Mugwump’s 4th: Expansions and Contractions, MMT and the rise of the New Left

Around six months ago WordPress sent a reminder that The Post was four years old.
What to write to mark the occasion?
Expansions and contractions as a theme, perhaps a prediction or two?
Contractions were easy enough.

Turnbull? Nothing to see here. Gone by December.

Shorten and the ALP?
File under expansions, but only just, thanks to an election campaign so dull that the Romanov’s could have used it as cutlery.
When it came down to the line and a choice between Malc’s ‘softer’ version of Abbott’s balls-to-the-wall neo-liberalism and Bill’s neo-lib lite, the electorate decided on the pedigree and not the mutt. Keep moving.

The Greens? File under contractions.
Lost a seat rather than gained any in 2016. To add to their woes, former leader Bob Brown continues to hover over the party in the manner of a fart at wedding, and while Di Natale tries hard, he comes across as being less effectual than South Park’s Mr. Garrison.
If The Greens hope to regain lost ground and at the same time gain more, the clear choice for leadership rests with Scott Ludlum.
Why? Because Ludlum has it and Di Natale doesn’t, in the same way that Whitlam had it and Calwell didn’t.
Calwell was bound by the ideals and methodology of the past, Whitlam offered radical change and new directions in the same manner that Corbyn has revived the Labour party in Britain.

Which brings the focus back to expansions.

The most rapid expansion has come from what could loosely be called ‘The New Left’, and its driving engine of Modern Monetary Theory or M.M.T. as a counter to ‘Supply side’ economics.

Five years ago, Bill Mitchell’s name was known only among his peers, a softly spoken professor of Economics at the University of Newcastle, who liked to play guitar in a reggae band on week-ends.

No longer.

Mitchell, who has been quietly and steadily championing the cause of Keynesian based economic theory with its instance of increased government deficit spending to create a secure and healthy economy is now much in demand, as are University of Missouri’s Stephanie Kelton and L. Randall Wray.

Mitchell and Kelton were invited to advise Corbyn and the British Labour Party, in preparation for the 2020 election, and Kelton went straight from advising Bernie Sanders camp to briefing Corbyn, explaining how governments can re-nationalize private entities that had once been public services, create full employment, and tackle climate change without “sending the country broke”.
While MMT was growing rapidly, it remained largely in the realm of Economics wonks.

Enter Ellis Winningham.

Winningham, who describes himself as; “An Economist, and writer with a sense of humor” understands and uses social media to maximum effect ripping away the usual graphs and equations complete with signs and arrows that normally used to illustrate economic theory and follows the fundamental principle of clear communication; make the seemingly complex simple and not the simple complex

For a younger generation now feeling the full brunt of ‘trickle down” economics however, Winningham’s plain speaking and ‘take no prisoner’s’ approach offers easy to understand answers to why they can’t get a job, and why arguments that governments must make cuts to avoid ‘ballooning deficits to avoid living off our children’s future’, are lies and scare tactics:

“Unemployment and poverty are man-made things; they are creatures of Congress, of Parliament, of those who authorize the spending of national governments”.

“There is no borrowing on behalf of taxpayers”.

“Show me the conclusive evidence submitted by anyone in the mainstream; politicians, the media, economists, that ‘backs up the mainstream claim’ that the federal government collects dollars through taxation and then uses those dollars to pay for federal spending because the federal government has no ‘money’ of its own. Go ahead. Search for it. You will NEVER find it”.
“Now, the nonsense needs to stop! It simply must stop!”

But how to stop it ?

Which brings us to the New Left.

There is a new Left, in its infancy and growing rapidly. It is driven by two forces; Climate change and unemployment. There are other issues such as Immigration and human rights as well, but the primary focus is on the above. Its mobilization is fluid thanks to social media and yet while it shares many of the ideals of the ‘traditional’ Left; social justice, full employment, and anti-war. It does not have an identifiable leadership in the style of the ‘new Left’ of the 60s, such as Tom Hayden or Daniel Ellsberg, but rather draws influence from the likes of Naomi Klein, David Attenborough or Elon Musk.

Its ear and voice are global.

Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders are its early manifestations and while neither Corbyn or Sanders reached their goal, they serve to light the way for others – and there will most certainly be others.

It has become dynamic. Activist groups have increased in number on a multiplicity of levels from union support for striking concrete workers in Qatar, to human rights abuses on Nauru and Manus Island. From the destruction of rainforests in the Amazon to the destruction of rainforests in Australia. Unlike the past, its supporters are linked world wide and able to mobilize instantly through social media.

In his memoir Once a Jolly Comrade, former member of the Australian Communist Party, Keith McEwan wrote; “that despite all our efforts, the consciousness of many of our fellow workers did not progress. Some of them could not see further than the nearest pub. Their sole interest seemed to be racehorses and football.”

Unfortunately for McEwan, he lived in a time of government commitment to full employment and award wages. The average Australian worker of the day earned a livable wage, could usually afford to buy a house, and still have enough left over from their weekly wage to spend at the pub.

This is no longer the case, and it is not surprising that facing a life of permanent unemployment, un-affordable housing and education, that the new Left leans towards a neo Marxism espoused by Picketty’s ‘Capital in the Twenty First Century’ rather than the tradition Marxism of The Communist Manifesto.

In other words, a revived Socialism determined to sweep away the injustices of neo-liberalism and create an equitable and environmentally responsible global community. The voice of the new Left speaks with a savage satire found in comedians such as Tom Walker (Jonathon Pie), John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, while cartoonists First Dog on the Moon, David Rowe, Simon Kneebone et al. prove again that a picture is worth a thousand words.
The voice of the new Left is the Voice of the Hive. It is an angry voice and growing louder .

File that under ‘rapidly expanding’.











Drop the Dead Cat!

Week Two of the election we had to have.

For those who came in late, last week the story that wouldn’t go away was Duncan Storrer’s question to the Q&A panel.

As this weeks follies draw to a close, the buzz-word on everybody’s lips is “Dead Cat”, a response to Peter Dutton’s painfully stupid comments on border protection earlier in the week.

In case you’ve been living in a cave for the past few days, the term arises from the technique of providing a distraction to draw attention away from issues embarrassing to the government of the day.

When the penny dropped with the MSM that Dutton had provided the afore mentioned moggie mort, to draw the heat away from the Duncan Storrer story, pundits at Fairfax and The Guardian leapt to their word processors in a frenzy of inspired hind-sight and churned out six nearly identical stories, each including a long winded explanation of the meaning of the phrase. Even First Dog on the Moon got into the act!

But what does it all mean?
Not much really. The heat from the Storrer story was getting hotter and there was a chance that some bright young wonk might accidentally mention the dreaded ‘U-word’; Unemployment. An issue that neither party wants to bring to the fore.

The Coalition because it casts a shadow over Malc’s mantra of ‘Jobson Groeth’, especially in the light of the latest unemployment figures from giggle department down at the ABS.

Let’s face it, it’s difficult to sell a shining vision of economic growth built on abolishing penalty rates and cutting wages at the best of times, without some bespectacled Morlock popping up and asking awkward questions on national television.

Labor’s not too keen to discuss unemployment either, with Shorten vacillating whether the ALP will pull its finger out and return to its root commitment of full employment , a move that would necessitate larger deficits, or make a feeble attempt to convince the electorate that “Labor will reduce unemployment to 5%”.

Try harder, Bill.

With over a million Australians under or unemployed, a return to full employment is a walk up start for votes, and try to keep in mind that deficits aren’t a good thing or a bad thing – they’re a necessary thing.

“…Would you like wages with that?”
No wonder the arches are golden. According to Fairfax, Macca’s, Woolies and Coles have been microwaving a sweet deal with the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) and short dicking staff on wages to the tune of $50mill a year.

Described as “the famously employer friendly” union, as well as ‘Labor’s largest union affiliate” (insert Dead Cat here), the SDA is latest devolution of the Groupers, a jolly collection of right wing catholics of the 40s and 50s who banded together to fight communist influence in the Union movement and were strongly influential in keeping the ALP out of government for 23 years- star player and head-kicker for the team; Bob Santamaria.

Things weren’t looking so good for Ronald and friends this time last year with global profits down by 15%  and business analysts shaking their heads and muttering about having “a long way to go to becoming a sexy brand.”

By October, Macca’s had their mojo back according to Market Watch with shares jumping 7% to $US109.66 on Wall St. In Australia, MacDonald’s profit margin increased by 2% to a low fat $2.4 billion. Clearly a sound reason to underpay the workers by $50 million a year.
“… Would you like to try a union approved Chicken Grouper Burger with that – it’s a combination of right wings and arseholes.”

“…Would you like wages with that?” 2

Shock, horror! Greens leader Richard Di Natale has been unmasked as a closet neo-con and plantation capitalist after it was revealed that he had payed a pair of au-pair girls as little as $3.75 an hour (…wonder if they were SDA members?) on the advice of a “pay roll services company.”

It also appeared that in keeping a long standing tradition among politicos, Dick had forgotten to declare his farm as part of his assets. Perhaps Dickie’s been pal-ing around with Arthur ‘Mr Memory’ Sinodinos.

Di Natale was quick to offer a plausible explanation but the damage has been done.

Never mind Richard, chances are that you may get to spend a lot more time at ‘Twin Gums’ after the election. The Greens support for changes to the rules governing independent candidates election to the Senate has not sat well with many of the party faithful nor with admirers of democracy in general.

Independents may be the bug-bear of the major parties, but the electorate like the idea of non-aligned senators ‘keeping the bastards honest’ and analysts forecast dire consequences for The Greens on polling day, with some predicting that the party will be reduced to one seat in the Senate.
If the predictions are correct, then Dickie’s term as leader will be very short-lived.

Scott Ludlam, anyone?

Shiny, happy people
As Friday rolled around, Dutton’s dead moggie had done its job and the usual sense of idiocy was restored across our wide brown land.
Barely a word was mentioned about the government’s total lack of direction or the disunity tearing it apart.
Malc, damping down Dutton’s idiotic declarations while looking his shiny, happy, bag of shit self, assured voters that Australia’s multicultural success was due to “strong border protection” which would be put at risk if Labor were to regain government.
Malc reminded one and all that; “there is barely I day goes by that I don’t celebrate that we are the most successful and harmonious multicultural nation in the world.”

No doubt Malc toasts the notion with a glass of chilled Rothschild ’57 while reminiscing that the waves of migrants who came to Australia under the Columbo Plan usually voted Liberal despite coming from countries with socialist or left leaning governments.

It’s bit hard to convince the current lot about the joys to be found in a free-market economy by voting Conservative when you imprison, torture and rape them or drive them to suicide.

That’s it for this week, let’s see what Week Three brings.