There is no alternative – We need a Green New Deal Now

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There is no alternative” or TINA was the famous cry associated with the former Prime Minister Of the UK Margaret Thatcher and the introduction of free-market fundamentalism into government policy.
Capitalism had been through a period of growth in state intervention following the Great Depression and World war Two. But a crisis developed in the mid-1980s that seemed to be associated with government spending facilitated by money printing that led to “stagflation” – high inflation and stagnant growth at the same time.
Nearly the entire economics profession and official opinion-makers were won to the view that free-markets and free-trade were the obvious solutions. “Trickle-down economics” became the new mantra with tax cuts on businesses and the wealthy in society “as a means to stimulate business investment in the short term and benefit society at large in the long term.”. Turning publicly-owned services into private profit-seeking businesses became an essential part of the process. If the business couldn’t be privatised for some reason it was subject to the same market-driven profit-seeking principles anyway.
Throughout the capitalist world tax cuts for the rich simply meant cutting welfare and degrading public services like health and education. Public housing became unavailable and private housing turned into a speculative commodity out of reach of ordinary working people now dependent on private landlords.
Unemployment, limiting union rights and cutting real wages were deemed to be needed to prevent inflation ever coming back.
Of course, there would be inequality and obscene displays of wealth accumulation but that was the price needed to restore economic growth and create jobs. “Greed is Good” became their mantra.
The political and economic leaders who imposed these policies transitioned into and out of politics and business leadership roles but with a single ideology to promote markets and profits. The former leader of both the National and Act parties, Don Brash went from private business to the Reserve Bank, to parliament, to private business again. John Key went from private business to Prime Minister and back to business as chairman of the ANZ Bank and director of many companies. Former Labour Party leaders and MP’s are usually not that different.
New Zealand is a tiny country on the edge of the world with the population of a medium-sized city anywhere else, yet our “leaders” insist on being paid the same as business leaders and politicians in the biggest and richest countries.
In my view, the setup is simply corrupt.
New religious dogmas were imposed in the language of economic theory to justify this direction. One of these was the alleged need to permanently run government budget surpluses. Combined with tax cuts for the rich the end result was that surpluses could only be achieved by starving the state of needed expenditure on welfare, education, social infrastructure, and workers wages.
One result of this approach was that in New Zealand for 18 years after the 1990 budget cut welfare benefits by up to 25% both Labour and National governments would only increase them by the consumer price index.  This meant benefits halved in value in relation to average wages while housing costs sky-rocketed. National Superannuation, however, kept its relationship to the average wage and was, therefore, protected.
Both Labour and National bought into the lie of the deserving and undeserving poor.
Widespread misery and homelessness was a consequence for people on benefits. A conscious decision was made by both governments to ignore the obvious misery being inflicted. Conscious decisions were made to prioritise repayment of debt over protecting the least fortunate in society. In some ways the debt was actually privatised as many working people were forced into debt slavery to survive as a consequence.
Today, the low government debt has allowed the government to more easily go into debt to help the banks and big companies keep functioning during the crisis. But this is not a justification for denying people the right to basic entitlements in the past. Today we have the “undeserving” rich being bailed out while the poor remain denied decent benefits or access to social housing
Today the wealthy owners of land, finance, and businesses are rewarding themselves still further at the government’s expense through inflated prices for shares and property and dividend payments and share buybacks.
For the one percent in society, the system increasingly focussed their attention on accumulating property and financial assets to speculate with rather than on actually producing things of value in terms of meeting needs. Of course, these forms of wealth accumulation were made effectively tax free.
But the promised trickle down in wealth to create jobs and incomes of course never happened. It was always a lie.
Today, the most basic institutions of the state have been hollowed out to such a degree that delivering the basics we need is not guaranteed.
This was true for health services across the globe and it means that nearly everywhere failed to prepare for the pandemics that we had been warned would be coming with increasing frequency as a consequence of capitalism external conquest and degradation of nature.
In New Zealand, we actually have dodged a bullet time and time again.
But we have a chance to look for a new way forward.
The new way forward must be based on an economic plan that puts people and jobs before profit and the planet and its health before growth.
We can, for a period get away with simply printing more money to fund new and different priorities than those of the past. But there will be a limit to that before inflation returns.
That means we must also begin taxing those in society who have spent generations not paying their fair share.  We could begin with a special tax on wealth held by households with assets over $50 million as a special Covid-19 emergency fund. We could simply work out what they would have paid if they had been workers – say at least 20%. That seems fair to me.
Any government that puts the people and the planet first would then prioritise lifting the incomes of the unemployed and sharing the work that is available without loss of pay so everyone could have a job if they want one.
We should begin a process of guaranteeing a job for everyone who wants one. That could begin next year with everyone who leaves school being guaranteed a job at a living wage, further education or apprenticeship.
Housing education and health care would exist as of right and the job of the government is ensuring those rights as soon as possible.
Transport, energy and finance would be public services owned by the government and governed by a democratic plan involving the workers in these and having empowered communities deciding their own needs and priorities..
The government would then prioritise policies that create a genuine clean, green New Zealand rather than the rather degraded version that exists now.
That would be a truly transformational Green New Deal and it could start the day after the election.

28 COMMENTS

  1. Yes Mike and all while us pensioners scrape tp stay alive under increased costs of food, shelter and power, and we have no increased pension allowance that was given us to subsidise our costs.
    So Labour are as bad as National are when robbing the most weak among us without a voice.

  2. ‘In my view, the setup is simply corrupt.’

    I’ve seen it and experienced it. Rotten to the core would be a good description. Those with money and assets and political power game the system to acquire more money and assets and more political power. And there are NO systems to challenge the rorts, kick-backs, bribes and rigged agendas.

    Public consultation is a FARCE, geared to the facade of consultation without ever delivering. Opposition is silenced, whilst the [outright lying] propaganda is given a free pass. We’ve seen it over and over again.

    ‘The new way forward must be based on an economic plan that puts people and jobs before profit and the planet and its health before growth.’

    Yes, well all we hear from our so-called leaders is a never-ending narrative about the need for growth to fix the short-term problems, even though we KNOW that growth one of the core fatal flaws at the heart of our collective predicament. And the reason for that is the fatally flawed banking system that ‘no one’ wants to talk about. .

    ‘Any government that puts the people and the planet first would then prioritise lifting the incomes of the unemployed and sharing the work that is available without loss of pay so everyone could have a job if they want one.’

    I strongly disagree on that one, Mike. Jobs are also a major component of our collective predicament because jobs are a component of the wage-slave-debt-slave system. And ANY activity within the framework of the fossil-fuel-based system causes life-threatening emissions of CO2 and other ‘nasties’, and usually generates yet more waste that no one knows what to do with.

    Only a return to pre-industrial-revolution lifestyles will fix the predicament. And ‘no one; wants to do that.

    Hence, we continue to degrade the environment towards the point at which it no longer supports life.

    We’re now at the low point on the annual ‘staircase’

    Daily CO2
    Oct. 6, 2020: 411.18 ppm
    Oct. 6, 2019: 407.92 ppm

    and begin the inexorable march towards a new, record high atmospheric CO2 next May of around 420 ppm.

    https://sioweb.ucsd.edu/programs/keelingcurve/wp-content/plugins/sio-bluemoon/graphs/mlo_two_years.png

    And we face the prospect of 2021 delivering the shockingly bad news of NO SEA ICE in the Arctic in the late summer, with all the dire ramification that will bring.

    ‘The government would then prioritise policies that create a genuine clean, green New Zealand rather than the rather degraded version that exists now.
    That would be a truly transformational Green New Deal and it could start the day after the election.’

    Don’t expect anything other than futile, counter-productive attempts to preserve BAU, Mike. I don’t.

    Expect more of the same [neoliberal bullshit] until they can’t do it any longer…..which will probably be a few months into 2021 if what I have been reading from overseas is correct.

    • You have said it.
      “Only a return to pre-industrial-revolution lifestyles will fix the predicament.”

      I have been putting that proposition forward for discussion for some years.

      There is not another solution. All the “smart” ruses to make things improve all fall flat when worked through to their logical conclusion.

      Basically we cannot use harvested energy the way we are and have been progressively for over 200 years.
      That is the key to changing direction.
      But the costs of change are great and unavoidable.
      If we do not drastically and progressively reduce energy harvesting, then total collapse and wipe out of most species including the predatory humans lies ahead.

      Population reduction will either be planned, purposeful, stringent and ongoing or we will die off more randomly with environmental collapse including the human food supply.
      The likely alternative is resource wars on a scale unseen, with brutality and tribal slaughter, starvation and genocide. This latter scenario is what many wealthy cabals may be preparing for.

      Taking the baseline at about 1750 with a rising increase of human population being about 0.2% pa. This period signals the upward swing in population increase but still with population under a billion

      The present state of things includes

      A. Nearly two thirds of baseline Non Renewable Natural Resources have been consumed with all the easy access resources having been consumed.

      B, Our rate of resource consumption is at an all time high and increasing but looks to be reaching a peak within a matter of months then rapidly declining.

      C. Industrialisation has been rapidly increasing with the supply of energy and natural resources.

      D. Every doubling of natural resource use has meant close to the quadrupling of environmental pollution and degradation.

      E. The increase in human population has been a result of energy harvesting resulting in widespread production of metals, exponential increase on industrial processes leading to technologies that have streamlined the production of food, shelter and medical tools to control diseases. So the natural limiting constraints to Human population have been altered. The population is out of control and in overshoot.

      D. The increased population now demands an unprecedented supply of energy.

      E. To harvest energy we need to use natural resources and to consume energy we need to use natural resources. To recycle materials we need energy and consume more natural resources. To live differently to what our ancestors did about 1700-1800 we need harvested energy and consume our finite natural resources. There is no way passed this energy/ resource / pollution / loss of wilderness short term path that leads to collapse.

      F. Humans rely on soil to produce food but through intense industrial cropping , use of fertilisers which kill the precious biota in the soil, use of ecocides to control “pests” and also toxify ground water and the target food produced, use of mono-cropping, and genetically altered plants; then the very crux of food production is being drastically degraded continuously.

      Pollinating creatures are dying off and residues of plastic, DDT, glyphosate and other industrial chemicals, microfibres from tyres and synthetic fabrics, detergents, loss of wilderness and habitat for millions of species who have been a part of soil formation over millions of years, also an important evolution of plants that are resistant to disease but disappearing as we selectively breed or alter.
      Our food supply is becoming more fragile and in spite of attempts to find alternative methods of growing / harvesting food, the least energy and resource intensive is permaculture using manual methods and animals to provide pulling power for plows and drawing water.

      G. The sea is acidifying rapidly killing off corals, preventing the formation of shells on thousands of species, limiting the population of plankton that is a major producer of the atmospheric oxygen.
      As well waterways no longer provide food and resources as they did due to over use, pollution, capture of water for irrigation, Irrigation which alters soil and leaches out nutrients and causes long term salination which renders soil useless for horticulture.
      Ground water reserves that have taken hundreds of thousands of years to accumulate after the last ice age, are being stripped by deep well irrigation in many of the world’s major food production regions. Water has been harvested into overshoot and there is no way back.
      Peak grain globally was in 1987.

      H. The consumption of wood as a fuel, and building material has seen progressive removal of forest and bush that served as wilderness, habitat for insects that we depend on, natural carbon sink to off set CO2 produced by many species and fires, local climate inducing vegetation that uplifts ground water and increases rainfall and seasonal regulation that wilderness and habitat needs to remain viable and produce soil.
      At present we are felling and burning off vast tracts of forest to graze cattle and grow introduced commercial crops such as palm oil.
      Old forest may have taken since the last ice age to evolve along with its creatures are being removed.

      I. Pollution resulting from energy harvesting, resource consumption and over population, has degraded our environment past the point where humans can stop the now runaway increasing temperatures globally.

      Our only hope appears to be an immediate cessation of pollution and harvesting of energy with an immediate application of what we knew worked prior to 1800.
      Population can be reduced and it is economically sensible to do that starting now. Our idea of what an economy is needs serious revision.

      China has/had a one child policy that has persisted for decades and in spite of an increase in life expectancy its population will peak and then reduce.
      But such programmes will be too slow and childless couples will need full recognition and social reward for their contribution to the survival effort.

      J. As starvation / war / disease / decreased life expectancy and the health systems break down, Human numbers will decrease but out of our control.

      K. We must adjust our psyche to accommodate the limited possibility of a future and work together rather than compete with disastrous results.

      The modern conveniences are wasteful and beyond what humans can afford.
      The internet will go as well as most electronics.
      Human knowledge is our greatest asset and how the important knowledge can be retained is problematic.

      A crash will create unprecedented destruction .

      The only chance to avoid that is to work together forming small cooperative communities that consume little natural resource and nurture their soil and knowledge.

      As sea level rises all major coastal cities and land will cease to provide what they do today.

      A lot of reorganisation will be needed and selfishness will be the enemy of a human future, should we create the chance to have one.

      • Yes, John.

        The facts are irrefutable. But this insane society does not determine policy on the basis of facts, unfortunately; policy is determined on the basis of [faux] perceptions of entitlement and the [faux] economic theories promoted by off-the-planet economists, whose bizarre theories omit most of the determining factors yet are taken as sacrosanct by politicians and the mainstream media.

        13 years ago, in a television interview, I suggested [human] die-off would be of the order of 5 billion.

        13 more years of increased overshoot, increased squandering of resources and increased degradation of the environment means it’s now it’s now of the order of 6 billion who are going to die as a consequence of the insanity of mainstream economics and politics.

        Pretty much all the forecasts of ‘Limits to Growth’ are manifesting on pretty much the times scale indicated in 1972, some a little earlier, some a little later.

        It will be ‘interesting’ to see how much longer whoever forms the next government can keep promoting all that is destructive and self-defeating when everything is disintegrating before their very eyes. My guess is 6 months (maximum).

        That said, human stupidity is infinite, as Einstein pointed out many decades ago.

        • Yes, but can a city build not much above current sea level outrun a 90+ yr old pushing a walking frame?

          How about a city build BELOW current sea level and already dependent on constant pumping to keep going?

          You are right though: people who are starving to death won’t be concerned about sea level rise.

  3. Would that be a Green Wash’n Capitalism Green Deal? Or a denounce Capitalism and then create a ‘New Green Deal?’

    You cant have both. Capitalism wont let you.

    • First of all, once factories head overseas you can’t bring them back because our minimum wage is on the rise but we can increase the number of places and the breadth of degrees and the quality available at University starting with Te Reo and Technology and that will be very costly just to undermine the recession.

      • Sam the companies that head off to cheaper labour pools produce things that are really not basic to a simpler lifestyle.
        Sure a washing machine may be what we have become used to but I grew up in a household where washing was done by hand mainly with a copper fired with wood used occasionally to keep the sheets white. Soap was also made in the copper and the large block cut up for use in washing.
        We eventually got a washing machine and then a fridge but life didn’t change much.
        Clothes dryers did not exist and toasters took over from hand cut bread being toasted on a fork in front of the fire.
        Vege gardens were hard work but the crops were fresh and shared within the neighbourhood.

        So today we have an array of manufactured goods that may add to our leisure time or consume our leisure time on balance as well as make us poorer as they need replacing to help fill the landfills.

        The amount of energy needed to run a two slice toaster is more than a fit and able male can output hard at work for more than half a day.

        All this shift in lifestyle is at a cost to the biosphere and our basic resilience if and when survival mode becomes the imperative.

        Those companies that choose to increase investor profit by moving off shore are free to do so, and encouraged under our present system.

        I know families who don’t have TV nor use radio in their daily lives.

        An interesting development in the Wairarapa where groups of families grow and share food as well as finance each other. They also operate a timeshare which gives access to skills across the community.

        Experimenting with community sustainability and growth in numbers involved is the only healthy growth I can see worth supporting.

        The currently accepted “economics” are not based on practical long term “sustainability” or a close approximation to that over used term.

        Arguing about current minor detail is a time waster when much bigger issues loom large.

  4. Ah…?
    “New Zealand is a tiny country on the edge of the world”
    No it’s not.
    AO/NZ is 25 thousand square kilometers larger in land area than the UK.
    ( Holland is the size of Canterbury @ 45 K sq km and has a population of 17 million. Canterbury has 660 K. )
    AO/NZ is, in fact, quite big. Particularly on the human feet per square Km scale. And how about our vast oceans? I think we have the 7th largest economic exclusion zones in the world.
    AO/NZ may be, as you put it, ” on the edge of the world” ( How does one find an edge on a round thing isn’t a debate for here and now probably.) but are we though?
    52 thousand people on AO/NZ do one thing well. One thing very, very well, in fact. We grow and export food. We were once referred to as ” The market garden of Europe” and that was because AO/NZ invented refrigerated shipping which meant our farmers had the advantage of getting the seasonal jump on northern hemisphere markets. Fresh AO/NZ meats and dairy into freezing cold and barren European and British November markets? So hardly ‘edge of the world’ as in remote and forgotten. In fact, quite the opposite. The notion of smallness and remoteness is a logical fallacy perpetuated by those scum who make the most money from exploiting us. So sit down, shut up and make money for us. Nothing to see here. Leave everything to us. We’re the masters of the situation. Aye Boys?
    Given what we do and where we do it, it means we’re at the very pointy end of quite an advantaged in terms of what we do and to whom we can export to. ( That’s why the Australians are standing over us like the bullies they are. They’re making sure they’re in the way of us flourishing without their hand in our pockets, as we once did. And a few traitor kiwi-as types brokered those deals. Aye Boys? )
    AO/NZ does have many problems and there are many permutations of those problems but the main problem is that we normal AO/NZ human beings are being manipulated into hating on our farmers because our farmers build good Kiwi-as billionaires.
    A wool farmer earns less than one dollar a kilogram for their wool. It costs more to shear the sheep than the farmer can sell the wool for.
    Heard of vegetables? See those prices in the super markets? The people who grow those vegetables don’t get that sort of money. At best, they can expect a 4 to 6 % return on retail.
    So why are people hating on farmers in a country entirely dependent on farming?
    While it could be argued that AO/NZ is a small country and that it teeters on the edge of a round thing it can also be one other thing. Entirely corrupt. Trans-generationally corrupt. Those big fancy kiwi-as companies we know so well? The proud companies supporting and delivering to farmers for generations? You know what they also are? They’re the fucking Kiwi mafia.
    AO/NZ’s a dirty, dirty little secret. Aye boys?
    The Green Party. The members of the Green Party are everywhere but where they could do some real good and they have a corporate fellow at the helm. The Green Party Co-Leader in a suit and tie. Hair nicely combed. A shiny wee face. I bet he has soft little hands too. Little pen holding fingers.
    Chloe Swarbrick? Remember us? We had coffee at your gallery once and we talked.
    This might read batty but we need you to save AO/NZ.
    You must open and inquiry into where are money’s gone then weld our farmers and their down-stream service industry together to create a workers union with their own retail banking system.
    The Farmer and Farm Industry Bank of NZ ( AO ) Sound familiar?
    Why the Green Party? Well, because they’re Green. And farming MUST be sustainable, holistic and organic or it’ll eventually go tits to where David Attenborough reckons our earth’s heading and the breaks have failed. Watch ” A life On Our Planet” if you dare.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64R2MYUt394
    Then, once unfettered by the creepy Australians and our mafia’s in prison we can once again set forth and forge markets in the EU, the UK and the USA because they’re going to fucking need us.
    It’s funny that the dawn of The National Party just happened to coincide with the worlds first refrigerated shipments of perishable goods to half way around The Round Thing.
    Funny that? Aye Boys?
    The Reform Party
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reform_Party_(New_Zealand)
    “It was in government between 1912 and 1928, and later formed a coalition with the United Party (a remnant of the Liberals), and then merged with United to form the modern National Party. “

    Look. It’s this simple. If you’re well intended @MT and you certainly seem to be then all you have to do is follow the money. Never mind the politics. Our politics are completely irrelevant.
    Follow the money.
    There’s a direct trail of money between the SS Dunedin setting sail for the UK back in the 1911’s to the plump accountants resting their little balls on the seats of the ( leased ) Range Rovers they drive down Queen Street on their way to the banksters down town.
    Aye Boys?

    • As I understand it, international financier and predatory parasite, Rothschild loaned the money for the development of the national rail system in 1875.

      Bankers have been pulling the strings ever since.

      They say: “Jump,” and Jacinda and Grant say, “How high?”

  5. There’s been a lot of comment on this RAND Corporation study that finds the 1% have skimmed $47 trillion from the 99% in the USA between 1975 and 2018, all the more significant because the RAND Corporation is usually thought of as a business / Establishment think tank (founded by the Douglas Aircraft Company in 1948): https://www.rand.org/pubs/working_papers/WRA516-1.html. So in other words not just the usual bunch of lefties ;-).

    RAND find that the gap is widening by $2.5 trillion a year and that’s how much would have to be turned around in taxes on the 1% and/or direct government money handouts to the 99% each year just to stop the gap from widening further. Probably quite similar in NZ though the absolute numbers would be smaller.

  6. People before profit and jobs and the suggestion that you worked if you felt like it but still got a living wage would only be said by someone with no idea of reality. Out of profit come increase in wages and tax . A fair wage for a fair days work should be the aim. The only organisations that can work without a profit are the government and councils and because of this they waste money as they are not held to account like private industry.
    Profit should not be at the expense of the planet so an industry needs to be profitable to be able to avoid pollution which is usually a more expensive way of operation.

    • The more young people live with their parents and grandparents, the more that will deepen the impact that corona will have on society. You can’t squeeze more out of the households. So we better have credible wages policies to reduce crown debt. It’s not impossible just don’t let the haters win.

    • Profit should never be at the expense of community.
      Both Govts and Councils do a far better job of service provision than any private for profit company.
      Where they have strayed is putting their functions out to private contractors and ready for privatisation CCOs.
      Beware of the myths that Govt are inefficient.

  7. People before profit and jobs and the suggestion that you worked if you felt like it but still got a living wage would only be said by someone with no idea of reality. Out of profit come increase in wages and tax . A fair wage for a fair days work should be the aim. The only organisations that can work without a profit are the government and councils and because of this they waste money as they are not held to account like private industry.
    Profit should not be at the expense of the planet so an industry needs to be profitable to be able to avoid pollution which is usually a more expensive way of operation.

  8. https://www.oxfam.org.nz/news-media/media-releases/new-global-index-shows-catastrophic-failure-to-tackle-inequality-left-majority-of-worlds-countries-woefully-unprepared-for-covid-19/

    Chema Vera, Oxfam International’s interim executive director, said:

    “Governments’ catastrophic failure to tackle inequality meant the majority of the world’s countries were critically ill-equipped to weather the pandemic. No country on earth was trying hard enough to reduce inequality and ordinary people are bearing the brunt of this crisis as a result. Millions of people have been pushed into poverty and hunger and there have been countless unnecessary deaths.”

    System. Change. Now.

  9. Mike, we have enough stubbles of our oold country to spring back to life for the people. Labour disgusts me. An empty vessel. ‘Conditioned’. I’d vote for the Treen Party, though I think that’s an Irish name? We have a generation who remember acutely the old social democracy. And fight for it. Now or never. Take all the people in parliament who agree for a start. Ten at least.

    • Yeah right!
      Read the replied to the rant linked.

      Hey our seas are absorbing the heat and getting warmer or is that a conspiracy amongst thermometers.

  10. and here I am disabled, no income, no support, no benefit and renting all my life, 50 now and having to bloody move again thanks to selfish landlords not wanting to make the place warmer or dryer. Worst country ever to grow up in.
    The Greens got two ticks this year. Labour is no different to National.

    • Mark without prying into your details, it would seem that entitlement to some effective support including accommodation supplement may need exploring and you may need an advocate.
      50 years ago NZ was a good place for most children. Things have deteriorated for a variety of reasons connected with changes.
      But any Kiwi should have support especially if disabled.
      The ear of the greens may be more receptive than that of Labour but no matter where you are your MP should be made aware of your situation and plight and if you can figure out how to make it very public then it will be more inclined to get some attention.
      I wish you good luck and as least stress as can be organised.
      Keep blogging

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