Monday, March 21, 2011

Never let a crisis go to waste

Last weekend, economic commentator Rod Oram warned of the dangers of exploiting the Christchurch earthquake to slash government services, saying it would "weaken support for Christchurch, demotivate large chunks of the population and hobble the economy". Yesterday on Q & A, John Key announced that he planned to do just that, with $800 million in across the board cuts which will wipe out the annual new spending allowance. I guess the chance to do what they've always wanted to do was just too great to ignore, especially when they get to accuse anyone who objects as "hating Christchurch" and "politicising the issue".

Much of the cost will be borne by health and education. These need significant new funds each year, just to keep pace with inflation, technology, and population changes. They're already being starved, and now they'll be starved more. Welfare is also being targeted, with Bill English flagging the prospect of Working For Families cuts (which, if they are to save any actual money, will cause serious pain to the middle class) plus the threat of the Welfare Working Group's "reforms". We're all going to suffer for this, with rotting schools and hospitals, worse education for our kids and poorer healthcare for everyone else, and a reduced social safety net at the very time when we need it most.

Well, OK, not all of us. There's one group who will be absolutely unaffected by the government's cuts: the rich. In a time of national crisis, where you expect equality of sacrifice, English is looking after his rich mates and making sure they won't suffer at all. Our schools and hospitals are up for grabs. Their tax cuts are sacrosanct. Its nice to know where National's priorities are...