Capital vs. labor: where does the poll on neo-liberalism stand?
In Fleet Street they used to call it the Reverse Ferret, saying one thing one day and then taking a completely opposite editorial stance the next. And so it is with Nine, Newscorp and Anthony Albanese. Michael West on media, government and neoliberalism.
No fewer than 34 points now separate Albanese from opposition leader Peter Dutton. Murdoch’s Newspoll today scores a record approval rating for Albo and Peter Dutton has sunk even lower than Scott Morrison in public esteem.
We are far from the relentless campaign titles: “Desperate Albo”, “Not so Albaneasy”, “Don’t count on me”, “Albo amateur” and “Albo’s 600 billion carbon bill”. Today, beneath the routine propaganda for fossil fuel behemoths in The Australian, lurks a wise “record of election satisfaction with the Prime Minister”.
Murdoch’s front pages are like LNP campaign posters plastered in every supermarket, setting the tone for other media. In week 1, his 4 biggest articles were hard on Morrison: 23 articles in favor against 4 for the Labor Party. But Murdoch’s CEO says they don’t have a preferred candidate… pic.twitter.com/juUwibZxaw
— Kevin Rudd (@MrKRudd) April 17, 2022
Same deal in the United States where, having encouraged Trump to the point of the traitorous Jan. 6 assault on the capital, Murdoch properties such as the New York Post and even Fox News are now abandoning Trump, backtracking — not on principle or truth or any other noble journalistic principle – but on the basis that Trump cannot win the next election.
It’s business agendas and the pursuit of power first for Rupert Murdoch, but a Machiavellian opportunity to back a winner next. Therefore, smears give way to zero jobs.
Peter Costello’s Nine also, though never so egregious, performed an inverted ferret himself. Nine was smarter. They switched horses, retired their reverse ferret and jumped on the Albo bandwagon halfway through the campaign trail when they saw Scott Morrison was hiding for nothing. Very soft. Now, though stacked with liberal types and greasy careerists in their upper echelons, have capitulated to political and commercial reality.
The Coalition changed media laws so that Nine could swallow Fairfax and create a mainstream media duopoly and a cursory perusal of their financial statements will show, as with NewsCorp’s modest corporate revival, that the upheaval of the digital revolution has now run its course. JobKeeper, though undeserved, helped.
They too have gone on to schmoozing Albo and the daily vilification of the Teals and Greens is now the order of the day. For the business reality for media and government is that the extravagant super profits now raked in by fossil fuel corporations means that many dollars are being spent on political donations and media corporations.
The goal now for the fossil fuel giants is to lock in as much coal and gas production, as many new projects and as many government subsidies as possible before the game is over. We are in the twilight of the carbon economy at a time when the carbon club is making more money than ever.
Cartels not markets
Greasing work is therefore the order of the day and we see daily alarmist campaigns on the tax on fossil fuels and the transition to renewable energy. The gas is the big one. Gas is essential for manufacturing, households and electricity generation. The line in the corporate media is therefore to deride calls for a domestic gas reservation policy and a tax on carbon exports with scaremongering campaigns about governments interfering in the “market”.
Not that there is a market, only a cartel.
Newscorp expert Judith Sloan even went so far as to claim that if we don’t respond to their demands, unless we treat them nicely, they will get up and leave. It ignores the shocking reality that firstly these resources actually belong to the Australians and secondly they cannot leave and take the North West Shelf oil projects and undersea minerals with them.
They wouldn’t either, because they’re on a big wicket, paying far less than they should in income tax, PRRT and royalties.
After the money, the foreign multinationals behind the gas cartel are now making astronomical profits. Their goal is to extend the life of their projects as long as they can, and so they support Albo and mock the Greens and Teals who want new projects scrapped.
The problem for ordinary Australians in this regard is that the Coalition’s corruption and incompetence has undermined trust in government. Scomo even said it the other day in his sermon in Western Australia – people don’t trust the government. The ultimate irony, really given his own track record.
Curse of neoliberalism
Yet there is a deeper problem, that of scholars, policy makers and deep thinkers. We now have a political and ideological vacuum. For decades, the dominant ideology that propels politics and government policy has been based on the principles of neoliberalism.
Quoting Wikipedia: “Neoliberalism is currently used to refer to market-oriented reform policies such as the ‘elimination of price controls, deregulation of capital markets, lowering of trade barriers’ and reduction, including through privatization and austerity, state influence in the economy.
It has always been selfish, promoted by those who would profit financially from it. But it is now a bankrupt and hollow philosophy. The influence of the state in the economy, however, is higher than ever, both in the sheer size of public budgets and in the links between industry and government.
The pandemic has laid bare what is really going on, as has the plight of Qantas, soaring energy prices thanks to the MNC gas cartel. What we have now is not the primacy of markets, it is the primacy of crony capitalists. The business lobby continues to drive down wages and taxes, but big business – through lobbying and political donations – but big business is now merged with governments like never before, merged to the point where wages are being crushed, while corporate profits are astronomical (even though most of the money in the form of dividends, interest and capital returns from our mineral wealth goes offshore).
Workers have done their part for productivity.
Yet they have not been rewarded, proportionately, for their work.
There is no “market” for gas, it’s a cartel: publicly subsidized, protected and allowed to pay little income tax and not enough royalties. JobKeeper – and the fact that a tiny fraction of it has been reimbursed – demonstrates that capitalism is now about extracting what you can from governments in exchange for your donations, being supported by the public, by ordinary taxpayers, to be shielded from real market forces. Too big to fail.
Yet we persist in neoliberalism. It is only a name, often hackneyed as is the luge Marxist also for those who espouse the cause of the workers. Yet this remains the dominant ideology, that markets are better than government at running things, that things – even essential monopolies – need to be privatized, even that there are real markets.
But here we have Qantas in disarray, bailed out by the state, endowed with billions but with no obligation to service customers or retain staff as executive bonuses return.
The banks are all backed by guarantees that they cannot fail. Monopoly toll road operator Transurban raises tolls, casino duopoly Star and Crown are proving to be systemic criminal enterprises, but there are no administrator penalties, no prosecutions, and even another operating license granted to Sydney. All got JobKeeper.
In the field of energy, corporate lobbyists have demolished environmental objections and the global scientific consensus. A petty fracker backed by a US hedge fund billionaire even thumbed his nose at demands to appear before a parliamentary inquiry after securing a government grant.
Corporations trample governments with impunity. Lawyers crack down, threaten actions for commercial advantage, court officers abuse their oath to make money. Business leaders, massed by henchmen in the press, are irresponsible.
It is a good thing that the government of Anthony Albanese has shown its determination to carry out reforms. Yet the issues of growing inequality and alienation are mountainous challenges that require system change and a new way of thinking.
Once upon a time, leading academics might have embraced a credible new ideology to replace the gloomy and empty rhetoric of neoliberalism. Now universities have been weakened by corporate influence.
Corporate control over the media and the growing influence of large institutions are partly to blame. Social media policies leave dissent unacceptable. The gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening. Even as the government moves forward, an additional Labor government, with tax cuts for high earners in institutions – to the detriment of low earners who have just lost their tax compensation – the long finger of the lobby business is pointed at wage earners wanting to raise wages as an inflationary threat.
This despite the fact that workers do not raise prices, but companies do. And companies would rather generate higher profits than pay their workers more.
For seventy years, corporations have increased their share of national wealth at the expense of workers. It’s a long term thing. What’s the end game when workers don’t earn enough to spend in the economy?
O lucky man? Albo wants to smash the Labor hoodoo
Michael West created michaelwest.com.au to focus on high public interest journalism, in particular the growing power of business over democracy. Formerly a journalist and editor for the Fairfax newspapers and a columnist at News Corp, West has been appointed Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Sydney.