HELEN TAKES A TUMBLE



Ok, I couldn't resist it.

Here's Helen Clark falling over at a Christchurch cafe in the Riccarton Mall.

This You Tube clip has already had nearly 10,000 hits and rates an excellent 4.5 out of 5. Well done, Helen!

A VERY BORING GENERAL ELECTION


Russell Brown of the Public Address blog site (and ubiquitous media commentator), will be hosting TVNZ 7’s coverage of the upcoming general election on Freeview.

Brown, who is also unofficial president of the Auckland Labour Milieu Club, told the TV Guide that it was important for him to be involved in the election coverage because, yawn, its democracy in action.

So he’s not doing it for the money then.

Brown, one of the most irritating Labour apologists around (him, and Tumeke! blogger Martyn Bradbury) said that the election was important because

‘. the three-yearly chance to vote is a key component of citizenship. It’s one of the most important things we do – and, at best, it’s a genuine contest of ideas, and it reminds us why live in a democracy.’

I’m wondering if Brown was drunk when he said this. Or perhaps he was speaking ironically?

Sadly, I don’t think so. Brown I’m afraid, seriously believes what he is saying.

It’s wonderfully na├»ve for him to believe that casting a vote every three years gives us a real stake in the affairs of the nation but, regardless of his touching faith in bourgeois democracy, this year’s general election is even more of a sideshow than usual.

One of the main arguments for MMP is that it would break up the ‘two-party club’ and allow a range of parties to be represented in Parliament, representing a range of political views. It would be, so the argument went, be more ‘representative’ of the increasingly diverse nature of New Zealand society.

Tthe detractors of MMP said it would allow into Parliament parties with political views unpopular with the majority of the population. The MMP detractors claimed that ‘extremist’ parties could get elected.

The promoters of MMP argued that the five percent threshold would prevent any old Tom, Dick or Harriet entering Parliament.

However what we have ended up with is no political diversity at all, never mind ‘extremism’. Hell, I'd love a bit of 'extremism' right now - about the only 'extreme' thing that's happened so far is Helen Clark falling over in a Christchurch cafe (is it on You Tube yet?)

The parliamentary parties have all gravitated to the ‘centre’ and embraced the free market. It doesn’t mind which of the parliamentary parties you vote end you will end getting the same thing – more free market, more neo liberalism. It’s a Clayton’s Election. – the election you have when you are not having a election.

With no fundamental ideological differences between them, television ‘debates’ between the party leaders are yawn fests and Labour, in particular but not exclusively, is resorting to throwing mud at John Key and hoping some of it will stick.

Today we learn that Labour President Mike 'I'm on Five Government Boards' Williams, who would have got the green light from Clark, flew to Sydney to pore over business documents looking for dirty on Key. Apparently he returned with a case load of the documents that revealed nothing much.

I'm surprised Williams had the time to fly to Sydney what with all that important board work he has to do.

This is what it’s been reduced to, folks. It’s a million miles away from being anything like ‘a genuine contest of ideas’ that Russell Brown claims it is.

Dr Bryce Edwards on his Liberation blog says that the minor parties have failed MMP because they have all effectively ‘morphed into United Future’.

He makes the point that the minor parties have run of steam and ideas – just like Labour and National.

Of Monday’s soporific television ‘debate’ between the minor party leaders Edwards writes:

'The minor party leaders’ debate involved mostly ‘yesterday’s politicians’ of the 1990s: Anderton, Peters, Fitzsimmons, Dunne, and Hide are all simply survivors from the politics of the early 1990s. They’ve been around for too long and represent mostly pre-MMP politics. Hence everyone in the debate had grey hair. Now obviously there should always be room for a bit of grey hair in our elections, but the handwringers who worry about youth not voting, might want to look at just what’s on offer before blaming the public for not bothering.'

He observes that MMP has not revitalised the New Zealand party system and that all the minor parties are ‘leftovers’ from the pre-MMP days. Not only that all the minor parties are merely the products of parliamentary machinations. The exception is ACT but as Edwards observes, even that was created by some ex- MPs., including Richard Prebble.

I agree with Edwards that its time for a real shake-up of the political system – then we might get some of the ‘genuine contest of ideas’ sorely lacking in 2008.

THE SAME OLD SAME OLD


As a television 'spectacle' the debate between the leaders of the 'minor parties' was mindboggingly tedious. In fact, I confess, I began channel-surfing. I ended up watching some of New Zealand's Got Talent.

Here we had six politicians broadly in agreement about the 'free market' and neo liberal economic policies - they all favour this discredited economic framework. The difference was in emphasis not in substance.

It's staggering. We are now in the midst of the greatest capitalist crisis since the 1930s, with the full impact yet to hit New Zealand, and these inadequate politicians are offering nothing but more of the same neo-liberal tripe.

In fact, chances are, these very same politicians will be leading the charge to inflict more damage on ordinary people via spending cuts.

And with unenmployment set to rocket what is the Maori Party's solution? Scrap the unemployment benefit! Or in the case of the Green Party raise the unemployment benefit - which is what former lefty Sue Bradford said yesterday.

There was no talk at all at about changing the fundamentals of the economic system that lead to unemployment in the first place.

The silly Maori Party think that capitalism would be just dandy if there were more brown-skinned people running it. Basically, that's the core of their nonsensical ideology.

The Greens, represented at the debate by the politically incoherent co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, want to tack on some environmental policies on to the crumbling free market framework.

In contrast United leader Peter Dunne thinks the Green's policies are a recipe for non-growth. In purely neo liberal terms Dunne is probably right but arguing with the Green Party is like wrestling with custard. They have no coherent economic programme other than, somehow, creating a nicer and kinder free market. It's ludicrous and its little wonder that eco-socialists don't want a bar of this right wing Green Party.

Fitzsimons said that the Green's would not be just a tame lapdog for the Labour Party. Having been exactly that for at least the last six years, I find that hard to believe. In fact, I don't believe it.

I could talk abut Anderton, Peters, etc but, frankly, I can't be bothered. You know what they want. You know what they represent. It's the same old same old.

What I wanted to hear was someone offering a fundamentally new economic direction. I wanted someone to condemn the neo liberal road that all the parliamentary parties are lurching down to and offer a clear alternative - socialist or left Keynesian. But we got neither.

In fact the only significant political party offering a new way forward weren't invited to the debate - and that was the Alliance.

RICHARD WOLFF ON THE CAPITALIST CRISIS PT 2

This talk is some 40 minutes long. Wolff explains why capitalism has fallen apart and elaborates a socialist alternative to our present crisis-ridden econmic system. This talk was presented by the Asociation for Economic and Social Analysis and the journal 'Rethinking Marxism'.

RICHARD WOLFF ON THE CAPITALIST CRISIS



Richard Wolff is Professor of Economics at the University of Massachussetts. This talk was given at the Brecht Forum/New York Marxist School on October 6.

HAS THE GREEN PARTY BEEN UPFRONT ABOUT ALL ITS FINANCIAL DONATIONS?

I refer readers to Bryce Edwards excellent examination of the Green Party’s finances and the sources of these not inconsiderable funds.

Dr Edwards, a lecturer in Political Science at the University of Otago, makes the interesting observation that while the Green’s have campaigned for transparency when it comes to party funding, they have been reluctant to front up about their own funding.

Bryce Edwards observes that the Green’s have recently been questioning whether Labour and National have been following the law about donation disclosure. Yet, in 2002, the Green Party tripled its election expenditure to $765,035, but declared only $86,000 in donations!

As Edwards observes:’By the party’s own logic, it has some explaining to do.’

It certainly has.

THE GREEN PARTY FRAUD


That the politically dishonest Green Party have decided to hitch their wagon to that of the Labour Party is no surprise.

What is annoying is the nonsense that co-leaders Russel Norman and Jeanette Fitzsimons were spouting at their press conference and the fact that the assembled media allowed them to get away with such self-serving rubbish.

Fitzsimons explained that the Green's had decided to go with Labour because Labour are apparently politically closer to them than National. She then said, with no trace of embarrassment, that, actually, Labour and National are closer to each other than they are to the Green Party.

Eh? Does anyone understand what this woman is talking about? She's saying that there isn't a lot of difference between Labour and National but they're still going with Labour? So on what basis did they decide to go with Labour? Did they flip or coin or something? Or, perhaps, have Labour promised the Green's a cabinet position or two? Is it just all about naked political ambition?

Well, they did come up a list of 'differences' between Labour and National but these 'differences' are more emphasis than substance - it's still full steam ahead down the free market highway for both Labour and National.

Remember, Fitzsimons is the same woman who told a Green Party conference that the terms 'left' and 'right' were old fashioned political labels. But apparently they're not so old fashioned to stop the Green's going with right wing Labour.

It all becomes clear when we understand that the Green Party is a straightforward right wing party. While Green parties in other countries are exploring eco-socialism, the New Zealand Green Party are all about tacking some environmental policies on to the free market framework. Or in, former socialist Norman's words – 'using the power of the market' to address environmental issues. Given recent events, I wonder if Norman still thinks 'the market' is such the mighty power he thought it was?

The Green Party do not have a coherent economic approach. You can find bits and pieces of policy on their website and elsewhere but there is no coherent economic programme. Unlike the Alliance for example, which offers a full economic programme that rejects the neo liberalism of the past two decades, the Green Party offers a few disparate policies and a few vague promises.

In a revealing statement a few months ago, out going Green MP Nandor Tanczos expressed the view that the parliamentary Green Party had to be mainstream, work with the other parties and, not rock the boat.

The Green Party, said Tanczos: ''needs to be able to work with all parties and cut across old political boundaries. It needs to be seen as a safe pair of hands.'

But, he said, outside Parliament it had to work with groups working for real change.

I criticised Tanczos at the time for political hypocrisy and opportunism, but we're getting exactly the same stuff from co-leader Russel Norman today. A fortnight or so ago he expressed the view that the Greens wanted to represent the poor and disadvantaged. Norman claimed that the Green's 'wanted to speak out for people who couldn't.'

The fact that the Green Party is giving Labour its support exposes Norman as the political charlatan that he is. Masquerading as a 'lefty' while lending his support to right wing economic policies is contemptible and should not be accepted.

And the same applies to Jeanette Fitzsimons, Sue Bradford, Sue Kedgley, Keith Locke and Metiria Turei.

How exactly does the neoliberal economic program of Labour help the poor and disadvantaged? How do such policies help the broader working class? Answer - they don't. But they might help Norman and his parliamentary colleagues keep their fat salaries and earn a seat in the cabinet.

The Green's want a 'left wing cover' to obscure and deflect attention from their right wing agenda and direction. Unfortunately some of the people who will vote for the Green's have been conned by the Green Party hierarchy and some fancy 'feel good' advertising - they genuinely believe a vote for the Green's is a vote for 'progressive' policies. In reality, its a vote for the same dismal and failed neoliberal economic policies that we have endured for over twenty years.

US BANKS HOARDING BAILOUT MONEY WHILE AIG EXECUTIVES LIVE THE HIGH LIFE

Where is George Bush's $750 billion bailout money going?

Well, AIG executives, who have received $85 billion of bailout money, headed off for a week-long stay at a Californian luxury resort and spa!

Rooms at the resort cost over $1000 a night.

AIG documents obtained by Congressman Henry Waxman show the company paid more than $440,000 for the retreat, including nearly $200,000 for rooms, $150,000 for meals and $23,000 in spa charges.

This has angered New York Attorney General Anthony Cuomo who, in a letter to the AIG board of Directors, has warned that if the company didn't recover its recent "unwarranted and outrageous expenditures," his office would take legal action.

This includes expenditure on other executive jaunts including an ‘overseas hunting party’ and ‘a golf outing’.

He also singles out a "top-ranking executive who was largely responsible for AIG's collapse" who received $34 million in bonuses and a $1 million a month consulting gig when he resigned in February. That exec is Joseph Cassano who apparently did little, if any, ‘consulting work’. The payments continued even after the bailout, only halting one day before last week's congressional hearing into Wall Street'S murky financial affairs.

Meanwhile its reported that US banks are hoarding their bailout money instead of using it to begin lending again.

The Bush administration doesn’t actually require them to do anything with the money and has no way of forcing them to begin lending again. Some $250 billion has been earmarked for the banks. $125 billion has gone to the nine major US banks.

Rather then lending the money the banks are using the money to save themselves.

The chief executive of Merrill Lynch, John Key’s former employer, told investors, the bailout money is “just going to be a cushion’.

Says the New York Times:

'Since mid-2007, when the credit crisis erupted, the country’s nine largest banks have written down the value of their troubled assets by a combined $323 billion. With a recession looming, the pain is unlikely to end there. The problems that began with home mortgages, analysts say, are migrating to auto, credit card and commercial real estate loans.'

According to economist Nouriel Roubini, who warned of a meltdown several months ago, the massive losses mean the government is going to have to double the amount of bailout money it's offering the banks.

NZ ECONOMY IN CRISIS


As I mentioned in a blog post two or three days ago, Karl Marx (is he coming back into 'fashion'?)- pointed out that credit is the way that capitalism goes beyond its limits and provides the means to expand.

Here in New Zealand, easy credit has, more often than not, been the substitute for low wages and rising prices. And it has been easy to get with banks all too eager to give customers credit cards, all manner of attractive hire purchase schemes on offer, tempting mortgage offers, etc

A report by the Victoria University of Wellington showed credit card debt increased from $1.5 billion dollars in 1996 to $3.6 billion dollars in 2005.

At the end of August this year, all credit card debt stood at $5.1 billion. And we're talking a small country of just four million people.

And, now as the tough times getting tougher, more New Zealanders are using credit cards, not for a Fiji holiday or that plasma TV, but just to pay the bills.

Almost a third (31 per cent) of people aged 18-49 expect to use their credit cards to cover otherwise unaffordable expenses over the next three months, according to a survey conducted by Dun & Bradstreet, released last week.

This is the culmination of living standards progressively declining over the almost the decade-long reign of the Labour Government.

The average net worth of a New Zealand household declined by $2500 in the December 2007 quarter and $5900 in the March 2008 quarter.

In the same six months, average debt increased by 2.2 percent. More than one in five New Zealanders with a home loan, spend over 30-45 percent of their income on mortgage payments, while over one in eight spend this amount just on mortgage interest.

The value of the houses these mortgages rest upon is falling—the median sale price dropped by $5000 from May to June this year.

New Zealand households’ combined loss in the half-year was over $13 billion.

At the other end of the scale though, New Zealand's wealthy are still spending money, still living the high life

The National Business Review’s (NBR) 2008 Rich List, released July 25, indicated that the New Zealand's rich are largely insulated from the worsening economic conditions.

The 178 individuals and families on the Rich List control an estimated $NZ44.4 billion ($US32.6 billion)—a New Zealand $5.8 billion or 15 percent increase compared with last year, and $9.3 billion or 26.6 percent more than in 2006. This staggering increase comes despite the fact that, since 2006, the Rich List has shrunk by 44 entrants.

Indeed as the rich have just got richer, the National Business Review has had to regularly adjust the threshold for getting on the Rich List.

The first Rich List, published in 1986, had an entry level of $5 million. This was revised to $16 million the following year, $20 million in 1988 and $25 million in 2004. Last year the prerequisite doubled to $50 million.

And, bar a disaster, it appears that the next Prime Minister of New Zealand is going to be a Rich List member. John Key was a new addition to the list this year, with a total wealth estimated at some $50 million.

Indeed Key's wealth sums all that is wrong with New Zealand. He made his money when Merrill Lynch's share prices rocketed from $52 in 2001 to $93 in 2006.

This was due, in large part, to the US sub-prime mortgage boom, in which Merrill heavily invested. In October 2007, when the bubble burst, the bank reported a third-quarter loss of $US2.4 billion and wrote off $8.4 billion in bad debts linked to the sub-prime mortgage market. Merrill, of course, has now collapsed

The future looks even grimmer for ordinary people.

Sixty percent of the new jobs created in the last five years, especially in real estate, construction and retail, rested on the steeply rising rising house prices. But that bubble has burst and the economic tsunami about to sweep over New Zealand can only mean a further deterioration in living standards and rising unemployment.

There is no viable political alternative on hand with the two main parliamentary parties seemingly bewildered that the neo liberal model has collapsed and are now flirting with Keynesian - inspired policies they had once previously contemptuously dismissed.

Thery won't work and demands will grow from business and its political allies for 'spending' cuts - which will mean a sustained attack on the living standards of ordinary people. The right wing Maori Party's call for the return of 'work for the dole' schemes is a taste of things to come.

CULLEN: JOHN KEY IS A COMMUNIST!


Minister of Finance Michael Cullen can’t make his mind up about John Key and the National Party.

First up, he accuses National leader John Key of being single-handledly responsible for the crisis of global capitalism because he used to be a money trader for the failed Merrill Lynch.

But Cullen, bizarrely, is now accusing fellow neoliberal Key and the National Party of communism! Has John Key been reading Capital Vol 1? Has Bill English been thinking about surplus value? Perhaps Gerry Brownlee has been musing on dialectical materialism?

The answer is even more ridiculous.

Yesterday Key announced that a National government would direct the New Zealand Superannuation Fund to invest at least 40 percent of its assets into New Zealand investments

Cullen now says that neoliberal Key wants to give his finance minister Bill English "the power to direct the buy up overtime, of large chunks of New Zealand's private sector" which is apparently akin to communism!

So John Key is now a neoliberal communist! This is a schizophrenic political beast indeed.

Seriously though what we are witnessing is the sight of two major parliamentary parties, having for decades told us that the free market was the only path to follow, slowly but surely resorting to Keynesian –inspired economic policies.

Its all hands to the economic pumps as National and Labour try to stop the economy sliding into a deep recession.

They won’t work of course but that won’t stop Labour and National promoting and implementing such policies.

Meanwhile we can expect more confusing ramblings from Cullen. He’s a Minister of Finance clearly under pressure as he discovers that Marx was right all along...

TAXMAN CHASING OUR DAVE AGAIN


Struggling property developer and Christchurch City Council benificiary Dave Henderson is being chased by the taxman for more unpaid tax.

The Press is reporting that the High Court in Christchurch has allowed Inland Revenue to pursue a Henderson company, Tannadyce Investments Ltd (TIL), for $356,686 tax for the 2002-2004 income tax years. Henderson says he owes nothing.

Henderson argued the demand should be set aside to give it time to ask the High Court to review the Inland Revenue commissioner's assessment, "including its lawfulness and fairness".

But Associate Judge Tony Christiansen said Henderson fell far short of showing he was entitled to seek a High Court review of the commissioner's decision. His objections could be dealt with under the procedures for disputes in a detailed legislative scheme.

Tannadyce and Henderson have until the end of the month comply with the demand. Costs were awarded against Tannadyce.

BANKS ARE BASTARDS


The decision by the Labour Government to guarantee all bank deposits is, albeit a mild one, another example of neoliberal political parties and politicians resorting to state intervention.

But while helping out the Australian-owned banks, there have been no demands made of the banks themselves.

Westpac New Zealand for example, made a net profit after tax of $244 million for the six months ended 31 March 2008, up 12 per cent on the same period last year.

The ANZ bank made a $960 million profit for nine months to June 30, after previously seeking to make a billion dollar profit in New Zealand. This is the same bank that recently shipped off 250 jobs to call centres in India.

The banks have been making wildly excessive profits at the expense of New Zealand people - why should they be advantaged by a blanket government guarantee without returning the favour in the form the lowering their profit forecasts and cutting their fees, charges and loan margins? In the case of this new initiative from the Clark government, its a case of the banks taking and giving nothing back. The liability for any financial disaster has been dropped on to the New Zealand taxpayer.

It could actually encourage the banks to take more risks in order to drive up their already massive profit margins. The Labour Government has given them a free 'get out of jail' card.

The current financial situation raises questions about the whole system of a private banking sector run for profit, in which people’s hard-earned life savings are potentially at risk - so much so that the Clark government intervenes to guarantee those savings.

The banks, who have been exploiting ordinary New Zealanders for years, need to be told that the days of excessive profits are over.

Unfortunately, they won't be receiving such a message from this neoliberal Labour Government - nor from the incoming National Government.

Personally I'd nationalise the whole lot of them. It would be in the public interest.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION TO THE CAPITALIST CRISIS...




Click on the image to bring up the full-sized picture.

BACK TO THE FUTURE


Chris Trotter has recently been using his fortnightly column in the Sunday Star Times to praise Labour and cane National and he has continued down this road this week.

He castigates Key and the National Party for offering tax cuts but, in the same column, he says it’s just fine for Labour to do exactly the same thing.

He also says that National has no plan to combat the economic crisis presently descending on New Zealand. This may be true – but Labour is offering nothing either.

Indeed both parties are serving up more of the same failed neo-liberal economic policies and expecting us to ‘trust them’.

What are needed are policies that take us beyond the stagnant free market swamp we are in.

There may well be an economic crisis but there is also a political crisis. We lack a major political party or movement that can break us free from the neo-liberal orthodoxy.

Trotter isn’t offering any solutions. Having dismissed the working class as a spent political force and socialism as some kind of historical anachronism, Trotter has been marching rightwards at a fair old rate of knots for several years now.

The brave new future is more of Helen Clark, Michael Cullen, Phil Goff and Clayton Cosgrove? Give me a break….

LET THEM EAT CAKE...


While the Bush Administration throws billions of dollars at Wall Street, it is being less generous toward the people who are suffering the consequences of Wall Street's greed.

On Thursday the White House press secretary Dana Perino said that the Bush administration would oppose any attempts to extend unemployment benefits - a stance that Bush has taken before.

She explained the Bush position by saying, “we want people to be able to return to the workplace as soon as possible.” The suggestion was that extending benefits somehow prevents people from returning to work.

So with the American - and world - economy collapsing, Bush's response to the growing unemployment figures is simply to blame the victim again - people aren’t working because jobless benefits are somehow too generous and they’re too lazy to look for work again.

The US Department of Labour reported last week that the United States shed 159,000 jobs in September, and the unemployment rate has increased to its highest level in five years.

And tens of thousands more will be thrown out of work as the consequences of the Wall Street collapse flows into the wider economy.

While the rich get to keep their millions, their mansions and plush apartments, ordinary Americans get nothing but the bill for bailing out the fat cats.

A SPECTRE IS HAUNTING CAPITALISM


Credit, explained Karl Marx, allows capitalism to go beyond its limits. In other words, it artificially expands the market and gives the capitalist economy a new lease of life.

But there’s a catch – a very big catch.

The catch is that credit too has its limits. At some stage, it has to be repaid.

But what if it can’t be repaid? What if all the money has gone? What if all that remains is a huge mountain of debt?

Then the economy contracts, the bubble bursts.

And that is happening now, as global capitalism slumps into the biggest global recession seen since the 1930s.

Writes Rick Wolff, Professor of Economics at Massachusetts University:

‘Booming consumer lending in the 1980s, 1990s, and since 2000, especially in the deregulated financial world of Reagan and Bush America, provoked wild profit-driven excesses and corruption (the stock market "bubble" and then the real estate "bubble'). It also loaded millions of Americans with unsustainable debts. By 2006, the most stressed borrowers -- "sub-prime" -- could no longer pay what they owed. This house of debt cards then began its spiralling descent.’ (Monthly Review, 26 September)

Despite massive financial bailouts and government takeovers of major banks, the crisis continues to deepen. Despite the best efforts of politicians to appear in control, they basically have no idea where this crisis is headed.

Last week, in a lecture that went unnoticed by the mainstream New Zealand media, Alan Greenspan the former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, made some interesting comments.

Despite the fact he was one of the main culprits responsible for the massive speculative bubble, he actually warned his audience that capitalism itself was now in danger.

Said Greenspan: “The crisis will mean a return to the ideological struggle between socialism and capitalism. Many of us thought that struggle was over with the collapse of the command economies, but this is not the case.”

Greenspan is actually restating something that Marx wrote. The old man observed that capitalism casts a special shadow, namely the shadow of a movement that says modern society can do so much better without capitalism, by society being organised in a fundamentally different way. Karl Marx called that shadow the spectre that haunts capitalism.

Talking about a certain V.I. Lenin will earn you sideway glances from conservatives and liberals alike but Lenin got it so right when he famously remarked that capitalists can buy themselves out of any crisis, 'so long as workers pay.’

His words ring so true today, piercing the ramblings from so many of our mainstream journalists, seemingly unable to grasp the fact that capitalism is falling apart, seemingly unable to question the role of capitalism.

Not only is taxpayer money being used to bailout out capitalism but there will also be severe attacks on the living standards of ordinary people. It’s a double whammy.

There will be ‘unavoidable cuts’ to government funding and millions will be thrown out of work.

What we have to hope for is that organised working class resistance will meet and defeat these attacks.

And we also have to hope, as Professor Wolff writes, that ‘If the political winds continue to change far enough and fast enough, solutions responding to the current crisis by moving beyond capitalism might yet be tried.’

ALLIANCE PARTY: ELECTION OPENING ADDRESS

TV1’S 'CLOSE UP': CHEERLEADING FOR THE FAILED ‘FREE MARKET’


Close Up’s ‘debate’ on the state of the New Zealand economy tonight was about as ideologically lopsided as you could imagine it.

Mark Sainsbury’s four guests were Mark Weldon from the Stock Exchange, Dominic Stephens, a Westpac economist, Peter Townsend from the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and former National Business Review journalist Graeme Hunt.

Apparently Close Up didn’t think it a good idea to have any worker’s representatives on the show. It didn’t think that it might have been good idea to have, at least, one person on the show who offered a view that wasn’t just more of the same failed neo-liberal mush.

No we got four supporters of free market economic policies. Not surprisingly, they all attempted to downplay the magnitude of the economic crisis.

Sainsbury played along. Are New Zealand’s free market policies just wrong? Is there an alternative? Why should ordinary people suffer because of the greed and recklessness of business? These were three questions that the hopeless Sainsbury didn’t ask.

Graeme Hunt, a free market zealot and admirer of Roger Douglas, who would like to wipe out the welfare state altogether, fatuously claimed that there was no crisis because it’s all in people’s heads! According to Hunt its just a matter of being positive, and packing up you’re troubles in you’re old kit bag. He even asked the media to be more positive! Given his dismal performance tonight, I think Sainsbury has already taken that message on board.

Hunt, while claiming the crisis was no crisis at all, still argued that government spending needed to be slashed and recited a list of ministries he thought could be closed down. He avoided talking about welfare but I’m sure that’s on his list as well

No political party will do this! exclaimed Sainsbury. He never once questioned whether Hunt was just vomiting up the same tired and failed neo-liberal dogma that got us into this mess in the first place. We're going to hear this 'cut government spending' refrain a lot over the coming months and it's disturbing that Sainsbury seems so willing to go along with this rubbish.

Interestingly, Hunt appeared on TV3's Sunrise this morning saying exactly the same things.

Hunt’s fellow ‘debaters’ said what you might expect from free market supporters. All attempted to be upbeat, although Townsend did have the decency to admit that there was a serious crisis that would take ‘some time’ to work through.

Close Up was a disgrace and this ‘debate’ raises serious questions about its political direction.

THE NEW ZEALAND ECONOMY TANKS

Well, the Goverment has opened the books and the picture is not pretty - the New Zealand economy has tanked. Not only that, there is still a chapter to be added to the book. The tumultous events of the past few weeks, will paint a even more grim picture of the New Zealand economy and what lies ahead for us ordinary joes.

This is happening while, not uncoincidentally, the world economy is falling into recession. The situation is so bad is that government's around the world have stepped in to save the finance sector, in a bid to stave off an even bigger disaster. It's corporate welfare on a grand scale.

Here in New Zealand we are being told by the politicians and the free market cheerleaders that 'our' economy is somehow 'more capable' of weathering the storm - despite the fact that the government's own figures don't suggest this at all.

And why does Michael Cullen look worried even while he's assuring us that everything will be okay?

Over several years we have seen the New Zealand econmy being driven by an overheated property market - pumped up with money from finance companies and the banks. Warnings from the likes of economist Gareth Morgan that a collapse was inevitable went unheeded.

The bubble burst and the reckless finance companies were wiped out, taking with them the savings of tens of thousands of investors.

The collapse of the finance sector comes at a time when the New Zealand economy is in recession and will be so for many years.

The result could well be stagflation - when a combination of price inflation meets economic stagnation.

The response of capital to this will be to attack the living standards of ordinary people.

There will be an attack on wage levels and working conditions and a tightening on 'social spending'. Cuts to welfare benefits, for example, may be the order of the day - indeed some neo-liberal zealots are already calling for this.

CONTACT POWER PRICE INCREASE : LABOUR DOES NOTHING AGAIN

Despite talking tough on Contact Energy's latest price increase Minister's Lianne Dalziel and David Parker are going to do....nothing.

They took the issue to cabinet today and, predictably, the cabinet decided to sit on its collective hands again.

Helen Clark says the Government will hold off acting on rising power prices until three investigations into the electricity market are completed.

Those investigations will not be completed until the end of the year - and National, with a different agenda altogether, will be in government.

Clark, laughably, says these three investigations will 'show' whether there is 'sufficient competition in the market'.

How much proof does she need?

We already know there is no competition, we all know the deregulated electricity market is an absolute failure, we all know prices continue to skyrocket.

And we know we are stuck with a bunch of free market politicians who lack the political will to act.

LABOUR USING AMERICAN PR FIRM

Having attacked National for using a foreign PR company, namely the Australian company Crosby Textor, Labour have been caught out doing exactly the same thing.

In this week's Listener David Fisher reveals that Labour has been using the 'Washington-based strategy and technology experts Blue State Digital’.

Fisher writes that, in the US, Blue State Digital ‘runs the engine behind Obamamania, and claims responsibility for the $US200 million the campaign has raised online and barackobama.com’s “social network” of almost a million people’.

Fisher says its unclear what Blue State Digital are doing for Labour and Labour itself won't talk about it.

Its work is as diverse as creating websites and organising fundraising and letter writing campaigns. Labour's campaign website can be found on the Blue State Digital website.

Blue State was established in 2004 and has a staff of 38 and offices in Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Washington.

Writing on his Liberation blog, University of Dunedin lecturer Bryce Edwards comments:

'The rise of such public relations (PR) consultancy companies in the election campaign epitomises the process of privatisation of politics....For the Labour Party organisation, which is increasingly withering away to become an empty shell, it has to find new PR firms to replace its departed party members and weakening and distant unions. Therefore in recent years the party has been associated with firms Edwards-Cunningham Consultants, Communicor, and Consultus (run respectively by the Labour Party-friendly television interviewers Brian Edwards, Simon Walker and Ian Fraser). Blue State Digital is only the latest variant of this.'

And, as David Fisher observes, the discovery of the Blue State Digital connection, highlights one again the similarities between the two major parliamentary parties.

Having caned National for its use of Crosby Textor, it'll be interesting to see what the pro-Labour bloggers have to say about Labour's use of Blue State. I suspect there will be a profound silence.

RUSSEL NORMAN TALKS MORE NONSENSE


Green Party co-leader Russel Norman has been making more fraudulent claims.

At the Green Party election campaign opening, former socialist Norman claimed that the Green’s would speak out for those that can’t.

I’m guessing that Norman means the poor and the disadvantaged – as opposed to their ‘target’ audience of middle class white liberals.

So have the Green’s finally discovered eco-socialism? Sorry, I’m afraid there still insisting they can create a kinder and gentler capitalism and an environmentally sustainable globalism.

It’s little wonder then that the Green’s are keeping their options open on whether they favour National or Labour as a coalition partner.

Despite the rhetoric the Green Party offers no alternative to the neo-liberalism economic and political agenda that has dominated New Zealand for over two decades.

The neo-liberal agenda has benefited the few at the expense of the many. If Norman was being honest about speaking out on behalf of those who can’t then he would be offering a alternative to the free market policies of Labour and National.

But he doesn’t. Norman’s word’s are mere puffery, designed to suggest that the Green Party is somehow different from the other parliamentary parties.

With global capitalism creaking under the weight of its own contradictions, does Norman really believe the free market is salvageable – because that is what he is telling us.

As someone else said recently, you can put lipstick on a pig – but its still a pig.

A vote for the Green’s is a pointless vote because the Green’s are offering nothing more than the same old free market policies. All Norman and co want to do is ‘influence’ Labour or National instead of building a real independent alternative.

CULLEN SUPPORTS THE WALL STREET ROGUES



Michael Cullen, 'the friend of the working class', thinks it would be just great to see ordinary Americans get whacked with a $750 billion bailout package for Bush's cronies on Wall Street.


Just a few weeks ago the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen was accusing the Leader of the Opposition of being complicit in the crisis of global capitalism. Because John Key used to work for Merill Lynch Cullen suggested that Key was not to be trusted with reins of political power.

With a general election looming, Cullen and the Labour Party are throwing mud at Key and hoping some of it will stick. Nevertheless Cullen has consistently attacked Key on the basis of his past profession as a money trader - a term that Cullen has used derisively in Parliament.

Cullen often gets away with stuff like this because naive young journalists thinks he knows what he's talking about and they don't know anything about the days when Cullen followed Keynesian economics.

Those days have long gone and Cullen has steadfastly followed the neo-liberal 'orthodoxy'. He's as much a free marketeer as Key but still gets away with suggesting that he isn't another just big business lackey.

So it comes as no surprise that Cullen has come out in support of the proposed bailout for Wall Street. The man who attacks Key for once being a 'money trader' thinks it would be just dandy if the American working class bailed out the fat Wall Street clowns who have made such a mess.

Why should the American working class be lumbered with the bill?

Cullen says that if the bailout plan isn't approved it could adversely impact on the New Zealand economy. Yet Cullen has previously been saying that the New Zealand is relatively immune from the Wall Street crisis!

Since George Bush has been in office, median family income for working-age American families has declined by over $2,000. More than seven million Americans have lost their health insurance. Over four million have lost their pensions. Consumer debt has more than doubled. And foreclosures are the highest on record. Meanwhile, the cost of energy, food, health care, college and other basic necessities has soared.

Poor Americans are now living in tent cities because they cannot afford to rent an apartment or house.

But, under Bush, the rich have been living it up. For the first seven years of Bush's tenure, the wealthiest 400 individuals in our country saw a $670 billion increase in their wealth, and at the end of 2007 owned over $1.5 trillion in wealth. That is just 400 families, a $670 billion increase in wealth since Bush has been in office.

Yet Michael Cullen, 'the friend of the working class', thinks it would be just great to see ordinary Americans get whacked with a $750 billion bailout package for Bush's cronies on Wall Street.

The CEOs of Wall Street firms have received staggering amounts in bonuses, including $39 billion in bonuses in the year 2007 alone for just the five major investment houses. Where has all that money gone? I don't see of any of these Wall Street CEO's offering to pay the money back.

But it is these rogues who should be paying for this bailout - they made the mess, they can clean it up.

These are the rogues and bandits that Michael Cullen is supporting.

JIM ANDERTON AND THE CTU TELL PORKIES


Jim Anderton's Progressive Party and the Combined Trade Unions hierarchy have been busy rewriting history.

Taking a lesson from the Joe Stalin School of History, both the Progressive Party and the CTU have been altering the facts to suit their own agendas.

Recent press releases and advertising from the Jim Party and the CTU have credited the Progressive Party with four weeks annual leave, Kiwibank and paid parental leave.

In fact all these were policies were the work of the Alliance.

But wait,there's more! Alliance list candidate Quentin Findlay points out that Anderton and his Progressive Party are trying to take credit for policies introduced during 1999-2002 when the Progressive Party didn't even exist.

Anderton was leader of the Alliance during that period – and there were also ten other Alliance MPs in the 1999 to 2002 parliament as well as four Alliance MPs in Cabinet, including Jim Anderton.

“Kiwibank and Paid Parental Leave were Alliance achievements forced through Parliament and later, Cabinet by ten Alliance MPs sometimes in the face of opposition from the Labour Party, which only belatedly accepted them, such as Kiwibank.”, says Findlay.

Anderton left the Alliance when he couldn't get his own way and formed the Progressive Party - a party indistinguishable from Labour.

Findlay observes that the Progressive Party has achieved little and tows the Labour line on most issues. Anderton, once a traditional social democrat, has become just another free market politician.

'Progressive Party achievements over the past six years since 2002 could be counted on one hand', Findlay observes.

But while boasting about policies that it wasn't responsible for, the Progressive Party - and the CTU - have not mentioned that they have been fully behind the push for free trade agreements with low wage countries like China.

“Working people need to support the Alliance which has consistently fought for policies such as free education and health care, full employment, progressive taxes, economic democracy and fair trade.” says Findlay.

FOR SALE: THE CHRISTCHURCH CITY COUNCIL!


With US – and global capitalism – going into meltdown the Bush administration wants to bail out its Wall Street buddies with $750 billion of taxpayers money – that way Bush's Wall Street mates won’t have to sell their numerous mansions and plush apartments, still fly first class, and still charge ‘business lunches’ to the company expense account.

These leading lights of the ‘free market’, who, for over two decades, have constantly lambasted any form of ‘state intervention’ or ‘state assistance’ can’t wait to get their hands on some of that lovely dosh.

In return the taxpayer gets a whole load of worthless ‘distressed assets and investments’ that the free market geniuses have created.

But what if ordinary people could sell their crap to the US Treasury secretary Henry Paulson and the Bush Administration?

Well, now you can! All you have to do is go to buymyshitpile.com where you can submit any old rubbish you would like George and Henry to take off your hands.

Visitors to the site are reminded that the going price for a bad asset or investment is whatever they think it is worth. So if you’ve got a whole stash of worthless Bridgecorp shares - sell them at buymyshitpile.com.

Presently someone is selling an ‘asshole ex-husband’ for one cent.

And, being a Newcastle United supporter, I’m not pleased to see my club up for sale at $800,000,000.

Of more interest though is that I see that the Christchurch City Council is up for grabs – a bargain at just $17 million! $17 million? Now that’s a familiar figure..

CONTACT SCREWS THE PUBLIC


As a Contact Energy customer I am angry that this company has announced it will be putting up South Island power prices by 11 percent come November 1.

This is the very same company that recently doubled its director's fees. Two weeks ago it announced it was going to double the pool of director's fees from $770,000 to $1.5 million.

The top paid non-executive director is already on a package equivalent to $1000 a day.

Shareholders Association chairman Bruce Sheppard rightly criticised the increase as "obscene".

Contact made a profit of $237 million for the last financial year.

The Labour Government have slammed the increase but, once again, Labour talks tough but does nothing.

Commerce Minister Lianne Dalziel and Energy Minister David Parker said they would raise the issue with Cabinet and seek a 'broad inquiry'.

An inquiry? What about?

"... we will be asking Cabinet on Monday to consider whether a broader inquiry is needed into whether these price increases are evidence of a lack of competition and market power being used to ratchet up prices," said Parker and Dalziel in a media statement

Eh? It's plainly obvious that there is a lack of competition in the electricity market. It's been like this for years and for years the Labour Government has sat on its hands and done nothing. But the dynamic duo want a 'broad inquiry' to tell them what we already know. Great.

...what more can you expect from someone like Lianne Dalziel, possibly the worst Minister of Commerce ever.


And - guess what - by the time this 'broad inquiry' has occurred Labour won't be the government anymore! What's the bet the cabinet will decide not to make any decision on a 'broad inquiry' until after the election. Labour will be out of office and Parker and Dalziel will be looking for some financially lucrative government appointed boards to sit on.

Pathetic. But what more can you expect from someone like Lianne Dalziel, possibly the worst Minister of Commerce ever, who has watched the finance sector collapse and only recently decided that it might be a good idea to do something - like have an inquiry. I'm sure all the people who have lost money to corporate rogues like Bridgecorp won't be lining up to thank Dalziel.

The free market approach in the electricity industry (and everywhere else) has not worked but nether Parker or Dalziel or prepared to admit this. It's either ideological obstinacy or stupidity or both.

The only answer is to bring electricity generation and supply under public ownership and community control. That way, ordinary people - presently been screwed by fat cat corporate's like Contact - can get affordable power.

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