Better financial management from the prosperity Christians?

One of the arguments in the forthcoming Federal election campaign (if an election is ever called) will be that the Liberals are better economic managers than Labor.

Indeed, it will be a major thrust of the Government campaign even though the evidence since 2013 suggests they couldn’t run a chook raffle or a piss up in a brewery – to use the Bluey and Curly language the Prime Minister favours – even though he might baulk at the second colloquial phrase just in case it upset his Pentecostal brethren (of which more later).

Graham Ihlein, a former Victorian MLA, recently gave a talk to the U3A, an organisation which some deem as earnest, but which seems to have involved a huge number of people around the world since it was founded in 1973 in the UK and then got underway in Australia in the 1980s. There are now about 250 U3As throughout Australia and about 85,000 participants at any one time.

As befits a former ALP MLA Graham is of the view that Labor is better for ordinary Australians and the Libs for the ‘big end of town’ – a view that is hard to disagree with given the statistics he quotes. For instance: In 1993-94 the top 10% of Australian households “pocketed 22.3% of household disposable income and by 2009/10 that rose to 24.8%.” To make matters worse that same top 10% of households hold more than 60% of household wealth. Thomas Picketty’s argument – much derided by the usual suspects when his book first came out – demonstrates that in the modern world the amount of capital held, and the return on it, is the key determinant of increasing inequality.

Graham, also points out that: while total jobs have increased slightly more than population growth underemployment has increased so that one in eight people who now want a job are either unemployed or want more work; and, profits in 2017 and 2018 increased by 20% and 7.1% respectively while compensation to employees through extra jobs and higher wage rates grew by 2% and 4.3% in the same years. The latter measure of compensation differs from wage increase data which demonstrate that wages they lag behind inflation.

He then looked at Australian population growth (and decrease) from the first European settlement and tried to assess the benefits and costs of immigration – one of the major fears stoking some anti-immigrant fears. Graham looks at economic benefits in terms of GDP increases, fiscal benefits, revenue from students and tourists; the demographic dividend to an otherwise ageing society; cultural and reputation benefits; and, the benefits to migrants seeking a better life. He contrasts this with social and environmental costs; cultural costs; and, infrastructure, housing and transport issues.

He doesn’t draw a conclusion from these issues but rather says that we need to maximise the benefits and minimise the costs of a growing population while addressing fundamental questions of inequality. There are no glib solutions to the problems but equally the glib political assertions as to why they are problems will never produce answers.

Meanwhile the Michael West website – containing scourges of dodgy corporates, tax dodgers, government porkies and excoriation of lazy or propagandistic media – has addressed some of the same problems along with some insightful thoughts on government debt under the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison governments.

In a posting by Alan Austin said: “Australia’s gross debt ……has just clicked over the magic number of $543,409,430,000. This is exactly double all debt accumulated by every government between Federation and the 2013 election.”

“There are three stories here. The first relates to profound fiscal mismanagement, the second concerns political hypocrisy, and the third is about the performance of the mainstream media. The latter is probably the lesson which most urgently needs to be learned……and never forgotten. Throughout the Gillard years and the second, brief, Rudd administration daily newspapers and TV news continually shrieked ‘Debt spiralling out of control’, and ‘The budget in freefall’, and ‘Labor’s debt time-bomb’. The main proponents of this view were needless to say The Daily Telegraph, The Courier Mail, The Herald Sun, The Australian and, the ABC.

Austin said: “That was when Labor had added $23.4 billion in one year. Now, in contrast, after the Coalition has added an average of $54.4 billion over its last three years, not a peep from Australia’s spineless and mendacious mass media. The conclusion seems inescapable. Economics reporters and their editors in the mainstream media are paid to conceal what is actually happening in the economy. This is to maintain the myth that the Coalition manages the economy better than Labor. And thereby maintain the tax regime so beneficial for the big corporations.”

Meanwhile – why has no Australian journalist asked what the PM’s Pentecostal beliefs entail and how they affect his approach to policy? We know some of them speak in tongues as the PM demonstrates most days. It appears they may also be in the prosperity Christianity business – but what else?

When the blog visited the once a decade Oberammergau performance some years ago – partly to see the extent to which the author James Shapiro’s analysis of the passion play had purged it of anti-Semitism and influenced its overall presentation and attitudes – it was surrounded by Pentecostals and other Christian sect representatives in the audience and at the meals provided in guest hotels in between acts. Indeed, the blog suspects it and wife were the only atheists in the audience and kept schtum when a lunchtime companion – when discovering we were Australians (you didn’t get to choose where you ate) – enthused about the work his daughter was doing with the Sydney Hillsong group.

But the clincher of these religious perspectives on the performance was the behaviour of an American a couple of rows in front of the blog who was constantly leafing through a Bible muttering about how they weren’t keeping to the story. It was a pity that caused him to miss out on most of what an atheist blog found to be a fascinating performance from amateurs drawn from a small community seen by thousands once every decade. It is one of the few remaining passion plays and one which even atheists can appreciate.