MUST READ: Passing The Torch

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‘LET THE WORD go forth from this time and place,” declaimed President John F. Kennedy on a freezing January day in 1961, “that the torch has been passed to a new generation.” Those words kept running through my head as I listened to Grant Robertson deliver his Budget Speech to Parliament on Thursday. (20/5/21) Except, I thought, this torch is not being passed from my generation to his. The legacy Robertson and his colleagues have accepted from the past is not the legacy of Helen Clark and Michael Cullen, but of Norman Kirk and Bill Rowling. The torch which the Baby Boom Generation refused to accept, has been grasped by their children.

To hear Robertson invoke the memory of Ruth Richardson’s “Mother of All Budgets”: delivered 30 years ago as the final crushing blow against Mickey Savage’s welfare state; before announcing significant rises in social welfare benefits across-the-board; was to witness this generation of Labour politicians do what Clark and her colleagues either could not, or would not, do.

Not only was Robertson honouring what he frankly acknowledged to be a moral obligation to the poorest and most marginalised New Zealanders, but he was also delivering a stimulatory spending boost to the entire domestic economy. This was democratic-socialism with Keynesian characteristics. The political love which, for more than 30 years, has dared not speak its name.

The love which David Lange, when it mattered, turned his face from. The love which Roger Douglas, Richard Prebble and Michael Bassett did everything within their power to convince New Zealanders was actually evil in disguise. The love which Clark and Cullen, overawed by the seemingly unchallengeable power of neoliberalism, could not look in the eye as they passed by on the other side. The love which Jacinda Ardern’s 30- and 40-somethings have, like dizzy Christian converts, let into their hearts. Determined, now, that by their deeds we shall once again recognise Labour as Labour.

I wish it had been different. I wish that the NewLabour Party, the Alliance and the Greens had been able to redeem the Boomer generation. That what the worst of us had done, the best of us had undone. That comrades like Matt McCarten, Laila Harré, Jeanette Fitzsimons and Rod Donald had rekindled the torch that the Fourth Labour Government extinguished. How I longed to see it blaze anew in the hands of the most fortunate generation in human history – ready to light the way to a better world for those who came after us.

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But, the tragic truth of the matter is that there just wasn’t that much love in us. We Boomers ascended steadily the great ladder our parents had built to help us reach a future better than theirs. And then, having completed our free education and purchased our first house/s, we dismantled the ladder and threw the pieces down upon the heads of our children and grandchildren. Did we experience the pangs of conscience? Yes, of course. But we assuaged them by telling ourselves that the younger generations were a feckless bunch upon whom the freedom and prosperity we enjoyed would have been wasted.

But God and the Spirit of History are not mocked. The Boomers’ greed proved their undoing. With the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09, the first cracks in neoliberalism began to appear. By 2017, even an old tusker like Winston Peters could see that free-market capitalism was failing. His last, great, exculpatory gift to New Zealand was “Jacinda”. And then, as if to reinforce Peters’ gift, History gave Jacinda a global pandemic to vanquish.

And so, there they sat: this majority Labour Government, as Robertson rolled out a genuinely left-wing budget. A budget inspired by Labour’s original economic and social principles. Giddy on the champagne of genuine radicalism: finally aware that the only permission their generation needs to govern New Zealand is their own; they lifted high the torch that now was theirs, determined not to rest easy on what their country has given them, but to give something back to their country.

34 COMMENTS

  1. Well it is a start and hopefully now the Labour Party has waded a little way into the sea of Welfare State it will be prepared to soon plunge its head under.
    If history follows the example of the 1930s voters will follow.
    A historical reference to the harping of Hoskings and others and the whine of Auntie Herald:
    In 1935 only ONE New Zealand newspaper ( The Greymouth Argus) supported the Labour Party. Post Office engineers were instructed to sabotage Labour Party political broadcasts and the business community were united in condemning socialism.
    Labour’s election victory then shows the New Zealand public are more sensible than they are given credit for. Long may it continue.

    • Agree entirely. Saddened by the lack of celebration in the Left blogs for our neediest. All this nit-picking before Labour’s major achievement. Here in Gisborne I’m just glad for those persecuted to the ends of the earth for 30 unnecessary years. Cry blood for the 30 years. The poor don’t do politics anymore, after that.

  2. There can be no genuinely left wing budget until something genuine, meaningful and visionary is done about a state housing programme. The proposed benefit increases will just feed the landlords.

    • We are going to have to pay for the pandemic. These post left attitudes just need to be rejected even though some post left attitudes should be embraced. When we look at Savages new deal they where paying below market wages and under estimate how much a 2% to 6% jump in government spending was aimed at businesses which wasn’t funded by deficit spending but high taxes because unlike a war economy we’re not trying to destroy overdeveloped capital, we’re trying to genocide a virus.

    • I think, RosieLee, that credit should be given where credit is due. Robertson, himself, acknowledges that there is still much to do, but this is, at least, a start.

      If, as you suggest, landlords attempt to appropriate these benefit increases by upping their rents, then the Government should immediately impose rent controls.

      • Seems sensible ( like those at TDB have suggested) that there is a preemptive rent freeze so that as bert says ‘greedy scumlords’ cannot skim the cream off the top and by doing so, defraud the taxpayer of their input, – many of whom are actually now renters themselves…

      • I think you are right on the button Bert and I wonder why it cannot be seen by those in power .
        There were some good moves in this budget for benefituries but why did sectors like small businesses get no help to get tooled up for these promised infrastructure jobs

        • Any employed proffesor worth his salt would understand that a market solely consisting of small business is agile, but you’ll have the same issue – with a forced ceiling on development, no one’s innovations are going to spread out very far simply because they can’t grow big enough to meet the demand or pay for the pandemic. 🙂

    • I totally agree. This government has a scattergun approach to liberal ideals and throws money at everything and anything (much of it worthy) but they are strangely reluctant to follow labour socialist principals about housing and infrastructure and minority needs (Not just the ‘in’ minorities).

      I had such high hopes for housing and after 4 years, the governments performance in this area is piddling. I think they are technically the weakest government we have had in a long time and one of the least transparent. “As far as we know, there is no sign that landlords will increase rent, yeah right”.

  3. I don’t see it that way at all. I see it as a farm manager finally noticing (after spending most of his time watching corporatised sport and eating and drinking and sleeping) that the livestock is in poor condition and dying from malnutrition and abuse.

    The poor state of the livestock has been noticed by people elsewhere, and now the livestock manager feels obliged to get off his/her backside and do something.

    Far too late, of course.

    The older livestock is full of tumours, and the younger livestock is not properly developed as a consequence of neglect, poor diet and poor living conditions, i.e. up to their knees in shit.

    ‘Interesting times’ get more ‘interesting’ a the entire system continues to walk the path that leads to extinction of the human species via further looting and pollution of the commons, which is exactly what Grant Robertson has advocated.

    He will never NEVER admit that fundamental truth, of course -well maybe in his death bed- and will describe his plans for the future as ‘sustainable development’, which is an oxymoron, since there is no such thing as sustainable development -other than the establishment of permaculture gardens- and development is what got us into this mess.

  4. Who the hell wrote this piece? Give that person a medal or three. Right on the money IMO. This Labour Govt. is finally delivering a powerful kick in the balls to Neo Liberalism and the greedy Boomers that have profited at the expense of there children and grandchildren. Also a big fuck you to Natz and Act and there selfish arrogant fan base. This is how to roll out anti Neo-Lib policy, with small changes to be sure but the accumulative effect is heading in the right direction – Left. Well done Labour, Greens and Maori Party.

    • Yes when Seymour is screaming to high heaven, we know the budgets a winner and when he throws accolades at Richardsons 91 budget you know he’s not quite all there.

      • …”and when he throws accolades at Richardsons 91 budget you know he’s not quite all there”…

        ——————-

        ROFL !, – Look into the mans eyes and he does look kind of,… vacant…too long on the Red Dwarf,… a real space cadet with a great big capital H on his forehead.

      • ” Yes when Seymour is screaming to high heaven, we know the budgets a winner ”
        Great then Seymour , Hosking and all the rest of these conceited rich bastards can leave on the next flight to Australia and fecking stay there.

    • …”Also a big fuck you to Natz and Act and there selfish arrogant fan base”…

      Right on there, GreenBus !!! And indeed whoever wrote this piece SHOULD be given a medal or three.

      • Somehow NZ, after 30 years, is in a position to throw the Roger and Rutha nomes, off our backs, like dead slack. And they sound as they go down like the screams of cockroaches and rats.

        Better to have risen up in my view. 30 years is … I’m too angry, unable to express the grievance to the neediest. Which is to say our heart.

  5. I have just watched the interview of the people (advocates) misled by LINO into believing the government cares about people with relatively rare diseases, cancers and diabetes etc. who will die over the coming months or years because there is ‘no money’ for targeting medications.

    Funny there is always so much money available for Americas Cup etc,

  6. It’s a start yes. But too little and too late. Compare this with the massive investment OZ is making in retaining and increasing jobs for the skilled and semiskilled and we look shabby and visionless. I hope beneficiaries get something after the landlord grabs it all.

    • Yes Shona about 3 decades too late however I’m happy with what looks like some change to Neo-Lib mantra. NZ is far worst shape than Aussie. Our high immigration and Union busting policies have wrecked wages/salaries here, not so in Aussie, yet. They are slowly heading that way though. The FPA is a good start but will take a while to get legs and only then will employers value their workers
      and invest in technology and improvements instead of building up the housing portfolio and upsizing the boat.

  7. What a load of middle-class twaddle!

    The beneficiaries get…screwed again!!

    They’ll get to pay off their debt arrears a little faster and their rent will go up!

    The Middle Class landlords win again!

    And, the crown will reap a little tax windfall from the increase in payments to the beneficiaries!

    The rest of it is just plain ole incrementalism. So the real question is. Where the fucks the $38b hiding? What was left over from the 2020 $100b Bailout Fund??

  8. Brilliant article. Absolutely brill.

    It hit all the high notes of our recent 3 decades long battle with the cancer we call neo liberalism. I see this budget as a small step in the right direction and like Robertson , thinking there is still much , much more to be done. But its a very good start nonetheless.

    If Labour continue on this path, they have definitely secured my party vote. It is the meat and potato’s budget of the things that really matter, – not the vaudeville sideshow acts of woke politics.

    I am elated by it and the recent moves towards compulsory unionism, and the cap on wanton open door immigrations settings that bring in yet even more cheap labour from overseas. It is now a time for consolidation of the people we already have and make this place a prosperous land yet again. Neo liberalism out, Keynesianism in.

    A modified form of Keynesianism, but Keynesianism nonetheless. And if we ever get to the point of looking somewhat like the Scandinavian states, we will know we have arrived. Those country’s with the highest per capita taxation but also the highest salary’s , wages and standards of living in the world.

  9. Chris. This article should really be titled “Passing the Neo-liberal Torch”. So that it is very clear to all, that this Labour government favours Roger Douglas’s Economic Policy’s of the early 90’s, late 80’s.

    • Or rather takes sheepish steps towards incrementalism,… however, in todays fastidious dogmatic ideological political environment,… it is a great leap forwards.

      They have actually acknowledged the homeless, the working poor, the sick ,…do in fact exist.

      I am incredulous.

      Marie Antoinette would have been flabbergasted .

  10. I truly wish it were so.
    I’ll consider neoliberalism to be on the ropes once I see re-nationalisation of industries and assets stolen from the Commons. Before then we are getting only anaesthetising balms.

    • …”I’ll consider neoliberalism to be on the ropes once I see re-nationalisation of industries and assets stolen from the Commons”…

      That is indeed the litmus test.

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