Inequality has exploded under Labour – is the egalitarian dream dead?


Inequality has exploded under Labour

Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson like to think of themselves as leftwing politicians. So why aren’t they prioritising and championing the vulnerable at the bottom of society? Since Covid hit they have chosen economic policies that benefit the rich while pushing more into poverty.

Increasing inequality was thrown into stark relief last week with the release of a Statistics New Zealand report showing wealth had grown by $402bn over the last year. This is about four times faster than usual, and can be attributed to fast-rising prices of assets like houses, rentals, and businesses that have skyrocketed in value as a result of a government-induced economic boom.

Tomorrow’s Political Roundup column will focus on how the rich have got significantly richer due to government policies over the last year. But today’s column deals with those on the other side of increasing inequality – the poor. Many reports and articles have shown that poverty is getting worse, and this is directly related to government policies and neglect.

…the foundations of the 35 year neoliberal experiment in NZ have been exposed and found to  be cracked to their core, with the climate crisis demanding a radical change, this pandemic is the perfect time to challenge the religious orthodoxy of free market dogma.

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This is a unique challenge for the NZ Left ever since Identity Politics over took class politics as the dominant theory on our side of the political divide. It means currently that the Left in NZ are intellectually better prepared to organise a WoC Mommy Blogger Trans Ally free the nipple petition on Action Station than they are to debate the hegemonic structure of neoliberalism.

This has left the Left intellectually ill prepared to debate the failures of the free market economy and the solutions we must adopt to get out of this.

Labour are notoriously timid when it comes to challenging the neoliberal hegemonic structure because they were the Party that unleashed this far right experiment upon us and the scars of that debate are still raw in Labour’s psyche.

Currently the Left are in the grip of middle class identity politics and their culture of micro aggressions demands the State police these new interpersonal crimes with the full heel of the boot as opposed to demanding the State’s force be used against corporations.

We need to be kinder to individuals and crueler to Corporations.

The Left has lurched into woke ‘Social Justice’ territory which alienates more than it attracts. As a class left supporter, I believe the demarkation of power in society is between the 1% and their 9% enablers vs the 90% rest of us.

Economic Justice does more than banning Gay Conversion, criminalising speech or gerrymandering the legal system to ensure anyone accused is found guilty, it redistributes wealth and makes direct provision to the cost of every day living. Beneficiaries and working class people care less about pronouns and the correct pronunciation of te Reo than they do about how to pay next weeks rent and power bill!

Pure temple doctrine divides & alienates. Broadchurch universals build solidarity.

I’m not interested in social justice wokedom any more, it is a minefield of competing schisms throwing vitriol at one another.

Twitter outrage is woke righteousness porn for the middle classes. A puritanical razoring where the self elected morality police publicly shame and cancel anyone for not using the language protocols of the conclave.

I am interested in Economic Justice and the immediate welfare of the poorest amongst us while providing immediate life condition upgrades.

How do we use the power of the State to universally subsidise the lives of the poorest in a way that is meaningful to them? Paying higher benefits is one way but the vile MSD finds ways to claw any of this increases back the way thy did with Labour’s last pitiful rise.

Let’s push for policies that have a direct impact on the lives of the poorest so that educational and quality of life standards actually rise. Let’s take direct cost out of people’s pockets just for existing.  Removing public transport costs and kids breakfasts and lunches would have a dramatic impact on the lives of the poor.

Let’s ensure taxation is targeted at the corporates and the wealthy while subsidising the costs of the poorest.

1: Feed every kid in NZ a free nutritious and healthy breakfast and lunch at every school using local product and school gardens with parents paid to come in and help.

2: 100 000 State Homes for life built using the best environmental and social architecture standards using the public works act to seize land and immediately start building satellite towns using upgraded public transport hubs.

3: Free public transport plus vast infrastructure upgrade for climate crisis.

4: Doubling welfare payments and student allowances minus any bullshit claw backs from MSD plus Living Wage universally adopted as minimum working wage.

5: GST off fresh fruit and vegetables and essentials like tampons, toilet paper, condoms, oral health plus a sugar tax.

6: Free Dental services for everyone through public health.

7: Debt cancellation – student loans, welfare overpayments, beneficiary debt, easier debt cancellation.

8: Taxation focused on corporations like financial transaction tax and first $10 000 is tax free.

9: Renter Rights – (rent freezes, end accomodation payments, long term tenancy arrangements) plus universal union membership.

10: Properly funded public broadcasting with TVNZ advert free and merged with RNZ alongside properly funded journalism through NZ on Air with more money for the Arts and Science. If you can’t have good public journalism, the right wing media will destroy these other 9 advances. 

Don’t tell me we can’t afford any of this, we just shovelled $60 billion into the pockets of property speculators, we can shovel a tiny fraction of that into the mouths of the poorest.

In 2010, the 388 richest individuals owned more wealth than half of the entire human population on Earth

By 2015, this number was reduced to only 62 individuals

In 2018, it was 42

In 2019, it was down to only 26 individuals who own more wealth than 3.8 billion people.

And now in 2021, 20 people own more than 50% of the entire planet.

This isn’t democracy, this is a feudal plutocracy on a burning Earth

The Big Tech Tzars have manipulated our collective fear, ego, anger and insecurities through social media in a way that has led to the largest psychological civil war ever launched against one another.

We are but meat bags secreting hormones addicted to dopamine rewards for fat, sugar, salt and sex in a cultural landscape of individualism uber alles where we sing sweet secret lies to ourselves to make sense of a world around us that is frightening and in constant entropy.

Meanwhile, the planet burns and every aspect of our existence is monetarised for big data to sell us more stuff we can’t afford. We are alienated and anesthetized by a consumer culture that keeps us neurotic and disconnected. Our work, our existence, every move we make are all built to suck money to a minority class that sits above us while under neoliberalism, globalization, financialization, and automation, our existence as individuals has only become more disposable.

The time for half measures has passed us.


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  1. Labour knows that raising benefits enough to lift our poor to a decent living standard is an election losing strategy just like a CGT or wealth tax. Middle NZ is greedy and entrenched in Neo Liberalism. Yourself is first in every way, fuck the poor. Proper Natz mantra is embedded in culturally and can only be changed at your peril.
    Hence Labour party doing nothing, all talk no action. NZ is not ready for change, yet. Votes are more important than poor people. At least a couple more election cycles yet, before Middle NZ is dominated by less conservative voters and big changes can be tolerated.

    • That just says the $60 billion the government is borrowing isn’t good enough for the poor and disadvantaged when we know that targeted social spending creates a 1 for 1 gdp growth. In other words for every $6 dollars spent on infrastructure, it creates 1 dollar in GDP growth and for every $1 spent on targeted social spending creates $1 in GDP growth.

    • How about we try it out first before we blame ‘middle nz’. Who is ‘middle nz’ anyways? The likes of the labour party and its supporters? Or is it just political parties, the stenographers in media, and their handmaids?
      I personally live in ‘nz’ and i have yet to meet a person who is not scared to death of falling into the poverty trap that is ‘unemployment’, ‘long term illness’, ‘raising a child as a single parent’ and best of all ‘super’.
      Maybe instead of blaming ‘someone’ we lay the blame where it out to be, with the Polititians that make the laws, dispense of funds and the likes.

      And for what its worth, this current Labour crew were the ones running on ‘ONLY we can FIX it, but it appears only the stuff that ain’t broke, the broke stuff…..that is too hard and too expensive, and surely we can blame ‘middle nz’.

      Its not us, its Middle NZ. Labour 2023

      • It looks to me as if Politicians will not risk scaring the horses. They know high House prices, law and order, bene bashing are cultural norms of our conservative voters. Who benefits from this conservatism? It ain’t the young people, is it? I think the next couple of generations will demand change because it fucked them over big time, in all sorts of ways.

    • It is an optimistic outlook to think that as the voting demographic changes, it will become less conservative. Unfortunately as young people age & get loaded up with more & more debt, student loans, credit cards, personal loans & super massive mortgages, the more conservative they are likely to become. Struggling at multiple jobs in the gig economy, keeping your nose firmly to the grindstone, trying to make ends meet & keep a roof over your head, leaves little time for social/political activism, less inclination to risk the tiny piece of the pie they have managed to grasp.

      The thing that is likely to cause large scale societal change is if the house of cards that is our current Neo-liberal economic system falls over. A lot of people will lose, a lot of people will suffer, but there will be change.

      • Your arse about face with that analogy Richard, IMO. The very reason for all that debt is housing costs vs low income. Not a problem for wealthy older folk compared to the what the young are facing. They are, or will be pissed about that. Also they have lots of energy and emotion to stage a shit fight no problem. Something us oldies could do with more of. Ha Ha.

        • “Stage a shit fight”, is that armed insurrection or bitching on Twitter? Or really going hard core with a Action Station petition? The problem is those in power don’t care about letters, petitions or protests & the security services do care about threats to those in power.

          Also the reason for all that debt is Neoliberal “user” pays & the banks ability to magically create massive amounts of money (via fractional reserve banking) to lend to buyers of over inflated homes (over valued due to tax free status & high returns on property investment), creating debt slaves for life, farming humans for their interest payments. Once you’re on that treadmill, it’s very hard to get off.

  2. I’ve never believed in the ‘identity politics’ B.S. Its always been a false flag and its no wonder it has spread like cancer the more neo liberalism has become entrenched both here in NZ and overseas. It is a convenient tool , – to divide people, set them against each other and provide endless ‘ issues’ whereby the B.S never ceases, meanwhile we as a society become pitted against each other, and those in control can sit back laughing at us all as ‘the plebs’ fighting amongst themselves like a rabble.

    Its no different from Rome’s ‘bread and circuses’.

    It has absolutely NIL to do with left / center left issues like egalitarianism, and equity leading to a stable and good quality of life for its citizens,… but EVERYTHING to do with being a diversion, a distraction and a divisive tool to keep society’s lacking in any cohesion that may create unity and thus exposing the real motives behind it.

    Its political. And its motivated by big business interests. That’s all. And its also motivated by its close cousin, political power.

    And sadly, this is also why this govt is so roaringly silent on the colossal and most basic human rights issues that confront the people of this nation each and every day. They may have a ‘kind’ face but that is tantamount to being more than useless when people and family’s are homeless, hungry , poor and ill. And as a reminder to this govt, – WE, under THIER collective neo liberal govts, and auspices,… signed the U.N declaration that EVERY human being has a right to a warm , dry and stable home.

    I think you can see where this is going.

    I lump Labour in with National. Equally as useless, and equally as callously indifferent – barring great shows of ‘humanity’ when disasters hit for political gain only. So what?, – Winston Churchill showed more backbone than any of these ever did or could, and he was doing it out of a genuine concern for his country. Not so these. They don’t care about the actual people of their country’s, only maintaining the economic status quo. And controlling the narrative so unity and exposure of them does not happen.

    Ever since 1984, every successive govt in NZ has been mere window dressing and a false front for big business interests. No matter what political party is in control. All they ever do is pass the baton, some doing the big ‘hard line’ thing, – the other doing the ‘softly softly approach’ to keep the chickens from getting restless.

    And one of the major tools used is ‘ identity politics’.

    And they are laughing at us, – the suckers, the plebs . And so are their international big business, party donating associates.

  3. “Labour are notoriously timid when it comes to challenging the neoliberal structure “……because it works.

    The last thirty years has seen a steady reduction in global poverty through neoliberal trade and economic policies. The only countries today that aren’t lifting themselves out of poverty are those that aren’t neoliberal in outlook.

    • Absolute rubbish.

      The Scandinavians have not and never will embrace neo liberalism wholeheartedly, and globally are the most wealthiest per capita, while the poorer places round the globe like many states in Africa have accepted Chinese / CCP’s Belt and Road overtures because they have received ZILCH from western neo liberalism except poverty and exploitation , – or worse, – deliberately been ignored when suits.

      The USA, the supposed home of the free market,- practices protectionism of its own farming and industry btw, and regularly uses the Reserve Bank to bail out its capitalist banks. Recall ‘too big to fail’ and ‘ corporate welfare’ back in 2008? Yet the USA has huge homelessness and poverty issues despite its wonderful free market reputation. And how many country’s populations including our own have become massively the poorer since Douglas’s free market lies? Why do you think this so called ‘Left’ govt is copping so much flak for its do nothing track record ? Because essentially, it is a neo liberal one not a Keynesian one. It forks out to corporate welfare but does very little to improve the lot of workers, the poor , the homeless etc.

      So you cant even criticize this govt because it too, like National and ACT, have their foundations in free market neo liberal capitalism on steroids.

      So don’t be a Noddy and try to make sweeping generalist and simplistic statements. The fact is, that in 1967, NZ had the 6th wealthiest standards of living globally- just after Denmark. By contrast, after Douglas and his traitors, the spike in crime was horrific, as were the unemployment figures and along with his Mont Pelerin mate R. Richardson’s Employment Contracts Act 1991, – NZ workers wages and standards of living went from being among the highest in the world to a little while back, – being compared to Albanians’ and described by Key and Warner Bro’s as being ‘Mexicans with cell phones’.

      And there is some truth in that statement, – as NZ went from the 6th highest to 32nd a few years back , – behind Mexico.

      There’s your neo liberalism for you, – poverty, homelessness, overpriced foods and third world wages in a nation that once was one of the wealthiest .

  4. Yes there is absolutely no doubt the divide between the rich and poor has increased at an incredible rate under the Jacinda Ardern Labour Government.
    Are they a Labour Party?I don’t think so.

  5. The main stream media has convinced all who didnt beleive there is a housing crisis that Labour cant fix it. Its a no brainer that a department of housing needs to build 100,000 or more state houses. (Just as Shearer promised Labour would do ten years ago). What is wrong with them? Print the money. Appoint an extremely competent housing czar. Issue the regulations to clear their path. Dont say Lets Do This. Just get it done. Youll reap a generation or two of Labour supporters.

    • the problem lies therein : Appoint an extremely competent housing czar.

      There is not one competent person in the labour party re Housing, Poverty, food insecurity, etc.

        • I did not ask for a ‘czar’ but they in the past ‘czars’ were russian. Maybe we need to import someone from overseas, a skilled worker for example, who has a good track record in building houses – and sourcing affordable building supplies, and reasonable negotiation skills and some courage to implement some rules that may upset some of the haves err landowner class.

  6. Maybe instead of ‘tackling’ child poverty these guys in their very expensive suits and shoes, should tackle Adult Poverty. But i guess that is hard work.

  7. I think you will find in all countries the rich have got even more richer and inequalities have risen since the Covid not just our little country, all countries.

  8. I wouldnt expect a czar from the Labour Party itself they may be a labour supporter or not. They would be someone with the experience to plan organise and run a commercial operation because thats what building 100,000 houses is. There is no doubt a highly competent kiwi amongst the team of 5million with the capability, acumen and desire to do this job.

  9. Two good articles in Herald today reinforce govts neo liberal drive in the wrong direction.
    ‘Why is Labour government trying to push through a two tier benefit system’
    ‘Overwhelmed ACC workers dropping like flies’.
    ‘What’s going on?’ Marvin Gaye

  10. “Inequality has exploded under Labour – is the egalitarian dream dead?”

    Yes @Martyn, I’m afraid it is. It’s been overtaken by marketing the message with $300m worth of bullshit artists in this virtual realty space (going forward).
    My suspicions are that it’ll just have to play out with all its casualties. Blinded by nothing else other than the importance of the market and marketing applied to everything, and knowing nothing else in their adult lives, THEY ARE NOT LISTENING (possibly with the exception of Siri).
    The risk is that increasing numbers will lose faith in democracy. So be it. They cudda shudda wudda and they had the mandate and reason ? to make meaningful change – they blew it and 4 years in, it’s probably too late.
    Being the imposters they are, maybe they didn’t have reason – more fucking fool them!

    The more they resist meaningful change, the more likely the violent that change will be.
    Thankfully for moi, I have the luxury of retirement, debt free and with an escape hatch – even IF it’s that I have to get death.
    Not so my offspring or those I anticipated and planned to have a better life than me.

  11. Equality is dying in NZ with every 100% woke committee producing time consuming reports while things get worse…. with more money and resources spent on either the same faces with the same things that are not working, or questionable projects run by questionable people.

    Will government listen to what the people are saying about their so called priorities that only the woke committees seem to endorse?

    “More than 15,000 Kiwis have submitted to the Ministry of Justice against the proposed “hate speech” laws and endorsed Free Speech Union’s submission via its submission tool website

    In addition, nearly 40,000 Kiwis signed a seperate “Save Free Speech” petition calling for the Government’s proposals to be dropped, says Jonathan Ayling, Campaign Manager for the Free Speech Union.

    “There is clearly strong opposition to these changes, and the Government needs to throw them out.

  12. I’m definitely on board with this. The Labour Party in NZ is not remotely on the left and their foray into critical social justice will lose more voters quickly. Fighting massive economic disparities should be the focus of the left, not what pronouns we should use so someone doesn’t become offended. This poorly conceived hate speech bill could be a political disaster for Jacinda Ardern.

  13. The list of actions needed is good but why should public transport be free? Make it affordable and have subsidies for community service card holders. What happened when free bus transport was provided during Covid lockdown last year in NZ was that undesirable riff-raff, troublemakers and gang members sat on buses for hours on end and hasseled passengers and drivers for no good reason. If you don’t believe me ask a police officer.
    Nothing short of rolling strikes or a general strike is going to make a change to this Govt.
    GST could be removed from all food (we can only eat so much) and increased to 20% on all drinks, including alcohol. That would cover sugary drinks…also bottled water (plastics use) would be reduced.
    The reason the neo-lib BS continues is because everything has been financialised and credit is cheap. It is propping up unprofitable companies worldwide. For example oil companies’ debt and bankruptcies, Uber loses billions and has never made a profit but keeps borrowing, same with Afterpay losing $63 billion. It’s a Ponzi and WILL all come crashing down. However for our young people we need to stand with them and for them and do something. What will it be?

  14. I remember many years ago an interview on TV (Ian Johnston interviewing Doug Myers) and Doug Myers saying words to the effect – people need to understand that the days of egalitarianism are over. I thought at the time ‘how dare he decide that for us’; but we have sat back and let it happen.
    I think as soon as anyone of us got into power we would quickly learn what forces you are up against. The inability of Labour to get a CGT would be a prime example.
    Growing inequality has been identified in many referendum over many years as a major concern. The question is how to rebalance the playing field without collapsing the economy – evolution is always better than revolution. I think aggressively closing tax loop-holes, closely followed by a CGT, and limiting the profits foreign owned companies can take off-shore would be a good start.

    • …’Doug Myers saying words to the effect – people need to understand that the days of egalitarianism are over’…

      Yes I seem to recall that,… what an arrogant and totally obnoxious individual. Along with others of the Business Roundtable ( called the NZ Initiative these days), who are actually a regional outpost for the London based Mont Pelerin society. Of which R Douglas and R Richardson were both sitting board members. It was the Mont Pelerin society that advised Thatcher and Reagan.

      Milton Freidman was one of the Mont Pelerin society’s founding members and also its public face, – appearing in a TV series in the 1970’s extolling free market ‘values’.

      These are the sort of ‘Ruthless People’ that Mick Jagger made a song about…

      Mick Jagger – Ruthless People

  15. Last chance to save egalitarian New Zealand was during Helen Clark’s govt. The housing issue was understood to be worsening then. Plans to build more state housing were quickly dropped during the ‘winter of discontent’ where business leaders raised objections. From then on until today it was business as usual. Any remenants of state services that could have been used to roll back the neo lib experiment were carefully dismantled under Key. Part of the problem seems to be there is no longer any part of the state services that can implement without taking on consultants for the planning and contractors for the doing. This always seems to lead to a budget blowout before anything meaningful can occur (see mental health). The other problem is that Labour are still trying to contrive market solutions to fix the problems created by a market which is working normally. Low income families do not earn enough to afford a house. Why then would the market build them a house? This seems to be the problem Labour cannot get its head around. It also doesnt seem to occur to them that they can change the rules if that is what a solution requires.

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