Thursday, November 13, 2014

Should Labour really chase the rich?

I've complained in the past about how National presents a distored picture of our society, talking of people on "modest" incomes of $100,000 who need tax cuts. But Claire Trevett's Herald column this morning shows that that disease has also spread to Labour:

It was only in the last few days of the contest that any real friction or points of difference developed between the candidates. That was over the capital gains tax policy. When Parker talks about the tax, he talks about villains: property speculators and the wealthy who escape paying taxes because there is no capital gains tax.

When Little talks about it, he talks about the victims: people on modest incomes who have "worked hard, salted a bit of money away, have got themselves a second property, and they call that their retirement plan". Those are the people he says should be voting for Labour.

To point out the obvious: fewer than 50% of kiwis own their own homes. And within that subset of property owners, the subset who own a second home will be even smaller. While I can't find any easy statistics on the distribution of property ownership in New Zealand, I think a fair guess would be that second home-owners are in the top 10% by wealth, maybe even the top 5%. Andrew Little, on his $147,800 MP's salary (plus $16,300 of slush for "expenses"), clearly identifies with that group (and no wonder: MP's are in the top 2% of all income earners; Ministers well into the top 1%). While he hasn't joined it yet (or hadn't as of his last pecuniary interests declaration in January), given the pattern among MPs, its probably only a matter of time. Meanwhile, those outside that select group might want to ask: is this really who the Labour Party, the supposed core party of the left, should be trying to appeal to?