Well, who would’ve thought that a Federal government of neo-liberal ‘dries’ would come up with $190 billion of spending to save us from a pandemic knock-on of economic oblivion. Throwing away their own rule book (bible?). For Pop-Up Socialism. Suddenly Big Government is back and every (private?) industry has its hand out for financial support.
After decades of conservative government resisting tiny increases for dole recipients (NewStart, NoStart or whatever) suddenly Scrooge Scotty doubled it, which is tantamount to confessing that previously it wasn’t even subsistence level. Scotty from Marketing probably came up with rebranding it JobSeeker.
To my astonishment they’ve even introduced a form of (almost) Universal Basic Income known as JobKeeper (oh yeah) for the next six months or so. The idea is long overdue in this post-industrial world we inhabit in the First World. It should remain when we ‘come out the other side of the pandemic’, albeit in modified form to be discussed.
After decades of pissing about with childcare policies that punish ‘working families’ we can suddenly provide it free. And despite enjoying lavish public funding the private school sector shuts up shop and puts its hand out for financial relief. They’ve since been pulled into line by the provider of those subsidies.
Ditto, private hospitals, which when required to postpone elective surgery, and risk their profit margins, decided to shut up shop. They were also obliged by government mandate and subsidy to keep their beds available for pandemic victims. We should nationalise the bloody lot of them.
Maybe after decades of resisting calls for well-deserved pay rises for teachers and nurses, the provisional socialist government may have realised their importance at the literal frontline of community health and social cohesion.
The dismantling of our manufacturing industry by successive Federal governments of both persuasions since the Hawke/Keating era, came home to roost big time, when we realised that we didn’t make protective face masks, let alone ventilators for hospitals. Globalised ‘supply chains’ are easily disrupted.
I could go on about public housing and other neglected ‘public goods’, but you get the picture. Once the good times stopped rolling so abruptly, government or public is good again. Apparently for everybody, even for a government determined to screw the last efficiency dividend it could find to reduce spending and ‘balance the budget’.
Okay, it would be churlish not to also recognise that they done good with the big spend, Scotty and his merry band – I doffs me cap, after all the dithering during the bushfire crisis, this time they’ve came out with both guns blazing, to mix metaphors. I give credit where it’s due.
Where does the money come from I hear you ask. Well, it gets printed (as they say), or by quantitative easing if you’re the US Feds (doing it for years now). In Australia we get the RBA to buy bonds, which is like the government lending itself money. Anything is possible with political will and courage.
Even the infamous Milton Friedman back in 1969 came up with ‘Helicopter Money’ to describe the redistributive effect of public money spent directly on the population. Also called a ‘citizen’s dividend’ by others. Finally, the other great economic Milton, Keynes is vindicated once again with such a vast public spending program.
So, where do we go ‘after’ the pandemic, in six months or a year? Scotty says there will be a ‘snap back’ to the way we were before. Is that really politically possible, to put the genie back in the bottle, and take away all those benefits? Snap back or snap?