the surgeons, said the case is important for individuals and firms. He said tens of millions of dollars may now be claimed by Inland Revenue from cases it still has open on this matter.

Source:  Radio New Zealand

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Specifically,

Surgeons Ian Penny and Gary Hooper set up companies, owned indirectly through trusts, to buy their surgical services and paid themselves artificially low salaries.

After 2000, Hooper’s personal income fell from $650,000 to $120,000 a year. Penny’s dropped from $302,000 to $125,000, and then to $100,000, while the income of their companies grew.

Source:  Dominion Post

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What makes this case of case of tax avoidance stand out is that none of it was ever necessary in the first place.

Dr Ian Penny received his Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor (MB ChB) of Surgery from Otago University in 1981.  He became a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1990.

Dr Gary Hooper received his Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor (MB ChB) of Surgery  from Otago University in 1978 and became a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1985.

In simple terms, they graduated as doctors in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Tertiary education then was still nominally free. Plus,  student allowances were available to most students,

“Up until 1992, nearly every student (86.4 percent) studying at a public tertiary education institution in New Zealand received a living allowance or grant while they studied.

 Prior to the mid 1970s, student support was based on a system of bursaries and scholarships. In 1976, a new system of government-funded tertiary bursaries was introduced. This included a study or living costs grant that was available to most students.”

Source: NZUSA

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Student fees and student loans came into effect in 1992, during the Bolger-led National Government, when Ruth Richardson was Minister of Finance (and coincidentally the same year that Shortland Street came on air).

In simpler terms, Dr Penny and Dr Hooper enjoyed the benefit of near-free tertiary education before fees were raised in 1992. They had no student loans to repay, as  medical students currently do, and may well have benefitted from receiving a Student Allowance.

Contrast their free tuition with that of medical students, in the 21st Century:  “on average medical students will graduate with around $80,000 of debt and nearly 90% will have a student loan“, according to the  New Zealand Medical Students’ Association in April, last year.

So with a free education; in receipt of student allowances; and no student loan; Dr’s Penny and Hooper were, as Revenue Minister Peter Dunne stated;

… the important thing about this decision is to bear in mind the scale of what was happening. This wasn’t people minimising their income because they were reinvesting in their business. This was people minimising their income because they were actually minimising their tax liability but still enjoying the full benefits of the income they were in reality earning.

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So not only did these gentlemen benefit from a free education – but they were now minimising their income because they were actually minimising their tax liability [whilst] still enjoying the full benefits of the income they were in reality earning.”

God, you’ve no idea how sick this incident has  made me.  Let me explain why.

Prior to the introduction of “Rogernomics” in 1984 (and National’s addition from 1990 onward),  education in this country had been free (or as close as possible to free) to nearly all New Zealanders. Education whether at Primary School or University was funded by the previous generation; our Mums & Dads; Grandmothers & Grand dads. The idea was terribly simple; education was a right, and not to be determined by ability to pay.

In turn, as we graduated from schools and Universities, we – my generation, the “Baby Boomers” – were to fund our children through their education, through our taxes.

Except, it did not quite happen that way.

In 1984 we unknowingly elected a Labour Government that had been taken over by a secret cabal of neo-liberals, conservatives, and proponants of the Free Market. A raft of  radical changes were implemented throughout the economy and impacting directly on society.

Despite public objection; mass protests; and even vocal opposition from within the Government by some Labour MPs such as Jim Anderton, Labour was re-elected in 1987.  Curiously, they had increased their majority from 55 to 57.

During Labour’s two terms (1984 to 1990), they cut taxes twice, and implemented a new tax in 1986, called GST.

National followed, implementing User Pays in tertiary education whilst  cutting taxes in 1996 and 1998.

In 2008, despite evidence that the world was plunging into a global recession, John Key promised that National would again cut taxes. As New Zealand went into deep recession; unemployment rose; businesses closed down – National cut taxes in April 2009 and October last year.

Most of the public, it seems, will swallow User Pays if they stand to reap a benefit from tax cuts.

The social contract therefore, was well and truly broken between our (the Baby Boomers) generation, and our parents/grandparents.

We had taken their gift – that of free education which they had paid for – but we decided not to pass it on to our children. Instead, we accepted one tax cut after another. And social services were either cut or User Pays applied, to pay for those tax cuts.

To my generation of fellow Baby Boomers, I say this; we’ve well and truly  shafted our own children. We denied them the very same opportunities of a free education that our parents had bequeathed to us. Instead, we voted ourselves seven  hefty tax-cuts; instigated User Pays; and left our children saddled with $13.9 billion in student debt.

Is it any wonder that our children our leaving New Zealand in greater and greater numbers? They’re not just emigrating to seek better paying jobs – they’re sticking it to us for our unmitigated greed. Whether consciously or sub-consciously, our children realise what our generation has wrought, and by god, they are not happy.

No doubt there are some folk who will cheer on Drs Penny and  Hooper. These people  feel that paying taxes is “unfair” and that it is unreasonable for the State to take the money that they have worked hard for.

Perhaps I should take a moment to remind these people what their taxes were, and in many cases  are still, used for…

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Inter-island Ferry, Aramoana

Dams and other power generation projects

Our first television broadcast system

Roading and highways

Hospitals

University education

Dental care for our Children

Our Police and justice system

Railways and other public transport

Schools

State Housing

Infrastructure such as power transmission lines

Social welfare and superannuation

Bridges

Postal and telecommunications systems

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Many of these assets no longer reside in public ownership – but they were originally built and maintained by previous generations of taxpayers; our parents, grandparents, et al.

As the Baby Boomer generation, what have we built and left our children?

$13.9 billion in student debt?

No wonder they are departing our shores…

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But I leave the last word to this expat Kiwi, now living in Australia,

A Victorian-based Kiwi with a student loan debt, who did not want to be named because he did not want to be found by the Government, said he did not intend to pay back any of his student loan.

The 37-year-old’s loan was about $18,000 when he left New Zealand in 1997. He expected it was now in the order of $50,000. The man was not worried about being caught as the Government did not have his details and he did not want to return to New Zealand.

“I would never live there anyway, I feel just like my whole generation were basically sold down the river by the government. I don’t feel connected at all, I don’t even care if the All Blacks win.

“I just realised it was futile living [in New Zealand] trying to pay student loans and not having any life, so I left. My missus had a student loan and she had quite a good degree and she had paid 99c off the principal of her loan after working three years.”

Source: Dominion Post

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Further Reading

Greed of boomers led us to a total bust

New Zealand’s wealth gap widens

Over-55s own most of NZ’s wealth

 

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Silly Idea # 341,907,774

26 August 2011 56 comments

Floating cities: PayPal billionaire plans to build a whole new libertarian colony off the coast of San Francisco

  • Ocean state would have no welfare, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons
  • Platforms would house 270 people and hundreds could eventually join together

PayPal-founder Peter Thiel was so inspired by Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand’s novel about free-market capitalism – that he’s trying to make its title a reality.

The Silicon Valley billionaire has funnelled $1.25million to the Seasteading Institute, an organisation that aspires to launch a floating colony into international waters, freeing them and like-minded thinkers to live by libertarian ideals.

Mr Thiel recently told Details magazine: ‘The United States Constitution had things you could do at the beginning that you couldn’t do later. So the question is, can you go back to the beginning of things? How do you start over?’

Life on the ocean wave: A design for one of the floating cities which Peter Thiel wants to start constructing next year off the coast of San Francisco

Green land: An aerial view of the city, complete with landcaped gardens. Mr Thiel believes many of the islands could eventually be joined together

Design for living: This island even has a high-level helicopter pad. The cities would be constructed on oil-rig like terminals

The floating sovereign nations that Mr Thiel imagines would be built on oil-rig-like platforms anchored in areas free of regulation, laws, and moral conventions.

The Seasteading Institute says it will ‘give people the freedom to choose the government they want instead of being stuck with the government they get’.

Mr Theil, the venture capitalist who famously helped Facebook expand beyond the Harvard campus, called Seasteading an ‘open frontier for experimenting with new ideas for government’.

After making his first investment in the project in 2008, Mr Thiel said: ‘Decades from now, those looking back at the start of the century will understand that Seasteading was an obvious step towards encouraging the development of more efficient, practical public sector models around the world.

‘We’re at a fascinating juncture: the nature of government is about to change at a very fundamental level.’

Light city: Peter Thiel called the project, Seasteading, an ‘open a frontier for experimenting with new ideas for government’

Mr Thiel and his colleagues say their ocean state would have no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons.

Mr Thiel said: 'the nature of government is about to change at a very fundamental level'

Aiming to have tens of millions of residents by 2050, the Seasteading Institute says architectural plans for a prototype involve a movable, diesel-powered structure with room for 270 residents.

The long-term plan would be to have dozens and eventually hundreds of the platforms linked together.

Patri Friedman, a former Google engineer who is working on the project told Details that they hope to launch a flotilla of offices off the San Francisco coast next year.

‘Big ideas start as weird ideas,’ Mr Friedman said.

He predicted that full-time settlement will follow in about seven years.

But while some Ayn Rand acolytes may think the idea is brilliant, it’s not without its critics.

Margaret Crawford, an expert on urban planning and a professor of architecture at Berkeley, told Details: ‘it’s a silly idea without any urban-planning implications whatsoever.’

Big ideas: A close-up of how one of the islands could look. The billionaire founder of Paypal has invested $1.25million to create a floating island utopia

Mr Thiel told an audience at the Seasteading Institute Conference in 2009 that: ‘There are quite a lot of people who think it’s not possible.

‘That’s a good thing. We don’t need to really worry about those people very much, because since they don’t think it’s possible they won’t take us very seriously. And they will not actually try to stop us until it’s too late.’

I fully support founding such a colony. In fact, I’ll donate $100 for a (one way) ticket for Don Brash to migrate there.

I’ve suggested – on several occassions – that neo-liberals who want to live in a free-market, minimalist government, zero-tax, user-pays society have just such a country to migrate to: Somalia.

Somalia is perfect and meets their criteria in every respect.

Of course, as part of user-pays, they would have to pay for their own security; their own private police force. And why shouldn’t they? After all, why should other taxpayers pay for protection of someone elses’ property, in a User Pays nirvana?

Strangely enough, as far as I’m aware, no neo-lib has ever taken up my offer.

And stranger even still, neo-libs seem to prefer living in New Zealand; a country built on collective efforts by it’s citizens to build up every aspect of present day society; electricity sector, education, railways, health, roading, police, bridges, libraries, etc. Even telecommunications, airlines, and television started off as tax-payer funded services. All paid by our taxes.

Private enterprise was focused on providing citizens with supermarkets, clothing, shoes (once upon a time), and other consumer goods. It was a good balance.

“Mr Thiel and his colleagues say their ocean state would have no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons.”

No minimum wage? But… who would clean their toilets?

No building codes? On a free-standing oceanic city? Oh, I can see that working… not.

Few restrictions on weapons. I can see gun nuts loving that. Including gentlemen like Anders Behring Breivik, David Gray, Martin Bryant, et al.

Call me cynical, but I doubt if Peter Thiel’s  ‘Seasteading’ project will succeed. For one thing, human nature is involved – and as we all know, human nature can be a bugger of a thing to deal with.

Secondly, what happens if Thiel’s ‘island’ gets in trouble? Perhaps struck by a hurricane? Will the Seasteaders expect rescue from the international community? And will they be willing to PAY for assistance? (User pays, of course.)

The article further states,

“The Seasteading Institute says it will ‘give people the freedom to choose the government they want instead of being stuck with the government they get’.”

Uh oh. That sounds perilously close to that pesky concept popularly know as “de-mo-cra-cy”. Damned dangerous, that “de-mo-cra-cy”. What happens if, in time, the population of ‘Seastead’ elect a government that is more interventionist?

Will Thiel then build another libertarian community? To get away from the first ‘Seastead’, taken over over “leftists”?

Personally, I think Somalia would still be a cheaper option.

Let’s be honest here, though.

This is about one thing: money. Thiel wants to keep as much of his money as possible and not pay taxes.  There may be other, immensely wealthy individuals, who feel lifewise.

Well, I say “good luck” to them. Let them set up their little sovereign “Island State”. Let them learn the hard way that a functioning, balanced,  society involves more than just having a bloated bank balance. A dynamic society is a collection of mutually supporting groups and individuals – not just a handful of wealthy people.

My guess is that this little “Profit Paradise” will not last long. Nor will it be self-sufficient. And, the inhabitants will still want to spend (most of) their time on the US mainland, socialising, doing business, and all the other things that the rest of us enjoy.  Their Island State will be nothing more than a taxation “bolthole”; a floating bank account.

And herein lies the dishonesty of such an idea.

But if billionaires want to spend their entire lives on such an Island, and not leave, then they are welcome to it.  Imagine being forced to live your life in one little area; never leaving; and associating only with others of your ilk.

It’s called “prison”.

Great Myths Of The 21st Century (#1)

16 August 2011 7 comments

Perhaps the greatest urban-myth, perpetrated and perpetuated by those whose interests it serves, is that the unemployed are there-by-choice, and unwilling to work.

Of course, this is absurd and an outright falsehood.

Fact 1:  The New Zealand December 2007 Quarter Household Labourforce Survey unemployment stood  at 3.4% . This was prior to the global recession hitting NZ.

Fact 2:  By the end of 2008, the New Zealand December Quarter Household Labourforce Survey unemployed rose to 4.6%.

Fact 3:  The New Zealand December 2010 Quarter Household Labourforce Survey unemployed rate increased to 6.8% .

Fact  4: In three years, the Household Labourforce Survey unemployed doubled from 3.4% to 6.8%

Fact  5: In other countries such as the US, unemployment went from 4.8%  in the fourth quarter of 2007 to stand at 9.1%  by July of this year.

Whether the largest economy on Earth, or one of the smallest, the impact of the global banking crisis and following recession caused companies to collapse; down-size; and “rationalise” (reduce) staff. This caused unemployment to skyrocket.

Events in Wall St, USA, had an impact on Main Sts, New Zealand;

“Jobs to go at textile factories”

“Headlines do not reveal true picture of job losses”

“‘Another kick in the guts for rural NZ'”

“Job losses to hit military next week”

“Lower Hutt jobs to go as shops shut”

“Hellaby’s closes: 18 jobs go”

“Australasian Colorado shops closing”

“Grim day of redundancies”

“Jobs to go at troubled baker Yarrows”

“KiwiRail plans to lay off Dunedin staff”

“Thirty-five jobs may go at Niwa”

“Ovation confirms 304 job losses “

“Dunne defends Greymouth IRD job cuts announcement”

“NZ Post shutting stores, axing jobs”

“Ballantynes faces post-quake job cuts”

“Lane Walker Rudkin 470 Redundancies A Tragedy”

And many more here .

As unemployment increased, the number of job-seekers increased. Even the Prime Minister, John Key, has remarked,

“We’re part of a global environment so we can’t control all of the factors that affect New Zealand, but all the indications we have is that 2011 will be a better year.”

Dozens, and often hundreds of unemployed job-seekers would turn up at businesses, that were hiring staff;

It is apparent that the global recession has caused the demise of some businesses, and forced others to greatly reduce staffing numbers. This is beyond the control of any individual in this country.

So why is there a perception amongst some individuals and groups that the jobless have chosen their unemployment as some kind of “lifestyle choice”? Especially when is it clear that WINZ unemployment benefits are nowhere as generous as some might believe.

Trying to apportion responsibility for people losing their jobs is victim-blaming  and is utterly  repugnant. Such victim-blaming is an unwelcome aspect of the human capacity for bigotry.

Why do people do it?

* The Opportunists.

It serves the purpose of some political parties such as National and ACT to blame unemployed for their predicament.

It allows National the opportunity to escape any possibility of responsibility at addressing this critical economic and social problem. And it’s a vote-winner with the next group,

* The Greedy.

For many neo-liberals who cherish the ideology of the free-market and minimalist-government, any form of taxation by the State is “theft”. And when the State hands over some of that tax-money to the Unemployed so that they can survive – they resent it. And do they complain bitterly!

These neo-liberal free-marketeers resent having to contribute their fair share to the society they live in. (Though they think nothing of driving on tax-payer funded roads; being cared for in tax-payer funded A&E Hospital Wards; protected by tax-payer funded Police; educated in tax-payer funded schools, etc.)

Greed – it does funny things to peoples’ humanity.

* The Perpetually Angry.

The uninformed, perpetually angry, people who obtain their information through TV news and/or Talkback radio. They have friends,, who know someone who has heard of a person, who apparently lives in luxury on the dole

These are people who have very little experience of the society they live in and generally have a circle of friends who validate their misconceptions.  For them, everyone is a dole-bludger; the recession happened to Someone, Somewhere Else; and everyone should be living comfortably, regardless of circumstances. Their worldview generally doesn’t extend much past their front door.

Anger – it stops people thinking clearly.

Unfortunately, The Greedy and The Perpetually Angry have no constructive solutions to offer us.

One hopes that  the National government will reconsider their decision to  cut almost $146 million from skills training.

Nor does it help when we export jobs overseas,

“Army shifts $2m contract to China”

“Chinese firm beats Hillside to KiwiRail contract”

So not only are New Zealanders losing their jobs because of corporate greed and mis-management in Wall St, USA – but our current policies actually encourage contracts to be awarded to other countries,  in effect “exporting” jobs.

Is this making sense to anyone?

Is it little wonder we have high unemployment, who need the dole to simply survive?

Because demonising a vulnerable group in our society will not achieve a single damn thing; create a single damn job; nor give us the Decent Society that we once enjoyed living in.

So far, my fellow New Zealanders,  there is precious little decency going on here.

Capitalism, top heavy and toppling – Bernard Hickey

This is must-read stuff…

Full article here.

It is worth noting that, here in New Zealand, recent tax cuts gave $2.5 billion a year to the top 10 per cent of earners and “practically nothing to the bottom 20 per cent of earners, who got 3 per cent of those cuts”.

It is also worth noting that, as a country, we are having to borrow $380 million  per week to – in part – fund those tax cuts.  That’s $17.6 billion this year alone.

Far from being a “prudent fiscal manager”, National is being highly irresponsible as it continues to woo the  Middle Class for their votes.

Only thing is: eventually it all has to be paid back. Even selling all out SOEs won’t cover that debt mountain, as we simply don’t have enough state assets left after the 1980s and 1990s.

London Burning. Where next?

10 August 2011 2 comments

The question that many are asking is “why?”.

Ms Penny’s opinion piece is the clearest attempt at understanding why these riots happened (and are still happening, as I write this) in a supposedly peaceful, civilised society.

I would add a further point: it is no coincidence that these riots are happening at a time when the “Arab Spring” has unleashed a human wave of rebellion in middle eastern countries ruled by authoritarian regimes. The common element is a deep disaffection with the status quo. Ms Penny explains it all in a simple, coherent, meaningful way…

I’m huddled in the front room with some shell-shocked friends, watching my city burn.

The BBC is showing footage of blazing cars and running street battles in Hackney, of police horses lining up in Lewisham, of infernos that once were shops and houses in Croydon and Peckham.

There have been hundreds of arrests and dozens of serious injuries. A 26-year-old man shot in a car in Croydon is reportedly the first fatality, but police have not said whether he had been participating in the rioting or was a bystander.

This is the third consecutive night of rioting in London, and the disorder has now spread to Leeds, Liverpool, Bristol and Birmingham. Politicians and police officers who only hours ago were making stony-faced statements about criminality are now simply begging the young people of Britain’s cities to go home. Britain is a tinderbox and, on Friday, somebody lit a match. How the hell did this happen? And what are we going to do now?

In the scramble to comprehend the riots, every commentator has opened with a ritual condemnation of the violence. David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, called the disorder ”mindless, mindless”.

Speaking from his Tuscan holiday villa, the Prime Minister, David Cameron – who has finally decided to return home to take charge – declared simply that the social unrest searing through the poorest boroughs in the country was ”utterly unacceptable”. The violence on the streets is being dismissed as ”pure criminality”, as the work of a ”violent minority”, as ”opportunism”. This is madly insufficient.

Angry young people with nothing to do and little to lose are turning on their communities, and they cannot be stopped, and they know it. Tonight, in one of the greatest cities in the world, society is ripping itself apart.

Violence is rarely mindless. The politics of a burning building, a smashed-in shop or a young man shot by police may be obscured even to those who lit the rags or fired the gun, but the politics are there.

A peaceful protest over the death of a man at police hands, in a community where locals have been given every reason to mistrust the forces of law and order, is one sort of political statement. Raiding shops for technology and trainers that cost 10 times as much as the benefits you’re no longer entitled to is another. A co-ordinated, viral wave of civil unrest across the poorest boroughs of Britain, with young people coming from across the capital and the country to battle the police, is another.

The truth is that few people know why this is happening. They don’t know, because they were not watching these communities. Nobody has been watching Tottenham since the TV cameras drifted away after the Broadwater Farm riots of 1985.

Most of the people who will be writing, speaking and pontificating about the disorder have absolutely no idea what it is like to grow up in a community where there are no jobs, no space to live or move, and the police are on the streets stopping and searching you as you come home from school. The people who do will be waking up this week in the sure knowledge that after decades of being marginalised and harassed by the police, after months of seeing any conceivable hope of a better future confiscated, they are finally on the news.

In one NBC report, a young man in Tottenham was asked if rioting really achieved anything.

”Yes,” said the young man. ”You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you? Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you.”

There are communities all over the country that nobody paid attention to unless there had recently been a riot or a murdered child. Well, they’re paying attention now.

Riots are about power, and they are about catharsis. They are not about poor parenting, or youth services being cut, or any of the other snap explanations that media pundits have been trotting out. People riot because they have spent their whole lives being told they are good for nothing, and they realise that together they can do anything – literally, anything at all. People to whom respect has never been shown riot because they feel they have little reason to show respect themselves, and it spreads like fire on a warm summer night.

No one expected this. The people running Britain had absolutely no clue how desperate things had become. They thought that after 30 years of soaring inequality, in the middle of a recession, they could take away the last little things that gave people hope, the benefits, the jobs, the possibility of higher education, the support structures, and nothing would happen. They were wrong.

And now my city is burning, and it will continue to burn until we stop the blanket condemnations and blind conjecture and try to understand just what has brought viral civil unrest to Britain. Let me give you a hint: it ain’t Twitter.

After reading Laurie Penny’s analysis in the Sydney Morning Herald – perhaps we should be asking, “where next“?

Because the disaffection, anger, and resentment shown by the young folk of Britain exists in other countries as well. Governments seem to have forgotten that nations are first and foremost societies – communities of people. Economies are built on societies, not the other way around.

Something to reflect on here in  supposedly peaceful, civilised New Zealand.

What really angers me is  that Baby boomers and neo-liberals castigate the young for their irresponsibility and selfishness.

Pardon?!

Is this the same Baby Boomer Neo-Lib generation that enjoyed free tertiary education, free medical prescriptions,  etc, etc – paid for by our parents and grandparents?

And when it came time for Baby Boomers to pass these same social services onto our children, we held up our hands and said, “Nah. You kids pay for what you want.” And then we introduced User Pays and gave ourselves hefty tax cuts, whilst privatising many of those state assets that used to provide us with good services.

And we expect the younger generation not to be selfish?!?!

Maybe I’m turning into a Grumpy Old Bugger, but I say “a pox on my generation” – my sympthathies are with the younger people who were well and truly shafted by my lot.

As for the neo-liberals and middle classes;  you  got what you wanted; a society of individuals out to get what they wanted; screw society; and devil take the hindmost.

And it was all utterly predictable, 20, 30 years ago.

We have seen the warning signs.