Letter from The Cape Podcast – Episode 11

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Episode 11 of my – Podcast – Letter from The Cape – is now available.

In this episode we reflect on the recent Royal Commission report in Australia into the Robodebt scandal where conservative government ministers and senior public servants designed and implemented a scheme that was knowingly illegal, and, which imposed untold harm on the most disadvantaged citizens in our society. Some committed suicide as a result of being hounded by government and their hire debt collectors to repay debts that were not even valid and had been assessed by an out of control and flawed computer algorithm. This episode really is the culmination of decades of mistreatment of the unemployed by government.

Duration: 5:34

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Bill you end with the statement:

    “The fact that governments continue to use mass unemployment as a tool to advantage the employers is one of the scandals of the neoliberal era and is in no small part the result of our indifference to the calamities faced by the most fragile in our society.”

    I think we need to consider the advantage to the majority of consumers of price stabilisation and the role of consumers in maintaining the status quo. How much higher prices will consumers tolerate to support full employment? Will this require a move back to a tariff regime?

    I note that Sally McManus of the ACTU yesterday spoke up against the use of unemployment to control inflation contra conventional economics and politics.


    And I would agree with her.

    However, I see no movement away from conventional economic and political thinking ie away from
    that which continues to preference the unemployment buffer approach.

    So, what needs to be done to move towards the employment buffer approach (the Job Guarantee)?

    It seems to me that criticism of conventional politics and economics is not enough to achieve change. It seems to me that an action plan is much needed.

  2. The ACTU/Sally McManus have been and remain captive of the ALP and want to stay favourably in with the current neoliberal government. MSM media continues with its personality reporting of the he said/she said economics instead of going to the substance of the problem and offering up an alternative in place of a continuation of more of the same. That is, apart from the analysis and critical thought from an historical perspective as produced by the lone intelligent voice of the ABC’s Gareth Hutchens.

    Hutchens has been building a continuum of articles from back to explaining the time of coining of the “dole bludger” moniker through to the current day which are well worth noting. His latest consecutive articles https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-07-09/robodebt-inflation-targeting-economists-and-unemployment/102575336 and https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-07-16/unemployment-has-caused-suicide-in-australia-findings-show/102605940 display an astute understanding of making the case for change and putting forward thoughtful solutions to be pursued in place of the status quo.

    In the first of the above articles, Hutchens understands how important it is to refer back to historical support to make his case. An economist that does history is vital. Mitchell, Keen and Hudson all draw on the past to explain the present and make the case for solutions to the politico-economic messes we get into but so far they haven’t broken through. I remain of the view that the true functionings of fiat money must be understood by the decision makers, and many more in the public domain, to ipso facto show what and how that flows into solutions for change.

    It is notable that the first above referenced article didn’t attempt to introduce mention of a Job Guarantee as that would be a step too far and likely take away from the point he’s trying to drive home. However, that article laid the groundwork and left the opening for the follow up article that could include a proposal for a JG: “One might suggest that such a change in political attitudes would have a greater chance of succeeding if our methods of macro-economic management were also overhauled, to support the necessary cultural and political change.”

    There is a natural progression in the second of those articles to: “Instead, they [the government] should guarantee a secure and socially useful job at a living wage for anyone who wants one. Properly understood, this is what the right to work is truly about,”.

    What remains is the unstated and unanswered “How’re ya gunna pay for it?” wailings of the orthodoxy/neoliberals. However, that leaves an opportunity for a future article to explain how money actually works and that the economy is not about money but resources available for purchase by the currency.

    And not a “horrifying” mention of MMT anywhere to be seen.

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