Thursday, May 19, 2022

A wasted opportunity

The government announced its budget today, with Finance Minister Grant Robertson giving the usual long speech about how much money they're spending. The big stuff was climate change and health, with the former being pre-announced, and most of the latter being writing off DHB's entirely fictional "debt" to the the government (or, to put it another way, paying the bill for past government underfunding). The mandatory surprise was a one-off $350 cost-of-living payment for the middle class, to counteract the effects of inflation. Which is better than the knee-jerk tax cuts the parties of the rich have been calling for, but also less useful than actual structural change, like moving some of the tax burden from income to wealth. But Labour has made it clear they're unwilling to consider that, so we get band-aids instead. There's some nice little things buried in there - the government won't be stealing child support payments from solo parents anymore, which will be the first Welfare Expert Advisory Group recommendation they've actually implemented - but there's no capital gains tax, no big investment in public housing, and no real effort to reduce inequality. Because all of those things would cost money, and as Bernard Hickey points out in The Kākā, that's something NeoLiberal Labour is fundamentally allergic to. Looking "credible" to bankers by keeping the state small is more important to them than helping the people who put them in power. And on salaries of $169k and upwards, its not like they feel any pain, or any urgency for change. The problems besetting Aotearoa are just an abstraction to them, while they work out how to scam their parliamentary housing allowance, superannuation scheme, or electorate support funding to pay for their next investment property.

Maybe they're saving real change for next year, or for the election campaign. But if so, they're fools, because on current polling they won't be in power. This was their last chance to make real change and see it implemented before the election, and they blew it. But then, that's the tale of this entire term in government: a wasted opportunity.