Thursday, May 14, 2020

The timid budget

The government is currently delivering the Budget. There's some good stuff in there - an extension of the wage subsidy scheme to stop people from starving, a billion dollars for green jobs, almost two billion for free retraining, and finally feeding the kids with a school lunch program. Plus I guess the massive increase for health announced earlier in the month. But at the same time, its a budget defined by what the government didn't do. We're in the middle of the biggest crisis in a century, which calls for new policies to both ride it out and pay for it. Its a golden opportunity to change the direction of policy for a generation, to show how government can work for people. Instead, we have:

  • No wealth tax or capital gains tax, not even a moderate tax increase on the rich.
  • No increase to benefits to support those most in need.
  • No massive state house building program. Yes, they're building some - but not enough to crash the housing market and give everyone a home. The First Labour Government built 10,000 state houses a year. Their successors are offering a fifth of that, and think its revolutionary.
  • No wind-farms or solar to drive Huntly out of business, and no massive decarbonisation program.
Grant Robertson at the moment is talking a big game about how the government is not squandering the opportunity to hit the reset button on policy. But this isn't a reset. Its barely a mild change in direction. The truth is that this is a timid budget, which tries desperately to continue the unsustainable and bankrupt status quo. And if this is all Labour has to offer, they're a failure as a government, and a failure as a party.