Thursday, 18 August 2011

Doing The Devil's Work

The Work Of Idle Hands: It's "jobs, jobs, jobs - and the taxes needed to pay for them - that we must have if we really do want to "keep the Devil down in the hole".

THE DEVIL, it is said, makes work for idle hands. And what hot work it can be! This past week, in London, Birmingham and Manchester, his handiwork has been prime-time viewing. In the baleful light of burning shops and offices, hundreds of hooded imps have auditioned for their roles in the fires below. A sort of Britain’s Got Talent … for Arson, Looting and Riotous Affray – with Lucifer sitting-in for Simon Cowell.

His Infernal Majesty, you see, takes many forms as he makes his way to-and-fro upon the earth. Sometimes he travels in the guise of a wizened media magnate; on other occasions he stretches out in the scented garden of a Tuscan villa; but always, your best chance of encountering the diabolical is on those well-worn paths between the world’s banks and the world’s treasuries.

Money, you see, or, more accurately, the excessive love of money, lies at the root of all evil. So when the Devil speaks it’s almost always in the language of transfer payments, fiscal deficits, debt ceilings, quantitative easing and … moral hazard.

Who else but the Devil would design a system which regularly swings a mighty scythe through the job market and then, having cast all those cut off from their livelihoods into a pitiless bureaucratic labyrinth dubbed (with Orwellian malevolence) “Welfare”, left them with a sum carefully calculated to keep them in a state of acute and unrelenting fiscal anxiety?

And, since torture ceases to be torture the moment it becomes bearable, only a truly diabolical agency would then demand that the people it has just confirmed as unemployed immediately embark on an endless quest for jobs that either do not exist, or will only be filled by those already in employment. Failure to participate in this cruel and confidence-destroying process will, of course, result in the “job-seekers’” vicious bureaucratic harassment, up to and including the arbitrary cessation of their meagre dole and threats of legal action.

Not that the Devil lacks humour. Taking the likeness of middle-aged public servant, he recently proposed that the refined tortures already tested on the unemployed be now applied to the physically and/or mentally ill, the disabled, and those attempting, single-handedly, to raise a young family on the Domestic Purposes Benefit.

THE NATIONAL PARTY is, of course, an old hand when it comes to translating the best of the Devil’s jokes into government policy. And what makes Lucifer laugh the loudest is how very few political conservatives understand that this is what they are doing.

How he must have chortled to hear New Zealand’s prime minister earnestly inform National’s annual conference that his government was going to teach young people self-reliance by paying their bills for them. Or that the key to solving unemployment lies in training 16-18-year-olds (who have just spend 10-13 years in the education system) for jobs that do not exist. And what a belly-laugh the Devil must have enjoyed to hear Mr Key and his Minister of Social Development, Paula Bennet, confirm that in order to foster adult responsibility, 18-25-year-olds would henceforth be regarded as children.

WHAT THE DEVIL would not find the least bit funny, however, is the work of Dale Williams, the Mayor of Otorohanga.

Mr Williams has grasped the simple truth that the way to teach young people responsibility, integrate them successfully into their communities, and give them a sense of personal pride in their achievements, is to make sure that their communities put them to work on a decent wage.

Otorohanga boasts zero youth unemployment, and all the other indices of social dysfunction among its youthful citizens have plummeted. The secret to Otorohanga’s success lies not only in its understanding that young hands must not be left idle, but also in knowing the critical importance of putting them to work in their own community – the place they call home.

NONE OF THIS IS NEW.  In 1977, two US politicians, former Vice-President, Senator Hubert Humphrey, and a Black American congressman from Los Angeles, Augustus Hawkins, jointly introduced the Full Employment Bill. Not only did “Humphrey-Hawkins” enshrine the right of every American to gainful employment, but it also provided that if the private sector, alone, couldn’t sustain full-employment, the federal government would intervene to fill the gap.

As originally drafted, the Full Employment Bill required a radical enhancement of the Federal Government’s revenue base – which, presumably, is why President Jimmy Carter’s soulless administration watered it down to a pale shadow of its sponsors’ original intent. In the new era of right-wing economics ushered in by Ronald Reagan, “Humphrey-Hawkins” became even less than that – a shadow of a shadow.

But, they were right. It’s “jobs, jobs, jobs” – and the taxes needed to pay for them – that we must have if we really do want to “keep the Devil down in the hole”.

This essay way originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 16 August 2011.


Anonymous said...

What's just as bad is that governments keep giving jobs to those who already have them. I could have done with Jim Bolger's job for instance having about as much experience at banking as him i.e. none - or Chris Laidlaw's who does National Radio on Sundays.

Jack Scrivano said...

Well said, Chris – as usual. But I notice that even you skirt around the big issue: What are these jobs that the public and private sectors are supposed to create? If you have some good ideas, I’d love to hear them.

bsprout said...

Excellent post, Chris.If you don't treat young people respectfully you can't expect them to respond responsibly, something Britain has discovered the hard way.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't some of the unemployed oversee CERA (10x$100/day= 500/week each = Jenny Shipleys renumeration)?

Anonymous said...

Chris you are quick to condemn the nasty bankers for what has happened but completely overlook the evils of socialist governments that created the problem in the first place. The subprime crisis was created when Democrats told the private sector they could not operate prudently - i.e. they could not decline to loan money to individuals that couldn't afford to pay it back.


Anonymous said...

Welfare – an Orwellian word indeed. Some years ago my husband died suddenly and I was forced to apply for a partial widow’s benefit to supplement my earnings, so all I needed was a percentage of a pittance. I was 57 and had never had dealings with WINZ. Naively, I thought it would be a meeting of equals but I soon discovered it was a power situation and I was the underdog.

Allie said...

Just to display my pickiness for all to see:

The original verse says:
The love of money is A root of all KINDS of evil.

Anonymous said...

Paranormal - that blatant right-wing lie has been thoroughly debunked a thousand times, as you know full well.

Face it, Para, as the world is fully aware, the Right has had free rein for thirty years and the resultant disaster is writ large all around.

Sniff the breeze, sunshine. Your disgusting worship of Greed and oppression is about to reap its inevitable harvest. The sooner the better.

But do keep it up. The building firestorm of anger is mightily fuelled by you and your fellow paranormals' continuing compulsive lies and utter, bare-faced gall in the face of the repulsive reality you have created.


Anonymous said...

Ah, no ak, it hasn't been discounted. Like climategate and other lefty denials, there's no substance to it. The facts remain. The only reason why the banks had this sub prime business on their books was they were forced to take it. Full stop. I don't suggest the banks are blame free but the root cause is the Government meddling, starting from the peanut farmer.

But lets look wider afield then for evil socialist governments causing grief. Greece for example - spending other peoples money to buy votes unsustainably. How long did they expect that to last?

As for compulsive lies and bare faced gall - look no further than the left. How many examples do you need from local and international lefties of lies and corruption to see your vitriol is misguided?


Chris Trotter said...

To: Paranormal

Although you almost certainly have no interest in acquiring an accurate picture of what caused the Global Financial Crisis, I will (because we will not be seeing you again at Bowalley Road) recommend Matt Taibbi's excellent study of the crisis - "Griftopia".

The reason we will not be seeing you again is because I have made a policy decision to ban all climate-change deniers from Bowalley Road.

Having learned something of the historical, intellectual and corporate origins of the forces behind the denialist position, I am simply unwilling to provide its promoters with the one thing they need for the strategy to succeed - a platform.


Michael said...

Chris, I am heartened by the argument and conclusion of your article. I also think that government should foster good processes in the community more than instigate its own politically motivated schemes. The young people of Otorohanga are apparently employed by individuals or businesses in their community. Someone helped that to happen, or happen better. That is the job of government. Qualms about taking tax from the rich hinge on the idea that the rich make jobs with their money. That is not happening enough. Perhaps businesses should be able to take on extra employees tax free (i.e. they keep the PAYE)? Increase the percentage on top income earners to fill the gap? By the way Allie, my old black King James version says 'the root of all evil'.

Anonymous said...

Always an entertaining read from Chris. Like most social problems, it appears to me the product of that fatal cocktail: new right economics mixed with social liberalism, which has been the norm in Britain and here for 3 decades. Like Britain, we desperately need a government focussed on jobs and fair wages, like the Labour I used to believe in, but we also need to admit how badly social liberalism (specifically in the areas of family breakdown and welfare dependency) has failed us. This has been regularly and eloquently summarised by “Brendan” on these pages. Like Britain, we get the opposite to what we need, which in my view is a traditional class-focussed Labour movement combined with traditional family-oriented social policy.

Matthew Collins said...

I agree with Micheal the KJV Version of the Bible's exact words are 1 Timothy 6:10 "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."

Of Course Allie is probably using a different version of the Bible then Michael and I..the NIV Version perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Chris, I would recommend you have a read of
It is not about the science of global warming, rather it is about the failure of the fourth estate to bring the public along with them.