Writes Bennett Morgan: .
I don’t quite know where to begin on this topic. Perhaps I should start by stressing my astonishment Norway’s government had the audacity, quite recently, to suggest that extreme poverty is best solved by banning the only means by which these individuals can possibly get their hands on money, which is increasingly flowing to the top in Norway; at an alarming rate.
Norway is not the country we have known it to be, practically all of our lives. Norway, the right will argue, has ‘grown up’ from its teenage years and has decided to try its hand at Right-wing British style politics and become competitive.
Known to us, with a social conscious, as the end of caring.
Norway had it great. The country was debt free, generating some of the world’s largest surpluses. It had the highest standard of living, above any other country in the world, had close to zero unemployment, a booming economy, a sufficient minimum wage, good workplace conditions and a high corporate tax rate.
Oh, the perils of a social democratic state.
Political historians will suggest New Zealand ‘stopped caring’ about the less fortunate in the 1980s under the radical and unpopular reforms of Roger Douglas. Neoliberal (‘New Left’) was an ideology sweeping the globe. As we here in New Zealand know, removing safety nets and ending our ‘cradle to grave’ social welfare systems only made our country’s poverty rate boom.
Neoliberalism was on the up. You know the names. Thatcher, Reagen, Douglas, Bolger, Richardson, Shipley.
And the lesser knowns; Mulroney, Prime Minister of Canada, who sold Canada’s state owned assets seemingly overnight, and left office with a approval rating of just 16%.
Similar polls were seen here in New Zealand. The 1984-1990 Labour government, at times, polled as low as 16% with the approval of its leaders going even lower. After the ‘Mother of All Budgets’, authorised by Richardson, National also delved well below 20%.
But, back to Norway.
Norway has decided it wants to leave the egalitarian image it has so proudly waved in our faces all these years. The new, Right-wing radical government was elected in 2013 on the promise of reform, and with that, wealth.
They did reform.
They abolished the minimum wage.
But this is a step in the other direction. You could make a case the abolishment of the minimum wage, no matter how uncivlised, no matter how uncaring, has its economic benefits. Indeed, the nature of Capitalism is to make as much wealth as possible, ignoring the consequences on humanity and on the planet and ridding the minimum wage from law would follow the capitalist formula.
The ‘begging ban’ has no economic benefits. It has no social benefits. It is pure humiliation.
More than that, it is excusing poverty and ignoring the problems faced by the many. And if a government is to ignore its people, begging for food in the streets, then you must ask yourself – what do they think a government is for?
Norwegians know how to obliterate poverty; they’ve practically done it before. Free healthcare, free education, good pensions, the ability to get a well-paying job, and welfare programs for when you can’t.
This is not the answer. Turning our heads away, saying ‘it’s not our problem’ will only let the problem grow. Additional to that, as proven here in New Zealand, it will only let attitudes to those living in poverty sour.
The Guardian’s Harald N Røstvik wrote on the 12th of February;
“…there are plenty of Norwegian-born homeless too, if more hidden from view. The majority of these are single mothers, victims of violence in the home. A fifth are 18-25 years old, half are addicted to drugs or alcohol, and 40% suffer from psychiatric illnesses. Most find a place to stay at night thanks to private shelters and NGOs, but some sleep on the streets and in doorways.”
It astonishes me, that whilst Norway has stood by over all these years and watched our economies collapse, people forced into poverty, and our education and health system privatised, that they still think it is we headed in the right direction.
Norway; don’t make the same mistakes we did.
Note: Working/Middle class economics saved Norway’s economy.
What happens when you increase the minimum wage (at a reasonable amount ensuring wages are keeping up with inflation?) Working families go out and spend it, putting millions back into small businesses and the economy.
What happens when you give tax cuts to the rich?
They save it. Or else buy some more shares for private wealth, benefiting only themselves.
What happens when you raise taxes on the rich?
As long as the rise is a tax on their extra wealth and/or capital, the government increases its revenue and we have a greater chance of returning to surplus so we can invest in more jobs.
What happens when we cut spending to health?
The poor get sick, and as Harry Leslie Smith proved to British Labour’s 2014 annual conference last year; people die.