The battle between the 10- and 90-percenters

The battle between the 10- and 90-percentes
By Michael Blockey

I gave a talk last week about wealth inequality in Western countries.. One of the audience was somewhat dismissive saying, ‘hasn’t it always been so’. I replied that it is the most unequal in 100 years, that in 1980, 10% of Americans owned 20% of their nation’s wealth and now in 2018, 10% own 90%.

In Australia, the bad news is that the 10 percenters own 70% of our country’s wealth. The good news is that the 90 percenters are fighting back! 

To fight the good fight, the 90 percenters must know who they are up against. The 10 percenters are the executives and shareholders of the mining companies, the banks and financial institutions, the IT companies, the energy retailers and the executives and shareholders of all the other large corporations in Australia. The rest of us are the 90 percenters.

There is a third group in this battle. It is the enablers. Two battalions make up the enablers. There are the political parties that enact legislation that further enriches the 10 percenters. These are the Liberal and National parties. Then there is the Murdoch press and the commercial radio and television stations. They promote the Coalition’s message which is, of course, the gospel according to the 10 percenters.

There is no doubt that the 10 percenters have so far won the battle. If the 90 percenters are to counter the 10 percenters, they need to know how they think. The Royal Commission into banking revealed how ‘banksters’ think. They regard their customers as prey and themselves as predators. This is, also, the underlying thinking of most 10 percenters. We, the 90 percenters, exist only to feed the greed of the predators. 

If that sounds like the law of the jungle, it’s because it is. The 10 percenters are always on the look-out for a ‘kill’. Once one is identified, the enablers swing into action. The Coalition is coerced to enact the appropriate legislation and the Murdoch press/ commercial TV and radio stations are instructed to conceal the scam.  

Let me give you five examples of how the 10 percenters separate the 90 percenters from their money.

Former PM John Howard introduced negative gearing/capital gains tax (NG/CGT) to reduce the tax property owners had to pay. In 2017, they paid $11 billion less in tax, and guess what, $7 billion found its way into the pockets of the 10 percenters. The Greens exposed this. They want NG/CGT stopped.

Turnbull wanted to give $80 billion in tax cuts to companies, saying that it would create more jobs and increase wages as it trickled down to the workers. For 35 years, it has been claimed that trickle down benefits the workers. Many studies by economists show that it never has. Tax cuts to the 10 percenters only benefit the 10 percenters!

Direct Action, the Coalition’s scheme to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, has proven to be a wonderful way for the 200 heaviest polluting companies to enrich themselves. Over the years 2013 to 2017, they were paid $19 billion of taxpayers’ money to buy emissions reduction equipment, equipment that had been shown in the period 2012 to 2014 to substantially reduce emissions. Over the 4 years, 2013 to 2017, emissions rose alarmingly prompting one to think the 200 companies had not bought the equipment. These figures came not, from an independent investigator, but from the Department of the Environment itself!

Another effective way of gouging money from the 90 percenters was gold plating. The Big Four energy retailers are guaranteed a 10% return on capital they expend on expanding the electricity network. They figured that the greater the expansion, the more they would earn. They obtained estimates from consultants of future electricity demand. At a time when demand was rapidly decreasing, the consultants’ predictions were of large increases in future demand. The Energy Regulator approved $84 billion worth of upgrade. The Big Four made a profit of $7.7 billion, the consultants were well paid for their shonky estimates and the Energy Regulator got a backhander. It was Bruce Robertson, an energy analyst, who uncovered this story. 

In each of these 4 cases, the 10 percenters made billions, billions that should have gone into Treasury to health, education etc services to the 90 percenters.

The fifth example of 10 percenters defrauding the 90 percenters is particularly evil. It is Howard’s legislation to restrict wage growth. The 10 percenters are generally employers. Their largest cost item is wages.. They informed Howard that in the 70s and 80s wages grew by 5+% pa. This has to stop, they said. Howard knew that the more industrial action there was, the higher was the wage growth. So to give the 10 percenters what they wanted, he passed legislation that effectively banned strikes. Instant success! Wage growth has been about 2% pa for the last 5 years and with inflation at 2.5% pa, working families are struggling. Jim Stanford from The Australia Institute and Sally McManus, the secretary of the ACTU, made this public.

What can 90 percenters do to counter this brutal, well oiled machine?

First, join with others to ferret out the scams and rorts the 10 percenters are inflicting on us. Make your findings public. This shines the light on them, making it less likely they will be repeated.. 

Second, start talking. Tell friends and family what the 10 percenters are doing to us.  Revolutions start with people talking

Third, join activist organisations like the 1-million strong GetUp and the 2,500- strong Ngara Institute. Support their efforts to awaken the 90 percenters to the battle they must fight.

Fourth, support the Ngara Institute in its quest to have an Australian Bill of Rights enacted. Such a charter will prevent some of the unfairnesses that the 10 percenters have inflicted on the 90 percenters.

Fifth, vote out the conservative government, the enabler to the 10 percenters, and vote in a progressive government.

And, above all, remain hopeful!