A tale of two countries – the real political culture of NZ

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Will NZ inequality reach this point?

As the election approaches politicians, media pundits and bloggers opine about the country. Who will New Zealand vote for? What do we want from our leaders? Are New Zealanders grumpy or happy with their lot ? Is there a national mood for political change? These questions assume that all New Zealanders belong to one country.

This is only superficially true.

Similarly, the predictions of our chief economists and economic news reports assume that all New Zealanders belong to the same economy. Dig below the surface and a different reality emerges; that of two adjacent economies and two adjacent countries living worlds apart.

Allow me to explain.

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The Dominion Post`s March 21 business feature, by James Weir, was headlined `Full steam ahead for growth BNZ says`. In the bank`s view the economy was in a `sweet spot` after growing 0.9 per cent in the December quarter. Recently released figures from Statistics NZ had indicated strong growth in manufacturing, construction, wholesale trade, the dairy sector and in household spending on consumer durables. On the same day a New Zealand Herald feature by Simon Collins was headlined `Global survey shows one in six Kiwis struggling for food`. A Gallup World Poll for 2011-12 had asked people in 160 countries `Have there been times in the last 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?` In New Zealand, 17.2 per cent of respondents answered `yes` (from a sample of 1000). Comments from foodbank providers highlighted the issue. Auckland City Mission`s chief operating officer Jacki Richardson noted an increase in food parcel provision. Over the 2013 Christmas period, from Kaitaia to Thames, 2974 food parcels were supplied (compared to 2520 for Christmas 2012). The Salvation Army and the South Auckland Christian Foodbank all registered high demand. And, in Statistics NZ`s Annual Economic Survey for 2013, 14 per cent of respondents stated that they did not have sufficient food.

What explains these dire circumstances?

Simon Collins cited other research findings pointing to low wages and expensive housing. According to the research group Demographic, New Zealand`s median house price is eight times the median household income (compared to 3.5 the median income in the United States). These are telling statistics and they direct us to the underlying problem.

The economic upturn bypasses thousands upon thousands of New Zealanders, not by accident but by design. In James Weir`s Dominion Post article CTU economist Bill Rosenberg responded to evidence of the upturn as follows `We have yet to see the results in sharply falling unemployment and good wages growth`. In this assessment the word `yet` is quite misleading. In truth, good economic results will never translate into `sharply falling` unemployment and higher wages. Under neo-liberalism capitalist growth necessarily requires large pools of unemployed workers and zero real wage growth. New Zealand has two economies. The official economy, which pervades the mass media and netspace, is promoted by advertising. Consumer durables, saleable homes, well resourced schools, University, professional careers and disposable income to be spent on fashion, music, sport, holidays. The official economy contains hierarchies of course, but these not closely examined. Meanwhile, there exists an underground economy of beneficiaries, poorly paid workers and various entrepeneurs involved in illegal drugs, prostitution and burglary. This is the domain of local-regional gangs and organised crime with transnational connections.

These two economies and the social worlds attached to them are not equally recognised.

From a right perspective only one economy exists. In James Weir`s article Finance Minister Bill English declares that `Providing we stick with the Government`s successful programme, New Zealanders can lock in the economic gains we`re starting to see through more jobs and higher incomes`. The only `New Zealanders` being addressed here are those who belong to the official economy. Everybody else can be divided into the deserving and the undeserving poor. The latter group are demonised as criminal, indolent and parasitical on the official economy (as represented by `the taxpayer`). The former group are defined by their commitment to individual aspiration rather than collective action. Work hard, save hard, get your children into a higher decile school and material reward will follow.

Nothing else matters.

So, what then are the political consequences of all this as the election approaches? Well, wealthy elites from the official economy and their representatives in the National Government, would like things to stay as they are. Poverty must be depoliticised as an individual or social condition which people can pull themselves out of. Those outside the official economy should have no collective voice or political grouping to represent them. Indeed, it would be preferable if such people did not cast a ballot. This would allow National to obtain a higher percentage of the national vote. Getting over the magic 50 per cent threshold may be difficult, but a low turnout would certainly ensure that Labour and the Greens cannot form a government by themselves.

For unions, social justice- anti-poverty activists, and associated community groups within Mana, the Labour left and the Greens the situation looks like this. Those from the underground economy must be inspired to act collectively with political purpose at local level, and to vote as a bloc at election time for radically reformist social democratic policies.

There is another loose political grouping with quite different views. Labour`s political right want to help the poor without alleviating their structural position. The Labour right macroeconomic belief system is not a lot different from Nationals. These people are really an alternative political establishment. The mentality is, just be patient and the cycle of governmental succession will turn in our favour.

After John Key, National won`t look nearly so invincible, several of their ministers have already shown themselves as condescending, inept and/or accident prone. Our time will come, preferably without the Greens as an exclusive coalition partner. But if this scenario plays out, in 2014 or 2017, it will not address the underlying situation described here.

Our tale of two countries has many chapters to come.

65 COMMENTS

  1. “Our time will come, preferably without the Greens” – so who is “our”? Wouldn’t it be more to the point to be “without the Labour right”? But here’s the catch – how do you get the Labour left without the Labour right?
    To the extent that Wayne’s social analysis is correct, the real challenge is to reach that underground economy – actually class – and convince them that they can have a voice and make a difference, and that life could actually be better for them and their children. That’s unfortunately a huge challenge after generations of neglect and abuse by the mainstream system, but it is as always the critical challenge for the left to overcome.

    • To the extent that Wayne’s social analysis is correct, the real challenge is to reach that underground economy – actually class – and convince them that they can have a voice and make a difference, and that life could actually be better for them and their children.

      To do that we have to persuade them that there’s others than Labour to vote for.

      That’s unfortunately a huge challenge after generations of neglect and abuse by the mainstream system, but it is as always the critical challenge for the left to overcome.

      Well, it’s the parties other than Labour have to achieve as Labour is never getting those people’s trust back.

  2. Thank you Wayne for writing this piece. I think that the parties of the so-called left now find themselves politically between a stone and hard place. People don’t always fully appreciate that the neo-liberal revolution wasn’t simply a shift rightwards, but a jumping of conceptual tracks, whereby the criterion of the public good was replaced by the criterion of shareholder profit.

    In the initial stages, the story was “no gain without pain” – that once we had adapted to the new criterion, “a rising tide would lift all boats.” As recently as Helen Clark’s time, it was still possible to believe that the maturing market economy would deliver for all.

    In 2008 the fairy tales disappeared, and it has since been hoped that enough of the middle class are able to accept the destitution of some so that others can consume away as “just the way life is.”

    Therein lies the left’s problem: a small country cannot jump the conceptual tracks into some other system by itself, yet continuing in the present direction is cruel and morally repugnant. And it is especially cruel and disgraceful for anyone to think that feigning sympathy while continuing in the same direction qualifies as a left wing response.

    • Therein lies the left’s problem: a small country cannot jump the conceptual tracks into some other system by itself,

      When it has the resources that NZ has available – yes it can.

      • You are right Draco – I should have said they “could not easily jump the conceptual tracks” – because such a move would be met with very strong opposition from many quarters.

        • I think that we got neoliberalism because US peak oil (1970) killed social democracy. I don’t know what the available, non-awful track is. I think I’m open to suggestions.

    • I find the whole concept of NZ being fundamentally transformed by the machinations of neo-liberal devotees facinating. It is like some sort of modern day Grimm’s fairytale as if New Zealand was some magical happy little kingdom pre 1984 that ahs been turned in to some post apocolcyptic wasteland where we all scavange for what scraps we are able to find. The reality was NZ in 1984 was pretty much where places like Greece and Argentina are now. Basket case economies where we were subsidising our main productive sector. Do you remember that people? Do you remember that government used to pay farmers to produce sheep and we had 65 million of the blooody things that we couldn’t even give away? Do you rememer wage and price freezes because the government ran out of any idea other than blunt force to control inflation?

      • That’s reasonably good trolling, I like the use of a straw man argument, no one actually said NZ was a magical happy kingdom but I think you’ll be able to get away with that for a while.

        Comparing us back then to Argentina and Greece probably won’t stand up to much scrutiny since they tipped up as a result of neoliberalism but younger readers may well be fooled.

        The sentence “Basket case economies where we were subsidising our main productive sector” has several grammatical issues but far worse is that you’ve just given your detractors a stick to beat you – it’s well known that NZ is currently very dependent on the dairy industry selling to China. You really ought to have thought that one through a bit but you were obviously rushing things a bit.

        Remember it’s not an exam, take your time to get things right. B-

      • And do you remember which party created that basket case? And car-less days? And recommended retail prices, which were ‘fine’ so long as you didn’t live in places like Murupara and Tuatapere where the haulage costs made it hugely expensive to live?

        And do you remember the stories about how we were ‘deeply in debt and had to sell our assets’ by the National Lite gang that followed?

        And how thousands were made ‘redundant’ – then hired back more cheaply when ‘the market’ found it totally lacked the elan, flair, wit and charm to ‘take up the slack and create new jobs! new enterprises!’ and other BS?

        And how the research and science sections were forced into stupid ‘competing for funds’, which meant that foundation and blue sky research was abandoned in favour of what the mindless short termist idiot ‘market’ thought might ‘pay’?

        Do you remember how so much vital, valuable corporate memory was trashed? It would have been cheaper to chuck hundred dollar notes off the back end of the Cook Strait ferry in a full gale southerly.

        Do you remember how yet another National government tried to ‘pick winners’ like a newbie at the races with too much money and no clue.

        Because we do.

        Labour used to stand for change and advance. For greater inclusion after a period of consolidation and divisiveness by National. Once, Labour initiated and National consolidated. Big hairy audacious goals and ideas that needed to be spoken. ‘Eight hour day. Fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. Safety net for downturns. Outrageous!!!’

        The consolidators babble on about ‘tax and spend’ as if they’ve found a Mortal Sin. Please. People. All governments tax and spend. It’s the nature of the beast. It helps to by-pass all the fear and greed and judging that people do so money is collected for the greater good now and betterment of future generations.

        National consolidates and memorialises and take the glory for themselves. It’s what they do.

        Labour – seems to be suffering from collective amnesia and paranoid caution.

        We need change without spite and judging and sidelining. We need to use so much more of the power in Us. We’re no longer an illiterate mass counting on an educated few. We’ve achieved Tony Benn’s ‘an educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern’ – temporarily.

        Now I’d like the answer to the last of Benn’s five questions : ‘how do we get rid of you?’ from John Key.

        National is NOT a generator of change. They’ve had their tiny paws on the tiller for long enough. We need uplifting and inclusive change. Labour – would you get to it? Now.

        • Both National and Labour contributed to the situation NZ was in by the early 1980’s. National had carried on the big government policies that Labour had always championed prior to 1984. The mindset was that the problems of the economy could be managed away by the State. This was a completely false view of reality.

          • The mindset was that the problems of the economy could be managed away by the State.

            They can be. The real problem was that people though it could do so while maintaining a primarily capitalist socio-economic system.

            This was a completely false view of reality.

            The false view is that privatisation, otherwise known as feudalism, can do so. Several millennia of failure show that to be complete bollocks.

          • Gos, were you here living through the 70s? I was, and NZ was definitely better defined at the time as a unitary socio-economic entity (as opposed to two divided countries in one nation). The big difference i remember was that the average Joe was not a hell of a lot better off than the minimum wage worker, beneficiaries were both rare and given comparatively (to today) livable sums. There was no need to be part of an underground economy.

            Why was this? It was because the much despised by neo libs State acted as an arbiter for the people in general as opposed to specific interest groups. State involvement was generally associative as opposed to managerial. And capital was far less involved in areas that clipped “rentier” tickets (such as infrastructure). That in turn made the rare capital focus on productive stuff as opposed to buying infrastructure at mates rates, creating artificial markets, profiteering on speculation and financial manipulation (none of which produces an iota of f.a). You know, todays crony neo lib corporatist rip off economy beloved of speculative financial traders like Key.

            Before you go on about “Big Government” projects etc get your facts right.

          • Sorry Gosman, mindless repeating of neoliberal myths isn’t going to cut it these days, we’ve heard it all before and as the comments above this one will attest this crowd will just tear you apart if you don’t put in the effort.

            This is a poor excuse for trolling, you’re getting a D+ for this one and I expect to see more effort next time.

          • The mindset was that the problems of the economy could be managed away by the State. This was a completely false view of reality.

            Not really, Gosman.

            It was the State that built up this country; our society; the infra-structure; the economy; etc.

            It was the State that educated you; housed you (if you were poor); fed you (if you were unemployed); gave you near-free healthcare.

            Your precious neo-liberal system merely “piggy backed” on what the State has built. For example; private investors did not set up their own telecommunications or power generation – they bought privatised State assets.

            And if the State cannot manage the economy, why are Charter schools, Rio Tinto, China Southern Airlines, South Canterbury Finance, Warner Bros, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, all seeking handouts, bail-outs, subsidies, etc?!

            Why is the building industry seeking to import trained tradespeople from overseas rather than investing in training our own people?

            Why is there a critical housing shortage, with the construction industry constantly blaming everyone else for their failings? (Blaming the RMA, local bodies, etc, is bullshit. All of a sudden we can’t build sufficient numbers of houses any more?!) With the lowest interest rates in decades, you would have thought this was an ideal time to invest in housing construction?

            And speaking of which – at a time when we are re-building an entire city from the ground up – how on Earth can we have situations where timber companies and construction firms are going bust?!?!

            Why are industries shipping raw products overseas rather than maximising investments by creating value-added goods?

            Etc, etc.

            Your precious “free” market is a fiction. It’s never worked anywhere else. It never has worked. It never will work. Like Soviet-style central planning, “Free” market laissez faire economics is a fantasy that ignores the realities of life.

            That is why Friedmanite economics will follow the Soviet style of economics into the rubbish-bin of history. Neither cater for individual demands as well as community needs. We are social creatures as well as individuals, and vice-versa.

            • “Your precious “free” market is a fiction. It’s never worked anywhere else. It never has worked. It never will work. ”

              Rubbish. Free market economics works, and it’s mixed market twin is working extremely well in NZ, as current economic data testifies. It is only when an economy gets a confused mix of market economics and rampant election bribery (a la Clark and Cullen) that things go amiss.

              • Intrinsicvalue says:
                April 1, 2014 at 8:04 pm

                “Your precious “free” market is a fiction. It’s never worked anywhere else. It never has worked. It never will work. ”

                Rubbish. Free market economics works, and it’s mixed market twin is working extremely well in NZ, as current economic data testifies. It is only when an economy gets a confused mix of market economics and rampant election bribery (a la Clark and Cullen) that things go amiss.

                Yeah, Cullen was so “bad”, he paid off most of the sovereign debt Labour inherited from the Nats…

                Yeah, Cullen was so “bad”, he ran nine consecutive surpluses…

                Yeah, Cullen was so “bad”, the economy grew by an average 3.5% between 2000 and 2007

                Yeah, Cullen was so “bad”, unemployment was down to 3.4% by 2006/07…

                Yeah, Cullen was so “bad” that the Nats appointed him onto NZ Post’s Board…

                As for parroting the virtues of your “free market” – is that the same “free market” that nearly destroyed the global economy from 2007/08 onwards, and required multi-billion dollar bail-outs from taxpayers around the world?

                You’re full of it, IV. More of your repetitive ACT sophistry, lies, cherry-picking facts, and masterbatory, Friedmanite fantasies, as per usual.

                You are laughable. 😀

                More to the point, you are obsessed to the point of religiosity.

                • Yeah, Cullen was so bad the NZ economy was tanking in early 2006, well before the impact of the GFC. Cullen was so bad his election bribery created a structural imbalance in the economy that National have had to address at the same time as dealing with the GFC. Yeah Cullen was so bad he paid almost 1billion dollars for a train set that was worthless. Yeah, he was a muppet.

                  As for the GFC, if you want to blame that on the free market, then you also have to give credit for those same policies in bringing the global economy out of recession. You also have to give credit for the free market approach being adopted by China, and you also have to explain why the free market has never caused an entire economy to collapse in the way socialism did in soviet russia.

                  • Loretta Neopolitano thinks that China is something else. She calls it Maonomics, and has spoken to an LSE audience about it.

                    You haven’t explained yet, why National appointed a muppet to run the system that delivers bills to people.

            • “And speaking of which – at a time when we are re-building an entire city from the ground up – how on Earth can we have situations where timber companies and construction firms are going bust?!?!”

              Because they can’t compete, or they are no longer providing products or services people want to buy. It’s called the free market, and it prevents politicians subsidising pet businesses at huge cost to you and I for no sustainable benefit.

              “Why are industries shipping raw products overseas rather than maximising investments by creating value-added goods?”

              Because they have determined that’s how they can maximise return to their shareholders. Of course you are in favour of corporate welfare by using taxpayers money to help private businesses invest in downstream processing to meet a temporary demand. I’m not, in fact it’s economic insanity.

              • Because they have determined that’s how they can maximise return to their shareholders. Of course you are in favour of corporate welfare by using taxpayers money to help private businesses invest in downstream processing to meet a temporary demand. I’m not, in fact it’s economic insanity.

                Oh piss off you lying Tory twat!

                Don’t try to turn it back on me – you’re the one advocating subsidies for Charter Schools!

                Intrinsicvalue says:
                February 28, 2014 at 8:41 pm

                Frank do you really still believe that charter schools are a subsidy to the private sector? I really am curious, because I can’t help feeling that despite our differences you really aren’t that thick.

                https://thedailyblog.co.nz/2014/02/28/see-no-poverty-hear-no-poverty-speak-no-poverty-and-count-no-poverty/#comment-195062

                So it’s “purchasing a service” when the Right does it – but a “subsidy” when Labour does it?

                Have I missed any of your laughable hypocrisy? 😀

                Honestly, IV, you’re so blinded by your ACT ideology…

                • “Oh piss off you lying Tory twat!”
                  Oh dear Frank, touch a nerve did I? You see your position is full of hypocrisy. You’re quite prepared to indulge in corporate welfare, but only when it suits you.

                  “So it’s “purchasing a service” when the Right does it – but a “subsidy” when Labour does it?”
                  Ah, no. Govt’s both right and left have contracted services from the private sector in health, education, roading, construction, IT etc etc, and this is a perfectly valid activity, and only a fool considers that corporate welfare.

              • Because they have determined that’s how they can maximise return to their shareholders.

                Which is bad for NZ – as was predicted by those who knew better than the neo-liberals in government, business and universities.

                BTW, shareholders are the biggest bludgers in the world.

            • Interesting you criticise centralised cammand economies here but didn’t raise this with Draco when he postulated his Free money idea in a precious thread.

              Where do you think the Government of the day got the capital to fund the investment for all the infrastructure you mention? I’ll give you a clue, it wasn’t internally and it wasn’t from the British government lending it too them either.

              • Interesting you criticise centralised cammand economies here but didn’t raise this with Draco when he postulated his Free money idea in a precious thread.

                Try pointing to where I said anything about a centralised command economy.

                BTW, you should really read The Entrepreneurial State. You’ll find out just how much the US is a command economy.

                Where do you think the Government of the day got the capital to fund the investment for all the infrastructure you mention?

                First Labour government printed it. All the rest was lent. You can’t make money by producing anything.

      • Do you remember that government used to pay farmers to produce sheep and we had 65 million of the blooody things that we couldn’t even give away?

        Yep. I remember that. I also know that this government and the previous one allowed massive subsidies to dairy farming in the form of allowing them to pollute our streams, rivers and harbours and that they’re continuing these subsidies by decreasing the protections of the environment.

        Was the economy bad in the 1970s/80s? Yes, but that’s the normal collapse of the capitalist system. We’re seeing another collapse of capitalism now and the government is pulling out all the stops to protect the capitalists from their own stupidity. This is, as per normal, resulting in a failing economy with increasing poverty.

      • Do you remember that government used to pay farmers to produce sheep and we had 65 million of the blooody things that we couldn’t even give away?

        Actually, we did very well out of trading them for Ganz Mavag trains from Hungary. It’s called barter. Or trade. Whichever term turns you on.

        Anyway, I guess it’s not much different to US, UK, New Zealand, etc, governments having to bail out various financial institutions after the 2007/08 GFC.

        Or the hand-out given to Rio Tinto.

        Or the tax-break subsidies given to Warner Bros.

        Or the “incentive” paid to China Southern Airlines to fly to NZ.

        Or subsidies given to Charter Schools.

        Or bailouts to various financial institutions.

        All under a National-led “free” market government.

        Sorry, you were saying, Gosman?!

        By the way; nice to see you can hold down an intelligent discussion, without pathetic inane questions. Nicely done. (Note: serious, not sarcastic)

  3. I asked for the above comment to be deleted, since I accidentally pressed “post comment” prematurely. Here it is in full:

    Thank you Wayne for writing this piece. I think that the parties of the so-called left now find themselves politically between a stone and hard place. People don’t always fully appreciate that the neo-liberal revolution wasn’t simply a shift rightwards, but a jumping of conceptual tracks, whereby the criterion of the public good was replaced by the criterion of shareholder profit.

    In the initial stages, the story was “no gain without pain” – that once we had adapted to the new criterion, “a rising tide would lift all boats.” As recently as Helen Clark’s time, it was still possible to believe that the maturing market economy would deliver for all.
    In 2008 the fairy tales disappeared, and it has since been hoped that enough of the middle class are able to accept the destitution of some so that others can consume away as “just the way life is.”

    Therein lies the left’s problem: a small country cannot jump the conceptual tracks into some other system by itself, yet continuing in the present direction is cruel and morally repugnant. And it is especially cruel and disgraceful for anyone to think that feigning sympathy while continuing in the same direction qualifies as a left wing response.

    I think that this state of affairs can be challenged on human rights grounds. If you take the right to affordable, secure housing, the right to earn a real living, and the right to a modest standard of flourishing as something that must be gained and treated as unassailable, then you have a starting point. After all, the erosion of such rights was initially sold to us as temporary. However, to press for such things means a fight, and not just a new set of technocratic arguments.

  4. The great conundrum for the left is the huge number of voters/potential voters in the lower socio-economic classes who theoretically should support Labour and the left but actually identify with National and particularly John Key.

  5. Nice. Dickens described a similar situation: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

  6. Ever since the first ACT government, I realised that their plan was to turn the first world into the third. This is simply accomplished by making those at the top increasingly rich, while those at the bottom are further impoverished. Globalisation is the spread of the favelas and police forces who operate with impunity. It entails replacing Social Security with an increasingly militarised state, where Social Welfare consists mainly of sanctions. That so many Kiwis have happily gone along with this has always been a matter of great shame.

    It will get worse, and idiots like Gooseman working out of the PM’s office or some moronic think tank will continue to be cheerleaders for it. His contributions are nothing but advertising and I suggest that TDB start charging him for publishing them.

      • We’ll, Don Brash has stood for both Act and National, and nearly became PM. But I would like confirmation of the particular NAct government that Ovicula has in mind.

  7. The apathy of the voting public have enabled the neo-liberals to take control of Governments along with their cronies in business, these people are all linked, just join the dots!!! We are getting what we desrve due to apathy and a lack of understanding of economics and political agendas.

    • I don’t think it’s fair to call either of the government changes after Muldoon apathy. Failure, perhaps, but not for want of trying.

  8. I am a one percent-er. My income is in the top one percent and so is my wealth. And yet why do I loathe John Key and his policies. Why is it that I will vote Greens? Am I a freak? Why can’t I be happy with what I have got? I am deeply unhappy with how things are here in New Zealand. Are there others like me?

    John Key and his ilk made their money by taking from others, skimming my credit card transactions with their currency trading, seeking opportunity from what we all own, trashing my backyard.

    There are some who create wealth through better education, better security, more equal opportunity and who don’t trash our environment, who don’t walk over everyone else.

    There is no reason why everyone cannot share in equal opportunity.

  9. “our time” – whose time?
    And what’s wrong with the Greens? They are the more honest and sane ones out there, as far as I can see.

  10. There are two New Zealands. The one we hear about most is the fake National Party version – the land of opportunity, the land where being honest, thrity and hard working will get you everywhere, where our hospitals take care of the sick, our police prevent crime, we have freedom of expression, our children are educated to the highest world standards and our countryside is clean and green. Well, it used to be like that before Roger Douglas (he is unworthy of the title “sir”) was inflicted on us. Now the real National Party New Zealand -a place of inequality – where the rich make decisions that make them richer and everyone else poorer, where National plunders state assets which have been carefully built up over the last two centuries. Where National meddles in the classroom because it doesn’t trust teachers to do their jobs properly. Where National doctors the hospital waiting lists to make them look smaller and where tonnes of cow s… is poured into the rivers everyday to produce white gold. Where National renders the police so inefficient that people don’t waste their time reporting minor crimes. Where people live in freezing car sheds without sanitation because they can’t afford accommodation, where people beg on the streets for their next meal. Where the liquor, gaming industries and Warner Brothers write the first drafts of National’s bills. Thanks a lot National!

  11. We live in one country that offers as close to equality of opportunity to all in a free society. Some take those opportunities, some don’t. Some times individual circumstances make it more difficult, but there is no shortage of examples of people who have risen out of difficulty to succeed. Our current Prime Minister is one such example.

    • We live in one country that offers as close to equality of opportunity to all in a free society.

      No we don’t. Due to the inequality we have a few people have far more opportunity than everyone else.

      but there is no shortage of examples of people who have risen out of difficulty to succeed. Our current Prime Minister is one such example.

      Not really. Social mobility is pretty much non-existent in NZ.

      • “Due to the inequality we have a few people have far more opportunity than everyone else. ”

        Not true. Education is equally available to all. Healthcare is equally available to all. There is no inequality in NZ that prevents a Maori boy from Hawera being one of the best golfers in the world, and there is none that prevents anyone with any background succeeding in any walk of life.

        “Social mobility is pretty much non-existent in NZ.”

        Even if true, it’s irrelevant. Equality of opportunity means social mobility is possible, not mandatory. In other words you are mistaking equality of opportunity with equality of outcome.

        • IV – your April 1, 2014 at 5:52 pm post betrays your warped view of reality. Only a middle-aged pakeha male, born into a privileged family, could write such total crap.

          You may think that “Education is equally available to all. Healthcare is equally available to all. There is no inequality in NZ that prevents a Maori boy from Hawera being one of the best golfers in the world, and there is none that prevents anyone with any background succeeding in any walk of life” – but that is a fantasy belief.

          It’s the adult version of children’s fairy tales.

          It also explains why you are so blindly judgemental of others – you have no concept of the realities of society.

          • Frank, I am not judgemental of anyone. I am fairly confident tat I am closer to the realities of society than you will ever be, which is why I know that there are NO insurmountable barriers to success in this country. Indeed my own upbringing is proof of precisely that, as is John key’s, Bob Jones’s etc etc etc.

            • …but I’ll pour myself another Pinot Gris and laugh at the ‘born into a privileged family’ gibe…

            • “Indeed my own upbringing is proof of precisely that, as is John key’s, Bob Jones’s etc etc etc.

              Oh, gawd, what are you today?!

              “. I am fairly confident tat I am closer to the realities of society than you will ever be, which is why I know that there are NO insurmountable barriers to success in this country.

              We’ve read enough of your diatribes against the poor and unemployed to understand that you are about as divorced from the realities of society as a human on Pluto would be from Earth.

              Oh absolutely I do. But one that is safety net, not a free lunch for bludgers.

              https://thedailyblog.co.nz/2014/02/06/un-employment-under-employment-and-the-plain-unvarnished-truth/#comment-186484

              Your vindictive, snide comments against beneficiaries convinces me (and others) that you’re the typical ACT supporter; informed by prejudice; willing to mis-use facts to further your failed neo-liberal ideology; and adept at parroting cliches.

              Thank you, IV. You remind me why I moved away from right wing beliefs in my 20s. I couldn’t stand the reliance on bullshit any longer.

              • So you support a free lunch for bludgers then Frank?

                So you are of the view that there are no bludgers then Frank?

                It is precisely your kind of views that made me realise that the best way to truly help people was to help them stand on their own feet, not subsidise their lifestyle for life.

                • We definitely need to get rid of the bludgers.

                  We should start with the shareholders. Having money should not entitle you to living on others work.

                  Then we can get rid of the subsidies to all private firms such as the ongoing subsidies to Rio Tinto, Warner Bros and other foreign movie makers.

                  We will, of course, cut the subsidy to the private landlords and the Working for Family subsidy to low wage employers.

    • Ah, so you’re saying everyone has equal opportunity providing they’re a ruthless bastard? I think you may have a point there, in fact I wouldn’t even call this trolling.

      If it is trolling though, I’m giving you an A++ because it’s fooled me.

      • If you are suggesting the only way to succeed is to be a ruthless bastard, then ergo there is no barrier to success on the basis of income, race, ethnicity, education, etc etc, because these are not determinants to being a ruthless bastard. Therefore there is no inequality, other than on the basis that we are not all born ruthless bastards!

    • Our current Prime Minister is one such example.

      Didn’t he and his widowed mum use social welfare facilities such as the Family Benefit, state housing, and free tertiary education (with most likely a student allowance as well)?!

      Why yes, I believe he did!

      Well, fancy! Social welfare and free tertiary education produced a multi-millionaire? That must annoy the dickens out of you, IV.

      As for your naive belief that “We live in one country that offers as close to equality of opportunity to all in a free society”.

      *bzzzt!*

      Wrong! From May 2012,

      Chronic low income households earning less than $27,000 a year are the least likely to move out of their income group, a study has revealed.

      The University of Otago’s Dynamics of Income and Deprivation study involved data from 18,000 people between 2002 and 2009.

      Of those 21 per cent were “chronic low income” households, with an average of less than $27,000 (before tax) over the period, and these people were more likely to become stuck in their income bracket, said researcher Dr Kristie Carter.

      She said approximately two-thirds of people with a low income at any one point-in-time are chronically in low income.

      Maori households with children and people aged over 65 year were more most likely to be low earners, according to the study.

      “The study also shows that there is high persistence and recurrence of low income in New Zealand.

      Source: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10804707

      • “Didn’t he and his widowed mum use social welfare facilities such as the Family Benefit, state housing, and free tertiary education (with most likely a student allowance as well)?! ”

        Quite possibly. But there was no WFF, no interest free student loans, and we still have very generous state housing provisions Frank. The world of welfare hasn’t changed that much.

        “Chronic low income households earning less than $27,000 a year are the least likely to move out of their income group, a study has revealed. ”

        How many households are earning less than $27,000 Frank? A household earning that would be receiving substantial Govt. assistance in the form of WFF, housing allowances etc etc. Come on Frank, stop the spin and provide some facts.

        • …and here’s the part you didn’t quote Frank, from YOUR cite:

          “The research showed New Zealand is characterised by high annual income mobility, both up and down the scale, and gross household income can fluctuate markedly over a number of years.”

          Rather selective weren’t you Frank.

          “High annual income mobility.”

          You were saying?

        • But there was no WFF, no interest free student loans,

          Yeah, there was a reason for that. Wages were generally high enough, the Family Benefit paid per child was universal, university didn’t have fees per course and came with a student allowance. Taxes were high enough to cover them.

          How many households are earning less than $27,000 Frank?

          Considering that the median is only about $40,000 I’d hazard a guess and say about 25%.

          • “Yeah, there was a reason for that.”

            WFF is far more generous than all of that out together. And you’re simply wrong about university. I paid fees and for my books in the late 70’s, early 80’s, and I’m the same age as John Key. The amount may have been smaller, but there was no WFF at all!

            “Considering that the median is only about $40,000 I’d hazard a guess and say about 25%. ”

            Actually the median income from wages and salaries at June 2013 was $43,888 (up 4.8% on the previous year). http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/income-and-work/Income/NZIncomeSurvey_HOTPJun13qtr.aspx. (Incidentally the same cite shows that median hourly earnings declined markedly from 2006 through 2010, and has steadily increased since then).

            The median income from wages for the age group 25-49 (when most people are raising children) was actually $48,880.

            Someone earning $27,000 p.a. with one child on a single income is entitled to an extra $92 per week under WFF (that is a lot more than the $6 per child Family benefit!), in addition to accomodation supplements, plus a raft of other potential ongoing and/or emergency benefits.

  12. To turn to the core concern of this piece, I think that we need to rally the non-voters to get out and vote, even if Labour is still equivocating right up to the election. For one, Labour is not the only left wing party you can vote for. For another, a larger intake of MP’s for Labour will mean that any fifth columnists in caucus will hold less sway. For another, letting down a large body of voters amounts to a betrayal, and if the right of Labour are determined to let down the poor, they should be left in no doubt as to what they are doing. We should not make their job easier by sighing and opting out. This should be a make or break election for Labour, but only a strong turnout of voters will make it so.

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