This isn’t anyone of my generation’s first rodeo, in terms of crisis and the response to crisis. Just on the financial front, everything feels a lot like 2008 and yet somehow worse than 2008 — if only because the billionaires are still managing to accumulate wealth at a time when economic activity for most people has almost entirely stopped. At least in 2008 you got the satisfaction of watching banking staff carry cardboard boxes out of their big shiny offices, as their entire debt-laden grift structure fell apart under the stress and strains of its contradictions.
The solution then was simple. Refloat the majority of banks, let a few go under and then do a decades worth of austerity on public services to pay for it. This, we were told, was how we stopped things from getting really bad.
Things are really bad. For many they’ve been really bad for more than a decade, since before 2008 and they’ve continued to worsen. Watching the financial services industry completely burn down and then watching your public services be sacrificed to rebuild it was instructive for some. It demonstrated that capitalism cannot bring about a disaster upon itself that is so great those in government would consider making significant structural changes to the system.
This obviously borrows a lot from Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism, a book I started reading again after Labour’s deeply disappointing big budget of this month. Grant Robertson had talked up the big changes ‘if your house burns down, you wouldn’t rebuild it the same way’ in the week before. Could this be genuine transformation?
Fuck. No. Instead what we got was a bog-standard centrist Labour Party budget with extra zeroes on the end of the numbers paying for it. And Robbo and the Government looked at everyone for applause for being so daring as to, er, load the country with more debt than they would normally allow themselves to do in the service of continuing everything exactly as it already fucking was. Honestly it’s like a dog learned to open a door or something.
Most of the budget measures were temporary. Sticking plasters on wounds that pre-date Covid-19 and have already festered. Sticking plasters on sticking plasters applied after 2008. The whole fucking thing is held together by band-aids.
And now we have the Unemployment Relief Scheme. $490 a week for the full-time newly unemployed, $250 a week for the part-time unemployed. Figures well above the actual unemployment benefit, but this will ONLY be available to those who lost their jobs due to Covid-19. It will not be available to migrant workers, who have to get their support through — are you fucking serious — Civil Defence?
I mean, credit to Robbo, he’s realised a lot of the middle-class who have lost their jobs can’t survive on Unemployment Benefit (BECAUSE IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO LIVE ON) and unlike those malingering wastrels who were unemployed before Covid-19 hit — all the Karen’s and Todd’s who now find themselves newly unemployed and on the thick end of the WINZ forms actually bother voting.
So welcome to Robbo’s 12-Week Koru Lounge For The Unemployed. It’s like normal unemployment, but fancier. It’s for the deserving unemployed.
Thanks Robbo. I fucking hate it.