Despite the large numbers my feelings after reading it and the accompanying news reports is one of extreme disappointment at a missed opportunity.
The government is telling us that it will more than double the national debt to around $200 billion over the next few years and all we will achieve is to keep things unchanged.
In effect what has happened is that we have had decades of underspending in so many areas that we need to spend this money just to keep us where we already are or where we should have been.
New Zealand is in this situation because of two fetishes that both National and Labour governments adhered to.
One was that we can’t have any taxes that target capital gains or wealth more broadly.
The second was that we had to have budget surpluses every year to reduce New Zealand’s existing debt to ever lower and lower numbers.
The result was we would never have the income or ability to spend to the levels needed to maintain the infrastructure of New Zealand to the level it should be.
Health, for example, was at such a critically low level of preparedness for this pandemic that we were extremely lucky not to be infected to the extent the system was simply overwhelmed. Health Boards are saddled with billions of dollars in debt that they must pay interest on as a consequence.
What this budget seems to be doing is simply spending the money over the next five years that we should have spent over the last 20 or 30 years.
The problem with this strategy is that at the end, most people won’t notice any change to their lives.
There is simply no vision in this budget. There is no promise of a new, fairer, more egalitarian, more equal New Zealand where everyone pays their fair share.
There is no commitment to rebuilding New Zealand in a manner that allows us to genuinely address climate change.
The biggest chunk of money is actually being given to businesses as a subsidy for wages to keep people employed. That may be necessary as an emergency step. But many of these companies didn’t actually need the money or were low on capital reserves because they have done everything they can to enrich their shareholders above all else over the last decade. The government could have simply demanded that they be given 33% of the shares (voting or non-voting) as a condition of the aid to ensure that taxpayers benefited from the recovery.
The opposition will be accusing the government of taxing working people to pay for these debts without any real benefit. And that is how it will soon feel for many.
A crisis is an opportunity. The right-wing know that. Why will the so-called left never learn that. There is more to life than always trying to be a safe pair of hands for big business which is what Labour government’s around the world have been reduced to over recent decades.
We need a vision that puts the needs of working people and the plant at centre stage. Dare to dream!