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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Another piece of the pie?

Photo: The Age

The Wall Street Journal now dedicates a full-time beat reporter, Robert Frank, to cover what he calls Richistan. Richistan did not suddenly appear on the American scene. Our top-heavy era has evolved from a heavily bankrolled effort by conservatives and corporations to instill blind faith in the market as the magic elixir that can solve any problem. This three-decade war against common sense has preached that tax cuts for the rich help the poor, that labor unions keep workers from prospering, that regulations protecting consumers attack freedom. Duly inspired, our elected officials have rewritten the rules that run our economy--on taxes and trade, on wage policies and public spending--to benefit wealthy asset owners and global corporations.
From The Rich and The Rest of Us in The Nation

That's the view from the USA. Meanwhile back in the Land of Oz, The Age has begun to-day a five part series titled The Sum of Us.

Like Margaret Thatcher in Britain and Ronald Reagan in the UK, Australia - under both Liberal and Labor Governments - took on Milton Friedman's monetarism as the western world moved away from Keynesian economics. Never no mind that the work of John Keynes had real runs on the board: extricating the world from the Great Depression as well as bringing post-World War II prosperity.

And where has it got us? More wars and less peace in spite of the end of the Cold War. More rich and more poor in the world - in spite of more nations getting autonomy across the world. Solutions to the chronic problems of our society have been consigned to the so called "trickle down effect" where the wealthy try to convince us that their wealth and their getting richer would be better for everybody because it would all magically "trickle down". Instead, the dollars moved another way.

What has really happened - and it is there for us all to see - is that there has been a "trickle up" effect as money is syphoned away from the poor and the slightly less poor and the not quite middle class to build a constituency of wealth supported by sufficient numbers of middle class people to provide a constituency within democracies for all this to happen. Please note that this does not take into account the state-sanctioned robbery of public assets, the massive social change, and the mass corruption in Russia and China.

And so to the picture of the pie. Paul Keating used to tell us that the solution to all this was to build a bigger pie: trying to tell us that as we built a bigger pie there would be enough for the rich and the rest of us to benefit. But pendulums have a habit of swinging. Balloons inflate and deflate. At the moment, pendulums are swinging enough to give one motion sickness and balloons are popping or about to pop across multiple sectors of the economy.

Don't let any one pull the wool over your eyes again. Too many politicians over the last thirty years have spoken as if economic laws are immutable. They are as sure and as certain as the sun coming up each morning. That is not true. Human beings make the economic laws as we know and experience them to-day. Human beings can make bad decisions and they can make good decisions. They can make decisions for sectional interests and in a corrupt manner and they can make decisions for the common wealth and the common good in a clear, unfettered and unbought manner.

So let's keep watch. Let's not allow all those hood-winkers to get away with it again. Let's hold them accountable: for their lies, their corruption, their kow-towing to the wealthy, and - above all - their incompetence against the common good. Let's build a society for all of us.

When you can do nothing else: bear witness.