What would be being said if we had a vaguely left wing media?
This is my attempt an opinion piece for such a fictitious venue.
The situation is dire. For the last nearly 40 years both mainstream parties have been pursuing the neoliberal vision of endless vaunting of free markets and business. They have repeatedly said that acting on these assumptions will lead to greater liberty and efficiency. Here at the Global Left we recognise that these predictions have always been wrong or were possibly deliberate lies to begin with. On the other hand, our own predictions about neoliberalism have been validated. With its enforcement; the economy has become permanently unstable, the median wage has stagnated, most ordinary jobs are insecure, industry has closed down, social security and education have been eviscerated, government services for ordinary people have declined or become punitive, public/collective property has been sold off, business fraud is mainstream, welfare for corporations has increased, business competition has declined, the tax burden has shifted to the middle class, people have become alienated from politics, every policy is decided by whether it profits established business, virtue and values go out the window, the right has started culture wars because it needs to distract people from reality, and there is a general retreat from democracy into authoritarianism.
By now we have plenty of experience of ‘privatisation’ and of ‘public-private’ partnerships, and we know what this means. Invariably in privatisation, income for the high-level executives increases magnificently, the workers who provide the service are cut back, maintenance and resilience decrease, services for ordinary people decrease, and prices increase. In public private partnerships we suddenly find it impossible to find out how much we the tax-payers are paying or what we have given the company because of ‘commercial in-confidence’. What a wonderful arrangement – for business. Nothing for us.
This is, we might suspect, the kind of situation ‘free markets’ always lead to.
We have also learnt, if we needed to, that capitalism is completely unable to deal with ecological crisis because it is too tied up in maintaining business as usual or profit, and it is the main cause of the problems. Put simply the response of capitalism to ecological crisis has been to hire people to lie for it, and pretend there is no problem. Neoliberalism is still loudly cheered on by business funded think tanks, as despite its overt failure to deliver for the people, it does deliver for the corporate sector. Neoliberal governments have also tried to supress knowledge, stopping public servants from mentioning climate change, forbidding scientists from speaking in public, destroying libraries, clearing websites of information, trying to stop research funding. You might think that this would attract attention among those who claim to be suspicious of governments, but it apparently doesn’t.
Corporations have lots of money to throw about and purchase liars, because of the political restructuring which has gifted them with a much greater share of the wealth generated by their workers, and because ‘truth’ has become whatever makes a profit. Most of the media is also owned by the corporate sector, acts in that sector’s self-interest and takes this propaganda for granted. Neoliberalism has proved of wondrous benefit to corporations, but a curse to everyone else. We say that capitalism is strong and does not need the coddling it gets from neoliberals. Indeed it is better for it to face its customers as equals.
As we all should know, the Great Economic crisis of 2008 onwards was primarily caused by two factors: firstly financial corporations joined together extremely risky investments and sounder investments and sold them as ‘safe’ with the full approval of credit ratings agencies; secondly the mortgage industry deceptively sold people mortgages which they could not pay off with the aim of repossessing their houses and selling them for more than they were mortgaged for, taking the repayments with them. These two frauds were combined to make an even more unstable product which people were encouraged to invest in. The whole basis for the booming economy and the resulting collapse was fraud, and having so much money which was not going into wages or to the productive economy. Neoliberals sat back and cheered the triumph of the free market and claimed the only problem was that there were still some regulations which tried to prevent fraud. President Bush’s solution was to throw tax payers money at the elite benefactors from the fraud, without any oversight. President Obama was declared a socialist for asking these corporations to treat further tax payer monies as loans. A real socialist would have made sure the money got to the ordinary folk being defrauded, so they could keep their homes at the rates they agreed to, and not be losing their life savings and be thrown onto the streets, even when mortgage companies could not produce the paperwork that gave them the right to throw people out.
In the US, Donald Trump correctly diagnosed the dissatisfaction of working America with this neoliberal economic mess. However, as we predicted, he is trying to fix it with more of the ‘solutions’ that caused the problems in the first place: tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, removal of regulations which tried to prevent corporations from poisoning people, removal of regulations the previous president re-introduced which tried to make corporations even vaguely responsible for the fraud and deception they carried out, cut backs to welfare programs and increased spending on the military. This is made more attractive by a little protectionism promised on the side, but not yet delivered; and we can be sure that when it is delivered, it will be delivered to protect useless or powerful companies.
Let us be clear, tax cuts for corporations do not generate jobs, they simply lead to higher executive salaries, more money for stock holders and more money to gamble on financial markets. In neoliberalism, mainstream ‘jobs’ are simply a cost to be eliminated.
By preserving the problem, President Trump has not ‘drained the swamp’ of his cabinet, but brought new infections. He has business finance controlled by representatives of financial corporations, environment by polluters, and so on. Mr. Trump will not do anything that will endanger his apparent business interests or the business interests of those he is allied to; to hell with anyone else. He is, of course, continuing the culture war, to try and convince his supporters he has something in common with them. Hopefully this is failing and, as we can see, many people are protesting and standing firm for American tradition and the rule of law, rather than the rule of presidential whim.
It is ever the way that the ruling class will cling to their basis for power, even when it is bringing about general destruction.
During the primaries, we tried to ignore Trump and, when that was impossible, covered his business scandals and incompetancies, especially the ways that he cheerfully sacrificed his workers and creditors for his own benefit. We covered his obvious vengefulness (which increases the probability of war and governmental repression of his enemies), his inability to understand ecological issues, and all his other lazy ignorance, but the rest of the media gave him free publicity, or asked him questions about his favourite bible verse. His reply “an eye for an eye” did show something about him, but it was not elaborated.
In Australia we warned that Tony Abbott was not going to be an improvement on Julia Gillard. He was a hardline neoliberal head kicker, who wanted to impose his version of Catholicism on everyone. However, our rivals in the Murdoch Empire and the Fairfax Flutter, did their absolute best to promote him, rewrite his past, and attack Gillard and Labor. The result was as we expected. We ended up with a Prime Minister with a marvelous sense of his own entitlement and completely unable to negotiate. His first budget collapsed under the weight of this inability, the number of election promises it broke, and the attempt to fix Australia’s debt by kicking ordinary Australians and making them carry the burden. Furthermore, as we might expect, he fled from the environmental crisis into support for the coal industry at all costs, with the added bonus of attacking renewable energy whenever possible. It is conceivable that he headed the worst, most delusional, government in Australia’s history.
We had hoped that when this self-generated political crisis reached breaking point that Malcolm Turnbull might take his party into some vague encounter with reality, but so far he has knelt before the lunatic and failed right and refused to do anything to tackle our problems. He continues the fixed genuflection towards capital and wealth, as is most clearly shown by his staunch attack on minor union fraud, as contrasted with his happiness for the banks to regulate themselves when almost every other week the business pages fill with stories about the latest fraud and deception against small customers. These financial frauds have amounted to billions. If real, as alleged, they are major crimes, and yet nothing is to be done. Similarly we have revealed how large companies are routinely defrauding workers of their legal wages. But nothing is to be done.
Such large scale theft by business is of no concern to the government at all, indeed they are more likely to make it retrospectively legal than they are to prosecute. Neoliberalism implies the doctrine that if a business is big enough, then any fraud is acceptable if it primarily affects ordinary people. Profit is God. Class war on ordinary people is a duty. We say, profit is useful but it is not everything.
What can we do? As we have said, in Australia, Labor is a neoliberal party of a slightly less rigorous bent than the current government. When in government they failed to take on the mining corporations, they failed to promote their own climate policies, they did nothing to recapture tax revenue lost through various corporate tricks. They spend as much time attacking the Greens as they do attacking the Government. However, they are clearly better than the current bunch of incompetent, endlessly self-pleased baboons. So we would suggest that you vote for them in the lower house and press them to shed this stupid affectation that corporate business is the only valuable social and individual activity. For the upper house vote Green. The Greens do not have the experience of government that Labor does (although any ignorance, intransigence and stupidity is less a problem for them than it is for Trump as many of them have some experience and don’t have to engage in self-deception to the same extent), but they will at least attempt to recognise that we live in a time which requires urgent change and not endless thumb twiddling and praise of CEOs.
You too can get out in the streets and protest, write to your MPs talk to your friends, participate. Democracy is about participation. The government depends on you. It is your servant, however much neoliberals want it to be your boss. Don’t allow them to shout you down and talk you out of politics. Organise locally, get your community involved in deciding their future, rather than leaving it to the corporate sector. If you are not the solution, then you are betraying your children or other people’s children. In the terms of a well-known Hopi Indian speech: “You are the people you are waiting for”.