Ears on the Wall Syndrome: Sacrificing the poor to save the rich...

2 November 2012

James Petras, a former professor of Sociology, author, adviser to the unemployed and landless in South America, and devoted to highlighting the class struggles in various societies, wrote an article in 2010 entitled, Cutting the Deficit: Sacrificing Workers to Save the Rich. James Petras, criticised a report produced by a two man Commission formed to advise the Barak Obama government on economic reform.

Dr Featuna'i Liua'ana and author of Ears on the Wall syndrome

Dr Featuna’i Liua’ana

James Petras wrote, “The Commission Report…proposes to slash social security payments [and thus] reducing recipients to poverty, raise the retirement age to 69 ensuring that millions of workers will die before they can retire, or enter retirement in ill health; reduce or freeze cost of living increases through inflation indexes which understate by half the rises in food, gas, hospital and education.  The Commission proposes deep cuts in Medicare, increased Medicaid co-pays and slashing $54 billion from graduate medical education.  The Commission proposes to eliminate tax breaks including deductions for home mortgage interest payments while taxing employer provided medical insurance. The same Commission Report proposes to reduce capital gains and income taxes for the rich by up to 24%.”

James Petras went on to say, “The deficit proposals put forth by Obama’s Bipartisan Commission threaten to push the one-third of retirees who depend mainly on their social security payments into the food kitchens or destitution.  The added cost and reductions in health care will increase the mortality rate among working families.  The increase in retirement age will result in ‘work until you die’, with no time for leisure, travel or grandchildren.” According to James Petras, the proposals in the report were attempts to sacrifice workers to save the rich.

What struck me about this article was the resemblance of what he had said and what has been happening here in New Zealand with the policies of our own government. It is clear, what James Petras was pointing out to the American public as the major flaws in the report is exactly the same flaws the New Zealand government has taken on board and has seriously impacted, in a negative way, the lives of many New Zealanders.

In comparison with the Bipartisan Commission mentality, John Key and his government has not only initiated a class struggle between the poor and the rich, but has also widened the gap between the poor and the rich.

Furthermore, the government seems to be forcing, and doing it with great success, the poor and unemployed to leave New Zealand in droves so only the rich may benefit from its current policies; and this has come about because the government has failed miserably in its efforts to fulfil election promises. The government has failed, not because of the present economic situation, but of bad policies and vision.

I remember, just before the last election, John Key and Phil Goff squaring off on television regarding each of their party’s plans to get New Zealand out of its economic crisis, and John Key in criticising the Labour party’s economic policies asked Phil Goff to “show me the money”; and we all know John Key’s remark sealed the fate of the Labour party at the polls.

But, now the shoe is on the other foot. We are now asking John Key and the government to show us the jobs; show us the houses; show us affordable health care; show us the benefits; show us the tax cuts and wage increases, show us the increase in schools and  teacher-students’ ratio; and show us affordable home ownership. In hindsight, Phil Goff may have had the right policies and Labour could very well be showing us the money today. But, that is now water under the bridge.

For the moment, the only thing I have seen so far being shown to New Zealanders by the government is the unemployment lines, the soup kitchen lines, the children poverty lines, the benefit cuts lines, the  lack of health care lines, the overseas mass exodus lines, the billion dollars in foreign banks’ profits going overseas lines, and the families sleeping in cars and in the streets’ lines. It is not hard to see that government policies and plans are not working; and yet the government has continued to convince itself and insist that they are on the right track.

But, the only track that I see right now is one that sacrifices the poor to save the rich. For starters, the government, despite its best intentions, has continuously, and sometimes one wonders if deliberately, turned a blind eye on the manufacturing, mining, and hospitality businesses closing down, and seems to be quite happy with jobs being lost at an alarming rate.

Furthermore, the government has cut as many benefits as it can so that many of the people already poor continues to be poor as more money is made available to give huge pay rises to those who had erred in their duties to serve the public. The government has also cut wages so that employers can pocket more profit while workers remain poor; it has continued to pull down many Housing NZ houses with only a handful of new houses being built, forcing many families with children to live and sleep in cars and in the streets.

The government has closed schools, especially the schools much needed for high risk children; less help will be provided for them as more job losses continue with the possibility of young criminals in the making. There is also the fact that the government has invested and used foreign owned banks for its day to day transactions which has contributed to the massive profits banks make and take out of New Zealand to benefit our Aussie cousins across the ditch.

And all of these things that the government seems to have initiated, is for what purpose again? So that the poor families, the unemployed, the non recipient of benefits, the un-housed New Zealanders, the un-helped high risk children, and the hungry school children that are mainly of Pacific Islands descent, will eventually be fed up with their circumstances and forced to leave New Zealand; continuing the trend that has so far surpassed all previous emigration records.

But, in doing so, the government will continue to believe it is achieving its policies and goals, by using the massive exodus of its citizens as a means to reduce unemployment, reduce poor and poverty stricken families, reduce the demand for housing, lessened high risk children and their parents complaining about their schools being closed, lessened people claiming benefits, lessened money spent on Health services, and most importantly, it will save the government huge sums of money to pay its incompetent public servants well.

And that folks is the reason why the government appears to promote the idea that everything is going to plan – to sacrifice the poor to save the rich. And to back this up, I could not help but LOL and go OMG at the Minister of Housing, Phil Heatley’s, effort in trying to beat a dead horse last week, when he suggested that the government’s action plan for affordable housing was ‘well underway” (on the right track)!

We all know it’s a myth when one talks about ostriches sticking their heads in the sand when trying to avoid attention, and I am certainly not suggesting that the Housing Minister has had his head in a hole. But, the fact that he does not realise that the government’s affordable housing plan is not only not well underway, but it is definitely not going anywhere, may suggest he has played ostrich. Phil Heatley suggests that, “we owe it to the people who are finding the going tough, and to our 200,000 State house tenants, to find better options on a scale that will relieve housing pressures and boost productivity”.

In the tradition of the Prime Minister John Key, I say to Phil Heatley, “show me the houses.” Phil Heatley has not being watching the news on television and reading the newspapers, otherwise he would not have being so blunt to say that the government’s plan for affordable housing was well underway. It seems to me, Phil Heatley’s intention is to pull the wool over the eyes of the poor and the homeless by keeping them in a constant state of high expectation that plenty of houses would be made available soon. And if that was not enough to suggest the poor and the under-privileged were being taken to the slaughter by the government, then the closing down of two schools for high risk children by the Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, has confused all my senses.

I can’t help but agree with Chris Hipkins when he said, “these schools often represent the last hope for some of the most vulnerable kids in the education system. They need a level of intensive support that regular schools just struggle to provide.” Putting high risk students with other students will be like mixing water with oil; it will disrupt learning for both kind of students. But, then again, it is not about the welfare of the high risk children or any other children, but cutting jobs to save money, and to sacrifice people to save the rich.  And if the parody continues to flow, believe me, it is unintentional.

But, I cannot help it but close with the announcement by the Internal Affairs Minister, Chris Tremain, that passports will be cheaper, especially after overhearing a conversation between three unemployed youths with no benefits to their names at Mt Roskill on the same subject, in which one of them jokingly said the cheaper passports is an invitation by the government to all the poor, unemployed, and no benefit families to leave New Zealand. One of the youths in the group responded, “how many of us does the government want to sacrifice?” To which one of the youths laughed and said, “if they [government] pay for my airfare, I will be outta here in a flash.”

I wanted to comfort them but I just minded my own business, and let them be, as I believe we are done with words; what’s needed is a helping hand. But, let’s not give up our struggle for a more prosperous New Zealand; and remember, continue to seek the peace and prosperity of this country to which God has given us to dwell. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper…



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