The Debt and Austerity Narrative

Four years ago, the Liberal government assured us that hard budgetary cuts were required to tame a “debt and deficit disaster”. Since then, that same government has increased our net debt by more than 55%, or $129 billion. When tonight’s budget is released, Treasurer Scott Morrison is expected to find money for tax cuts, both for personal incomes and to fund the corporate tax cuts for the big businesses which have yet to pass through the Senate, while the budget remains in deficit. The Medicare levy increase which was to fund the NDIS has been scrapped. If our national debt is such a crisis, then how can we afford such cuts to revenue?

Self-Commodification

In our market society, every thing is transformed into a commodity to be bought and sold. Buyers and sellers meet to trade not only petrol, but also fine art and literature. We also sell ourselves on the market, renting out our lives to employers. In our current epoch these commodities are not just sold, but actively moulded to better suit the demands of the market. Not only do brewers adjust their formulations based on sales, but we shape ourselves to better fit our perceptions of what the market demands.

The Case for Universal Basic Services

How do we solve the coming decimation of jobs through automation? The solution of a Universal Basic Income has united both Silicon Valley libertarians and social democrats, offering a guaranteed income to every citizen. But the practical and political issues with the UBI mean it will only serve as a temporary salve for the underlying problems. Instead, progressives must argue for Universal Basic Services, drawing on the history of publicly provided health and education services to build a state fit for the 21st century.

Alienation and Me

Mankind’s capacity for creative work is what distinguishes us from the animals. People through history have created great works of art, literature and technological achievements as a means of self-actualisation. But what is labour without self-expression?

Beneath the Corporate Mask

Companies deploy elegant public relations masks in order to appear a positive influence on our society and lives. BP claims to deliver services that “help drive the transition to a low carbon future”. Northrop Grumman are “committed to maintaining the highest of ethical standards, embracing diversity and inclusion, protecting the environment, and striving to be an ideal corporate citizen in the community and in the world.” But beneath the hollow sheen of advertisements and corporate branding is an ugly demonstration of what is really important to the corporations who run our lives.

Q&Alt-Right

The ABC is under intense scrutiny from News Corp’s battery of scribes to avoid any hint of a leftward lean. Prime Minister Turnbull’s office felt it necessary to directly intervene against Emma Alberici’s analysis of tax paid by corporations. It seems his office thought that too much emphasis was placed on company revenues rather than profits, creating the impression that these companies were tax dodging freeloaders, rather than legitimately tax minimising freeloaders. So in the wake of such scrutiny on ABC partisanship, I was intrigued to see this week’s edition of their flagship discussion program, Q&A. Q&A brings together a panel of guests from across the political and media spectrum to face questions from a general public audience, and in concept is an excellent idea to encourage political accountability and debate within the country. In practice, it felt like I’d stepped into a Sargon of Akkad live stream.

Private Space

Last week, Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully launched their new Falcon Heavy, a more powerful rocket than anything flown since the Apollo era Saturn V. Media has been abuzz with excitement at the renewal of our spacefaring ambitions. But rather than the typical scientific experiments and satellites aiming to further our understanding of the world, SpaceX hauled up a car from their sister company Tesla and memetic references to popular sci-fi. Is there a place for science in the new private vision of space?

Are Markets Democratic?

The pricing mechanism inherent in markets allows each consumer’s choices to influence the success of a product or company. Conservatives and liberals both assert that product boycotts and consumer activism are effective ways to have our voices heard. Liberals boycott companies associated with Trump’s business empire, while conservatives employ the same tactics in support of their own aims. But just how democratic are markets?

Pokies

The prospect of gambling brings to mind the glittering lights of Las Vegas, but its real home is a dingy RSL club in Western Sydney. Here, countless desperate folks see their only chance at escape within the tawdry reels of what is euphemistically called ‘gaming’. These dens of inequity ensnare the poor, the uneducated and pensioners with little to live for but the promise of riches through feedback specifically designed to trick players into taking just one more spin. Loyalty programs turn saps into VIPs and give them a free spin every visit to re-engage those gambling faculties and maintain the addiction cycle. Australia leads the world in gambling spend per person, thanks to these obiquitous poker machines. We spend $1,273 per adult each year on gambling in this country. More than half of this expenditure is taken up by the particularly loathsome category of poker machines.

The Russia Excuse

The election of Donald Trump was the rebel yell of the forgotten seeking an alternative to the neoliberal status quo. Any alternative. He not only smashed the Overton Window, campaigning on policies which were outside the narrow acceptable margins, but his manner was also entirely outside the established norms. For a press which is more used to challenging politicians on procedural rather than policy grounds, these mannerisms were particularly offensive. Democratic pundits and pollsters refused to believe that such a man could win. When faced with the choice between four more years of status quo neoliberalism and a loose cannon promising to drain the swamp, the disenfranchised masses opted for the Trump, hoping for a wrecking ball.

The liberal press and democratic establishment still refused to believe it. An odious man who refused to hide his racism and sexism behind any of the obligatory smokescreens could not beat their golden girl, the pre-ordained first woman president. In the world of Red Brand versus Blue Brand, each occupying the sensible centre with a different sales pitch, such a result was unthinkable. So they rejected reality and substituted their own.