Austerity is bullshit

Let’s call what’s happening in the current pre-budget process what it actually is. No more weasel words about ‘austerity’ or ‘crisis’ or Hockey’s ridiculous claim that Australia is going to ‘run out of money.’ This is about a bunch of rich, mostly blokes, cutting the heart out of the social safety net.

This is not about evidence or data. This is not about economics or debt. This is about an extreme ideology that will cause real and lasting harm to many Australians.

If this was about budget savings, then the subsidies for the well-off would be on the table, rather than the basic incomes that people use to, you know, eat. Instead, the priorities are making sure people with private health insurance can get a subsidised trip to the gym and massive concessions on their superannuation.

ACOSS laid out, in detail, the key programs that could be changed to meet Hockey’s demands for debt reduction, yet all of these have been ruled out. Why? Because this is not about debt reduction. This is about punishing anyone who is not well-off and changing the universal nature of our public services.

Introducing co-payments for GPs is not about whether people can afford a few extra dollars. It is about changing a universal health care system into one based on income. Ignoring all calls to increase Newstart so people can, you know, eat is not about budget savings, but about believing that anyone can get a job if they just try harder.

Cracking down on the DSP has nothing to do with evidence that says there’s been a drop in the percentage of working age people claiming it, instead it is about targeting people with the least capacity to fight back or put political pressure on the Government.

The social safety net is there because we, as a country, decided that Australia is the kind of place where everyone can eat. The safety net is there because sometimes things go wrong and people need help. The net is there to catch people when they fall down, and keep them going until they can get back on their feet.

In Europe and US, where they had actual recessions, so-called ‘austerity’ measures have been a disaster (PDF). Unemployment is higher, people who are already poor are scrounging for food and big corporates just keep picking up bigger and bigger contracts to implement cuts.

“The socialisation of losses and privatisation of profits is the prime political and economic objective of austerity. Working people and the poor are made to pay for the failure of the banks, financial markets and wealthy elites.” (From here: PDF)

And none of it worked to change debt. These policies just made things worse.

“Austerity has meant deep public spending cuts, mass unemployment, closures, privatisation, wage and benefit cuts, increased poverty and damage to health. Poor and working/middle class families have borne the brunt of the economic and financial burden of austerity – the socialisation of the losses. Income and health inequalities have widened.” (From here: PDF)

Australia did not have a recession during (PDF) the GFC. Our debt is low. There are no economic reasons to implement these failed policies that do so much harm. Unless hurting people is the actual goal.

Poor people don’t have an army of lobbyists stationed in Canberra to protect their interests. Their stories don’t feature on the front page of newspapers, or in prime-time news. People living in cramped, expensive housing, or going without food and medicine are worrying about being homeless or hungry, rather than visiting MPs during a sitting week.

I don’t know about you, but the kind of country I want to live in is one where people have enough to eat and somewhere safe and secure to stay. I want our social safety net to make sure people are taken care of, not punished for bad luck. I want those who’ve had good luck to pay their fair share. I want corporates who make huge profits to pay back the community that supports them and makes their profits possible.

It is bullshit that we can’t afford to make sure people who are sick can get treatment, or that people have enough to eat. It is bullshit that Australia has a budget ‘crisis’ and it is bullshit that ‘austerity’ is anything other than punishing ordinary people who built the social safety net to catch everyone.


About bluntshovels

Freelance writer, with an unhealthy interest in Senate committees.
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26 Responses to Austerity is bullshit

  1. Oh El, I had to read this a few times. Could not even pick out which particular line resonated most with me to include when I tweeted your piece as there were just too many. Why can’t others see this, it is all in the data, yet very few calling bullshit on it 😦

    Though I am sincerely glad you are!

  2. cowper133 says:

    Be afraid, be very afraid is the message that should be yelled from the rooftops! You are so right to call what this weasel words govt is doing BULLSHIT! They did nothing but trash the govt over the last few years and made them look shambolic when despite the internal ructions there was a massive amount of work going on as is evidenced by the amount if legislation passed through the house. I fear for my grandchildren because if this govt gets away with it’s agenda I don’t know if it will ever be fixed. It will certainly take a long time, I am sure of that. Their policies are aimed at turning this great country into one great big hole, while Gina & Twiggy & Co stash away their billions. Their debt to Murdoch will mean we get a substandard broadband putting us was behind the rest of the world. They don’t care,it was all about getting into power and now they have to pay the pipers!!

    • bluntshovels says:

      I don’t think this is just about the current Government. The ALP did just as much to dismantle the social safety net and to pave the way for these kinds of policies.

      • KS says:

        Yep. The notion that the ALP is at all “leftist” in any meaningful way died with Keating. AT best they are centrist and really they have bought into a lot of the bullshit themselves, though there was a glimmer of hope with the education review… which is now just going to die an ugly death.

  3. Fed up says:

    I wonder if many realize it is not the blue collar worker jobs that are in danger. Many of those are gone.

    They are now coming after the middle class. This was predicted over a century ago, I believe.

    Yes, it is the middle class, with degrees in the good old USA that cannot afford a roof over their heads, even if they have jobs.

    What is worse, those without an education, now have no chance of achieving anything.

    Yes, the cocky middle class needs to take heed. Open your eyes and look around you.

    • bluntshovels says:

      Indeed. So how to fight the notions that Australia is not well off enough to make sure everyone gets enough to eat? How can we work together to challenge these ideas?

  4. Fed up says:

    Hockey has caught up to the4 fact that Labo4r has already raised the pension age to 67. Amazing

  5. puffytmd says:

    +1. and when are people going to wake up to the fact that the Coalition do not give a tinker’s curse for them or their families. They are about power, ideology and getting a pat on the head and a biscuit treat from the class which will never acknowledge them. Gian et al may fly them about in her jet, but only if they are useful.

    • bluntshovels says:

      Not just the Coalition, which is a big part of my anger. The ALP opened the door to this kind of nonsense, and then wonders why union members vote for Abbott?

  6. Chris says:

    The policy of putting single parents on to NewStart was started by Howard in 2007, his version was only for parents of children born after 2007. Admittedly Labor should have repealed the legislation but it was not theirs to begin with.

  7. bluntshovels says:

    It’s a bit more complicated than that. One key challenge with the different payments is that people are punished for getting work by losing some of the concessions that are available for pensions, rather than Newstart. Adding to this is that the aged pension has very different asset tests than other social security income, and eligibility for that pension has been widened a great deal by both major parties. The pension is also indexed at a different rate to Newstart, which is part of the widening gap between the payments.

    If you are interested in these kind of technical details, the National Welfare Rights Centre has a good summary in their pre-budget submission.

  8. KS says:

    What is truly beyond me is how the middle class were so completely fooled and bought into the empty facile rhetoric. Sure msm had a role to play, especially Murdoch, but one only had to stop and think and really only do just a little research to see how empty Abbott and co’s claims were. As you asked, as First Dog on the Moon asks, what do we do? As we see the ideals of transparency,equality, egalitarianism and, well basic democracy being thrown under the wheels of plutocracy for the sake of the economy, why are so few concerned that it’s pointless without a functioning, healthy society?

  9. Mark Riboldi says:

    Great stuff El – really hit the nail on the head.

  10. Jeshyr says:

    You clearly pointed out that it’s not actually about saving money – something I completely agree with – but I still can’t make sense of it … what IS the reason? I’ve heard people say things like “The Liberals hate poor people” which certainly feels true but it’s not actually a reason really – why would anybody think that? Some of the rhetoric (but not all?) seems to talk about “deserving” versus “undeserving” but that clearly makes no sense in a situation where there are tons of “undeserving” people receiving middle-class handouts who don’t need them and nobody demonises them. I’ve seen some people talking about poor people getting things they don’t actually need as well – when I bring up DSP tightening with people they frequently say that because I’m “really” disabled I don’t have to worry… but even just personally I know people who are completely unable to work who’ve had their DSP revoked and had to appeal to get it back, so I have zero doubt that there are “really” disabled people who’ve been chucked off DSP or refused it in the first place.

    The only thing I’m left with is the crappy ingroup/outgroup psychology stuff – that leaders have more emotional/psochological power when the majority of the ungroup feels like there are some “bad” people who are attacking the ingroup. And it seems that the “bad” people at the moment are the have-nots – refugees and poor Aussies. But it seems like a very unsatisfying answer to me … it means that all of this actually isn’t about any of the people who are suffering from these policies – it’s about the majority and the leaders and the fact that we suffer is reduced to some weird collateral damage. I hate that!

    Do you have any other answers??

    • Jeshyr says:

      I guess the follow-up point to that is that if it IS really about ingroup/outgroup psychology and not really about the have-nots who are being attacked, does that change the ways we fight it? If “austerity” is about demonising have-nots because it makes the ruling group stronger, do we fight insane cutbacks not by focussing on what people need or what people deserve but by focussing on “we are just like you” perhaps?

  11. Nathan says:

    Perhaps the most shameful part of this austerity bullshit is that it’s been going for decades: look at the attack on public education funding (in favour of more rorts/subsidies to private education) and (if you dig hard) public housing (which has been stagnant for some time in the middle of a speculative bubble of housing – meaning unaffordable housing – and negative gearing fuelled tax rorting along with it). With education being tied into unnecessary thousands of dollars a year in private religious school fees – the “compulsory, public, secular and free world class public education for all” is being replaced with “compulsory fees, sectarian and class-based education for the few”..

    Meanwhile the most gross examples of rorts at expense of the many: $75K baby bonuses for women of calibre (sorry, “Paid Parental Leave” that means more if you already earn more while less if you are poor) and preserving superannuation rorts for the top 16,000 richest at the expense of 3 million who would have benefited..

    Any tax hole could easily be plugged by an inheritance tax too – making it cut in above a certain amount so as to not apply to the lowest or mid-range earners – and also clawing back some of the loss caused by trusts (e.g. Gina Rinehart took her kids to court allegedly because there were going to be some taxes paid on it if they took their share).

    Anyhow – this idea of punishing the poor for the sin of being poor while helping those that already have the means to help themselves is what the Liberal party (and in more recent years: the ALP are about). We need a complete clean-out of the major parties and appropriate controls in there to ensure that corporations and the billionaires don’t get to call the shots on society as they are now..

  12. Fantastic blog. I think you articulated so clearly what so many people think and feel and fear. I came across this blog because someone tweeted a link to it and now I’m going to retweet it and share it on facebook.

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  14. mikestasse says:

    OK……. you may not think we don’t deserve any of this, BUT……… give it time, and the shit WILL hit the fan. I give it no more than four years, by which time there may be serious petrol shortages AND/OR $3 a litre fuel plus rationing.

    On top of that, if another El Nino hits us where it counts later this year, we could see the mother of all droughts causing a major drop in food production and food costs soaring…….

    Are the LNP’s policies appropriate..? ABSOLUTELY NOT…….. but then you’d never expect the silly bastards to do anything right about confronting the gloomy future we are collectively facing……

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