Tag Archives: Coronavirus

Coronavirus (COVID-19), GetUp and the Job Guarantee

According to a new GetUp! campaign release:

COVID-19 has hit us hard – thousands of people have lost their jobs, millions more could follow.

But while private industries are forced to close, and many jobs will be unsafe for the foreseeable future – we need every pair of hands to help recover, rebuild and take care of each other.

The Government must institute a Federal Job Guarantee to coordinate the national recovery and connect unemployed people with meaningful, safe, and decently-paid work.

You may ask what jobs can we do with all the physical distancing we are doing?  Note my use of the word physical, not social.  Social distancing is what leads to extraordinary losses of support of all shapes and sizes and leads to a great deal of harm.

The GetUp release continues:

Everywhere you look there are opportunities to connect the untapped potential of people with the unmet needs of our communities.

We need more people than ever on our farms and in our warehouses. We need people on the other side of the phone when people seek health or Centrelink support. We need people who can prepare meals, and deliver them to those in self isolation.

The Victorian Government has just announced “Working for Victoria” – a proposal that could be replicated across all states and territories with immediate effect.

But we rapidly need the Federal Government to follow suit.

Bill Mitchell offers many suggestions of what type of MMT Job Guarantee jobs could be done whilst we fight the COVID-19 pandemic.  Bill writes:

Australia has just been ravaged by drought, bushfire and then flood – before the coronavirus hit.

There is so much depleted land, infrastructure and personal care services that are required arising not only from these natural disasters but also from years of austerity and outsources of public services.

There are tens of thousands of jobs that the Federal government could fund across the regional and urban space to help improve our society.

There will probably be a shortage of medical support staff. Thousands of jobs could be created to ease the load in the short-term on the depleted health care ranks.

The food harvest is facilitated in so small way by visiting ‘backpackers’.

For those workers in regional areas who are now unable to work because of the closures enforced by the government or by consumer boycotts (not going out anymore), the Government could help shift workers into the food harvesting sector for the time being while border controls prevent people from visiting and working.

And if we are to protect our aged members of the population, then we could ensure they are secure in their homes with adequate food and other supplies, are able to maintain their gardens (if they have them), and attend to other needs.

Thousands of jobs could serve this function for the time being. There would be no reason for such a person to take the risk of venturing to the supermarket, for example.

And what about the claims that these shifts cannot be facilitated quickly enough to avoid mass unemployment?

Well, I think I could retrain as a hospital orderly, for example, in a matter of hours or a few days at most, if I was required to.

The women who entered the factories in 1939 had no prior background. But productivity rose quickly.

So I advocate major public sector job creation to help workers adjust to the loss of their current jobs (while the crisis persists) and to provide a productive workforce to enhance our social offerings in terms of infrastructure and services.

The number of jobs that could be created to absorb those losing their jobs elsewhere, which would add social value, is limited only by our imaginations.

GetUp finishes their release by asking you to sign their petition and demand a Job Guarantee to give people dignified work and strengthen our society?

Australian Real Progressives endorses this petition and it can be found here: We Need a Job Guarantee!

There are no free-market capitalists in a foxhole

There is a famous saying that means something to the extent that there are ‘no atheists in a foxhole.’ Foxholes are the burrows used during wartime. Well, in the face of a potential global economic collapse, there are no free-market capitalists who suggest responding to the crisis by doing nothing.

None of the measures considered by the Australian government are anything like the free-market rhetoric we were hearing some months ago, particularly the desire to have a budget surplus. So the desire for their previous agenda never had substance to it. It was a smokescreen and an excuse for why they did not want to pursue what would be popular economic policies. But given a crisis lurks on the horizon, their hand is forced.

Why exactly do they do it? Why have a go at the unemployed etc?

We used to let markets keep to themselves for quite sometime when the West first embraced capitalism. Sure, there was protectionism in the form of Mercantilism as countries sought to accumulate gold against one another (keep in mind this was the old gold standard system), domestic economies were comparatively ‘free’ compared to what we have had since the Great Depression. The whirlwind of casino capitalism and stock market speculation in the ‘roaring twenties’ ultimately lead to the 1929 crash that would create the Great Depression, allow for the rise of Hitler, and ultimately WW2.

Since WW2 allowed for full employment as many countries embraced Keynes’ ideas, full employment policies would set the stage for the ‘golden age‘ that culminated in the stagflation of the 1970s. Since with full employment, labour was relatively more powerful than they were before, they could bid up wages in a way that Kalecki foresaw in his article ‘The Political Aspects of Full Employment’.

Unemployment became a policy tool to discipline labour and to avoid stagflation. That is why they do it. So the unemployed are the cost of ‘price stability.’ Keep people unemployed, avoid the economy booming too much, keep workers afraid and encourage them to demonise anyone who is lower than them on the economic ladder, and there’s your answer. That’s why they do it.

But during a time of crisis, the emperor has no clothes.




The Prime Minister’s Speech

The following is a post by Jayne Flanagan of Modern Money Australia.

When a nation needs a leader, when the people need a voice, an ordinary (wo)man would help him find the courage.

My thoughts on what Scott Morrison should have said:

“We need approximately X* number of workers for cleaning and sanitation services, food production, retail and delivery, transport, healthcare, childcare, key manufacturing etc.’ All other people of working age will be ensured a temporary living wage while forced into quarantine. All people of retirement age will also be ensured a living wage. While we can’t overgeneralise from the experience from other jurisdictions, including Italy, it is safe to say that the time is now to shut down all non-essential services including schools, so that we can flatten the curve.

We will ensure the health and safety of all workers in sectors at increased risk of infection due to exposure to the pathogen via person to person contact or infected surface contact, by ensuring essential PPE and cleaning agents, but importantly, by reducing the contact frequency, and therefore the infection rate, in the community by enforcing the shutdown of all non-essential business/services. We will urgently need to increase our testing capacity to ensure our strategies are working and we are effectively protecting our key workers and the broader community.

We will ensure that no-one is at risk of losing their fundamental right to shelter, which means we will need to implement a mortgage holiday and an eviction moratorium. We may also need to commandeer empty accommodation, such as empty investment properties and hotel/motel rooms so to ensure that all have a roof over their heads.

If the COVID 19 pandemic teaches us anything it’s that we were fatally unprepared for a crisis, foreseen by many with epidemiological and public health expertise, of this magnitude. We have learnt our lesson and now will do whatever it takes to build a resilient economy that can withstand future serious, existential shocks such as this, and that guarantees that all of our citizens have the opportunity to flourish, with genuine ability to participate fully in our society – an ability that will be ensured by their democratically-elected, monetarily sovereign government.

For too long, decades, in fact, we have sacrificed the many for the sake of few; through enforced unemployment, through privatisation of public services, through our support of the fossil fuel industry, essentially through our misguided belief that government exists to promote the private gain of the few namely, the finance and corporate sectors. Trickle-down economics is bunk – if we had have paid attention to those that have been challenging this orthodoxy over decades then we might have avoided not only the deaths that are occurring and will continue to occur due to COVID 19, but also the probably millions of deaths that have resulted from the scourge of neoliberalism.

We should have learnt that lesson much sooner than this and so I would like to offer my deepest and most humble apology and my absolute commitment that we will turn this around starting from now. May I not go to hell for my past grave errors.

To achieve this we will:

1. Introduce a permanent, federally funded job guarantee program which will not only provide a guaranteed job for all who want to work, but will also serve as a more superior and humane way of ensuring price stability – time to put an end to the NAIRU approach.

2. We will nationalise and appropriately fund all services with public goods characteristics – hospitals, transport, roads, banks, schools, telecommunications, energy, R&D etc

3. We will appoint Professor William Mitchell as our chief advisor on achieving a JUST TRANSITION away from fossil fuels. This will commence as of immediately, and is of utmost importance in this crisis as our over-dependence on fossil-fuel industry, with the consequent environmental impacts manifested in our extant climate emergency, are inextricably linked to the occurrence of this pandemic and to the risk of future pandemics. A JUST TRANSITION recognises the workers and their communities that rely on this sector should not bear the economic burden and will need to be supported during this transition.

*X is the number determined by reliable modelling

Jayne is an Occupational Therapist and Teacher’s Aide. Jayne works with children with Special Needs.

Does the Australian Government Have a Duty of Care?

The motivation for our government’s inadequate economic stimulus and overall paltry policy response to the coronavirus crisis can only be understood as their fear that spending in ‘whatever-it-takes’ amounts to secure the wellbeing of all its citizens during this frightening time, will show up their government budget surplus obsession as the scam that it is.

Our government is not financially constrained – it can afford to provide the necessary support to tide people over while they stay home from work, to socially distance or self-isolate, to reduce the transmission in the community, to recuperate from the virus and to care for loved ones. Whether or not the government chooses to implement such macroeconomic policies will have life or death consequences. In other words, the costs associated with the government’s refusal to commit adequate spending to address this crisis will result in lives needlessly lost to COVID-19.

When I hear people ask how parents will be able to afford to miss work to care for their children after school closures, I know that this is a question that should be confidently answered by our monetary sovereign government with:

“We will support our community to do whatever it takes to stop this crisis becoming the catastrophe we’ve seen in other countries. As the monopoly issuer of the currency, we are not financially constrained in our spending – we have the fiscal capacity to ensure all citizens have sufficient income, food, shelter and high-quality health care during a mandatory shut down.”

Right now, our government is definitely putting ideology before our well-being and leading us into a potential catastrophe. People won’t socially isolate if it means their well-being isn’t secured – that is the responsibility of our government. We need to demand they use the fiscal power at their disposal to support what a majority of public health experts are recommending – immediate shutdowns and extreme social distancing.

When you understand Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) you understand how this is possible. I’d love it if more people took the time to understand it – it really is a game-changer. There are so many excellent resources out there, but the best is, of course, Bill Mitchell’s daily blog – here’s a recent post addressing the Coronavirus.

This is an article by Jayne Flanagan of Modern Money Australia. Jayne is an Occupational Therapist and Teacher’s Aide. Jayne works with children with Special Needs.