Emergency steps towards a Green New Deal in the 21st Century

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A crisis is unfolding that will be an economic and social disaster unless a series of urgent steps are initiated now for a Green New Deal fit for the 21st Century that can reorder and rebuild our society in a manner compatible with the welfare of working people and the planet.

The Labour Party has no right to simply ride the wave of support that exists for being an okay manager of the response to the Covid generated crisis through to the election. They need to tell us if they are even willing to entertain the notion that things need to be done differently if we are to survive.

The Political/Medical/Economic framework

The Pandemic will be circling the globe for the next few years. Capitalism is a system of commodity production for profit and in many of the most economically powerful the ruling elite has decided to put profits before public health. By refusing to shut down economic activity and waiting for so-called “herd immunity” they have put their personal enrichment  ahead of millions of lives.

Even if a vaccine is discovered it is unlikely that it can be produced and distributed widely enough for New Zealand to be able to restore normal travel and trade for several years.

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An economy that depends on three million tourists a year and recycling 300,000 workers without full-rights on temporary visas will not return.

An economy that depends on farming animals on land and poisoning waterways to produce milk which is then turned into powder using coal-powered burners and sent to China for the middle-class to consume is not sustainable.

The pandemic intensified an economic downturn that had already begun globally.

Printing money as a way to escape the crisis is not sustainable. That has been tried for the last decade and has helped create the crisis we are now in. What the US government and the US Federal Reserve (with the help of their counterparts across the globe) are doing is socialising all risk for the capitalists by driving interest rates down and promising to buy all forms of debt if necessary. But this will not stop the layoffs and restructuring to prioritise the profits of the shareholders above all else.

Since the 2007-08 crisis, the companies on the S&P 500 share index in the US which comprise the biggest listed companies in the US have used half their profits to buy back stock. This is designed to enrich existing shareholders and executive staff by enhancing the share price. Another 39% of profit was used for dividends. Companies have even been using the cheap rates available for borrowed money to buy back shares. Just 7% was used for investment. This is one of the principal reasons the post 2007-8 recovery was one of the weakest ever.

Big New Zealand companies have been doing the same thing.

There is something truly grotesque happening when sharemarkets are booming in a world where millions are dying and being thrown out of work, and the economies of the biggest capitalist powers in the US, UK Europe and Japan have declined by 10-20 percent.

Unemployment globally is expected to be at levels of between 10 and 20 percent for a number of years.

There is also a risk of the downturn precipitating a broader economic collapse when the temporary rescue packages stop over the next few months.

New Zealand’s current prospects

The wage subsidy and other emergency relief measures have prevented a broader economic collapse but a deep recession is inevitable.

Unemployment will reach 8-10 percent later this year. This will mean rates double that for Maori and Pacifica and young people.

Maintaining employment as much as possible was an obvious and necessary step. The wage subsidy did that. But the government should have also demanded something in return. For example, a one-third shareholding of each company so the government would also benefit from future profits and companies that avoided company tax so carefully also have to give something to the government for keeping them alive.

But it does not make sense to continue to pay companies to simply do the same old shit.

The government needs a national plan for a new equitable and sustainable economy that shifts from the production of commodities for profit to delivery of services that meet peoples needs.

For example, Air New Zealand is now in crisis and losing money. Rescuing the company is necessary but the government should not reward the shareholders or executives who have put their interests above those of the workers, the travelers who have been ripped off or the sustainability of the planet. Air New Zealand has been nationalised, privatised and should be nationalised again. But the new airline should be run as an essential service  owned by the government and run by a board that represents the workers and people as consumers, not just business people. Its purpose should be to provide essential travel and freight options alongside fast electric trains as part of the public transport network. The new Air NZ would be probably half the current size and workers should be allowed to transition to new well-paying jobs in alternative industries (like rail) not just dumped on the scrap heap.

The new Labour-Greens government must prioritise government measures that protect jobs and the living standards of working people who will become victims of the crisis as the bosses seek to offload any costs onto our shoulders.

Immediate steps needed by a Labour-Greens government

The most important immediate steps we need the next government to take are:

1) Protect jobs and incomes:

  • All workers have a right to work and the government must guarantee that right
  • All workers are essential workers and deserve a living wage.
  • The Welfare Advisory Groups proposals should be implemented with significant benefit increases and the individualising of entitlements.
  • The $75 allowance for “in-work” welfare recipients with children should be extended to all beneficiaries.

2) End the system of migrant labour exploitation

The exploitative temporary migration system should be abolished and those in New Zealand who have made New Zealand their home should be able to access permanent residency. No more workers should be brought here on “temporary” visas without a genuine pathway to residency.

3) Democratically develop a Green New Deal

Empower local communities to audit the needs of their people to access work, housing, education, health care, child care, aged care, disability access, food production and distribution, energy production and distribution, public transport availability. A plan should be drawn up so that the communities themselves can act to eliminate the social deficits and inequalities identified. The government should fund communities to carry out the plan. The tremendous displays of humanitarian solidarity and support shown during the crisis should be enabled at the expense of the greed and selfishness that our economic system rewards.

Health care, education, access to energy, public transport and banking should be public services owned and managed by the people democratically.

The government should develop a national strategy to transition beyond the current system of commodity production for profit to a system based on the needs of working people and the planet.

16 COMMENTS

  1. I’m with you all the way in your critique of ‘capitalism’* and its disastrous consequences for life on Earth, Mike.

    You correctly identify that the system is unsustainable and that it is being used to enrich the 1% at the top of the financial-economic pyramid at the expense of everyone else. And the environmental predicament is being made worse by the day as a consequence of the poor choices made by governments worldwide, including that of NZ.

    Hot off the press today is yet another indictment of ‘our lifestyle’, supposedly chosen by us but in fact subtly foisted on us by governments that work as agents for corporations and set the rules that have led to climate chaos, and will lead to extinction of our (and most other) species.

    ‘How SUVs conquered the world – at the expense of its climate
    Exclusive new emissions analysis shows how much more dangerous for the climate SUVs are than smaller vehicles, and how embedded they have become in our lives’

    ‘SUVs were the second largest contributor to the increase in global carbon emissions from 2010 to 2018’

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/sep/01/suv-conquered-america-climate-change-emissions

    Where I strongly disagree is when you declare: ‘Rescuing the company [Air NZ] is necessary’.

    Why?

    We are headed for a world in which oil will not be available, so we won’t have fuel to run planes. And in the short time that we DO still have petroleum-based fuels, every second that we continue to keep planes flying reduces the timeframe for complete planetary meltdown. None of this ( Peak Oil and Abrupt Climate Change) is news and has been well documented for at least 20 years!

    I also disagree with this, Mike: ‘Unemployment will reach 8-10 percent later this year’.

    I would not like to predict the unemployment rate once the impending global financial meltdown occurs but suggest you that you can double or triple your prediction, if not at the end of this year (all the Christmas hype will perhaps prop up the economy in the short term) then certainly by this time next year.

    Whilst I concede that a government led by Jacinda Adern would be the best of a very bad lot on offer, and any other party or combination of parties would be more-or-less instantly disastrous, I put it to you that Jacinda will not take the simple necessary steps to protect the children of NZ from the [future] catastrophic effects of Planetary Meltdown, but will continue to appease the sense of entitlement of consumeristic adults and will continue to promote the short term interests of corporations and banks.

    Daily CO2
    Aug. 31, 2020: 411.44 ppm

    Aug. 31, 2019: 409.25 ppm

    * In most cases there is no capital, and what is described as capital is actually debt,

    • If Air NZ is to receive any support from govt then there has to be a plan for an ongoing reduction of flights and those wishing to fly overseas for holidays be charged a heavy penalty for unnecessarily conspiring to stuff up the planet.
      You fly – they die sums it
      https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/apr/06/aviation-q-and-a

      SUVs and many other vehicles are used unnecessarily.

      The design of communities with workplaces close to homes and food crops is so simple but deliberately overlooked.
      Govt has to take a major part in implementing energy use reduction for several reasons including pollution reduction.

  2. Few could argue with your conclusions Mike. The thing is, how do we achieve the needed changes.

    Some of us online commenters, like you, actually do political work in the real world too!

    Neo liberalism in all its forms will only be rolled back by working class involvement, and direct action, when it comes down to it.

    Labour, somewhat ironically, need to be re-elected to create the space for their beloved ideology to be finally trashed! A Nat/ACT Govt would just exacerbate division and conspiracy madness, whereas a Lab/Green Govt would be a more positive environment for the needed class unity.

    Concrete demands such as widespread nationalisation could be supported by worker strikes and bans, and community support campaigns. Restoring power generation and supply to full public ownership would be a good start. And as you say Mike, giving communities the power and funding to restore and run their localities.

  3. You write @ MT.
    “…rebuild our society in a manner compatible with the welfare of working people and the planet.”
    I’m struggling with the old, left wing narrative whereby humanity can be divided into ‘workers’ and ‘masters’.
    Please don’t get me wrong. You do a tremendous service to people who are not, for one reason or another, ‘masters’ but instead human beings.
    It’s a thing I’ve been thinking about… The old Left wing/Right wing thing.
    I think dividing human beings into Left Wing/Right Wing political camps is an incorrect action.
    [It] sells the impression that there are two opposing political belief systems trying their hardest to do their very best by us, et al.
    Clearly, that’s not the case. Human, human beings want to live, laugh and love while the inhuman, human beings want to make money, stand over those with less and divide in order to concur for their profits to use to inflate their ego’s, sate their narcissism and perhaps worst of all, get a giggle out of seeing human, humans suffer.
    And if that were not the case, I’d not be here writing this.
    Dividing people into human beings and inhuman beings is less polite perhaps but more accurate and correct.
    tony abbot, for example, thinks that some old people ( But who decides which ones tony..? ) should be left to die of ‘natural causes’ rather than cost what he clearly thinks is HIS government’s $200,000 AU to give some old people an extra years life.
    That, is politically inhuman thinking at its boldest.
    The Guardian.
    “Tony Abbott: some elderly Covid patients could be left to die naturally”
    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/sep/01/tony-abbott-some-elderly-covid-patients-could-be-left-to-die-naturally
    My argument is simply this:
    There are two kinds of people. Human beings and inhuman, beings.
    So? What are the inhuman beings…? What are they? They’re not human within the parameters of the concept, so what are they?
    And they’re everywhere. In all the permutations of humanity, there they are.
    I once saw on the Net a pretty young Russian woman wearing a spring dress get busted for trying to sell her 4 year old daughter to what she thought was a child sex trafficker but instead it was a Russian Police unit undertaking a sting operation. Is she could, I bet she’d vote National. Aye judy?
    Just today, I see Duterte is saying things like this:
    ‘If it’s drugs, you shoot and kill,’ Duterte orders Philippine custom chief
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/01/if-its-drugs-you-shoot-and-kill-duterte-orders-philippine-custom-chief
    But no one gets shot for leaving Philippine people to die of starvation in polluted squaller?
    I don’t think there’s much of a need to write about trump or jonky or collins etc etc.
    And the only way we human, human beings stood a chance against their God given psychopathy was in the numbers. Human, human beings simply outnumbered the inhumans. Strength in numbers. “ Your strength is in your union, your danger is in discord. “
    Well, roger douglas soon fucked that up for us didn’t it?
    That inhuman little pig incarcerator deregulated our unions. He deliberately sowed discord so he could have his way with our stuff and things. We were done for. Is he hung up? No. Is he in prison? No. Does he have a knighthood? Yes.
    When AO/NZ had a fit and healthy union force we were safe. Certainly safer than we are now. In fact, I’d go so far as to say we’re not safe at all at the moment. I think we human, human beings are in grave danger actually.
    When human, human being’s head count numbers become irrelevant? We’re fucked.
    It’ll be the dawn of the day of the inhuman’s.
    Cue ‘Terminator’ sound track.

  4. The government needs a national plan for a new equitable and sustainable economy that shifts from the production of commodities for profit to delivery of services that meet peoples needs.

    Yes. Just getting people to fully comprehend that, is one of the first steps. The Old Order are reluctant to accept the new reality, that ‘the way things were’ is no longer the way things are, and that key components of their once-was paradigm have changed forever.

  5. we don’t need a fucking “green new deal” “new normal” or any other scam that comes from the current system. What is a green new fucking deal anyway ? I know what it is not and that is the answer to the current situation. To let the groups /organisations who have presided over a system that has every country in debt and both the planet & humanity’s wellbeing in crisis. To have the major decisions & values of the planet driven by the swamp that is American politics has perverted and prevented so many people and things reaching any where near potential is lunacy. The coup de grace, dereliction of duty and betrayal of citizens is the blatant failure of media and govts , even supposed opposing ideologies / countries to challenge this model. This situation has rapidly deteriorated with the USA elections showcasing how unbound they have become from truth and reality. They and the unindicted co-conspirators in europe have demonstrated how willing they are to sacrifice justice, credibility and literally millions of lives to give an appearance of legitimacy to decades of abuse of power. AOC is a creature of the swamp like vile liar and drone killer barry soetero – look at biden/harris how dare they pretend they are going to lead anything let alone the free world ! I heard biden say “shovel ready projects” the other day – co-incidence ? i think not !!You can not make a deal with a liar and these people are not going to walk away. so all you Conspiracy Deniers stop putting me and my nanna at risk. Corbett Report.com

  6. rubbish ! last thing we need is anything coming from the unhinged american politiical system for God’s sake. America’s overt and covert tentacles have prevented and perverted human aspiration and endeavour for decades. to think that they and their european co-conspirators are willing or able to produce anything but exploitation and division is witless. You can not make a deal with a liar – new, green or shovel ready !
    Even more witless is to think they going to keep you safe

  7. I just watched this.
    It was quite moving…
    The kids of today, huh?
    Awesome springs to mind.
    I now understand why Chloe Swarbrick can’t say anything either pro or negative re farmers, our primary industry. She’s suffocated in greedy, narcissistic fools playing out their fantasies in our government while bloating themselves and their mates by feeding from the post-farm-gate income trough.
    Chloe Swarbrick should be our next prime minister and she should have her trusted confidante’s beside her.
    She should be the new leader of the Greens and she should invite Metiria Turei back to be co-leader.
    And we should support them 100%.
    RNZ.
    “OK Chlöe – What politics is really like for Aotearoa’s youngest MP”
    https://www.rnz.co.nz/programmes/loading-docs-2020/story/2018758472/loading-docs-2020-ok-chloe-what-politics-is-really-like-for-aotearoa-s-youngest-mp

  8. Well, we should have had a war govt — or socialism, as it’s known — since 1990, to deal with climate change. The 84 coup, the foundation of present Labour, disallowed the proper preparation for that. The surrender monkeys on the Left keep on surrendering to nostrums of what is needed for ‘now’. Which delivered America to violence. This is where the ‘art of the possible’ leads.

    I’m happy for the Left to have govt every 20 years if they speak reality, as opposed to the freemarket era where the ‘Left’ has much more govt.

  9. Mike, you’d be in my coalition govt of those who remember the ideals in which we grew. Much better than Grant and Jacinda. So many goodies in our generation. As opposed to Douglas and Prebble, older. Politics is plastic now. None of us doubt we would be the best for our country, as opposed to these people the media tell us are the only option. Like the Democrat Party are the only option in America.

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