Friday, 3 July 2020

There’s Never A Right Time For Left-Wing Policies.

Raising The Bar: Would that the Prime Minister and her colleagues would listen as intently to what the people – as opposed to the power elites – are saying as the Greens. Were they so disposed, the popular clamour for a transformational post-Covid reset would be loud in their ears. Listening intently, they would also hear the fear in the voices of those who have already lost, or are about to lose, their jobs. The argument for a level of income support that allows them to live with dignity is compelling.

JACINDA ARDERN dismissed them. Winston Peters savaged them. Todd Muller attributed them to Labour. The Taxpayers’ Union turned them into a fundraising opportunity. The Parliamentary Press Gallery filed them under ‘N’ for “Not Going To Happen”. The wealthy castigated them. Economists panned them. The rest of us, however, thought they sounded pretty good.

What could possibly fire-up so many competing interests? Who has the power to unite Peters and the Press Gallery? Labour and the Taxpayers’ Union? The answer, of course, is – The Greens. More specifically, the Greens’ welfare and tax policies.

To the delight of their supporters (many of whom were teetering on the brink of abandoning the party as insufferably “woke” and out-of-touch) the Greens have rediscovered their left-wing mojo. Offering policies radical enough to set virtually the entire power elite against them.

To paraphrase the late, great Murray Ball: “If you want a good reason for supporting the Greens’ tax and welfare policies, just take a look at the people opposing them.”

Sadly – very sadly – that appears to include Jacinda Ardern. When asked to comment on the Greens’ plans to boost the incomes of the poor by increasing the taxes of the rich, the Prime Minister, rather snootily, informed Morning Report’s Corin Dann that they were based on “some pretty heroic assumptions”. And, no, Labour has no plans to introduce a Wealth Tax.

Not that the Leader of the Opposition is at all disposed to accept Labour’s denials – not even when they come straight from the horse’s mouth. According to Muller, Labour’s just waiting for the voters to return a Labour-Green parliamentary majority, so that they can then remind the country that “this is MMP”, and that although Labour had no plans for two extra steps at the top of the Income Tax scales, and had repeatedly ruled out a Wealth Tax, they’d been required to accept them all as the price of remaining in office.

This “Labour and the Greens have a hidden agenda” claim will be repeated endlessly by the National Party as the General Election draws near. Last weekend the Opposition unveiled its first election hoarding. It features Muller and his deputy, Nikki Kaye, standing proudly beside the words: “Strong Team. More Jobs. Better Economy.” The hoardings promising “No New Taxes” are clearly being held in reserve. As the campaign intensifies, however, you can bet they’ll start popping up everywhere.

Those of us with grey beards but still-functioning memories have seen this strategy rolled out time and time again by the Tories. It prompts us, equally regularly, to pose the question: “Why doesn’t Labour decide that it might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb?” If the National Party has both the intention and the resources to convince the electorate that they are facing the grim spectre of socialism, then why doesn’t the Labour Party, instead of denying the charge, respond by reassuring the voters that the sort of socialism they’re proposing isn’t grim at all – it’s great!

A big part of the explanation for why they won’t make a virtue of National’s imposed necessity lies in the crucial contribution Labour’s cautious fiscal management has made to this country’s ability to cope with the Covid-19-induced economic crisis. It has reinforced the natural caution of Finance Minister Grant Robertson, and it has reaffirmed the Prime Minister’s faith in her closest friend and ally in Labour’s caucus. If Grant reckons the Greens have made all kinds of heroic assumptions about how the wealthy will react to the Left’s best efforts to make them contribute their fair share, then that’s the message Jacinda will relay to the public.

Would that the Prime Minister and her colleagues would listen as intently to what the people – as opposed to the power elites – are saying. Were they so disposed, the popular clamour for a transformational post-Covid reset would be loud in their ears. Listening intently, they would also hear the fear in the voices of those who have already lost, or are about to lose, their jobs. The argument for a level of income support that allows them to live with dignity is compelling.

With National painting Labour’s caution as a lie, why not throw it to the wind? If there is never a right time for Labour-Green left-wing policies, then there’s never a wrong time, either.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 3 July 2020.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

How does Chris Trotter know 'The People' want a transformational re-set? Does he know all of them, and actually asked?

Anonymous said...

Alternatively, If you want a good reason for dismissing the Greens’ tax and welfare policies, just take a look at the people supporting them: Students, Academics & Beneficiaries.

Anyone who has had to stand on their own 2 feet, make sensible life choices & make their own way in the world to support their own family without relying on taxpayers charity for their day job &/or survival thinks they're a bunch of woke hypocritical envy tax thieves. They have their place as NZ's environmental conscience, they're demonstrably unqualified, ethically compromised & economically incompetent to contribute to NZ beyond that. RobbieWgtn.

Brendan McNeill said...

Chris

The Greens tax initiative reveals one of the many weaknesses of socialism; it is predicated upon a flawed understanding of human nature, and the roll that economic incentives play in shaping personal behaviour, for better or worse.

The freedom to succeed is closely linked to the freedom to fail. The State can remove the social impact of personal failure only by destroying the motivation to succeed.

To put it simply, if employees are remunerated at a similar rate to employers, then why bother with the risk and the hassle of being an employer? Why wouldn’t we all just become employees? What could possibly go wrong with that model?

If the State is going to compensate me at a similar rate for staying at home as I could earn in entry level employment, why bother getting out of bed in the mornings?

Now you might consider these extreme examples, but the fact remains we already have a highly redistributive tax and welfare system in New Zealand. We are already disproportionately dependent upon ‘wealthy’ high income earners to deliver the revenues to fund those services we depend upon. I suspect even Labour knows there are limits to how much can be imposed upon high achievers before they take their skills and talents elsewhere.

We need more wealthy and aspirational people in New Zealand not less. We need tax policies that incentivise investment, innovation and employment, not policies that work against them. The Greens tax policy is a poorly considered, ideological, high risk strategy that will harm all New Zealanders, not just those at whom it is superficially targeted.

Andrew Nichols said...

Ah yes that old hardy Nat campaigner Jobson Growth. His sister Laura ...as in Laura Norder also gets wheeled out in most campaigns too . They are getting on a bit now and certainly sound tired. Their Brash cousin Neil Iberal has been throwing his weight around and getting a lot of attention.

TimS said...

Yes to a better level of income support! And yes to higher income tax rates to help fund them.

But I do have some questions on the proposed wealth tax, even though I think the Greens seem to have done some good research. I’d be grateful for answers, corrections or education (but hope no personal abuse!)

The proposed wealth tax aims to raise $7.9bn in Year 1 for the GMI. Is that realistic? The proposal talks of the wealthiest 6% of NZers; ie 300,000 people. To reach $8bn tax revenue would indicate an average additional wealth tax of $26,000 annually per person (ie an extra $500 tax every week per person!). Is my calculation right? Is that realistically achievable? I’m surprised that that suggests an average wealth of almost $3 million per person in this quite large cohort. Really? (Don’t forget the sensible “individualisation” approach when thinking of this…)

And who are these 300,000 people? Clearly they’re not kids, nor people still paying off mortgages, bringing up children etc. Post-mortgage and post-kids means the end of their working lives or, perhaps more probably, in retirement. Population statistics suggest that the wealth tax would apply to 1 in 3 of all Kiwis aged over 60 – a far cry from the headline 6%. I question whether that would be politically or socially acceptable.

There has been public praise for the “individualisation” approach to the proposed new tax. That’s good! But let’s also remember that it’s a factual inevitability that one spouse in a married couple will die before the other and so there could be a lot of widows especially suddenly caught by this new tax net. My appreciation is that a lot of retirees are “asset rich but income poor” and that problem is exacerbated for widows (or widowers). I think it very likely that very many people deemed by this proposal to be “wealthy” would be genuinely unable to pay an additional tax of $100 or $200 - or even much more – every week. Am I wrong? If not, how do we address that problem?

Personally I think it would be better to focus on other taxes, especially income tax but also GST. Less controversial and easier to collect!

John Hurley said...

Migration-induced population growth has been "one of the most dominant drivers of economic activity in recent years", but our per capita GDP growth has trailed behind the official GDP measure.

"This was never a sustainable source of growth," he says.

https://www.interest.co.nz/business/105518/anz-economists-see-burden-our-economic-recovery-being-put-domestic-stimulus-and

David Williamson
Hi John, thanks for your email.  The figures I quote are from my PhD thesis, they were sourced from Stats NZ year books and data over that period. You can access the thesis through the AUT website,  I would send you the link but I am in Croatia and don't have access to my regular computer. I will send you the link when I get home in 4 weeks.  Yes this is a long term trend that not many people in NZ want to talk about, it affects all but the elite workforce and it's a result of the neo- liberal revolution in the 1980s, we have gained considerable economic growth and consumer choice, but the rewards of that growth are increasingly concentrated into the hands of the ones with established capital, wages earners are losing year after year. 

Keith Locke: "Anti-immigration sentiment has no place in the Green Party" and more recently.
Bill English: "Employers tell me they can't get staff".

Someone is going to have to pay for those Mandarin and Korean speaking bus drivers who are now on welfare.
We had a down turn in tourism in the 1990's when the Japanese market collapsed but we recovered. Now the nationals of those countries are here waiting to do the work.

That's what Megan Woods was reffering to National MP slammed for 'racist' statement on returning Kiwis from Asia
https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12345104&fbclid=IwAR1kmIupLxaBm6pf9E0YpY37riCj60iiYWLByNnnFXEPzOXZxeR_1tQjT1I

pat said...

oh dear Brendon...the freedom to fail.....how many billions (or trillions internationally) have been gifted to prevent that failure.....keep telling yourself you deserve everything you have.
The Greens policy is sound and places the onus on Labour to match or better its intent...are they up to the task?...we know National are not

kiwidave said...

Well said Brendan; finding a balance between personal/familial responsibility and state/collective responsibility; that is the heart of the issue. Obviously the extremes of either are unworkable and unjust but where is the balance. It's our job as a society to find it so it's important that it's are a well discussed election issue with very clear positions and policies from the political hopefuls.

MMP, as we operate it, makes it difficult to get a clear signal (on this and other issues) from the electorate - NZF's betrayal of it's predominantly conservative base a graphic example. Perhaps a better solution would be two main parties with committed partnerships similar to the Nat/Act and Lab/Green informal alliances. A National/Act/New Conservative partnership would, for example allow the socially conservative NC's to have influence within a broader National caucus proportional to their vote. Likewise the libertarian ACT voters. A much more democratic process and result; a (more?) true reflection of the will of the people.

BTW: I find it surprising that collectivists often describe themselves as liberals. The two are diametrically opposed - always have been and always will be.

Murray said...

Your argument is based on the premises that wealth is created by good honest hard work. Yes a small portion is. Most is created by usery. Speculation and the majority of huge wealth sitting in tax havens was created by speculative trading of wealth itself. The main thing separating left and right is the attitude towards your fellow human being. Left is we. Selfless. Treat your fellow human being regardless of their situation the way you would like to be treated. A bit like the long haired black man talked about years ago. Right is me. Selfish. Judgment of my fellow human being. I can do whatever I wish. I'm okay look after number one. Fuck anybody else. Which camp do you wish to feel that you are part of?

Anonymous said...

Chris, this could be a cheeky comment, but at your age and depending on your vocation, you should be at the earning level where you would incur additional tax under this policy, and that you live in Auckland presumably owning your own house, you are probably a millionaire too. And you would happily wish this upon yourself and what are a majority of ordinary, not super wealthy New Zealanders. It's only inflation that has caused more people than ever before to be millionaires. In my day, as well as your's, Scrooge McDuck was a millionaire. I know if you publish this, I'll get a flame as a result....

Patricia said...

A Country that issues its own currency can most certainly provide all people with a decent income but whether that is wise is a different matter. Personally, I would prefer a job guarantee. That would be much better than a type of UBI. But a big increase in all benefits and then have those indexed to wages and inflation as superannuation is, is an absolute necessity.

greywarbler said...

There used to be a Robbie in Auckland. He was Mayor there and tried to get the sleepy, self-satisfied to move on major projects to a growing city like putting in a rail system that served the city citizens well into the future. He did manage what apparent was a mammoth task to achieve. One caller was advised that he was not available for an interview as 'He was up to his neck in sewerage'.

You say complacently: "Anyone who has had to stand on their own 2 feet, make sensible life choices & make their own way in the world to support their own family without relying on taxpayers charity for their day job &/or survival thinks they're [the Green Party] a bunch of woke hypocritical envy tax thieves." Well the only reason you can make your own way is by using the systems that other citizens and politicians have helped set up.
They have provided all the elements you need to build your nest.

You have been provided with educational opportunities for basic information to acquire your skills. Unfortunately NZ has not been moved to include in education study with discussion on human society and philosophy so we rise above the simple progression of being born, learning to eat and walk, learning to work usually amongst others in a conformist way, never thinking deeply about life, rather like a scurrying ant, take time off to use machines to travel and stare at other ants, get old and then die. That is about the essence of every self-satisfied person's life. The Greens are trying to break through that closed door.

Some people who may or may not be self-satisfied have made some pithy statements about other people's thinking and what is called commonsense:

Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.
Albert Einstein



Guerilla Surgeon said...

"The Greens tax initiative reveals one of the many weaknesses of socialism; it is predicated upon a flawed understanding of human nature, and the roll that economic incentives play in shaping personal behaviour, for better or worse."


On the other hand, free-market capitalism as espoused by neoliberals has been shown by actual science – psychology – to be based on a flawed understanding of human nature which assumed for one, that economic incentives have far a greater influence than they actually do. Which sparked something of a new branch of economics involving and incorporating psychology. Give us a yell when you've caught up with this Brendan – for better or for worse.

Incidentally they also adopted a whole lot of – algorithms I think they might be called – from physics. Which the physics people long ago abandoned as being pretty much useless. I'm not sure that classical economists have actually twigged to this yet.

sumsuch said...

Well argued Brendan. I don't disagree about the freemarket being a good mechanism. Why is it agin climate change? It doesn't cope with the end of resources. The neediest are responsible for their predicament? And those yertles can overturn society. No one thinks the freemarket looks up over its knees. See ... the origin of your religion. I mean Yankland. No one is envious of your 'city on the hill'.

thesorrow&thepity said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5TVLEaqqdI

This one comedic clip states everything that's lamentably wrong with the left today...totally self inflicted (as always with the left).
Sadly today's left has mutated into a bunch of mindless woke zombies, collectively sleeping walking off a cliff like Lemmings

nigel clarke said...

" we already have a highly redistributive tax and welfare system in New Zealand"
Really? According to the OECD and others NZ has , after the US one of the most regressive tax systems in the OECD.

Anonymous said...

@greywarbler "... the only reason you can make your own way is by using the systems that other citizens and politicians have helped set up. They have provided all the elements you need to build your nest." If that were true, opportunity would apply equally to everyone else & outcomes would be the result of individual effort so there would be no justification for the Greens to try to steal from others.

...and we studied the foundations of society, ethics & moral philosophy when I was in a NZ High School 50 years ago, the rest is self-taught (you would probably say - obviously :)). RobbieWgtn.