When wealthy politicians try to outdo one another about how much they really care about the poor, we usually need to get our baloney detectors out. While some may indeed have some concerns about those who are way less well off than they are, one has to question the sincerity of those who resort to gimmicks and empty rhetoric to make their point.
We saw a classic case of this amongst some of our Federal Politicians this week. The Greens and Labor were going at each other, trying to convince us just how much they really care about the poor and needy. Indeed, it turned into a bit of a slanging match as these folks sought to take the high moral ground here.
Consider how one newspaper covered these recent events: “The Greens have challenged Families Minister Jenny Macklin to live on the dole for a week after she declared she could manage on the $245-a-week unemployment allowance.
“Acting Leader Adam Bandt invited Ms Macklin to join him in trying to pay food, rent and bills on Newstart for seven days in February. Ms Macklin – who has gone to ground today and is refusing to comment any further on the issue – has come under fire from welfare groups for claim she could live on the $35-a-day dole payment.
“Australian Council of Social Service CEO Cassandra Goldie said the minister’s comments were insensitive to people struggling on the dole and went against the evidence presented to the government about the inadequacy of the unemployment benefit.”
So here we have two lefties vying for the “I am more compassionate than you are” award. And both know they are mouthing so much empty rhetoric and pious platitudes which mean nothing. Ms Macklin of course has no intention of really living on $35-a-day, whether for a day, a week, or a month.
So it is of course quite easy for her to claim how easily she might survive on such a meagre fare. She knows of course she never will actually have to experience such a situation. She not only enjoys her cushy salary now, but will enjoy her tax-payer funded government pension and retirement scheme for the rest of her life.
She is living on easy street. So her talk rings empty and her compassionate claims are just more Labor rhetoric. Indeed, Ms Macklin earns $6321 a week as a cabinet minister. Imagine taking a pay cut to just $245-a-week – less than four per cent of what she is now making. I really don’t think she could cope for a day.
And her own colleagues have admitted as much. Another news item puts it this way: “Health Minister Tanya Plibersek has conceded it is ‘very hard’ to live on unemployment benefits, as the debate rages over the adequacy of Newstart.
“While Families Minister Jenny Macklin continues to come under fire for saying she could live on the $245 a week payment, Ms Plibersek said today: ‘I don’t think anyone thinks it’s easy. I think that it’s very hard to live on an income support payment,’ she told ABC radio.”
But Macklin’s Greens’ critic fares no better. So he will spend a whole week on the Newstart allowance. Wow, what a hero! What sacrifice! That is not much of a challenge knowing he has all his worldly goods (nice home, generous salary, government cars, chauffeurs, travel costs, etc) well and truly taken care of.
Even if he lived on the streets for a night or a week or a month, as some have, that really means nothing. They know perfectly well they have all their material and financial security still there awaiting them. They are making no sacrifice at all in other words.
These are just gimmicks in the “I’m a rich guy pretending to care about poor people” game. Any wealthy person can play it. We will start to take these guys seriously when they renounce their government pay cheques and benefits for their entire term in office.
Then we might know they are serious and mean what they are saying. But that is not likely to happen. True, there have been a handful of politicians around the world who have knocked back their salaries. But certainly not many. And these two are just a pair of hypocrites who have no intention of learning about real poverty.
Their only game is point scoring and moral one-upmanship. Thus I am not impressed with either. And given that both prefer policies which tend to thwart wealth creation, all their rhetoric is doubly dubious. The Greens especially would bankrupt this nation if they and their policies held sway.
Indeed, many of these politicians have known little about real hardship and deprivation. My wife just pointed out to me a talk given in Australia by American economist and social commentator Charles Murray called “Capitalism and Virtue: Reaffirming Old Truths”.
In it he spoke about a new social and political elite, those who know very little about what life is like for most people. Although discussing the scene in America, his remarks seem apropos here. He said this: “The other part of the divergence has led to a new upper class that is increasingly segregated from, and ignorant of, life in mainstream America.”
He continued, “And that brings me to the scariest part about the isolation of the new upper class. It’s not a big problem if someone has grown up in a working-class or middle-class family and then become rich and powerful. That person still remembers. He can be put down on the main street in a small town in Kansas or a working-class neighbourhood in Boston and recognise all the social cues, and know how to get along. He’s in familiar territory. What scares me are the children of that person.
“They go to private schools from K-12, spending their summers at tennis camp or in exclusive resorts where their parents vacation. They go to excellent colleges, spending their summers interning at Greenpeace or the Brookings Institution.
“Then they get their law degrees or their MBAs, and move seamlessly into the same upper class bubble as adults that they’ve lived in all their lives. And they haven’t a clue about how ordinary people live. Worse yet, they are likely to have an extremely condescending view of what ordinary people are like.”
That seems to be the case with so many of our politicians today. I am reminded of what Kim Beazley Sr said way back in 1970: “When I joined the Labor Party, it contained the cream of the working class. But as I look about me now all I see are the dregs of the middle class. And what I want to know is when you middle class perverts are going to stop using the Labor Party as a spiritual spittoon.”
Much more needs to be said about government policy, economics, wealth and poverty, and so on. Elsewhere I have sought to touch on such topics. But here it might be fitting to close with two quotes from two Black American economists, who between them have far more sense and understanding about these issues than most politicians:
“The act of reaching into one’s own pockets to help a fellow man in need is praiseworthy and laudable. Reaching into someone else’s pocket is despicable and worthy of condemnation.” -Prof. Walter Williams
“What do you call it when someone steals someone else’s money secretly? Theft. What do you call it when someone takes someone else’s money openly by force? Robbery. What do you call it when a politician takes someone else’s money in taxes and gives it to someone who is more likely to vote for him? Social Justice.” -Thomas Sowell