October 25, 2013

Horse 1559 - Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You

2013 marks the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of the American President, John F. Kennedy. To mark this, SBS commissioned a documentary, entitled "JFK: The Smoking Gun" which will be shown in November. The promos for this have included a rather famous piece of chiasmus from JFK's Innaugural Address.

"ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."
- John F. Kennedy, Jan 20 1961.

Mainly because I'd seen the promo so many times, I was again reminded of it whilst I was reading through the Herald-Sun this morning. Specifically Andrew Bolt's column in which he was in interview with the Prime Minister Tony Abbott:


PM: If the ABC were to come to us, this government, seeking more money to do things that took it into competition with the private sector, we'd say no.

AB: Talking about things that government is funding that perhaps it shouldn't. Your Commission of Audit is going to look into exactly that. Have you got a "for instance"?

PM: I'm just not going to pre-empt the work that it does, Andrew, but I would be amazed if, for argument's sake, we need as many public servants in the areas of health and education, for instance, that we have at the moment, given that we don't run schools, we don't run universities, we don't run hospitals, we don't run medical practices or pharmacies...
- Andrew Bolt, Herald-Sun, 25th Oct 2013

Leaving aside the end of the piece of chiasmus above, we're left with the clause "ask not what your country can do for you". If you play with this idea with what both Andrew Bolt and Tony Abbott are getting at "that government is funding (things) that perhaps it shouldn't". This paints a very bleak picture indeed.

Ask not what your country can do for you because increasingly, it's policy is to do nothing. Don't expect that government is capable of doing anything anymore.

Don't expect for instance to speak to someone within an hour about your telephone service because the government sold that off in 1997. Also, don't expect to ever see the National Broadband Network up and running because that too will be dismantled and sold off before its finished.

Don't expect that electricity prices are likely to fall. Although the government likes to blame the Carbon Tax, in NSW and Victoria, the real reason for in some cases 300% increases in the price of electricity is simply the fact that the electricity companies have been sold off and that they are more free to let the price of electricity reach equilibrium more "efficiently" and by inference charge more for it if they can get away with it.

Don't expect that the health care system will work at all in 20 years. Mr Abbott has already signalled his intent to sell off Medibank Private; which is precisely the same sort of road map that the United States went down in 1971 and they now have 45 million people who have no medical insurance at all. It's only a short drive down the road from selling off Medibank Private to defunding Medicare entirely - watch as Britain destroys its NHS for the heads up.

Don't expect that the postal service is likely to work properly either. Again Mr Abbott has hinted at selling that off too and again if we look to the experience of the US and UK, the level of service has fallen off the cliff.

Don't expect the public will be able to make informed decisions about anything. Once the newspapers cease to become economically viable and end publication at about circa 2016 and after the ABC and SBS is sold off, their source of reliable and informative news will dry up. At the same time though they won't notice because the general public is becoming more stupid as education funding is backed off. HECS for instance is being considered for sale as well.

Also, be reminded that some of Australia's most profitable businesses which used to provide dividends to consolidated revenue were all sold off. Those foregone dividends from Qantas, the Commonwealth Bank, Telstra, the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories and Sydney Airports Corporation were worth collectively $2.9tn to date. Even if you don't allow for inflation, that's still more than 11 times more than the total of gross Australian federal debt.

I always thought that a "Commonwealth" was term for a political community founded for the common good. I just don't see that about Australia any more. Ask then "what you can do for your country"? Well how about a new question... why bother?
Even the business community in Australia has already concluded that not bothering about Australians is the way to go. According for Forbes Magazine of the 40 biggest companies in Australia by market capitalisation, only 3 aren't either financial institutions or mining companies and those three are 2 supermarkets and an airline.
So yes, "ask not what your country can do for you" because your country is less likely to do anything for you in future. Get used to the idea.

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