The federal government plans to spend $130 billion to put corporate Australia into “hibernation” during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s called a wage subsidy, but it is more a corporate survival subsidy.
It may help some workers keep jobs they might have otherwise lost, although many others — including 1 million casual workers and workers who are not citizens or permanent residents — won’t be so lucky.
The government will probably spend much more on this corporate preservation project if the various lock-down measures need to be extended beyond the six-month time frame of the JobKeeper subsidy. Let’s take a modest guess and double that amount to $300 billion over the year.
Imagine if that sort of money was not spent on simply preserving the economic status quo, but, instead, was spent on the much-needed transition to an ecologically sustainable and just future. Jobs could be better protected because they would be created around doing the things that need to be done in our common interest.
Many jobs in today’s economy are about the further enrichment of the billionaire class: in the process they are destroying our environment and creating more human misery.
Billions of dollars — trillions on a world scale — of public funds are going to be spent, ostensibly, to keep people in work. Surely the public should have the right to have a say in what this is to be spent on.
We should but we don’t.
All those commentators saying that capitalist governments around the world have “gone socialist” are sadly mistaken.
They are still capitalist governments, even if they are temporarily changing some of their rules in a desperate attempt to bail out the billionaires once again.
During the 2007–08 Global Financial Crisis (GFC), the banks were bailed out by these governments. Now it’s more than the banks that are demanding, and getting, corporate welfare.
As with the GFC bailouts, the public will be expected to pick up the huge bill.
That’s what the capitalists hope will happen. But each time they do this they prompt a lot of people to think outside the box about how society is run.
In the COVID-19 crisis, many people have begun to ask who are the real “essential workers”?
They greatly appreciate health workers putting their lives on the line, day after day. They appreciate the people who look after the most vulnerable sections of society, often demonstrating selflessness beyond the call of duty. They appreciate the power of community, demonstrated in many acts of voluntary solidarity initiatives.
Where is Gina Rinehart in all this?
Where is Clive Palmer? Oh, he’s promoting dangerous snake oil cures for COVD-19, like US President Donald Trump.
Where is “Twiggy” Forrest? He’s done a deal to import sub-standard PPE through his tax deductible philanthropic Minderoo Foundation.
Green Left has been making the case for system change since 1991. The climate emergency and now the COVID-19 pandemic is demonstrating the bankruptcy of the capitalist system and the fact that the billionaire class has once again demonstrated that it is not just non-essential, it is a block to progress.
Powerful new forces for system change can arise out of this crisis. GL can help connect and unite these forces for change.
But we need all the help we can get to rise to the challenge. We need your help in getting more people to become Green Left supporters — from as little as $5 a month — and we need donations from those who can afford it.