Inequality is becoming ingrained in the culture. One of the more interesting ads on television is the long running one where a trio of All Blacks is greeted effusively in a hotel foyer by a prize-winning fan. The All Blacks are depicted as godlike beings, who treat their lovestruck admirer with tolerant amusement, up to and including the moment – Richie ! – when he hugs the All Black captain. The distance between the All Blacks and this vertically challenged little pest would look like arrogance, if not for the fact that we, the viewers, are also supposed to be amused by this extreme example of the awe and affection in which the rugby gods are held. We can laugh at this guy because hey, at least our fandom is not as pathetic as his. We, and the All Blacks – Richie! – are in on the joke.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of comic relief in the incomes and inequality stats reported this week and fought over in Parliament:
Median household incomes fell 3 per cent, taking inflation into account, between July 2010 and June 2011, the Household Incomes in New Zealand: Trends in Indicators of Inequality and Hardship 1982 to 2011 report said.
That was the worst trend in more than a decade, as incomes rose steadily throughout the 90s at an average of 3 per cent a year, the Ministry of Social Development report revealed.
The report, prepared by Bryan Perry, showed that low earners’ incomes fell between mid 2009 and mid 2011, while high earners pay packets increased. It also painted a damning picture into child poverty, with 21 per cent of Kiwi kids living in poverty, compared to 15 per cent in 2007.
The dire downturn illustrated by those figures happens to virtually coincide with the term of the Key government. In Parliament, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett tried to pin the entire blame on the global financial crisis:
“I think that what we have seen is that the effects of the global economy have really hit those people hard … jobs were lost, people on part-time work lost some hours, and that, unsurprisingly, has had a direct effect on some of those people’s household incomes.”
Really? But I thought the external forces – e.g. those relatively buoyant performance of China and Australia – were what shielded our economy from the impact of the global downturn. On Planet National – which unfortunately is the one we all have to live on – every signifier of failure by this government is to be treated as entirely external. No responsibility for income inequality for instance, is to be laid at the door of the government’s last round of unfair and patently unaffordable tax cuts. Has the government’s response to the global downturn – i.e., tightening up on government spending, cutting public service jobs and services, further partial privatization and all the other headless chicken policies of economic contraction – been the right reactions or wrong ones that have made a bad situation even worse? Just about the only good thing that has saved us from the full blast of the global recession has been our relatively low levels of government debt – and that is something the Key government inherited, and did not create.
God vs. the Republicans Round Two
Yesterday I pointed to the irony of a Biblically-named Hurricane Isaac that happens to be bearing down on the Republican Party Convention in Tampa, Florida. There is something truly wondrous about a gathering of climate change deniers being hit by evidence to the contrary, sent from above. But I didn’t know the half of it. As Dana Millbank helpfully pointed out yesterday in the Washington Post, the Republicans have a long track record of treating natural events as God’s judgment upon the wicked. Read this checklist of right wing insanity and tremble, non-believers:
Last year, Rep. Michele Bachmann, then a Republican presidential candidate, said that the East Coast earthquake and Hurricane Irene were attempts by God “to get the attention of the politicians.” In remarks later termed a “joke,” she said: “It’s time for an act of God and we’re getting it.”
The conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck said last year that the Japanese earthquake and tsunami were God’s “message being sent” to that country. A year earlier, Christian broadcaster and former GOP presidential candidate Pat Robertson tied the Haitian earthquake to that country’s “pact to the devil.” Previously, Robertson had argued that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for abortion, while the Rev. John Hagee said the storm was God’s way of punishing homosexuality.
So what, are we then supposed to make of Hurricane Isaac and its headlong dash towards Tampa? Is the Almighty feeling mad at Mormonism? Or is He merely spitting meteorological tacks at the news that a Republican congressional delegation has been caught doing some drunken (and in one case at least) stark nekkid cavorting in the Sea of Galilee, while on a trip to Israel with their wives and daughters? Millbank again:
A report comes out that a couple dozen House Republicans engaged in an alcohol-induced frolic, in one case nude, in the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus is believed to have walked on water, calmed the storm and, nearby, turned water into wine and performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes.
The Politico report Sunday about drunken skinny-dipping in the Sea of Galilee gave House Republicans an unwanted image of debauchery — a faint echo of the Capitol page scandal that, breaking in September 2006, cemented Republicans’ fate in that November’s elections.
The 30 Republican lawmakers on the “fact-finding” mission to Israel last summer earned a rebuke from Majority Leader Eric Cantor and attracted the attention of the FBI. The naked congressman, Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., admitted in a statement: “Regrettably, I jumped into the water without a swimsuit.”
One can only imagine what the Republicans would have made of such shenanigans if it had been a delegation of godless, socialistic Democrats who had been caught skinny-dipping at the very same Biblical holy site where Jesus walked on water – but with his bathing suit on, thank you very much.