Hit over the head with a plasma screen

Have you noticed? Owning a modern flat screen television proves you are not saving every day in every way – the sacrifice essential for home ownership.

This theme is raised again and again by the shills and trolls pouring venom into the debates on the blogs and internet sites devoted to housing affordability. Puzzling, until one understands its origin.

The idea comes from the focus groups the neo-cons run. They listen for quick slogans – word pictures – that sum up complex attitudes to use in debate. Phrases that resonate, like ‘plasma screen television’ (but not Light Emitting Diode screen), can be used to bludgeon the young and insufficiently humble poor.

Divide and conquer is the way of power.

Older (housed) Australians are quite indignant that the next generation aren’t watching ‘perfectly good’ cathode ray tube televisions like them. Where is the spirit of penny-pinching we put up with for years and years to buy our home? We went without! We ate boiled mutton and had it again cold the next day!

When television was first introduced, a black and white telly cost six months wages.

This was a major purchase, rationalised as saving on cinema tickets and a step up from radio. And anyway, the commercials were as entertaining as the programs.

Scroll forward to today and visit an electrical store. You will not find a cathode ray screen for sale anywhere. Anyone setting up house now MUST buy a flat screen television.

And further, a television no longer costs six months wages. The biggest, most extravagant unit costs under $1,000 – a week’s wage.

The debate on housing affordability is dirty, loaded with pejoratives and includes some very heavy players. They are determined to keep house prices high so ordinary citizens’ working lives are mired in debt: it makes for a docile workforce who wont resist Australia’s unfair division of wealth and vile taxes.

Next time you hear someone condemning plasma screen owners for their lack of thrift, you will know they are a troll. And you know where they got the phrase.


  1. Cameron Murray31-05-2011

    You read my mind. Younger generations (while many may be terrible at saving) come across the argument that the reason why they can’t afford a home is because of the flat screen, iphone, and overseas holiday.

    For starters, we bought a fancy flatscreen tv for $400. On the house we live in that is 5 days interest if you bought the home.

    iphones and other gadgets are equally cheap. An iphone costs $1027 over two years on a phone contract. Compared to an entry level mobile it’s only a few hundred dollars more (for the phone and calls combined). Another 3 days interest (or less than a month of Council rates).

    Lastly, overseas holidays. For $5000 you can spend a couple of months in Asia. Or you can pay just the costs of home ownership in Australia for two months (excluding other living costs).

    I think partly the reason for the symbolic nature of these things as generational differences is that until recently they were very expensive – the type of thing only the most wealthy could afford.

  2. Paul Meleng31-05-2011

    Good points. Yes, how dare anyone spend on anything other than a house and land at the limit of their borrowing power. Dont they know the whole ponzi scheme depends on them !
    Just forgive a few of us oldies for using the energy guzzling plasma as the icon of extravagance back when they were costing $15,000. We will now update and modify our language… and maybe buy an LCD.

  3. Cosmos31-05-2011

    What is not realised is how effective this type of propaganda is.

    A friend once said to me that everyone should get the dole. I gave her a curious look. “So that those who do not need it will stop moaning about those that do.” She said. The state of play has not changed.

    With a few more blog sites like this we may counteract some of this divisive rubbish….

  4. Technofreak31-05-2011

    I am still waiting for someone to show me the rule-book that states that you have to waste your life weighed down under a mountain of debt.
    I choose quality of life over living under the shadow of a collective ignorance that says life is a financial burden that saps you and your family of all the possibilities that come your way.
    I really feel sorry for people who think that you are not living life properly unless you have this albatross around your neck reminding you that oneday…when you are nearly dead…you will be magically transported to some financial nirvana that will compensate you for all the lifeless struggle you have gone through.

  5. PT31-05-2011

    Excellent comments everyone.

    I remember the first time that I earnt $40 000 in one year. In that same year, median house prices also climbed by over $40 000 (up from $400 000) – i.e. if I had haved tried to save a deposit that year, I’d have had to save every single cent just to find out that prices had increased by that much anyway! Besides that, who can afford repayments of $640 per week when they earn $800 per week? (Okay, I could’ve bought the cheapest house in the cheapest suburb and it only would have cost me $250 000 at the time or half my take home wage per week … plus repairs, rates, utilities … )

    The thing is, I was a qualified tradesman. I kept asking, “Who is buying all these houses?” “How can they afford it?” ‘cos I sure as hell can’t afford it, and I’m not the poorest person around. There were plenty of other tradies on the same money as me at the time, plus where do all the factory workers live??????

    My dad supported a NEW house, a second hand car, a wife, three kids and a dog on a single income. Show me the numbers that can make that happen today!

  6. Paul Meleng01-06-2011

    True PT. The way it looks here on WA is in order to have a family a bloke has to do fly in fly out to the mines and his wife has to juggle part time work, kids and childcare. And with today’s technology everyone is many times more productive than our previous generation. So the basic question is. If this system is so damn good, how come it hasn’t got easier? If the productivity had been shared properly we would be supporting a family on one wage and a 30 hour week by now. And it is not about bigger homes etc as the technology and productivity would have covered that. What it is really about is a winner takes all “free market” where workers are paid and taxed just what they will put up with without rioting and houses are priced to the maximum they can finance. Sure it is modified with a bit of social conscience so we dont starve, and we have better toys and health care and education but the basic picture remains. The harder we all work and the more effort we put into making good communities and the more we are prepared to borrow and pay off forever the more the price of land goes up. Who wins and why?

  7. Cameron Murray02-06-2011

    Paul Meleng,

    If people don’t mind the link, I have discussed why productivity improvements don’t result in more leisure time, and may lead to less leisure time, at my blog.


  8. Lynds02-06-2011

    I have a plasma and a toddler – it’s not a choice between plasma vs house, but it is one between child vs house. I could have another one or buy a house, I am fine with that, but there are economic consequences to people not having children too.

    I am not putting my family through 30 years of mortgage stress when I have no idea of what is around the corner. I will happily live in my nice rented house, watching my big tv, with my family, playing my iphone thank you very much!

  9. PT02-06-2011

    re: Paul Meleng – “The way it looks here on WA is in order to have a family a bloke has to do fly in fly out to the mines …”

    That’s right – you can have a nice home with a family in it – just as long as you hardly ever visit them. 4 and 1 anyone?

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