The American Pubic Broadcasting Service used to have fabulous, hard hitting documentaries when PBS first got going in the 1970s. Fast forward to 2013, and all the documentaries that seriously challenge the political establishment have all but vanished from free-to-air TV (except, perhaps, for Frontline and Bill Moyers’ specials).
Although it first aired on commercial TV, the New Zealand documentary Mind the Gap reminds me a lot of the PBS documentaries I used to watch on Friday night in the late seventies. It dissects the alarming rate at which New Zealand’s wealthy elite are sucking up wealth from our working class families.
While New Zealand’s political and economic dynamics are somewhat different from those of the US, there are common factors at play. Moreover the New Zealand economy is somewhat easier to unpack. In addition to being smaller, for the most part it’s uncomplicated by taxpayer funded corporate subsidies.
Mind the Gap is highly critical of “neoliberalism” (I don’t think I’ve ever heard that word on American TV), which the program refers to as zombie economics. The presenter also briefly interviews John Quiggins, the author of the 2012 book Zombie Economics.
Neoliberalism is the technical term for Reaganomics and the New Zealand version Rogernomics. Mind the Gap describes, in gory detail, how Roger Douglas’s neoliberal reforms of the 1980s virtually destroyed New Zealand’s economy. It did so mainly by destroying this country’s manufacturing sector and offshoring the majority of our manufacturing jobs.
The documentary offers a number of potential solutions to New Zealand’s current “trickle up” economy. In my mind, all would go a long way towards ending America’s growing income divide.
Suggestions offered include a financial transaction on banks (aka the Robin Hood Tax), a fairer tax policy and a clampdown on tax evasion, an end to aggressive privatization of public resources, and more cooperatives and “social enterprises” (corporations formed for the good of society rather than profit).
*”Mind the Gap” is an expression borrowed from the British tube (subway) system.