Who is surprised that the Minister of Finance Bill English admitted over the weekend that his Government is comfortable with high unemployment? Indeed he laid his cards on the table and said it was part of the Government's plan of 'reforming' the economy. As with all capitalist politicians, unemployment is just another tool in his policy toolbox.

English calls it 'rebalancing' the economy. But there are no prizes for guessing who he is 'rebalancing' the economy in favour of.

Bill English, the man who pocketed nearly half a million dollars by pretending that his family home was in Dipton, has all but owned up that the economy is stuffed.

John Key's 'aggressive recovery' turned into a 'patchy recovery' and now even business friendly commentators like Paul Holmes are declaring that there is no recovery at all.

Unemployment is still at massive levels and shows no signs of improving, businesses are closing, the shopping malls are bereft of people spending money and the housing market continues to stagnate.

English's answer to the crisis is 'reform'. It is a declaration of war on ordinary people.

His 'reforms ' include slashing benefits by taking the axe to the welfare system, deep cuts in education and health expenditure and changes in labour legislation which are designed to suppress wage levels and create a more casualised and insecure labour force.

Effectively the 'structural reforms' of Bill English and the National-led Government are about a massive cut in the social wage and a transfer of that wealth to the already wealthy.

What we do need are structural reforms that will directly benefit ordinary people.

Such reforms should include taxing the wealthy at much higher levels and making them pay for this crisis. Privatised assets should be re-nationalised and struggling businesses should be nationalised in order to save jobs. Similarly, there should be higher levels of spending in order to protect jobs.

Now I know that talk of such policies immediately provokes a reaction from the cynics. I note that many of these cynics float comfortably within and around the Labour Party. They are quick to say that such policies are not 'realistic' or 'pragmatic'.

But is it 'realistic' or 'pragmatic' to try to maintain the fiction that this crisis can somehow be solved by tinkering with the present economic framework?

While Labour Party leader Phil Goff was quick to criticise English for admitting that he was comfortable with high levels of unemployment, there is nothing in Labour's policy arsenal that even hints at a way out of our economic predicament.

When will the Labour Party acknowledge that tinkering with neoliberalism and adding some 'Keynesian lite' policies is no solution?

The adoption of some mild keynesian measures by the neoliberal Labour Party will only occur because of practical necessity. It does not signify a turn to the left.

We cannot get out of the economic quagmire without expanding our sense of what is possible.

Let's not go down the Labour Party road that leads to more of what we've already got and don't want. Let's not be sucked in by Goff's empty and rediculous promises that tinkering with the system can lead to economic prosperity.

We can't keep pretending that the private sector is ever again going to provide sufficient, sustainable jobs for all who need them.

Most of the socialist left knows that business is at war with the working class but that message has not got through to either the Labour Party or its allies in the trade union hierarchy.


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