Monday, June 25, 2012

Targets are not a substitute for action

Faced with a tough week in which it will take the unpopular step of passing privatisation legislation against the will of the New Zealand people, National has pulled its usual trick of announcing another crackdown. This week they're targeting the unemployed, promising 20,000 fewer long-term beneficiaries by 2017.

The obvious response is to point out that this sounds an awful lot like what they did at ACC, and it will have a similar result: people arbitrarily dumped from benefits, denied their entitlements so that WINZ can meet an arbitrary government quota. But if we take this target seriously, its simply magical thinking on National's part. Long-term benefit numbers don't drop because the government decrees it; doing that requires policy. And the most effective policy to do it? Long-term job creation, either directly, or by engineering a labour shortage by manipulating monetary policy (which is what Labour did when it was in power). But National has no plan to create jobs, and doesn't even want to think about it. Mention it to them, and they stick their fingers in their ears and start chanting "lalalala the market will provide". As with climate change, targets without policy mean failure.

Of course, that's taking it seriously. And I'm not sure it deserves that. 2017 is two elections away, and National simply won't be in power then. So as with climate change, this is setting a target to make it look like they're doing something, while really doing nothing.