“The only one who matters is me.” Donald J Trump
The Great Satan, as the US was to Iran in the ’70s, morphs into The Angel of Mons last week. Or at least that’s the lie peddled by its fabulist President. Heroically compassionate, a Walter Mitty Trump averts catastrophe; pulls back from the brink of war with Iran, Friday, with ten minutes to spare, when a general tells him that 150 Iranian lives are at risk.
Sceptics prefer less noble versions of events. Trump blabs. He brags, Thursday, to Tehran via Oman, that US planes are on their way; taking the surprise out of last Friday’s surprise attack, an unprovoked air strike on three targets, which, MSM insist, is “retaliation” for Iran downing one US drone. And other stuff. Why, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is giving secret briefings on Iran’s Al-Qaeda relationship – despite expert advice to the contrary. What hasn’t Iran done?
There’s its alleged nuclear program defiance; its alleged flouting of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Attacks on tankers in the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman? Six oil tankers and a downed drone. Clear proof of Iranian perfidy. But, then just as the hawks in Trump administration have a war all organised, Trump has to blow it with his big mouth.
Reuters reports that Trump tells Iran US planes are coming, before he countermands his order to attack, a scenario which The Donald now denies. More fake news from a rogue news agency? Few observers, however, share Trump’s heroic view of his own SNAFU. Politizoom’s Dino Durrati is dumbfounded by the president’s error.
What would be stupider than starting a war with the Mid-East’s largest and most militarily capable U.S. adversary over what was essentially an Amazon delivery gone astray? “How about ordering U.S. planes in the air against one of the most sophisticated air defences in the region while warning said adversaries they were coming?”
What would be even dumber would be an Iranian adventure on top of his trade wars. Trump is on the edge of a war his populist presidency doesn’t want or need. “Great Nations do not fight endless wars”, the President declares, in his State of the Union address, a line he repeats, last week, at a rally to launch his re-election campaign circus.
But can he stay out of a war? He’s not looking for a war he says but promises obliteration if there’s conflict. Tough talk. We’ve heard this sort of rhetoric before. North Korea. What Trump does seem to grasp is that a war will lose him votes.
Trump certainly doesn’t have the nous not to provoke a disastrous global trade war. That’s clear from his quip that trade wars are “good and easy to win”. He could only say that if he knew nothing about them. Surely.
Trump’s view of trade is based on overestimating how much trade hurts the US, while underestimating the effect of imposing tariffs. ScoMo’s mentor, Trump, believes the US is losing $400 billion to China because that’s the size of its trade deficit with that nation. It’s a view which ignores the value of imports; focusing instead only on the amount paid.
It’s like saying that we lose money anytime we go shopping anywhere, because stores aren’t buying anything from us in return says The Washington Post’s Matt O’Brien. Blow up the world trade system? Meh. What could possibly go wrong?
From our gung-ho ScoMo government, ever-promising to protect us – “burn for us” – comes peak silence. Our “media-shy” foreign minister Marise Payne is MIA, although, to be fair, she’s got Malaysia’s Mahathir to set straight about MH17. Luckily, there’s heaps of stuff from Neoliberalism for Dummies for ScoMo to eagerly recite instead.
“Animal Spirits” will be unleashed, ScoMo proclaims, in a dreary rehash of clichés, Monday . The PM copies The Donald, conflating Keynes’ phrase with consumer confidence and laissez-faire economics. Why? “Animal spirits” will roar like a lion when we release the cage of “regulatory and bureaucratic barriers to businesses.” But why so late?
The Coalition has had six years to deregulate. Yet it still can provide no detail. Nor point to any record of success. Perhaps it’s just too modest. In the news currently is Private Security Company, Paladin, awarded $423 million to garrison Manus, without having to worry about an open tender. Or there’s the $444 million quietly slipped to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation a mob of Liberal mates headed up by a former CBA chairman, Dr John M Schubert.
Then there’s Fossil-fuel Energy minister, Angus Taylor, who’s held talks with federal environment officials over an issue at the centre of an illegal land-clearing action brought by the same department against a company part-owned by him and his brother, reports Guardian Australia. We should cheer the healthy disregard for regulation and the way the government appears to back the Taylor family in its alleged quest to bend the rules to help the Taylors to a better life.
What barriers are left unbent if not unbroken in these fabulous cases? Yet no-one take ScoMo at his word. It’s more of a mantra, a phrase to chant, to drown out those voices which, like Keynes himself, advocate government stimulus. If the Coalition needed a hint, it could look at Kevin Rudd’s stimulus programmes which helped get us through the GFC.
Yet, instead, as Greg Jericho reminds us, the Liberal Party and much of the media’s own relentless criticism means that the value of Labor’s successful stimulus has been almost entirely discredited – at least – in what we flatter ourselves is our national conversation not to mention our dominant mainstream media narrative. It means that what can be shown to work is discarded in favour of vague and platitudinous neoliberal nostrums. Animal spirits will save us.
But there’s more. A “champion in every Australian” awaits the government’s support to emerge. Quiet Australians just need the Coalition to “back them in”, as they do everything they can to “get ahead and make a better life”.
Quiet Australians are the heroes of the PM’s first official ear-bash. His lucky audience is the WA Chamber of Commerce, at a “Breakfast with the Prime Minister” ($139-$1490), Monday. Animal spirits are the way the economy will run itself while governments get out of the road? Or into Hi-Vis vests? Who knows? The text of the speech is incoherent.
Sensibly dispensing with any original thinking, Morrison regurgitates the stale rhetoric he thinks the nation wants to hear in a speech which is prudently despatched to media ahead of the occasion, as a safeguard against its instant forgettability. Deregulation and IR reform quickly emerge as key buzzwords in his government’s war on workers.
Reforms that would truly spur productivity, stimulate investment and innovation have been provided for ScoMo’s reference. In 2017, the Productivity Commission supplied the then Treasurer with a swag in its Shifting The Dial Report.
Shifting the Dial focuses on improving efficiency and effectiveness in health and education and making infrastructure investments based on genuine benefit-cost analysis. Proper infrastructure pricing would include congestion pricing, land taxes, breaking up the pharmacy racket and a carbon price.
Better education levels and skills, a healthier workforce, and more efficient and effective health and education systems were all aims of The Human Capital Agenda, led by Steve Bracks’ Victorian government. The aim was to increase productivity, participation and output through these means.
But like Trump, you can’t tell a ScoMo what he doesn’t want to hear. Or can’t understand. Or suggests failure.
Wage rises are not only glacial, Australian workers are cheated of their share of the nation’s prosperity to a record extent. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows in this month’s national accounts that Australia is now in the worst wages slump – relative to total earnings – since records were first published in 1959, reports Alan Austin.
Trump’s economic miracle, a piece of wilful disinformation and self-delusion features large in ScoMo’s tiny orbit.
“While reducing taxes has had a major impact in the United States, it was actually the Trump administration’s commitment to cutting red tape and transforming the regulatory mindset of the bureaucracy that delivered their first wave of improvement in their economy.” Is there no journalist in Perth can challenge this toxic nonsense?
In fact there’s almost no response at all from mainstream media to the PM’s speech drop – apart from the AFR which takes it seriously and some doctrinaire posturing from the Australian which prints Judith Sloan hollering to bring back WorkChoices and some right wing git from the IPA who’s like Pavlov’s dog whenever deregulation appears in print.
Other of Nine’s papers run almost nothing on the speech, apart from a precis from David Crowe while the ABC is far too busy with its single-issue flat tax blather to do any analysis of the Prime Minister’s first major gum-flap. The Guardian’s Amy Remeikis fires up a bit. Bernard Keane thinks the lack of comment or analysis is a pretty poor show.
He’s right. There’s a beguiling conflict between braying for deregulation on the one hand in Perth and practically nationalising power companies by imposing – or threatening to impose heavy-handed, big stick, regulation. More important as far as workers are concerned, Howard’s WorkChoices actually caused productivity to slump. Morrison’s being inconsistent and as an economic doctor, he’s peddling an old remedy which we know will injure the patient.
As for Trump, ScoMo’s love is blind. US business leader, Leo Hindery argues Trump’s economic miracle is a mirage. Hindery’s “U.S. Real Unemployment” report challenges federal government’s statistics. Because it includes the millions of Americans who either did not look for work or cannot find full-time work, it paints a far more troubling picture.
In this light, the Trump economy’s unemployment rate is revealed to be double the official rate. Even workers with jobs eke out a bare subsistence. 40% of Americans for example, cannot afford an unexpected expense of $400, according to the Federal Reserve, yet half of the nation’s income goes to its top 3% of salary earners.
The average US worker hasn’t had a real wage increase since 1968.
“The real unemployment in this country,” argues Hindery, “is still on the order of 8.1%, which contrasts with the much lower Bureau of Labor Statistics’ unemployment rate of 4%. There’s about 13.3 million women and men who are in every sense of the phrase real unemployed workers.”
Trump’s trade wars are forcing his nation’s farmers into taking out desperation loans. Farmers have seen their net income plummet by half since 2013. It’s estimated that they will owe nearly $427 billion in debt this year. Yet there is no sense of any flaw in the Trump economic miracle if you listen to our PM, his treasurer or any other MP.
Fresh from his Fijian furlough, the master buck-passer bores yet another selfless, nation-building, tax-evading, rorty, yawning, business audience who are only there to hear about their tax cuts – surely only months away now given ScoMo’s huge mandate based on the Coalition’s thumping 1.2 % TPP election win? OK, there’s the networking.
Amy Remeikis sees red. “After six years of promising to cut red tape,” Amy Remeikis writes in The Guardian, “Morrison uses his first major speech since winning the election to promise to cut red tape.“ Perhaps it’s a bizarre homage to Tony Abbott who held his own bonfire of red tape stunt back in March 2014. ScoMo picks another dreadful mentor.
Or is it mere contempt for voters’ intelligence and an alarming public indifference toward any form of accountability? In a related stunt, in 2014, then Immigration Minister Morrison abandoned press conferences on asylum-seeker arrivals.
First, he axed his department’s practice of announcing the arrival of each boat carrying asylum seekers. A weekly briefing would replace it. Then he scrapped the weekly briefing. A weekly press release took its place. This cut journalists’ questions, entirely. Pressed for explanation, Morrison cited “public interest immunity”.
It did help the minister get home to his family in Sydney earlier at the end of the parliamentary week.
It was, Laurie Oakes protested, a “disgusting attitude to the public’s right to know”. Morrison giving journalists “the finger”, and said, “By doing that, you’re saying that you don’t care if the voters are informed or not.”
But even when Morrison used to appear, he created his own absurdist theatre of refusal of accountability and secrecy. Inventing the myth that we were at war with asylum-seekers, he helped weaponise compassion. He could embargo questions into what he called “on-water matters”. Or “operational matters”. Absurdist exchanges followed.
It’s groundhog day – mostly. ScoMo drones on about deregulation and other neoliberal clichés he fobs off as “government economic priorities”. Onya Morrison, it beats having an agenda or a mandate for anything.
And it beats doing anything yourself. Keane notes in disgust, Monday, that Scomo’s reform agenda is a re-hash of Neocon tosh the PM doesn’t have the bottle to flog himself. “We would expect business organisations such as yours to build the evidence for change and help bring the community along with you too.” The Messiah from the Shire is on fire.
The message, observes David Crowe in the SMH, astutely, is a direct call to business leaders to make the case for industrial relations “reform” – a weasel-word for attacking workers’ right – without committing Morrison’s government to any specific proposal while shifty ScoMo leaves it up to others to lead the debate.
In fact, much of Morrison’s hoary commonplaces echo a speech made just over a year ago by Craig Laundy, then Minister for Small and Family Business, the Workplace and Deregulation, whom everyone agrees has done a fabulous job in creating opportunities for wealth if the Taylor family is anything to go by.
Of course, there’s the obligatory nod to The Donald; his political mentor Trump, the economic miracle man of the moment, a natural leader of the free world and most decisive Commander in Chief in recent history, who has inspired ScoMo on how to cut red tape to “supercharge the economy” by removing regulations from the resources industry.
While toxics may mock a president who has second thoughts on war or whose administration is at war with itself, they have failed to give due credit for the ways Trump’s mob has been busily stripping protections from a staggering 13.5 million acres of American lands and waters.
A new Center for American Progress analysis shows how Trump’s executive actions make him a world leader when it comes to cutting red tape previously protecting pristine natural environments—which he claimed he’d protect. Trump’s been incredibly successful in rescinding permanent land protections and in permitting mineral extraction.
Our great and powerful friend the United States steps back from the brink of a catastrophic war with Iran, last Friday when its president blabs details of his imminent attack. But is it a United States?
It’s at least eleven separate nations according to Robert Woodard. And it shows. What passes for the Trump administration’s policy is almost as divided. Yet our nation cleaves to Uncle Sam in servile subjugation, even professing we are forever, joined at the hip. Who did save the US from catastrophic war with Iran? Did Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, an Islamophobic, misogynistic, populist, racist talk show host catch the president’s ear?
Carlson who argues against war, sways the US President into calling off a “retaliatory” missile strike on “three different sights (sic)” in Iran. Disaster is averted – at least until tomorrow’s crisis. Such is Trump’s Pax Americana,
On Saturday, Trump brands Bolton a “hawk” who had been wrong for his previous support of the U.S. invasion of Iraq during the George W. Bush administration. Trump said he doesn’t always agree with Bolton, who has called for regime change in Iran but said he likes hearing a range of views.
“Ultimately, I make the decision. The only one that matters is me. I listen to everybody. I want people on both sides,” Trump says. Of course it’s not true but it’s still too alarming to contemplate.
Luckily we have our own Trump in Morrison, who is more than happy to discard expert advice on real reform in favour of sticking with what he knows, the endless recital of neoliberal slogans about deregulation and industrial “reform” all mixed in with platitudes about backing in “quiet Australians” and lies about how well the economy is doing.
Like Trump, moreover, ScoMo’s always got someone else to blame. Expect an attack on Labor when parliament resumes next Tuesday 2 July. John Setka will be slandered.
“Union thugs” will seldom be far from our Prime Bully, ScoMo’s grab-bag of cheap insults. All remaining government energies will be focussed on passing a tax cut bill the nation neither needs nor can afford based on a trickle-down delusion. Yet no-one will explain the true cost in terms of cuts to government spending; public services.
Expect more nonsense about animal spirits and no sense at all about how a government devoid of any policy agenda and lacking any real mandate can resist all intelligence yet trust instead in a failed and totally discredited Neoliberal ideology that continues to help divide and cheat a prosperous and vital nation of its rightful heritage.