Tax profits, don’t slash welfare

April 17, 2011
Protest for jobs, education and peace at the British Labour Party conference, Brighton, 2009. Photo:

As the May federal budget approaches, Labor PM Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott have gone on a welfare-recipient bashing spree. Exploiting the well-worn and reactionary “dole bludger” stereotype, they are softening us up for budget cuts to welfare and other social services.

But this sadly predictable spectacle is not washing with most people, according to the findings of an April 11 Essential Report survey.

Most said they want taxes raised for big corporations (63%) and tax breaks for high income earners removed (51%). The poll said a small minority (21%) support cuts to unemployment and disability benefits. More (32%) would prefer the military budget to be cut first.

If we had a “people’s budget” in this country — one that reflects the wishes of the majority today — it would tax the big companies that are raking in massive profits.

Instead, we have a Labor government taking aim at the poorest and most disadvantaged people in our society and threatening to cut the relatively small funds ($400 million) allocated to medical research.

Thousands of medical research workers, patients and other supporters rallied around the country on April 12 against cuts to this often life-saving research.

Some of the protesters in the Sydney rally had placards that contrasted the tiny amount of federal money spent on medical research with the massive $32 billion spent each year on the military. That’s about $87 million a day!

In 2008-09, the federal government spent $17.2 billion on subsidies and tax breaks to business, according to estimates by the Productivity Commission. A lot of this went to boosting the profits of environmentally and socially destructive corporations such as coal and car companies.

Giant mining companies are raking in billions of dollars of profit from the current mining boom, which is the biggest in Australian history.

But the Gillard Labor government gave away an estimated $60 billion in taxes on mining company super profits over the next ten years through its backdown on the mining super profits tax proposed by the previous Rudd Labor government.

As mining profits have spiralled upwards, the share of these profits paid in tax and royalties in Australia has fallen by more than a third of what it was in 1999 according to Treasury calculations published in May 2010.

It is no wonder that Australia’s richest man and richest woman are mining billionaires Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest and Gina Rhinehart.

There is a growing public understanding that we have been cheated by Labor and Coalition governments that have slavishly served the rich minority and helped them get even richer.

Just two years after people around the world watched trillions of dollars of public funds being used to bail out big banks, which were nearly brought down because of their own greedy and speculative behaviour — they have seen the CEOs of the same banks reward themselves with massive pay increases and bonuses.

Imagine the uproar if a government dared to follow the wishes of the majority and started seriously taxing the profits of the big companies and the billionaires.

The politicians of the rich minority would call it “unAustralian”, “subversive” and “extremist”.

The big business media would drop their feigned support for democracy and bay for blood. And the rich will threaten to take “their” capital and run.

But it is not “theirs” to take and run.

The disgusting sight of Labor and Coalition governments attacking the already miserable entitlements of the unemployed and people on disability pensions, while boosting the profits of the corporate rich through tax cuts, subsidies and by keeping their workers' wages down, is only a small part of the robbery.

The wealth of the rich is not the fruit of their own hard work but the result of a systematic appropriation of the wealth created by the work of others, by paying the workers they employ less than the value of what they produce.

This is the day-in, day-out theft carried out under capitalism. The rich get their wealth by exploiting others and by robbing the Earth, then use these same ill-gotten gains to exploit even more people and further vandalise the environment.

Today, the polls show that most Australians think the corporate rich are not paying their share. But one day a majority will understand that the elite’s obscene wealth is not theirs at all and will organise to take it back.


"Tax the rich" - what a predictable slogan. Bear in mind that the rich can just move their assets offshore, including those assets (companies) that employ people. Oh and by the way - when does someone become "rich"? I would like to know your definition - can people not enjoy the spoils of their efforts?
Previously before I came to Australia I have lived in two countries in Eastern Europe that have suffered both communist regime and its horrifying aftermath. I had friends who had to look through garbage to find scraps of food. Ordinary people were starving and the corruption in the government meant majority of wealth was quickly stolen and sent overseas. I had an opportunity to come to this great nation and now can see that these communist ideals tend to be mostly among those who are young, naive and blind. Maybe, you bunch of watermelons should leave Australia behind, leave your 4L Ford Falcons behind, leave your freedom of speech and head off to one of the remaining communist nations. Your utopia awaits you. You have no right to tax the rich – some of those people have worked VERY hard for their money by building businesses that now employ people, possibly export products and bring money into the economy. The sad part is that the naive university students are all too happy to yell that we need a “revolution” in Australia because of the propaganda you spread. They just don't know any better.
The last time I remembered, Eastern Europe is littered with a series of failed states. Their failure has nothing to do with "communism", but rather moreso the basis of these states. You have nations that were more-or-less built on genocide, with a strong social hierarchy (often with a German-speaking intellectual class). That was a recipe of disaster as we see in the failed states in the Balkans. Heck, even today, they're utterly failed capitalist cesspools. Having said that, this has nothing to do with maximizing people power. I am quite sure the vast majority in Eastern Europe today would push for the democratization of our work places; rather than being forced into prostitution and/or wage slavery. The reality is, these elements are leading to these states to plummet demographically with most citizens fleeing elsewhere. If workers were able to be rewarded for their worth (rather than the majority going to the upper crust), we'd see a very different reality indeed. Besides, the most successful nations in Europe are extremely socialized. Just look at the Scandinavian states that most resemble the Marxist ideal. While it is true that capitalism is the core of, say, Sweden, the majority understand that the virulent traits is capitalism. The Swedish manufacturing, scientific and technology engine were all socialist enterprises, as were virtually every majority sector in the United States, and has little to do with the "free market". The concept is a downright hoax, because the rich gain their spoils through downright usurpation of the working class. PS: Age may be generally associated with sensibility, but in your case, all I see is a reactionary development. That Eastern Europe you lived is a state capitalist structure, where power was held by state managers. I don't see how it's entirely different from current economic structure of today outside being within highly destabilized failed states.

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