Anyone who hasn’t seen Michael Moore’s ‘Capitalism: A love story’ should stop right now, go out and get it! And if you haven’t seen his ‘Sicko’- you need a good smack!
I have long held a lot of the ideas Michael Moore puts across in his documentaries and it doesn’t win me a lot of friends, but a nice small and strong group of fiends- fiends for fairness and real democracy! How many people wouldn’t like a country where the rich and lucky happily give up some of their cash and privileges so the majority can have the basics as their right? How have Australians come to live in a country, once known as ‘the land of the free’, that pays bank chiefs $10 m salaries for them to charge people with no income like me huge fees just to have a bank account. On the other hand it hands out cheap housing loans and Platinum Visa cards to medical and dental graduates as soon as they’re out the university’s door! This is NOT democracy!
We’ve seen how traditionally respected, highly skilled and valuable jobs such as airline pilot have been down-graded so much in the USA that I wouldn’t be game to board an American plane. I know Australian airline pilots are still paid very well (well, not at this minute, but generally)- and they work long hours, keep fit and healthy, endure long and exhausting medical check-ups, have to work very long hours while highly vigilant, are trusted with the lives of hundreds of people per flight and must project a calm and non-combative image even while dealing with emergencies. I expect them to earn more than a production-line worker at a car factory- but in the USA, the factory worker may earn more than the pilot!
What troubles me now, having seen Michael Moore’s doco is that the situation in Australia is apparently catching up with the misery of the American majority. The massive number of mortgage foreclosures in the USA is definitely being followed by a large increase in them in Australia, particularly amongst farmers. There are also the people here who have been too long out of work, or who have had their wages and/or hours reduced so that they must sell their homes because they can’t meet the mortgage repayments. These poor people are hard-working and earnest- they deserve to own their own homes, but they are being forced to move out and rent, in an already overloaded rental market.
As I said in a previous blog post, there is a huge gap in affordability between the people on low incomes or the dole and the rents demanded for supposedly expensive properties. The rents are expensive because the properties are owned by other people who are paying off the high mortgages on them while trying to collect a bit extra on the rent. When a single person can only afford to rent a room in a boarding house and consequently have no possessions (or they would have to rent storage space in the hope they could acquire a home in the future to place them in), there is a serious and widening gap between the haves and the have-nots. I don’t like it at all, and I constantly see myself, in my mind’s eye, as one of these people who have sunk towards the bottom in these unfair economic times. How would you like it if you suddenly had no income, or just the minimum, after many years on a salary, yet you still had to pay your share of a contemporary mortgage? Rents are appalling for anything other than grungey old houses with bad wiring in less-than-attractive areas. Families on the dole, with kids at school, can barely afford a roof over their heads if they are not in public housing. In many families, kids will grow up and leave home while their parents try to pull themselves out of their economic woes to acquire a house that is in good condition, with enough room for all of them. I know there are now second and third generation unemployed families where the social order has broken down and they are trashing their public housing because they don’t care any more. Their kids don’t see any value in education- what good did it do their parents?- so they drop out of school. Then they aren’t even in the running for the small number of scholarships to tertiary institutions because education is no longer free in Australia, as it was when I started university.
I am still hearing that the US government has not wrested the health system from the grip of private insurance companies, as they said they would when Obama came to power. Although they said that everyone will be covered for basic health care, there are still all those insurance companies able to collect fees from private citizens and thus will charge a decent amount extra so they can pay their own employees and shareholders. If the government covered everyone for the basics the administration would take far less of the money than through thousands of companies in private hands. Australia still has full cover of the health essentials but the insurance companies are also guaranteed an income because they have made EXTRA insurance compulsory here (or else you have to pay a higher percentage of your tax for health- suits me).
What Barack Obama said first up:
“Everyone understands the extraordinary hardships that are placed on the uninsured, who live every day just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy. These are not primarily people on welfare. These are middle-class Americans…”
I think Australia is almost as crazy as America for this- the government “subsidises” people for part of their private health insurance (so it is partly paying for them) while it takes more from the poorer people who can’t afford the private premiums! Nutso! That’s not democratic!
Anyway, as Spotrick just said to me- I’ll have to stop midstream as I’m becoming too angry to go to bed!
Some people think I am a real commie for my views on what a democratic government ought to be able to do for it’s citizens, but I don’t really believe in public ownership of everything- like China and Russia used to enforce. I only believe in equalising the benefits able to be accessed by both the rich and the poor through the government taking some control over incomes and prices in limited areas. Many of my acquaintances don’t think the rich should in effect subsidise the poor- they want the poor to “work just as hard as me and get the same rewards”. My view is that we are a society where we play our parts and shouldn’t expect to be “greedy” and keep all our own income for ourselves when confronted with others who are just not as lucky- whether in health, education or cash. A society just won’t work where there is a big divide. They won’t start the revolution without me- that’s a promise!