#Neoliberalism The lie that is sucking the life out of us. #auspol #StopAdani

The lie that is sucking the life out of Sydney

Elizabeth Farrelly24 February 2018 — 12:05am

Illustration: Dionne Gain

Photo:

Florida teen Emma Gonzales wore a buzz-cut and a Beatles t-shirt to make her clarion call to “fix” American politics.

“You’re either funding the killers or you’re standing with the children,” she said, calling BS on how the “blood money” of vested interests destroys lives.

Closer to home, Jacinda Ardern is a similar clarion voice for the resistance.

Vested interests are destroying our cities and our country from the inside. Time to call BS.

Ardern had 60 seconds to rattle off her government’s first hundred days’ achievements. “Okay here we go,” she began, with her signature frankness and toothy ear-to-ear grin. “We started KiwiBuild, we banned the sale of state houses, we introduced the Healthy Homes Bill, the winter energy payment, we extended paid parental leave, we banned microbeads, set up the Pike River Agency, started the work on the climate change commission, increased the minimum wage, committed to equal pay, we introduced child poverty legislation…” That’s less than half, but you get the picture.

I felt the stab of envy.

How is this even fair?

The Kiwis get Ardern. Canada gets Trudeau. Somehow they get to elect actual human beings who fight for real things.

We get Mr Hollow and Mr Beetroot, a sham and a vegetable. I know, I know. Leader-envy is unbecoming and futile.

But it is grotesquely unjust.

Emma Gonzales, left, comforts a school friend.

Photo: AP

We have a Prime Minister so desiccated by his own hypocrisy that, despite having once crossed the floor for climate change (and doesn’t that seem another lifetime, now?), he’s now bound by fossil-fuel addiction and gagged by an equally outdated ideology – neither of which he even believes in.

A Prime Minister who takes to Tea with Trump the head of coal of Glencore, a multinational miner that routinely avoids paying tax, and Business Council honcho Jennifer Westacott who insists that, although the rest of us should keep paying proper tax, anything above 25 per cent corporate tax equals “business bashing”. Poor little darlings.

Add a Deputy PM, who (as dress Akubra suggests) should have at least some concern for land and water, yet who regards the land-destroying, aquifer-polluting, reef-killing Adani mine as a “great investment” of a billion public dollars.

Even Opposition leader Bill Shorten, who should be our Jacinda, is so pathetically cowed by the jobs lobby he describes Adani as “just another project”.

Do they say these things because they believe that Adani is a good corporate citizen, that coal benefits humanity, that destroying the reef will enhance Australia’s future or the world’s?

I don’t think so.

But that’s them.

What about us?

Why do we keep drinking the Kool-Aid?

In part, we just take things too literally. We convulse over our leaders’ sexual amours but apply a boys-will-be-boys shrug to whom they’re in bed with politically, although this is both more wicked and more damaging.

But there is also ideology at play, and it deserves our scepticism.

Westacott insists that bashing business is bashing the future. Our future. This is the core; the presumption that what’s good for business is good for us all.

It’s the tired old neo-lib insistence that a smaller slice of a bigger pie is better for everyone.

Why?

Trickle down.

Voodoo economics.

The evidence is in, and it’s against them.

Neo-liberalism dramatically worsens inequality.

We’re near the end (I like to think) of a 40-year Western-democracy experiment in neo-liberal ideology.

My economist friends argue that the sourness of Australian politics is not neo-liberalism but cronyism.

Myself, I think it’s a mix.

Either way, the latest World Inequality Report 2018 shows that the rich-poor gap has widened in precise parallel with monetarist domination, and is now at its highest level since before the Great Depression.

Thatcher was elected in 1979, Reagan in 1981.

Their monetarist thinking hit New Zealand and Australia via the biting wit and ruthless user-pays strategies of “new left” Labor leaders – David Lange in NZ from 1984, and Paul Keating in Australia from 1991.

Suddenly everything was outsourced.

Even for service provision the only model – for schools, hospitals, universities, governments – was the business model.

Since then, according to the Washington-based Centre on Budget and Policy Priorities, “economic growth slowed and the income gap widened” in the US, to 2016 when the richest 1 per cent held 20 per cent of the national income and a staggering 49 per cent of wealth in 2016. (Compare this with the prosperity period 1945 to 1970 when wealth grew but inequality stayed steady.)

Since 1980 inequality has remained lowest, and most stable, in Europe, which was relatively sceptical of the neo-liberal project. But in Australia too, wages have begun to stagnate and inequality to increase.

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

Photo: AP

There’s no trickle-down. Trickle-down was always a lie. There’s just trickle-up. This affects our lives, and our cities, in a profound and intimate way.

One of the most dramatic shifts since the 1980s has been the decline in “public wealth” (defined as public assets minus public debts). In Sydney, this is happening in front of our eyes.

Over six years, the NSW government will have sold more than $9 billion of assets, including Land Titles building, Millers Point housing, 4000 Family and Community Services properties (notwithstanding thousands of people sleeping on the streets) and 384 Department of Education properties including their sandstone flagship in Bridge Street. And that’s before you even get to the ports, and the poles and wires.

The Kiwis get Jacinda Ardern and Aussies should be jealous.

Photo: AAP

Naturally, this wealth-depletion limits the capacity of government – even if by some miracle we got our Jacinda – to provide things like affordable housing and public transport. Sure, they pretend that fire sales fund public benefit. But the lie is everywhere.

If the light rail were public-funded, we’d still have those glorious trees. The racecourse benefited, the public lost out. Our cities are increasingly cruel and charmless, and in direct response, hordes of young creatives depart.

Malcolm and Gladys are increasingly like those apricots that, kept too long in cold storage, go straight from hard to rotten with no sweet spot between. If we don’t dump them soon our cities too will resemble dried fruit, all energy and belief sucked away. Call BS, before it’s too late.

Elizabeth Farrelly is a Sydney-based columnist and author who holds a PhD in architecture and several international writing awards. A former editor and Sydney City Councilor, she is also Associate Professor (Practice) at the Australian Graduate School of Urbanism at UNSW. Her books include ‘Glenn Murcutt: Three Houses’, ‘Blubberland; the dangers of happiness’ and ‘Caro Was Here’, crime fiction for children (2014).

Press link for more: SMH.COM

2 comments

  1. For anyone wanting a detailed history of neo-liberalism, Naoimi Klein’s Shock Doctrine is a very good, albeit depressing, read. If you add up the numbers, neo-liberal economics has killed around 4 million people worldwide since 1976, and impoverished hundreds of millions more.

    Liked by 1 person

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