Let’s talk about Tim Gurner.
That name might not ring a bell, but you’re probably familiar with his work. Gurner, a multimillionaire Australian real estate mogul, was the one who suggested back in 2017 that the reason young people can’t afford to buy homes is because they spend too much money on coffee and avocado toast. It was a comment so insultingly stupid and tone deaf that it became a meme for an entire generation.
Now Tim Gurner is back in the news, and he’s more punchable than ever.
On Tuesday, Sept. 12, Gurner was speaking at the Property Summit of the Australian Financial Review when he explained the central problem caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Was it all the death? No, not at all! Please allow me to quote Mr. Gurner at length:
“I think the problem that we’ve had is that … people decided that they didn’t really want to work so much anymore during COVID,” Gurner said, “and that has had a massive issue on productivity. Tradies (building trades workers) have definitely pulled back on productivity. They have been paid a lot to do not too much in the last few years, and we need to see that change.
“We need to see unemployment rise. Unemployment has to jump 40 to 50 percent in my view. We need to see pain in the economy. We need to remind people that they work for the employer, not the other way around. There’s been a systematic change where employees feel the employer is extremely lucky to have them as opposed to the other way around. It’s a dynamic that has to change. We’ve got to kill that attitude, and that has to come through hurting the economy, which is what the whole global … the world is trying to do. The governments around the world are trying to increase unemployment to get that to some sort of normality, and we’re seeing that. … There (are) massive layoffs going off. … We’re starting to see less arrogance in the employment market and that has to continue because that will cascade across the cost balance.”
You, the reader, are fortunate that you get to read these words instead of watching them tumble from the impossibly smug face of Tim Gurner, who of course has slicked back hair. I won’t mince words: while watching the video in order to transcribe Gurner’s quotes, I began to fantasize about the satisfying thud of a falling guillotine blade.
In the world of fiction, Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is considered the gold standard example of a cruel, out-of-touch rich guy. In what’s probably Scrooge’s worst moment, he asks someone why the poor don’t simply go to the workhouses, only to be told that “many would rather die” than live in a Victorian-era workhouse.
“If they would rather die they had better do it and decrease the surplus population,” Scrooge replies. It’s a cartoonishly cruel quote, and it serves to make the reader pretty jazzed about seeing this horrible man get tormented by ghosts for the rest of the book.
However, I’d argue that Tim Gurner is worse than Scrooge. He doesn’t want the poor to die; he wants them to become a serf class, enslaved by their poverty and forced to build the buildings that he can sell to other wealthy elites. To quote a more recent literary character, sometimes dead is better.
After Gurner’s comments made the rounds in the media and politicians, labor unions, and members of the public began to voice the opinion that he was a worse person than three Hitlers combined, Gurner issued an apology. My assumption is that after much self-reflection and soul-searching, Gurner realized that he did not want to get beaten to death by a tradie.
“At the AFR Property Summit this week I made some remarks about unemployment and productivity in Australia that I deeply regret and were wrong,’’ Gurner said. “There are clearly important conversations to have in this environment of high inflation, pricing pressures on housing and rentals due to a lack of supply, and other cost of living issues. My comments were deeply insensitive to employees, tradies, and families across Australia who are affected by these cost-of-living pressures and job losses. I want to be clear: I do appreciate that when someone loses their job it has a profound impact on them and their families and I sincerely regret that my words did not convey empathy for those in that situation.”
I think I speak for all of us when I say that Tim Gurner can take his little apology, fold it five ways, and jam it up his Land Down Under. He doesn’t mean a word of it. He just panicked when he realized that a wide audience caught him saying the quiet part out loud.
As much as I hate Gurner, I really ought to be thanking him. He’s one of the few ultra-rich capitalists willing to say what the rest of them are thinking.
Make no mistake, Gurner isn’t alone in his desire to see the working class transformed into serfs. It’s the end goal for most billionaires.
If you’re a hollowed-out husk of a human being totally incapable of empathy and only interested in seeing your portfolio increase, slavery is a great system. Sure, it destroys people’s lives and robs them of their very humanity, but once you get past that, it’s far and away the most cheap and efficient way to build a labor base. But even Tim Gurner knows that you can’t go to the Property Summit and tell a crowd of people that we need to bring back chattel slavery.
Instead, you advocate for creating a system where a labor class is forced into such fear and crushing poverty that they end up working for slave wages. It’s a classic example of a Hobson’s choice: you can either make pennies building my skyscraper, or you can starve to death in a ditch. That really isn’t a choice at all.
I expect that since his words went viral, Tim Gurner has had a whole lot of sleepless nights filled with existential dread. At long last, there’s at least one thing that can connect him with the working class.