“Rich people got that way because they were really careful with money.” This is the claim of comedian Claire Hooper, newly commissioned by the ABC to challenge the logic of current capitalism. A cynic might say that the host of The Great Australian Bake Off is not also the ideal host for a podcast that seeks to liberate its audience from debt. I am not among these. I happen to believe that any literate person, even a TV personality, can read and understand in under 30 minutes that an overwhelming majority of rich people became rich due to inherited wealth, labour exploitation and the brutal use of financial instruments.
It is unfortunate for us, the stakeholders of the ABC, that Hooper didn’t bother to do any such brief reading.
What Hooper was apparently moved to read about was the power of “vision boards”. In ABC podcast The Pineapple Project, currently ranked in top position on Australian iTunes, Hooper makes a “pledge” to be careful with her money, and encourages listeners to do the same. If you dream large, you can save large, just as billionaire Gerry Harvey did.
Billionaires become billionaires by collecting interest on their billions. Not by shopping at Aldi.
Perhaps Hooper is without the most casual acquaintance with the movement of capital. Perhaps she really does believe that buying meat in bulk or preferring, as the impressively rich Mr Harvey tell her that he does, economy class seating on domestic flights results in greater wealth. Whatever the case, it is of some concern that no one at the national broadcaster is moved to contest such a falsehood presented as top-selling truth on iTunes. I mean, Google it. Harvey accumulated his wealth not through careful saving, but investment. This is not the claim of some dodgy pamphlet one of my pinko mates wrote, but is a matter of record in the effing AFR. This just in: billionaires become billionaires by collecting interest on their billions. Not by hard work and not by shopping at Aldi.
Anyhow. Back to the pledge, or “Pineapple Pledge” as it is known to listeners. You can call Hooper up and stake your claim in the future of wealth equality, which will be won not by changes to a fundamentally unequal set of economic prescriptions, but by a process of visualisation. Start with something small! Hooper, our wretched mortgagee who is just crazy with the challenges of juggling a career and two kids and a husband, chooses a family holiday to Tokyo Disney. Gee. I hope she makes it.
If she does, she can prove that Australian households have accrued record levels of debt because they are insufficiently aspirational. Which is the nice way of saying the more brutal thing Harvey, her first guest, did a decade ago. In 2008, Harvey was interviewed by an author of a work on Australian CEOs. When asked about the philanthropic role of his company in the broader community, he answered that it was better not to help “a whole heap of no-hopers to survive for no good reason”.
If you’re asset-poor, underemployed or not taking your family to visit Mickey Mouse in Japan, you only have yourself to blame.
Dress it up in any shade of compassionate awareness ribbon you like. The Harvey message is fundamentally identical to the Hooper sort: if you’re asset-poor, underemployed or not taking your family to visit Mickey in Japan, you only have yourself to blame. Sure, Hooper very cheerfully chides listeners for their failure, which she also says is her failure. She may as well call some of us “no-hopers” for whose survival there is no good reason. Her assumptions and Harvey’s are the same.
Now. I could say something awful here. I could say that I am sick to the shitter of comfortable ABC Mesdames banging on about the trials of life in, what, the top 10 to 20 per cent of the national income distribution. I could advise that Hooper takes her “Money Personality Types” and shove them somewhere where even the most lax class analysis dare not shine. I could identify this moment as one of many clearly emerging at a broadcaster that cares less for a majority of viewers than it does for cosseted tits still rich enough to consume real estate porn without gagging on the fact of encroaching poverty. I could say that it takes a fair bit of money from the outset to Dare to Dream of Disney, when so many of us dream that mortgage stress or rental eviction will not come too soon.
As I am a fucking lady, I will say none of this. I will simply offer some “alternative facts” to challenge those offered by Hooper and her sorority of Pledges, who now have pictures of lovely things on their vision boards including a kayak, frozen ova, a lovely European holiday for all the family and, of course, several housing deposits.
The median Australian weekly wage—a measure far closer to typical than the “average” so often cited—is currently $662. 40% of Australian workers can lose their job at any time with no warning. More Australians are renting and failing to meet their mortgage repayments. Underemployment is a problem so urgent, even the RBA was moved to mention it, perhaps promote its inclusion in national measures of labour capacity.
If you believe you can overcome social and economic conditions with some moxie and a picture of a cartoon mouse, you are either (a) a very gifted bank robber or (b) Claire Hooper or Gerry Harvey.
If you don’t enjoy numbers and would prefer personal stories such as those offered by Ms Hooper, here is one from an Uber ride I had last Friday. A young driver we’ll call M was born in Eritrea and his first years on the planet were spent in a UNHCR camp. M “visualised” his way into an Australian university where he was awarded his Masters in IT. He was assured that networking was the specialty of the future. Jobs are now scarce in the sector, but, M told me, fear of black skin isn’t.
M, who has a rating of 4.9, is earning less than minimum wage. A tiny bunch of “innovators” in Silicon Valley extract great profit from his labour. A growing group of nativist shits in Australia have their views about his religion printed and broadcast across the nation each day. This man, who drove me, a person on about double his income, home from my Friday night drinks retains far more optimism about social and economic equality in Australia than his passenger. On the matter of Australia, I’m with Tarneen Onus-Williams. Burn the thing down and start again. (For our very literal friends at News Corp, this is a metaphor and in no way an incitement to arson.)
So. If you believe you can individually overcome prevailing social and economic conditions with some moxie and a picture of a cartoon mouse, you are either (a) a very gifted bank robber or (b) Claire Hooper or Gerry Harvey.
A growing number of us are insecure, poor and without assets. A growing number of Australian Millennials recognise just how stuffed they are in this luckless era, where a degree is no guarantee of future employment and a government promise to address “inequality” is mere policy posturing.
Tell me that my lack of material fortune can be amended with a vision board. Go on, Hoops. Tell me again. Tell me that it is my own lack of interest in my survival that has kept my super low and my annual income stagnant. Tell me, or maybe even M, that “You can change it!” as your do on your economically myopic top-rated podcast. And don’t forget to sign off again with, “Love your work, Cash Cats”. It’s so charming and inclusive and a wonderful reminder that those neoliberal economic prescriptions that demand wealth inequality can be overcome by positive thinking.
Rich people. They got that way because they were careful with money and vision boards. This is Our ABC.
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