As the dust settles on National’s 2017 budget it’s worth a pause to check the reality against the government spin over previous weeks and the headlines generated before any proper analysis had time to occur.
The headlines so desperately sought by National for its “Family Incomes Package” are a well-crafted myth.
While it’s true that many families will be better off, in reality this is a budget for the richest New Zealanders. How come?
- Adjusting the tax thresholds means those on the highest incomes get the most (if you earn over $127,000 you get $33.22 per week) while those on the lowest (if you are on $15,000 you get $1.30 per week) get a meaningless amount.
- Increasing payments under Working for Families means the National government is increasing wage subsidies for employers who pay unliveable wages. Instead of changes to the Employment Relations Act to strengthen workers’ rights when negotiating with employers, National is making the whole country pay to subsidise poverty wages.
- It’s a similar story with the increases in the accommodation supplement. On the face of it this is the biggest boost for families on low incomes but this is a subsidy for landlords charging exorbitant rents during a housing crisis. (Minister of Finance Stephen Joyce says the government will be keeping an eye on landlords to make sure they don’t just increase rents to grab the whole accommodation supplement. Yeah right!)
The simple truth is that the bulk of high wage and salary earners, low-wage employers and parasitic landlords are National Party supporters. This is their budget.
Meanwhile in other parts of the budget the National Party machine rolls on. Three things deserve a special mention.
- Increased spending on health and education is not keeping pace with the needs of New Zealanders in these sectors. They continue to go backwards.
- The massive increases in spending on prisons (more places to put the victims of National’s economic policies) is the utterly predictable result of joblessness with its associated hopelessness and alienation.
- The huge spending on roads, roads and more roads. National’s tar seal addiction is stronger than any P addict.
Better funding for public schools, hospitals, primary healthcare and public transport would be of huge benefit for New Zealanders across the board but would undermine National Party supporters who provide profit-driven alternatives.
More widely it is a budget focused on papering over market failure across all aspects of the lives of New Zealanders. It protects private profit while the rest of us pay the social cost.
It’s a budget for the rich.