Inequality denial is vitally important to the Government and its allies in the shaping of the election narrative. According to John Key and a fairly compliant media, this Government is a compassionate one that brings the people with it, one that has steered the waka of Aotearoa successfully through the choppy seas of recession.
In short, apparently we don’t know how lucky we are.
What a load of nonsense. This Government did not bring the people with them on Asset sales, GCSB mass surveillance and robbing care givers of their legal right to challenge Government decisions. This Government, recently criticised by Amnesty International and the UN for their lax commitment to human rights, masquerades as lite right when in reality it’s pretty hard right. Charter Schools, the demonisation of beneficiaries, the class cleansing of state housing tenants, competition models in education, more private corporations supplying social services, a chequebook always open for corporate welfare and a contempt for public broadcasting that constantly dumbs down the debate are not the hallmarks of a middle of the road conservatism, it’s an ideological romper stomper looking for another 3 years without mentioning inequality.
The billions borrowed to give away to the richest NZers hasn’t helped with social inequality while reducing Government revenue on being able to reduce that social inequality.
Last year, ‘Inequality, A New Zealand Crisis‘, was released, here were the main points…
-The gap between high and low incomes has widened faster in recent decades in NZ than in most other developed nations
-Across all adults. the top 1% owns three times as much wealth as the poorest 50%.
-NZ now has the widest income gaps since detailed records began in the early 1980s.
-The average household in the top 10% of NZ has nine times the income of one in the bottom 10%
-Between 170 000 – 270 000 children living in poverty (depending on the measures used)
-One of the world’s worst worst records of child health and well-being
-One major report on children’s welfare ranked NZ twenty-eighth out of 30 developed countries.
-There are more Pakeha in poverty then Maori, but poverty impacts Maori & Pacifica more acutely. 1 in every 10 Pakeha households live in poverty, 1 in every 5 Maori and Pacific households live in poverty.
-Maori had 95% of their land appropriated and alienated between 19th Century and 20th Century.
-Women earn 13% less than men and are under represented in senior positions within almost every occupation. Many are forced to take low income part time work.
-Subsidies for Kiwisaver contributions and some Working for Families tax credits, are available only to those in paid work or, sometimes, in full-time paid work. A lower proportion of Women are in full time work so they are more likely to be excluded from these initiatives and more reliant on inadequate state benefits.
-Pacific Islanders are 3 times more likely to be unemployed than the general population’s rate, they also, like recent immigrants, struggle alongside Maori against structural discrimination.
-These groups represent the 800 000 NZers living below the poverty line.
-Against that number, 29 000 people own 16% of NZs wealth, and 13 000 NZers have incomes over $250 000.
-Wages and benefits are too low for people to live on, it isn’t an issue of budgeting, it’s an issue of income.
-Poverty erodes voice and citizenship which generates inequality.
-People’s ability to participate fully in their society and enjoy a sense of belonging is vital for a Democracy to flourish.
…those facts can now be lined up against research that gives insight to what that inequality looks like in real life. Thanks to Chrissy Glen, we now have a means to see who really gains and who loses in the inequality debate. The figures are sobering.
While we all have a responsibility to contribute, we also have the right to benefit from the fruits of society. The road worker, the receptionist, the sales assistant, the solo parent, the beneficiary, the teacher, the lawyer, the manager – ALL contribute to a functioning economy as much as the businessman and executives do. To see such obscene differences in wealth should shame our egalitarian beliefs.
We have ignored work with dignity in favour of grinding wages down and the realisation that each persons role has a part to play in the positive running of a modern society has been missed for the mad scramble of selfishness as a virtue enveloped in a user pays consumer culture that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
The Government will bellow that there is no depression in NZ, but their denial of the inequality caused by a failed neoliberal experiment now 30 years old, is as out of touch with the future needs of this country as deep sea oil drilling is.
With an eye to the latest dismal poll results, it is time for MANA, the Greens and Labour to sit down over a cup of tea and work out exactly what the articulated difference from this current self defeating economic direction will be.
The injustice is vast and the demand for creative and intelligent responses to the needs we have in a land of plenty are required now. Time for politicians on the left to step up and lead rather than remain impotent from opinion polled policy messaging.
3 more years of this social vandalism is simply not an option.