One of the more interesting parts of last weekend’s New Zealand First Convention was Winston’s announcement of the so-called New Kiwi Deal. This immediately grabbed my attention as a direct and potent example of a social democratic slash against the seriously silly status quo economica which we languish under today.
Unfortunately, not everybody was *quite* so enthused, and several members of the Press Gallery appear to have taken it upon themselves to pour cold water on the idea.
I’ve detailed my thoughts about the rest of John Armstrong’s article on our 2015 Convention elsewhere, but suffice to say the part of Armstrong’s article which really gnashed my goat in a grinder was his commentary about Winston’s unveiling of the New Kiwi Deal campaign. Specifically his suggestion that this part of Winston’s speech only served to substantiate the charge that our Party is old, tired, and ultimately stale.
Rather like Armstrong’s analysis itself, in fact.
Now it’s true that we’re once again (consciously) looking to the past on this one. As some commentators have noted, both the name and the scope and ambit of the policy are directly inspired by measures undertaken in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s visionary response to the Great Depression.
And there’s a very good reason for that.
We genuinely believe that thanks to thirty years of pernicious economic mismanagement, our society and our economy are hitting a crisis point. Particularly out in the Regions.
Instead of just blindly pretending that there isn’t a problem, and that the manipulation of employment figures by National represents a worthwhile substitute for job growth … we’ve chosen to do something different.
We’re proposing a series of serious structural economic reforms that will fundamentally change the shape of our economy and nation.
These include Reserve Bank reform, to help out our exporters; an overhaul of the tax system, to make it fairer; and most interestingly, an entirely new approach to making use of the surplus labour in our economy, rather than letting it lie fallow.
At the moment, you’re paid an unemployment benefit for the specific purpose of finding work. That all sounds well and good in theory, but the slight issue is there aren’t enough jobs to go round – meaning we force beneficiaries to jump through endless rounds of WINZ-directed hoops in order to prove they’re doing everything in their power to seek regular, paid employment.
The waste in this process is twofold:
First up, of human resources. Beneficiaries with useful skills, talents, and if nothing else their bodies and minds themselves, are left to languish hunting for jobs that simply don’t exist – instead of being able to make a contribution to our economy.
The state, meanwhile, subsidizes their poverty and economic idleness as the apparently acceptable sunk cost of a market approach to employment. And it’s all justified by Treasury on the basis that at least it keeps down inflation.
Instead of continuing this cycle of waste and inactivity, wouldn’t it be MUCH better if the state paid long-term unemployed New Zealanders a FAIR wage to work to improve their communities?
This is in the best traditions of the Post-War Economic Consensus as it uses the power of the state to unlock and empower the vast and untapped pool of labour and talent which exists out there in our economy amidst the human casualties of neoliberalism. And it’s something that would NEVER happen if simply left to the market – or, for that matter, if we just left unemployment to the “investment model” John Armstrong apparently favours instead.
This stubborn unwillingless to see ordinary New Zealanders suffer due to governmental apathy and a hidebound more-market ideology is pretty much the reason why I joined up with New Zealand First in the first place, and I’m exceptionally glad that we’re metaphorically rolling up the sleeves of state in order to make a difference – rather than blithely assuming that we can just continue to let ordinary Kiwis and our communities continue to fall through the cracks.
And despite sharing the name with a scheme from the late 1990s, this iteration of the Community Wage policy looks set to be far broader in scope and different in ambit than a mere “work for the dole” set-up.
From my many conversations with Social Development spokesperson Darroch Ball over the years, I feel highly confident that he wouldn’t settle for a mere re-hash, and will be working to craft a worthwhile and valuable instrument with which to protect and serve our nation while helping our unemployed to build their skills and make a contribution to their communities.
It represents an improvement in how we do both unemployment and what I’m going to call “societal development” (rather than social development – because that’s the other output of all this).
Because the alternative – what we’re doing right now – is *quite literally* not working.
I look forward to seeing this policy fleshed out in public with great interest and enthusiasm.
I can but hope John Armstrong’s doing the same.