The Cruellest Cuts Why Joe Hockey’s Budget will almost certainly fare worse than Bill English’s

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THE WORLD OWES a debt of gratitude to Florida bartender, Scott Prouty, the man who videoed Mitt Romney’s infamous 47 percent speech. It was during this speech that the Republican Party’s nominee for President of the United States told his $50,000 per person fundraiser that 47 percent of Americans were dependent on government, saw themselves as victims and believed government had a responsibility to care for them. More than any other single factor, it was Prouty’s recording that derailed Romney’s campaign for the Presidency.

The potency of the tape lay in the insight it provided into the minds of the very wealthy men and women to whom Romney was addressing his remarks. Some commentators construed its message as demonstrating how out of touch Romney and his Republican donors were with the realities of American life – especially in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). Inasmuch as it grossly overstated the level of dependency and fundamentally mischaracterised the expectations of ordinary Americans Romney’s speech did testify to his political ignorance. What it also demonstrated, however, and more importantly, was the open contempt in which America’s ruling class held nearly half of the American people.

Because, of course, that “47 percent” wasn’t a statistic – it was code. What Romney was signalling to his audience was that once you deducted the Blacks, the Hispanics and the Poor White Trash from the raw total of American citizens, 53 percent was all you had left. His comments were thus intended both as a reminder and a warning to his wealthy donors about just how tenuous their position was. If something wasn’t done – and soon – to stem this rising tide of outstretched hands, Romney was saying, then “Real America” – the 53 percent – would find themselves out-voted by the other America.

This equation of White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant and economically comfortable America with “Real America” is deeply embedded in the political psyche of the Republican Right. Interestingly, one of the most cogent statements of WASP prejudice comes in in Eric Roth’s screenplay for The Good Shepherd – a movie about the foundation and early years of the Central Intelligence Agency. Halfway through the film Roth brings together the hero, Edward Wilson (Matt Damon) a senior CIA officer, with Joseph Palmi (Joe Pesci) a Mafioso chieftain.

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Joseph Palmi: Let me ask you something … we Italians, we got our families, and we got the Church; the Irish, they have the homeland, Jews their tradition; even the Niggers, they got their music. What about you people, Mr. Wilson, what do you have?

Edward Wilson: The United States of America. The rest of you are just visiting.

This attitude remained deeply imbedded in the CIA. When the right-wing Republican, Ronald Reagan, became President in 1981, his appointee as CIA Director, William Casey, launched an unofficial purge of the Agency’s hyphenated Americans – especially those whose immigrant parents and grandparents hailed from suspect homelands in Eastern and Southern Europe.

 

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND are not, of course, the United States, but, like it or not, they (along with Anglophone Canada) remain strong outposts of the great Anglo-Saxon diaspora of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Their ruling-classes, like the ruling-class of the United States, are also White, Anglo-Saxon (to which we can now append Celtic) and Christian (Protestants and Catholics having long ago joined forces against the rising tide of “Secular Humanism”) and in relation to their respective states both evince a deep proprietary awareness. They see it as their bounden duty to ensure that Australia and New Zealand continue to be governed by “the right people”.

In both countries there is a growing fear that the demographic structures of their populations are turning against them: that, as in the United States, the electoral equation can only be made to work in their favour by ensuring that an increasingly large proportion of the electorate is dissuaded, for whatever reason, from casting a vote.

The Australian ruling-class finds itself at a decided disadvantage on this score. The Commonwealth’s compulsory voting legislation means that the participation rate in Australian elections remains exceptionally high. It also means that when the Liberal Party find itself in power, with its most aggressive ideologues calling the shots, its ability to implement the sort of far-Right programme demanded by the Liberal Party’s billionaire backers tends to run into a series of demographic and democratic road-blocks.

Joe Hockey’s – the Liberal Party Treasurer’s – Budget is being trumpeted as a no-holds barred assault on the social-democratic reforms of the last 40 years. We shall see. The polls are already registering a gathering public rejection of the Liberal’s hard-line approach. If Hockey’s Budget is as bad as people fear, the Government of Tony Abbot may not see out the year. The precedent set by the Liberal-dominated Senate’s constitutionally objectionable refusal to pass the Budget of Gough Whitlam’s re-elected Labour Government in 1975 may well come back to haunt them.

The National Party-led government of John Key and Bill English in New Zealand has much more room to manoeuvre. Their ideological latitude is, paradoxically, attributable to the constitutional ramifications of National’s own attempt to do what Hockey hopes to do – unwind the welfare state and “put an end to the age of entitlement”. Ruth Richardson’s 1991 “Mother Of All Budgets” (clearly an inspiration for Hockey) so deranged the New Zealand political order that, in 1993, the voters threw out the First-Past-The-Post electoral system and replaced it with a form of proportional representation.

The conditions of so-called “elected dictatorship”, which had made the whole neoliberal revolution in New Zealand possible, were reconfigured in such radical fashion that the pursuit of a hard-line, ideologically-driven programme became electorally unfeasible.

For the foreseeable future New Zealand seemed destined to be ruled by necessarily moderate coalition governments. The former Reserve Bank Governor, Don Brash’s, determination to test this proposition in the election of 2005 brought his radically right-wing National Party closer to victory than many pundits believed possible – but not far enough.

One of the (many) mispronouncements and campaigning gaffes that cause Brash to lose the election was a statement he made just 72 hours before the polling booths opened in which he conflated “mainstream New Zealanders” with National Party supporters. The similarities between Brash’s remark and Romney’s are remarkable. The willingness of both men to cast half of their respective nation’s citizens as “The Other” – persons somehow unworthy of either recognition or representation – exposes the enduring weakness of the Far-Right. Its apparent incapacity to practice the politics of inclusion.

The contrast between and ultimate fate of Joe Hockey’s and Bill English’s Budgets will be interesting to observe. The former’s, I suspect, will prove the downfall of Tony Abbott’s government. The latter’s, by being framed to include as many of the voting public as English deems ideologically defensible, will, at the very least, give John Key’s government a fighting chance.

16 COMMENTS

  1. It seems we should be calling them the Loonatarians – I’m open to spelling on that.

    Not only are the far right completely loony, they do a good job of spitting out all sorts bat-shit crazy stuff these days.

  2. Yes, it’s pretty obvious that the conservative modus operandi has been reduced to trying to wreck as much as they can whenever they can. It long ago ceased to be anything constructive.

    If the last ten years has taught us anything, it’s that our various societies’ elites just aren’t up to the job any more. The Emperor has no clothes. They are incompetent, and leading us on a merry path back to economic crisis.

    Permanent removal from all influence. It’s the only way to make sure.

  3. “…the electoral equation can only be made to work in their favour by ensuring that an increasingly large proportion of the electorate is dissuaded, for whatever reason, from casting a vote. ”

    One of the deliberate ploys used is the meme that “all politicians are alike”. “They’re all the same” is the oft quoted statement.

    Of course they’re not all the same. If they were, they would all have the same policies and we’d have just one, monolithic Party.

    Rightwing/conservative voters know this is not true. Or else they be voting will-nilly for Labour, Mana, Greens, National, NBZ First… And that rarely happens.

    But it serves the purposes of the Right and conservative elements to perpetuate this perception.

    This cynicism is a de-motivational for less motivated people; the poor; the dispossessed; the alienated not to bother voting.

    But right wingers are motivated to vote. It is how they keep their privilege in society.

    If the under-classes under-stood the power of their vote, National and their neo-liberal freak show would be swept from office forever.

    I believe Marx or Lenin said something about the awakening of the working class to the true nature of their potential power.

    Indeed. Power may grow out of the barrel of a gun – but long-term it resides in the Ballot Box.

    • I laugh at this giant strawman you have created around what you imagine a right winger thinks or acts. It is some sort of grotesque cartoon characterisation that represents an impersonal evil in your mind. You really don’t understand right wingers at all.

      • isnt frank just saying that righties act in their own self interest? – isnt this the exact basis of neo right ideology? (i say neo right because they arent old right – ie: conservative)

        exactly what part of franks post do you dispute? Cmon man – stop hiding behind uncle english’s petty coats and take your thumb out of your mouth and actually say something.

        wheres the straw man gos? – point it out, no distractions

        • Precisely, Framu.

          And here are direct questions for Gosman and Anonymous ACT Supporter Intrinsivalue;

          Q1: Are all politicians the same?

          Q2: If the answer to Q1 is “yes”, does it make any difference whether they vote for ACT, Mana, National, Greens, etc?

          • Politicians are not all the same. Only a very few people I am aware (from left and right as well as apolitical) state that.

            Since the answer to one is no then obviously it matters. Parties on the left attempt to improve many social issues directly whereas parties on the right attempt to do so indirectly. One set thinks increasing the power of the state in the economy is good and the other does not. They are quite different.

            • Gosman says:
              May 14, 2014 at 8:30 am

              Politicians are not all the same. Only a very few people I am aware (from left and right as well as apolitical) state that.

              Since the answer to one is no then obviously it matters. Parties on the left attempt to improve many social issues directly whereas parties on the right attempt to do so indirectly. One set thinks increasing the power of the state in the economy is good and the other does not. They are quite different.

              I guess it was inevitable… But you’ve finally made a post that makes perfect sense.

              Thank you.

          • Gosman, if you’re referring to what I think you’re on about, the answer is “no, thank you”.

            1. But I’ll point out again (because some seem to have learning retention problems), that I am not an administrator on this site. I simply contribute articles from time to time.

            2. I’ve had a few of my own, more intemperate comments, not published either. That is the right of Site Administrators, whether TDB, The Standard, Whaleoil, Kiwiblog, etc. There is no automatic privilege to having any/everything published. We are here as guests, nothing more. So the sense of entitlement by certain right wing commentators here, is unsustainable.

            3. The reason I decline your offer is that it will serve no useful purpose and in the last five months I’ve had increased demands on my time which have impacted on my research/writing. (What little time I do have, I use to write much shorter articles and comment here.)

            4. Perhaps my use of the term “sociopath” was unwarranted as my aim is not to denigrate you, but to encourage you to understand wider social needs and concerns. In the final analysis, people matter more than numbers and statistics (though I don’t shy away from using numbers and statistics to illustrate and highlight people’s situations). I shan’t be using the term “sociopath” in conjunction with you, in my posts again.

  4. The determination to ensure as few people vote in the US is a very worrying trend in the land of the free. I note that there are Republican efforts to make it difficult to register to vote or vote on the day. Photographic ID is being touted (and then you can imagine if that is satisfied that it will have to a be a certain kind of ID much more difficult to obtain) but not for the reasons given, more because they know the voting demographic they are targeting are unlikely to be that organised and certainly will not vote Republican.

    Yet in NZ we a playing catch up with US politics. Who would have thought 6 years ago fund raising via dodgy laundered dinners or selling ministerial access would have existed or smear and sleaze campaigns, but hey it’s arrived. And as for efforts to lower the voter turn out, well Its happening here too. National do NOT want voters turning out in force, baby steps but so far so good. 2011’s low turn out was to National a success. Paul Henry talks openly of ensuring voters first qualify to vote and that not all people should get the vote as they are inferior according to his way of thinking. Its sounds like fantasy but 25 years ago so did the subtle campaign to trust the very wealthy or our distrust of the tall poppy that we were all conditioned to forget.

    Therefore the strategy is or at least was being applied again, that is that the well publicised propaganda that National were going to be hands down winners in 2014, so why bother voting.

    Hence its very, very important to somehow impart to the people of this county not only to vote but how to use your vote. And in Epsom if that means voting for the National candidate to rid us of ACT then so be it.

  5. I just don’t think Australians are prepared to take as much shite as New Zealanders. New Zealanders roll over a lot easier than Australians, and almost have a sado-masochist fetish when it comes to be treated like shite by politicians they see as “strong”. We have just lost our right to a tea break and there is not a wimper.

  6. Yep, the Aussie budgets going to be ugly. They’ve just booted their Labour muppets out, and they’ve got years of pain to recover. Thankfully we’re 6 years down that road already.

    • Yep the last 6 years of National Party inflicted misery has been just dandy hasn’t it? Just like the miserable 90’s. Lets have some more….Not!

      Believe it or not most people do not enjoy Sadomasochism especially as its not really necessary.

      In the middle ages Neo Liberal politics then consisted of a group called the Flagellants who went around whipping themselves as a demonstration of extreme piety, actually much the same as now to appease their billionaire gods to show how miserable things can get to ensure they remain wealthy.

    • Intrinsicvalue says:
      May 13, 2014 at 4:45 pm

      Yep, the Aussie budgets going to be ugly. They’ve just booted their Labour muppets out, and they’ve got years of pain to recover. Thankfully we’re 6 years down that road already.

      Oh, Anonymous ACT Supporter Intrinsicvalue – you are utterly clueless, aren’t you?

      You have little inkling what this will mean for us, do you?

      I guess that’s what happens when you’re obsessed with making money and focused on yourself, rather than the wider socio-economic situation.

      If I were you, I’d take a moment to think this through…

Comments are closed.