Monday, September 14, 2020

More timid bullshit from Labour

Over the weekend, Labour released its welfare policy: an increase in benefit abatement thresholds. And that's it. Faced with clear evidence of ongoing hardship among beneficiaries and a call from its on Welfare Expert Advisory Group to raise core benefits by between 12 percent and 47 percent, Labour's response is to tinker around the edges. Its not bad as such - while tiny and pathetic, this change will improve lives - but its just so much less than what is needed.

There's an obvious comparison here with their pathetic tax policy, and it highlights just how timid Labour - the most popular government for a generation - is. Jack Tame hits the hits the nail on the head when he says that Ardern has always taken the safe option:

What's the bravest thing Labour and the Prime Minister have done during their first term in Government? What was the last truly difficult issue for which you saw Jacinda Ardern make a public stand? As Labour leader and Prime Minister, has she ever backed a big policy where the majority of voters weren't on her side? Maybe gun reform ... maybe? No, I don't think so. The heavy lifting on that was done in the days after a massacre when public support was greater than it might have otherwise been.

The truth is, this is an historically popular PM but at many or most of the difficult political crossroads of the last three years, she and her party have chosen the safe option. The popular option as opposed to what might actually be in the greater interests of our society. Ardern ruled out changes to superannuation for as long as she remains leader, despite previously supporting it. As Prime Minister, she chose not to publicly fight for a Capital Gains Tax. And I know the structure of this Government has meant she had to get New Zealand First over the line in Cabinet. But there's nothing that stops a Prime Minister from using her popularity to really try and sell a difficult policy to the public, if he or she thinks it's the right thing to do.

Or just say "we'll see what the people think at the election".

Ardern's popularity and competence could be leveraged to sell left-wing policy. And given the crisis we are in and the obvious, public failure of NeoLiberalism, it would be largely pushing on an open door. People can see that New Zealand is broken, with rampant inequality, rotting infrastructure, and a housing crisis fucking over a whole generation. And we know that it didn't used to be this way - that we used to tax the rich, fund the health and education systems, and build enough state houses to keep rents under control. We just want what we used to have. But for Labour, that's apparently too much, too "risky" now. But by offering nothing, promising that their policy will be effectively identical to that of the opposition and that a vote won't produce change, they risk de-legitimising our entire political system, as has effectively happened in the UK and the USA.

Labour is probably happy with that. They'll keep collecting their huge salaries and perks regardless. The rest of us shouldn't be. Meanwhile, the message they are sending is clear: if you want change, vote for someone else.