Today, Fran O’Sullivan calls Key out on his complete failure on jobs: “If I have one New Year’s wish it is that John Key returns from his Hawaiian summer holiday brimming with enough determination to challenge the nation’s employers – and himself – to tackle youth unemployment.” In fact, she is the latest of the rightwing’s pundits to conclude neoliberalism has failed.
There’s talk that Key’s going to make some kind of announcement around employment when he finally gets back from holidaying abroad.
It’ll be wrapped up nicely enough for the pundits to cheer. But it’s hard to imagine what real substance it can have. Because National has played all its economic cards – tax cuts for the rich, reducing work rights, crony capitalist deals – and nothing has produced jobs. In fact, our unemployment rate is rising when it is steady or falling in the rest of the developed world. Short of a complete ideological turn-around that would put National to the left of Labour on economic interventionism, they’ve got nothing to offer.
Take Fran’s suggestion:
Key could start by cancelling the top personal tax break and “reinvesting” the hundreds of millions of dollars that would otherwise have gone into Bill English’s Treasury coffers into a massive state-backed scheme to train young people in the skills needed for today’s workforce.
Then challenge private sector employers to match the taxpayer investment and complete the difficult and tedious work of completing the training of young people “on the job”.
Oh, and throw in a bond to ensure the skills are used here (at least initially).
Call it a prime ministerial slush fund if you will. Or just the “Give them a fair go” campaign.
That would mean a total refutation of the core neoliberal ideal (OK, core justification for enriching the rich at everyone else’s expense) – tax cuts for the rich are meant to grow the economy and government doesn’t create jobs. If you turn around and raise taxes on the rich so that government can create jobs, you’re saying that neoliberalism is a failure. Saying that the government should invest in jobs and wages to lift aggregate demand is pure Keynes. And then the whole neoliberal edifice comes crashing down. Asset sales, attacking work rights, privatisation of core services – they all stem from the ‘government sucks, corporates rule’ mentality that says if you have the government do less and let the rich keep more of ‘their’ money then the economy will do better.
Fran might be wiling to turn her back on neoliberalism – joining Gareth Morgan, Bernard Hickey, and others in doing so – but Key’s not going to.
Key will have to pull out something truly spectacular and unheard of if he’s to announce something that really will create jobs without it being a leftwing idea.
In reality, it’s more likely to be some kind of hand out to businesses that won’t create jobs – just like Bennett’s Job Ops, which paid employers to fire existing staff and hire replacements – or one of the ‘bene-slave‘ schemes that the Tories are running the in UK were supermarkets get free labour from beneficiaries who lose their benefits if they don’t work.
And I wouldn’t put it past him to announce it at ‘Jobs Summit 2’, either.