Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Telling us what we already knew

Over the years, we've had a mass of evidence showing us that the neoliberal policies of tax cuts for the rich, benefit cuts for the poor, flexible labour markets and deregulation foisted upon us by Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson in the 80's and 90's caused poverty and inequality. While a tiny clique at the top made out like bandits (sometimes literally, as in the case of Fay and Richwhite), this came at the expense of the vast majority of New Zealanders being made worse off. Looking solely at income distribution and inequality, the picture is confirmed by the Department of Statistics' 1999 report New Zealand Now: Incomes (summary here), and more recently by the MSD report Household Incomes in New Zealand: Trends in Indicators of Inequality and Hardship 1982 to 2007 (highlights). And now the OECD has weighed in. Its report, Growing Unequal? Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries, confirms that both poverty and inequality rose significantly in New Zealand over the past twenty years.

Looking at the country note [PDF], its a dismal picture. We have moved from being one of the better countries in the OECD for inequality to one of the worst ones, and we have seen our poverty rate - originally quite low - climb to match the OECD average (and that average has grown over the period). While inequality is now trending downwards, as of 2005, poverty was still growing - though that should have begun to change given recent patterns in income growth.

Meanwhile, National is offering the very policies which caused all this as a core part of its election platform. Something to think about before voting, perhaps.