Blowing Smoke: Why Jacinda needs to talk less and do more.

By   /   February 8, 2018  /   44 Comments

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The “other half” of New Zealand is crying out to this government for brave deeds – not fine words. The last thing Jacinda needs to be remembered for is substituting stardust for substantive action.

“SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES”, wrote Jerome Kern’s lyricist, Otto Harbach, in 1933. The tears well-up even faster, however, when your eyes are full of stardust. This latter affliction appears to have struck just about every journalist assigned to cover the Waitangi Day celebrations of 2018. Simon Wilson’s eyesight, in particular, seemed to be quite seriously impaired. How else to explain his confusing the arrival of Prime Minister Ardern with the Second Coming of Christ?

Which is not to say that the PM didn’t put on a very good show. The image of Jacinda quite literally serving the people (with bacon butties!) will do nothing to diminish her lustre in the eyes of most New Zealanders. When it comes to contriving the perfect photo-op, New Zealand’s youthful PM is a true professional. Her speechifying skills are also up there with the best. Whoever wrote her address from the porch of the whare runanga certainly knew what they were about.

All-in-all, as she settles back into the Beehive routine, the Prime Minister has every reason to adjudge her 5-6 days in the Far North an unqualified success.

The early images of any prime-ministerial term make a huge difference to the way he or she is perceived in the longer run. Think of John Key swigging beer from the bottle as Prince William barbecues their steaks. Or, going back even further in time, recall the image of “Big Norm” leading a little Maori boy across the Treaty Ground in 1973. Priceless shots. And now, the image of Jacinda, radiant among the bacon and sausages, must be added to this memorable slide show. Smoke gets in your eyes, indeed!

But, no matter how bulging Jacinda’s good-will account may have grown after Waitangi, the day-to-day exercise of raw political power will soon empty it out. On a multitude of fronts: international trade, health, housing, and poverty-reduction; her government’s mediocre performance (read John Minto’s excellent summary, here,)  presents a stark contrast to its soaring and benevolent rhetoric.

Even the Labour-NZF-Green government’s grand gestures appear puny when placed alongside the grand gestures of its progressive predecessors. Compare Jacinda’s Waitangi Day barbecue with the gesture I describe in No Left Turn:

“Shortly after his election as Labour Party leader in 1961, Arnold Nordmeyer was asked by the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation to recall for its listeners ‘My Most Memorable Christmas’. He spoke movingly of the first Labour Government’s decision, in December 1935, to advance the equivalent of an extra week’s relief payment to all the unemployed as a ‘Christmas Bonus’. That single act of state generosity, he said, sent ripples of hope and goodwill through thousands of destitute families and hundreds of cash-strapped communities. By Christmas its effects were evident across the whole of New Zealand.”

The newly-elected Labour Prime Minister, Norman Kirk, did something very similar in December 1972.

Not such an arresting image as Jacinda serving-up bacon butties to the Waitangi crowd, but I’ll wager Savage’s and Kirk’s gestures filled more bellies!

Perhaps, I’m being too harsh on the Prime Minister. Perhaps, in 2018, the public’s willingness to countenance giving away a whole week’s-worth of social assistance to every beneficiary in the country just isn’t there anymore. Perhaps, after 30 years of neoliberal brutality, we are no longer the caring and generous people we used to be.

Bluntly, my problem with Jacinda’s stardust is that, while it’s in the air, it’s difficult to focus on anything else. Amidst all the glitter it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that, apart from a handful of long-overdue inquiries, and a return to the status quo ante in employment law (read all about it on Richard Harman’s Politik website, here ) very little of any real substance has been done.

Unless, of course, you consider signing-up to the “Comprehensive and Progressive” TPP a singularly worthwhile achievement. Personally, after reading Professor Jane Kelsey’s analysis of the CPTPP, I can’t help feeling that the whole tawdry exercise should be understood in the spirit of The Who’s incomparable line: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

And, please, all you Labour apologists out there, don’t tell me that all this inaction is about the fiscal cupboard being bare.

How much would it have cost the Minister for Social Welfare, Carmel Sepuloni, to stand up in front of an appropriate audience (the PSA springs to mind) and deliver a speech in which she set forth the new government’s expectations of all those employed by the Ministry of Social Development? What, precisely, would have been the price of her instructing the people at Work and Income to treat their clients with a modicum of compassion and respect? Surely, a public reaffirmation of every citizen’s right to public assistance in times of hardship and affliction would not have bankrupted the Treasury?

Likewise, with the Minister of Labour, Ian Lees Galloway. Could he not loudly and publicly have proclaimed the government’s rock-solid commitment to protecting and expanding the right of every citizen to fair treatment in the workplace? Could he not have urged every New Zealander in a position to do so to join a trade union? And could not Jacinda, in the course of her negotiations with NZ First, have told Winston Peters that while she was prepared to compromise on many issues, on the question of workers’ rights – specifically the 90-day fire-at-will legislation – Labour was not for turning?

In her speech from the porch of the whare runanga, Jacinda urged Maori to hold the Labour-NZF-Green government to account if it failed to deliver on its promises of uplift and renewal. They were fine words. But, then, Jacinda has a thing for words. She is always promising to engage in “discussions” and “conversations” about the problems confronting so many New Zealanders. Ideally, however, political discussion and conversation is what happens after political action has been taken.

The “other half” of New Zealand is crying out to this government for brave deeds – not fine words. The last thing Jacinda needs to be remembered for is substituting stardust for substantive action.

For blowing smoke into our eyes.


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  1. Castro says:

    The Have Nots are crying out for a leader, charismatic certainly, a demagogue, more than likely… and the blades are going to come out, and blood will flow. Chardonnay “socialists” the likes of Mr Trotter JUST DON’T GET IT. I suggest that he: 1. Sell all and any of his properties. 2. Donate all his wealth to charity. 3. Go and compete for a minimum or less-than-minimum wage race to the bottom “job”.

    There is an uprising coming.

    • Gerrit says:

      Surely when the revolution happens Mr Trotter’s property will be nationalised to the state, his assets seized for redistribution by the state and his job will be paid the same wage as his fellow proletariat’s are receiving. He does not have to do anything, the revolution will take care of him. We will all be on a minimum wage for the state will provide. Except of course if you are member of the Dictatorship Of The Proletariat who will have a Kortezh limo and a dacha on the Coroamandel coast.

      How long has this uprising been coming for Castro? Even Fidel manage to overthrow the regime in Cuba in a shorter time then since you have been advocating that the revolution will be here any day now.

    • Nigel Sanders says:

      Castro is on the money. Chris won’t get hurt by a return of a national government. He can afford to encourage the right as he dumps faint praise on Labour and happily points out any strengths national has. Have some loyalty for those that can’t afford to have a return of a national party government Chris. The truth is often said to lie in the middle. NZ is never going to support pure socialism, as few of us will give up much of our wealth to have it shared equally because that also would not be fair or smart.

  2. Afewknowthetruth says:

    Expect the government to do nothing whatsoever about any of the fundamental factors that cause everything to be made progressively worse by the government, and to pretend to be doing something worthwhile by tinkering slightly with some of the settings.

    Therefore, expect NZ to be in a worse state at the end of this parliamentary term than at the beginning.

    You won’t be disappointed.

  3. Andrewo says:

    Stating the obvious again Chris? 🙂

    This honeymoon will only last so long, then the sharks will start circling.

    Her problem is that she is indeed the lipstick on a pig. She’s good at doing the pretty front end stuff but the pig behind her is a coalition of divergent interests and beliefs. Even within Labour she doesn’t have a lot of safe hands she can rely on. On top of that they’ve promised a whole lot of things they cannot ever deliver.

    The clock is ticking and they’ve not built a house nor planted a tree yet.

    • Samwise says:

      You really are begging for her to fail , aren’t you Andrew???

    • bert says:

      And Hosking is just a right wing PIG…

      How you’ve come to a decision based on 4 months of Govt that Jacinda is. as you say, just “lipstick on a pig” baffles me, not only because your wrong but because you clearly have to borrow another persons poorly chosen words which means you can’t think for yourself.

      Bridges promises bridges, Smith promises swim-able rivers, then promised wade-able rivers, then readjusted the parameters and now their 100 % pure.

      Nationals core values were based around fucking lying, how do I know? 9 years of evidence, so Andrew-o yours is based on hope rather than any evidence based data that Jacinda can’t deliver.
      For a very very long time Jacinda delivered a united Waitangi day. You are clearly jealous as the last two P.M’s were to afraid to attend due to the incriminating policies driving maori into poverty and mental health issues.
      As for the sharks circling, yes, Bill English should be worried as who would ever want the tag as 3 times loser in politics.

  4. esoteric pineapples says:

    It would be nice to see the government immediately ban the commercial fishing of the endangered long fin eel but nothing seems to be happening there

    • Andrewo says:

      If you’re in the Greens, where are you on:

      The dumping of the Kermadec sanctuary?

      Rejection of greater protection of the Maui dolphin?

      The NZ First ‘waka jumping’ legislation?

      Signing the TPA?

      Millions for the horse racing industry?

      Stunning silence over cameras on commercial fishing vessels?

      Is this what you Greens signed up for? When is Shaw going to grow a pair?

      • Sam Sam says:

        Because The Act Party failed to grow its support bass ruined of lot of hard right policy.

      • AndrewO, your sudden conversion to Green Party policies is welcomed. (Though I doubt you voted for them last year. Or would ever vote for them.)

        However, at 6.3% of the Party Vote, just how much of Green policies do you think should be taken up by the Coalition; 10%? 25%? 50%? 99%?

        Because if the Greens demanded more of their policies be taken up by the Coalition, I’m thinking you’d be the first to start screaming “TAIL WAGGING THE DOG! TAIL WAGGING THE DOG!”

        • Andrewo says:

          Hi Frank,
          I’m not an armchair green. I spend a fair amount of my time in the bush involved with predator and weed control.

          I’d vote Green too if it wasn’t for the fact that the party has become infested with socialists. Because history has shown that the very worst way to look after an asset, including natural assets, is collectivisation.

          As regards the Green’s share of the control in this new coalition, their vote was about the same as NZ First, yet I see Winston sits at the top of the table dictating terms and the greens don’t even get thrown a bone.

          Just think, if the Greens had joined with National, we would be on the way to having have a Kermadec sanctuary by now.

  5. Pete says:

    The Budget, instead of being an summary of the country’s finances and an outline for the upcoming and long term future, has become a waiting for Christmas presents. We sit all expectant and the revealing leaves us satisfied or critical.

    Waitangi this time might have got away from what it has been but in some serious terms has fallen into another hole. Some expected major policy announcements, some wanted nitty-gritty, some thought Jacinda Ardern shouldn’t be spending five days in the North. But then they didn’t want her spending those five days in offices with people making concrete plans because that’s just talking, not really doing anything.

    The trite ‘stardust’ references might be replaced by ‘smoke in your eyes.’ Waitangi showed again clearly though that this Government is going to be subjected to a lot of smoke being blown out a lot of arses.

    • Michelle says:

      Well we were waiting for a brighter future so what wrong with waiting for xmas presents at least we don’t have to wait 9 years we only have to wait 10 months

  6. CLEANGREEN says:

    I do agree with you here Chris,

    Here in Gisborne/HB we are still waiting six years for our rail line to be repaired after National deliberately destroyed our rail line that labour in 1937-42 built under the first labour government as we were just getting freight services re-established again and the community donated $15 000 dollars for BERL’s Ganesh Nana and his economic expertise the contract to carry out a deep study using kiwi rail assistance to prove the rail service was economically viable.

    This was carried out in 2012, six months after national removed our track maintenance funding and sent the money to Auckland, which caused the rail damage of our public owned rail system, that the flooding and blocked drains caused to wash out one km of our rail line.

    Afterwards, in the Gisborne Herald labour promised in the Gisborne press to restore the rail service again to Gisborne when next in Government, so Chris we are now waiting again for Jacinda to honour her labour government promises made in 2012.

    It was significant that it was under Michael Joseph Savage that the rail line was built so Jacinda has a need to honour the first labiour government PM Savage to now step up here.

    Jacinda did ‘challenge the iwi’s on Whitangi day to keep her government true to their words.’


    “Hold us to account. Because one day I want to be able to tell my child that I earned the right to stand here. And only you can tell me when I have done that.”

    The Prime Minister said they should hold her to account on issues such as child poverty, the environment and prison rates.

    Rail will help save our environment lowering climate change emissions and cancer causing tyre dust pollution & road truck pollution and resulting stock truck effluent runoff onto our roads into our aquifers and drinking water systems.

    The recently found study from Earnest young Economics called “The value of rail in NZ”

    This Kiwirail report (hiddenby National 18 months ago) showed rail even now at reduced use saves NZ economy 1.5 Billion Dollars annually so labour please get our east coast rail going again now please!!!!!!

  7. Shona says:

    John Key did not swig beer from a bottle whilst barbecuing with Prince William. Revisit the image and anyone can see he is drinking red wine straight from the bottle. No greater portrayal of Key’s profound ignorance exists. Zero knowledge of the consumption of wine especially a red wine where to disturb the sediment in such a fashion is the height of contempt for one’s digestive health and the skill of the winemaker in a foul moment of utter vulgarity. The man is a total cretin!

  8. Johnnybg says:

    To put it bluntly I’m sick to death of the last century thinking behind blogs like this. In my view our new business as usual government, which is composed of third way social democrats, wanna be patriots & lite greens, will simply continue to perpetuate the tinkering process that party political dictatorships such as these are renowned for. This means that in today’s world, when finding solutions to the enormous challenges we’re facing on many fronts should be our priority, there is a gaping hole in the NZ political landscape that is crying out to filled by a genuinely patriotic, radical green, anti-globalisation movement.

    Below are extracts from an email I sent to the Prime minister, Winston Peters & James Shaw a little while ago.
    As you will see I’m no mushroom hiding in the dark, I’m completely open about my dreams & revolutionary intentions.

    Hello Prime Minister, I wish you a happy new & visionary year.

    Did you know that NZ has a sometimes grumpy, sometime playful Rasputin like Prophet in its midst.
    Here is a little taste of my seeing of what I believe is our nations true destiny.

    My voice in the wilderness Re-New Zealand calling.

    I am probably the only person in NZ who is openly advocating that we tear down of our business as usual, party political system of governance & replace it with a visionary, broad based national salvation government. Why, well I’m not just a revolutionary, I’m also a prophet. I’ve seen the true destiny of our nation, it runs red in my veins, it permeates my soul, it lives & breathes within me, it inspires me & urges me to act. Our nation will soon become a beacon of post-globalisation hope & a symbol of localised difference in increasingly bleak, homogenous & dangerous world & I will be instrumental in this process.

    How will this all come to pass? NZ will, in the not too distant future, unilaterally develop, adopt & unfold a localised, innovative, sustainably self sufficient, post-globalisation world view & a new more cooperative, peace loving & exemplary way of life; thereby becoming the first nation in the world to take such trail blazing & transformational steps.

    My NZ Patriotic Revolutionary Front & the Kingdom of Ayvangard vision are both expressions of this dream.

    My anti-establishment political mission is to play an instrumental role in bringing about the downfall of the NZ government, & the dismantling of our out ineffectual & compromised party political system; replace it with a broad based, revolutionary national unity government, which will pave the way for the establishment of a visionary, post-globalisation New Zealand confederacy.

    My spiritual, cultural, artistic & socio-economic mission is to build the spiraling ‘Fenix’ venue (a new post-globalisation world generator & portal) & establish the resilient, model village complex that will surround it.

    My secessionist mission is to develop & unfold an innovative, nominally independent, model post-globalisation eco-city state called the ‘Kingdom of Ayvangard’.

    But of course at this point in time, being a prophetic voice in the wilderness without many supporters, I am both the PRF & Ayvanagrd.

    Soon, when the apocalyptic chaos to come begins to spread its deadly tentacles into the four corners of our world, this will begin too change & my time will come.

    I am a pariah who’s views are censored by the MSM & also by some more alternative blog sites so if your’re interested you can discover more on my NZ Patriotic Revolutionary Front or Ayvangard websites.
    A couple of general elections ago I stood for parliament in the Wellington Rongotai electorate. I claimed to be representing the Patriotic Revolutionary Front, but if the truth be known, I was the PRF. I had very little support & spent almost zilch on my campaign. Surprisingly I received 60 odd votes. Since then I’ve livened up the Wellington mayoralty race & continued to advance my vision of what I believe is the true destiny of our nation. My unique struggle continues & will do so until I draw my last breath, which is why I have recently revived the PRF. Johnny O (Ayvan the Terrible ~ artist ~ activist ~ visionary ~ life long rebel etc.) You are either for me or against me.

  9. G.A.P. says:

    As a seventy two year old who marched against the tppa (and yes i do understand what it is about), the immediate about turn by this coalition was the final straw for me. Both Chris and Johns articles seem to sum up precisely my feelings on the state of government at the present time. Having been a left leaning voter all my life (also betrayed by the douglas scum) i really don’t know where i go from here.

  10. Samwise says:

    Jeez, man, give her a chance! She’s been in government for three months!!! If she solves the problems caused by 35 years of neoliberalism,what’s she going to do for the remaining 2 years 9 months??????

  11. Jum says:

    The 90 day legislation could be useful. The Government could use the words of the nat government about the freedom for business to hire those without a work history being the point of 90 days, by then ensuring business does exactly that, by taking on those having difficulty in finding jobs.
    The idea of firing without giving a reason – I assume that’s no longer the case.
    Small business should be supported with country-wide accounting services that can be tapped into to save them money and help them take on workers that also will learn a trade. If business want the 90 days allowance then they have a responsibility to us to honour that by employing the so-called ‘unemployable’ or basically those that have just lost hope. Winston Peters can ensure the success of it since he was so keen to keep it.
    Also, none of this only paying for days business needs you (underemployment) or contracting out of their responsibility to honour working conditions like holidays earned, sickness leave, etc. If you don’t have a solid work history to get shelter, then the above will provide it.
    P.S. Every winz person, from the Minister to the Social Worker to the receptionist, should watch I Daniel Blake and report back why that is not a good way to treat human beings. It may be a UK film but the active degradation of human beings in NZ is just as bad.

  12. cs says:

    Now is the time for the government to do some spending.

    Inflation is at 1.6%. Our public debt is unnecessarily low. The OCR is low and not going anywhere any time soon. Interest rates on government bonds are low (if you worry about solvency of the NZ government which I don’t for a moment). Labour underutilisation is getting higher. Wages are moving in a glacial manner.

    We risk deflation.

    Fiscal policy should be the tool of choice right now. Target spending at the regions, in productivity producing investments, infrastructure, public services, at beneficiaries and the working poor. Monetary policy can’t do that. What is a 1% OCR cut gonna do? Nothing.

    The 35 year impoverishment of a large swathe of NZ is purely political choice based on misguided economic advice.

  13. Afewknowthetruth says:

    ‘Jacinda Kate Laurell Ardern[1] (/dʒəˈsɪndə ˈɑːrdɜːrn/,[2] born 26 July 1980) is a New Zealand politician who has been serving as the 40th Prime Minister of New Zealand since 26 October 2017.’

    Born in 1980, Jacunda has known nothing in her life other than neoliberal ‘economics’, corporatism, and a dumbed-down education system.

    ‘She attended the University of Waikato, graduating in 2001 with a Bachelor of Communication Studies (BCS) in politics and public relations.[15]’

    We can therefore assume she is more-or-less scientifically illiterate and financially illiterate, but is good at communicating ideas, however bad or unworkable those ideas might be.

    ‘Ardern was brought into politics by her aunt, a longstanding member of the Labour Party, who recruited a teenage Ardern to help her with campaigning for New Plymouth MP Harry Duynhoven during his re-election campaign at the 1999 general election.[16]’

    Harry Duynhoven was (and still is) known locally as Harry Do-nothing but in fact he was not entirely a do-nothing and was very much part of the political system that gave away NZ resources to corporations and screwed the populace and the environment in the process. He currently has his snout in the public feeding trough, as a NPDC councilor, in which role he advocates looting and polluting of the commons and transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich.

    Jacinda Adern is clearly a faux socialist, just like her mentors and those she currently has around her.

    • Pete says:

      By contrast someone like say Steven Joyce was eminently suitable to determine our future as he wasn’t a product of neoliberal ‘economics’, corporatism, and a dumbed-down education system. While we can assume he was more-or-less scientifically illiterate can we say he was financially literate?

  14. Observer Tokoroa says:

    It is a pity that Jacinda Ardern in the opinion of you smug blackguards above, is a complete dumbwit.

    Having watched the august Mr Trotter do effectively nothing about neo liberalism for decades; Mr Cleangreen has been unable to do much about getting a train to run in Gisborne; Professor Ms Kelsey has been doing nothing about getting a TPPA to suit her special needs; midst all that tosh, I am at a loss to know why Jacinda has been accused of being a dummy.

    I ask you.!

    Comparisons are odious, but it is not just the youth of Jacinda which gives her wings. It is her Intelligence. Also her Quickness. Also, the Trueness of Andrew Little.

    How about you show some humility and respect. You can find the meaning of those words in most dictionaries.

    • Louis says:


    • countryboy says:

      @ Observer Tokoroa…
      While trying to be respectfully mindful of your enthusiasm.

      From my dictionary.


      meh |mɛ| informal
      expressing a lack of interest or enthusiasm: meh, I’m not impressed so far.
      uninspiring; unexceptional: a lot of his movies are … meh.
      • unenthusiastic; apathetic: everyone else I talked to was kind of meh.
      ORIGIN 1990s: apparently popularised by the US television show The Simpsons.

    • patricia bremner says:

      I agree!!

  15. Susan St John says:

    Far from the Christmas bonus long suffering families should have had- they have to wait until July for an increase to Working for Families- Last time it was increased was in 2012.
    This is very very hard to understand.

    • Sam Sam says:

      It’s PR script writters are really bad at writing female characters. I mean what is Jacinda to do? For the next 9 months. Some times I wish some one would hold down Bill English so she can punch him in the face on behalf of all single mothers caught up in all his targets and relationship goals.

  16. Louis says:

    Rome wasn’t built in a day. Should everything have been sorted in 3 months ? Yet do nothing lying National, that have blood on their hands, that tore this country apart, flogged it off bit by bit to their wealthy foreign friends and deeply hurt so many Kiwis, got a free pass for 9 long years. Go figure.

  17. Louis says:

    What this smacks of is a large dose of sour grapes and envy.

  18. countryboy says:

    The Prime Minister is, perhaps, realising that in order to keep NZ functioning she must steer the ship using money as the rudder.
    The ‘realising’ comes in the form of where NZ gets its money from to steer us, the ship. Or seagull occupied shit barge, some might argue.

    The troubling part of the realisation will be that National, are in fact in ownership of that money, and they ain’t going to give that up without a long and dirty fight.

    Or she, and this does, I admit, stretch things a bit far, realise that she too, must keep up the pretences. And that is, that our economy is NOT generated by agrarian enterprises and our towns and cities magically create their own wealth to spend as they see fit. On House prices and Ferrari’s and sundry Parnell Tractors.

    If agriculture moved away from National and their lies and deceit and made up with the unions? We’d see an entirely different world.
    Until that happens? Everything is window dressing and bull shit and we should just dig in.

    @ Castro often comments on the certainty of some kind of direct action revolution, an uprising.
    That’s not going to happen because it hasn’t happened yet. Besides, violence and destruction is terribly wasteful and really does fuck with the hair style.

    The best, and certainly the most dangerous and risky way of doing [it] is to take the farmer away from National. That’d super piss National off. Not only would we see the previously dirty little secret that no one wants to talk about be hung up to dry on the line but we’d also see all this new wealth flowing into NZ. Vast amounts of wealth too.

    Some of you, most of you actually, have no idea what’s really going on here. There’s an end looming for the old empire and when the new empire is established there’ll be extremely uncomfortable questions asked of the outgoing.
    There’ll be those few old men trying to hide their crimes as they fawn over their grandchildren while praying that nature takes Her course before any unfortunate, and likely televised inquiry.

  19. let me be frank says:

    The disillusionment with politics in general and the ineffectiveness of a ‘left’ alternative is a (western) worldwide problem…..ask yourselves why it is that the rhetoric seldom if ever matches the action once in power…are all these worthy folk simply closet neo-lib stooges?…or is something else the cause?….and in their position would you behave any differently?

    Mr Trotter has written many an article that answers the very question posed in this latest offering.

  20. Priss says:

    35 years of neo-liberalism undone in 3 months? I don’t think so. It took three decades for the neo-libs to turn NZers into a smug, selfish, consumer-driven, alcohol-soaked, speculating-driven society. It may take just as long to turn those around.

    Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither was our neo-liberal society!!