"Once again, nothing in it for me," said 'Single Dad' in the comments section of a Sydney Morning Herald analysis from Adele Ferguson describing Wayne Swan's fifth budget as 'Class Warfare'. Over at 'The Heart of the Nation', meanwhile, the splash was 'Smash the Rich, Save the Base', with Swan and Gillard seen leading an angry mob against a hammer and sickle backdrop.
Apparently, in this new Tea Party, Fox News-inspired world where the facts are optional, socialism is defined as any measure that involves redistribution of any kind - as if the entire post World War II edifice of the mixed economy was a mirage. Personal inputs via the tax system must be balanced by equivalent personal benefits - or as one SMH poster observed:
"Does that person on $1m use more roads, more hospitals, more public schools? Do they go on welfare, take unemployment benefits? They probably have private healthcare and send their children to private schools. A conclusion based on reality would be that they are actually pulling everyone else."And there we have it folks - the new reality in Australia. Our taxation system works like a bank account. You take out what you put in. And if you choose to send your kids to private schools, the government owes you a tax rebate for the expense. If you're stuck in a low-wage job and can't afford necessities or if you're unemployed, that's your own damned fault. So HTFU.
Meanwhile, the scribblers of the press gallery spin every story to fit the current Meta Narrative that "This Hopeless Government is Doomed and Must Be Put Out of its Misery at the Earliest Opportunity" (subtext: because we love election campaigns and the story is just too damned good to give up on now). The punning headlines of 'Swan Song' and 'Black Swan' would have been assembled way before the Treasurer even stood up in parliament.
As is now customary in Australia, the political argument over the budget consists of a battle between the Hairy Chested and the Even More Hairy Chested. ("You Call THAT a surplus? I'll show you a surplus!") So we had Joe Hockey running around, saying the Coalition would cut even deeper and tap 20,000 public servants on the arm rather than 3000. In other words, according to the conservatives, a budget that already projects the greatest fiscal turnaround in the last 40 years (a 3% improvement in the budget bottom line) is not tough enough. Right.
Perhaps at this point, it is pertinent to check in with the real capitalists in the financial markets. What did they say about the budget?
- HSBC: "Australia's fiscal position is very strong compared with the bulk of the developed world. With current net government debt of 9.6% of GDP, Australia's triple AAA sovereign rating seems secure. We also agree that it is an appropriate goal for the government to be aiming to balance the budget on average."
- CBA: "The government deserves some credit for sticking with its fiscal guns and adhering to the exit strategy laid out for the post-GFC environment. And they deserve some credit for finding sufficient savings to fund some new measures and offset the impact of the patchwork economy on the Budget parameters."
- FITCH RATINGS: "(Australia) is already a standout in ratings strength, having giving it a demonstrable capacity to absorb fiscal and economic shocks. Delivering budget surpluses over the coming years will depend on implementing a mix of tax and spending measures that build on its strong economic and fiscal starting points. Even If the economy unexpectedly slows, it is likely that any deficit in the coming financial year will be small. And over the medium term we would give credit for successfully implemented fiscal consolidation that helped reverse the government debt trajectory."
Just as a point of reference for those saying Australia is on the verge of the economic apocalypse, the Financial Times reports today that in Greece and Spain, the proportion of young people between the ages of 15 and 25 who are now without a job is 51 per cent, in Portugal it is 36 per cent and Ireland, it is 30 per cent. The IMF forecasts that the economies of Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain will shrink this year.
Now put all that in the context of the headlines in today's papers and ask yourself: How unhinged, how out of touch, how completely divorced from global reality are our media? What ARE they on?