Monday, July 28, 2008

National secures Labour's legacy

For the past three years, National has criticised Working for Families, calling it "middle class welfare" which disincentivises work, and promising to repeal the scheme if elected. I guess we're now expected to just forget all that. National now supports the scheme and will not change it. And Oceania has always been at war with East Asia...

Jokes about the Orwellian flip-flops of political parties aside, this move has secured Labour's legacy. Working for Families was the most significant expansion of the welfare state in generations, and thanks to National's "small target" election strategy of agreeing with almost everything the government does, it will now be a long-term feature of our political landscape. Assuming, that is, that Key is sincere rather than simply telling us whatever he thinks we want to hear in order to gain power (and at this stage, it is worth remembering again Chris Trotter's reminder that National's MPs and ultrarich financial supporters did not join and fund the party so it could support left-wing social policy…)

It also raises the interesting question of where the money for tax cuts is going to come from. National is (as usual) promising a massive election-year bribe, while refusing to say how they will fund it. And they have steadily ruled out cuts to every programme that could. They won't cut KiwiSaver. They won't cut education. Now they won't cut Working for Families. Either they're lying somewhere along the line, or they plan to borrow - an irresponsible path which will saddle the New Zealander's of tomorrow with billions of unnecessary debt to pay for the greed of the ultrarich. This would be entirely in line with their metapolicy of looting the state for the benefit of their donors and cronies - but is unlikely to be popular with the people who will ultimately be paying the bills for that self-interested greed.