Solidarity of working people needed for system change during crisis

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The government’s announcements today are a useful start to combatting the impending crisis. There is an international economic recession unfolding that will cause many businesses to cut spending and slash jobs.

The spread of the Coronavirus pandemic is causing public health responses that are disrupting trade as more and more people are effectively being told to stay at home to prevent spread. The aviation industry is facing a crisis that will lead to airline collapses and mass job losses.

The job of any government is to try to counteract the spending declines that occur to sustain incomes and jobs.

New Zealand is also in a particularly good position because the levels of public debt are extremely low by international standards. That means it is easier for the government to run deficits for a period without the risk of the international

But, it is also true that the squeeze on government spending over many decades to produce surpluses and repay debt has caused huge infrastructure and social spending underinvestment.  That means our health system, for example, is operating with old cramped buildings, lack of important equipment an staffing levels that produce a crisis each winter without the additional impact of the Covid 19 virus.

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The government has announced a $12.1 billion spending package to combat the impact of the crisis.

An important difference in this package of measure from those that we have experienced in the past is that people receiving a benefit have been included. There is a $25 a week increase in the basic adult unemployment benefit. This is on top of the scheduled $10 a week rise from April 1. However, benefits had been allowed to halve in value over the last two decades from being at around 30% of the average wage to only 16% today. The planned increases will take it back to around 20% only. More is still needed.

The expanding of the in-work tax credit means all working families, who aren’t receiving a main benefit payment and fall below an income threshold, can expect to receive the credit regardless of how many hours they work.

The tax credit of $72.50 per week, or $3770 a year, has previously been received by sole parents working 20 hours or more a week, or couples working 30 hours a week.

Beneficiaries, those with dependents and superannuitants also get a doubling of the winter energy payment to $40 a week for single people over the winter months.

There are also wage subsidies for up to 12 weeks available to some employers that can show the impact of the economic downturn on their businesses that will keep more people in work than would otherwise be.

There is also a special benefit available to people who have to self-isolate for up to 8 weeks. This has been made available for the self-employed as well. (See Employer COVID-19 wage subsidy and leave payment information sheet)

There is additional spending of $500 million on the health sector. This is another good start but there are massive deficits – financial, material and human – that needs to be overcome at speed. Private hospitals should be made part of the public health sector to help achive these goals.

The estimated overall impact this government package is estimated to be worth a boost of 4% of gross domestic product.

However, special measures are needed to ensure the 210,000 workers here on temporary visas can access these benefits as well.
All workers should be able to access at least 10 days of sick leave in addition to any special leave for the virus. Union agreements covering most workers used to be 10 days rather than the legal minimum of 5 that prevails today. Sick leave should also be available from day one of employment.
We should also act to stop utilities being cut off or people being evicted if they can’t afford current astronomical prices and rents.

All forms of public transport needs to be integrated and planned for the duration of the crisis. Again this sector should be brought under public control and democratic planning. Profit should not determine success and failure.

Transport and cleaning staff should be paid at least the living wage immediately.

The measures the government taken to combat the impact of the impending social and economic crisis and developing world recession are the opposite of what happened the last time New Zealand tried to change its economic and political course in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

During that period the government adopted measures that compounded the recessionary impacts of the 1987 sharemarket crash by a massive sell-off of state assets, allowing the so-called “free markets” free sway to impose their havoc, and slashing spending on benefits for the unemployed and other welfare recipients.

The ensuing recession was prolonged and official rates of unemployment went from three to 10 percent. There was a wave of factory closures as tariffs were removed allegedly to make New Zealand more competitive. Wages were cut, penal rates for overtime and weekend work eliminated, unions gutted and their membership collapsed in the private sector never to recover again.

Maori and Pacific families and working-class suburbs like Mangere and Porirua were subject to official unemployment levels of 20-30 percent.  The broader “jobless” number which included those wanting more hours or had given up looking was even higher still.

The victims of policies imposed were them further demonised as lazy welfare bludgers.

Working people who had lost their unions and been thrown on the scrap heap were simply told to fend for themselves.

It was made more and more difficult to access basic entitlements like a benefit for being unemployed or having a child.

Housing costs also doubled for most workers.
Hundreds of thousands of workers were put on on zero-hour contracts with few rights and protections.
Poorly paid workers were forced to work two or three jobs and sixty-hour weeks to survive.

Basic family life and protections that go with that were torn up by the so-called “neoliberal” revolution. Fast food replaced meals at home. Children went hungry to school.

The impending worldwide economic recession is happening at a time the capitalist system which dominates the planet had already outgrown its usefulness as a wealth creator and has now become a destroyer of social capital, working people’s livelihoods and the planet itself.

The ruling rich used the last big crisis to just further enrich themselves and hoard even more wealth and power. In this crisis working people need to dispossess this class of its wealth and power and reorder society in such a way as to be able to serve the interests of humanity and the planet we exist on.

That system can’t be based on ever-expanding commodity production for private profit.

The virus has exploded the debt pyramids and speculative excesses reflected in the implosion of the world’s stock markets.

A decade of austerity measures in the USA, UK and Europe has created extreme vulnerabilities in the system’s ability to respond with the necessary speed. That has ensured rapid spread of the virus and subsequent massive fatalities.

The class of billionaire one-percenters responsible for this systemic disaster should not be allowed to continue to call the shots.

We should also be demanding an immediate end to the wars of empire to prop up a rotten system of exploitation and oppression of nations for their raw materials and natural wealth. New Zealand should get out of Afghanisatn and Iraq.
Military budgets should be radically scaled-down or eliminated so that the world can wage a war for survival.

Economic sanctions should be immediately lifted on all nations suffering them today.

As big businesses and finance companies start collapsing they need to be nationalised and placed under community and worker control rather than simply bailed out and handed back to the class of racketeers who have wrecked the world in the first place.

17 COMMENTS

    • WK You contribute widely and show frustration at the social injustice of the forced upon us by the few.
      Being human, and if all goes reasonably well, gives a chance to learn the best of humanity and grow abhorrence for the worst.
      While no individual can change the system alone, they can contribute to change by sharing their learning with others.
      That may be frustrating at times but it is always fruitful if the best of humanity that you know is shared.
      Humanism is the only reliable set of values that we can call on and it is forever growing as we clarify just what it is.

      • And what is it?

        Endless reels of the same message needlessly learnt and re learnt by countless generations in error ?

        The day we acknowledge there is a God, and that the futile attempts of humanism to answer even the most basic questions is far from satisfactory is the day we will advance.

        Newtonian science without quantum physics is meaningless.

        You cannot discover ,… let alone decipher morality , values ethics or pure science without the marriage of the two. This world is not just a material world. It is a world of intuition, of conscience , of values and ethics. All creation , all life is integrated. It leaves little to no room for the individual aspiration. It is an integration of all aspects. And it is a spiritual world. There are many dimensions to it. And when that aspect is unbalanced,… aberrations start to happen.

        There are laws governing this world, this galaxy, this universe,… and when those laws are transgressed… we experience that as ‘negative’ outcomes. Cause and effect,.. if you like.

        Nigel Latta may explain that as ‘consequences’… the catch cry of the 1990’s councilor job opportunity generation building on the social destruction oppertuned by the neo liberals such as ‘sir’roger douglas….

        Be that as it may ,…

        What goes up ?… must come down.

        Or as Jesus said ,… ” live by the sword?… you will DIE by the sword”.

        You want to mess with bad karma? … don’t be surprised when it turns around and bites you hard on the bum.

  1. On the AM Show this morning, Duncan Garner expressed his disgust at Superannuitants getting an increase in their benefits. He actually looked really angry, mumbling about how this government had the audacity to show compassion to elderly New Zealanders also getting a boost in Winter Energy payments, at a time when a global pandemic is devastating this demographic. Never mind that these extra payments will be spent in local communities thus providing assistance to beneficiaries while offering a mechanism for continuity to businesses and resilience to the economy.

    On his show he also interviewed Simon Bridges, himself questioning why anything should be done for Superannuitants, when Bridge’s payrises in the past couple of years alone are more than what a beneficiary gets in a year. And there is the rub. Bridges himself is receiving tax payer money. Those in the public sector are working beneficiaries (who also receive privileged access to our country’s inner workings, over other citizens). The employed receiving work credits and top-ups and family support are beneficiaries. Those receiving public work contracts, tenders and lottery grants are beneficiaries. Those about to be subsidised to stay in their jobs because of the recession are beneficiaries. Superannuitants are the largest group receiving social assistance (and why the hell shouldn’t they?). Even this miserable sod Garner, stewing in his own juices every morning, uses public services and infrastructue and airwaves, so is a beneficiary. We need to put this devastating, punitive mindset and legacy behind us.

    • Brilliance.

      Dont stop.’

      ”You don’t like knowing , do you ? ”….

      Is directed squarely and directly at the Simon Bridges party,… the TRASHIONAL party.’

      And that’s exactly and precisely why I posted it.

    • They live in the gutter on the promise of crumbs from the tables of the wealthy parasites. Unable to see others around blinded by fears and greed.

    • Actually the superannuation payment will not include the extra $25.00 beneficiaries get .
      Beneficiaries get the 25 plus 3.9% superanuants only get 3.8% plus both get the winter energy payment.

      • I wouldn’t put it past MSD to adjust beneficiaries income down in some way when they receive their increase, maybe decrease Temp Additional Support or Accommodation, so there would be no substantial increase at all. Just because they can, giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

  2. Well, it could time to pick which side you’re on?

    It’s Class War in action literally. Especially when in this Coronavirus package building owners like Bob fucking Jones gets a Bailout of $2.1b ffs!

    No time to be a Woke whinging activist who hasn’t been in a biff. A keyboard just aint gunnah cut it and nor is hiding in your room at mum & dads.

    This pandemic is that once in a lifetime event you’ve all been talking about.
    Are you prepared?

    • Has Bob fucking Jones gotten a Bailout of $2.1b ?

      Very , very interesting,… considering HE was the man who created the NZ Party to topple and eradicate Sir Rob Muldoon, – the last of the Keynesianist’s.

      With his cigar and his two upraised fingers giving it to the protesters.

      Perhaps we should be looking at retrospective damages caused by this man over a 37 year period and stripping him of his cash assets,… calculated by today’s prices…and preventing his progeny of ever being benefactors of his wealth accumulations at the NZ public’s expense… sounds about fair , dont you think?

      Or perhaps a few treason charges after a well pontificated over reconsideration of the advantage he took of the NZ public’s relative leniency at the time and their somewhat naive view of exactly what neo liberalism really was:

      ————————————-

      ” A ruthless ideological and economic / political power grab by a small group of anti nationalistic globalists who had no loyalty whatsoever to New Zealand or its people and viewed us and this nation as a place ripe for plunder with absolutely no regard to the consequences of their actions” .

      ————————————

      In former times they were known simply as pirates and hanged until dead and then their body’s were placed in gibbets on public display as their body’s rotted as a future warning to others who might be tempted to try a similar display of treasonous arrogance.

      We are softer now, but to their advantage.

      But by no means should we ever give room to these brigands to carry out their nefariousness in opposing a civilized society.

      EVER.

  3. A properly cynical and objective finance committee in government would have this sort of strategy recommended by Mike, in place to pounce on tasty bits of useful companies and their assets. What we have are lying deadheads who run the course of the race with blinkers on so they don’t get distracted from their mission, goals and targets that they have been programmed with. What can happen with Smart cards though. Will there be a secret code to break and then the in-citizens can turn their politicians and civil service on at full or half speed at appropriate moments. The present negligible pace is proving inadequate!

    As big businesses and finance companies start collapsing they need to be nationalised and placed under community and worker control rather than simply bailed out and handed back to the class of racketeers who have wrecked the world in the first place.
    I suggest that they be bought at firesale prices, and the money borrowed through Support NZ Bonds here in this country, with the minimum package at a low $500, and paying a guaranteed say 4%.

  4. If I could read between the lines here, Mike is saying that this crisis is an opportunity to move away from neoliberalism. Although it’s hard to think past our immediate problems right now someone needs to be planning for the moment in a few months (or years) time when people are ready to hear that there is an alternative to the neo-liberal model and the government is supposed to look after it’s people.

    Although it seems slightly callous to say we need to take advantage of this crisis as people fall ill around us, the reality is that for everyone’s sake (long term)we really do need to.

  5. Tom Perez chair of the Democratic National Committee is calling for Democratic Party Primary elections to commence in Florida, Illinois and Arizona.

    Ohio postponed their Democratic Party Primary elections on health and safety grounds.

    The corona virus pandemic calls for moral leadership.

    Real leadership is shown in the action you take during a crisis.

    Real leadership doesn’t even need a formal title and office. (look at Greta Thunberg).

    Due to the lack of moral leadership from the DNC in this time of crisis Sanders needs to take the lead.

    To spare the need for a run off ballot. Bernie Sanders needs to set an example and show real leadership.
    In the interests of public safety, to avoid public gatherings, Bernie Sanders needs to put aside his campaign to get the Democratic Party nomination. 

    I say this as a Sanders supporter.

    Sanders needs to strongly call all his ‘Movement for Change” supporters to campaign for Biden against Trump.

    Finally instead of calling it a day for his ‘Movement for Change’ Sanders needs to make an appeal to his ‘Movement for Change’ supporters, to be prepared to fight for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to be the Democratic Party Presidential Candidate for 2024

    This will be Bernie Sanders real legacy.

    This is not the end. This is the beginning.

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