Now the economists complain we're not shopping enough

The latest report on retail trade by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found department stores suffered a 2.9% fall in business in August, in seasonally adjusted terms. Indeed, overall retail trade was flat and was only saved from collapsing by people still buying food and basic necessities.

AAP said JP Morgan economist Tom Kennedy was disappointed consumers were still cautious and an improvement in recent confidence surveys failed to translate into real sales.

"It looks like another soggy month,” he grumbled.

As rogue US “zillionaire” Nick Hanauer wrote in his celebrity essay “The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats”: “The thing about us businesspeople is that we love our customers rich and our employees poor. So for as long as there has been capitalism, capitalists have said the same thing about any effort to raise wages.

“We’ve had 75 years of complaints from big business—when the minimum wage was instituted, when women had to be paid equitable amounts, when child labor laws were created. Every time the capitalists said exactly the same thing in the same way: We’re all going to go bankrupt. I’ll have to close. I’ll have to lay everyone off...”

He's right. In their crazed greed, the capitalists sometimes work against their own real interests.

Something like this is happening in Australia too. In an August 14 article on Crikey.com, Glenn Dyer and Bernard Keane wrote: “For a year now, wages have been growing more slowly than inflation, yesterday’s Wage Price Index shows. In 2013-14, wages rose 2.6%, while the CPI rose 3%. For those not employed in the public sector, wages rose just 2.4%, seasonally adjusted. In real terms, average workers are going backwards. It’s the largest annual real wage fall since 2008.”

Meanwhile, housing costs, transport, electricity and other utility bills – as well as unemployment – are all shooting up.

Not surprisingly, it is estimated by the credit reference agency Veda that more than 2 million Australians are at risk of defaulting on their basic household debts over the next year.

The worst hit are the so-called Gen X and Gen Y, according into Veda. The former have young families and huge home mortgages and the latter have been the most bombarded by relentless and manipulative marketing propaganda into over-spending and over-borrowing.

In his open letter to his “fellow zillionaires,” Nick Hanauer envisions capitalism going the way of earlier class societies.

“I see pitchforks.

“At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country — the 99.99 percent — is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent.

“But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society.

“Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.

“And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.

“If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.”

What more can we add? For the sake of the common good, let's hope the pitchforks come for the plutocrats sooner than later.

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