Encouraging people to spend money and offering rewards for doing so is a major part of the operation of our banks, credit card companies, supermarkets, department stores, pharmacies, booksellers, clothing stores as well as alcohol outlets and gambling establishments. It seems the more you spend the greater the reward. Some supermarkets offer vouchers once you have achieved a certain spend and the size of the voucher depends on the spend. Others offer rewards by swiping a card to build up reward points and all offer discounts on petrol – the greater the spend, the greater the discount.
What this all means is that if you have money and spend it you personally will receive benefits – be it a 20c discount on each litre of petrol, grocery vouchers, electricity, water and gas discounts or your choice of products from a catalogue.
If you do not have money and you struggle to meet your basic needs on a weekly basis, there are no rewards. There are no incentives.
This type of reward system has formed the basis of many of this Government’s policies. From its first moments in government we have seen the indecent haste in which tax cuts for those who least needed them were implemented through to legislative, regulatory and fiscal respite for multi national and million dollar companies and financial assistance to specific companies that were in trouble like Mediaworks and South Canterbury Finance.
These actions are about rewards targeted at a select few – those that the Government sees as its most likely supporters in a general election – those with disposable income and company managers and directors. Those who benefit from reward schemes. The Government has made a choice to use taxpayer money as if it were its own. To reward its own loyal customers.
And what of those people struggling to make ends meet? Surely it is the role of government to provide the basics to people not able to do so because of circumstances. To me, a responsible government needs to prioritise actions that will address societal inequality and intergenerational poverty that is becoming entrenched. But instead those struggling faced GST increases, ACC cuts, state housing restrictions, benefit changes and unemployment rises.
This is not about politics of envy – this is about politics of priority. Governments should not facilitate opportunities for people not in need to consolidate and benefit from systems be they tax assessments, trust provisions or ACC levy rebates. The recent proposal to give substantial rebates through car registration fees to new car owners, particularly to those with the safest (and usually European) cars does nothing to help a single parent with dependents to be able to safely travel in an older car that has to be maintained on what remains from a lessening benefit.
The time to reward those who can afford a new car, a beach property or investment properties is when we can say that all people receive decent wages and they experience decent living conditions. Until then there is no excuse for tax schemes that mean less tax is paid or that we do not have a capital gains tax for investment properties.
2013 saw two records broken – the NBR Rich List published in July was bigger and richer than ever before. The total minimum net worth of members saw an increase from 2012 of $3.5 billion.
The second record was the number of people attending the Auckland City Mission Christmas lunch along with a record number of food parcels being handed out that were 10% more than were handed out in 2012. A perusal of the 2013 City Mission Annual Report shows that the increase in requests for help from 2009 to 2013 rose by almost 24,000 – an increase of 188%. Every facet of their services experienced increased demand.
And we are all acutely aware of the number of children living in poverty and that 1 in 6 children is going without basic necessities such as a bed, meal or a doctor’s visit.
Until that inequality is addressed and the Government is actively addressing housing provision and conditions, a decent living wage, health conditions that disproportionately affect certain people and a fair education system that results in greater numbers moving through to tertiary education or training from lower decile schools, there is no basis for higher earner tax cuts, company or sector tax exemptions, regulatory exemptions, changes to employment laws and social welfare changes that make an already difficult existence even more difficult.
The time has come to cut the reward programme for those already benefitting and to identify those most in need of Government support to just live a life that tries to provide those people with their most basic needs.