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The Mendacities of Mr Key # 19: Tax Cuts Galore! Money Scramble!

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In troubled times, we are community

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On 14 October, eight hours after two massive 7.8 earthquakes simultaneously rocked the entire country, our Dear Leader John Key made an impassioned (for him, it was impassioned) appeal to the people of Aotearoa on Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report‘;

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The one thing I’d we’d just say to New Zealanders at the moment is stay close to your family and friends. Make sure you listen to the radio and listen to the best information that you’re getting. And if you do have certainly older neighbours or family, if you could go in and check up on them that would be most appreciated. Because there will be people feeling genuinely alone.“

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It was  an appeal to a sense of community that is rarely made by right-wing governments or their leaders. It was a tacit acknowledgement that No Man or Woman is an Island that that only by acting collectively can human beings survive  and improve their own circumstances and for their children.

Unfortunately, a week later, Key’s sense-of-community-spirit  was returned to it’s hermetically-sealed casket and re-buried alongside cryo-capsules containing New Zealand’s Once-Egalitarian-Spirit and International-Independent-Leadership-On-Moral Issues.

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National dangles the “carrot”

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On 21 November, Key announced that tax cuts were once again “on the table” and Little Leader/Finance Minister, Bill English confirmed it.

With a statement that was more convoluted than usual, Key said;

“We’ve identified from our own perspective if there was more money where would be the kinds of areas we want to go, not what is the make up … for instance, of a tax or family package, what is the make up of other expenditure we want?

Tax is one vehicle for doing that, it’s not always the most effective vehicle for doing that for particularly low income families.”

Tax could be effective higher up the income scale, but lower down it was not that effective because base rates were low or it was very expensive.

Over the fullness of time we’ll have to see whether we’ve got much capacity to move.

Making sure they can keep a little more of what they earn or get a little bit more back through a variety of mechanisms is always something we can consider. It could be a mix, yes.

In the end it’s about equity for New Zealanders and about .. having a rise in their standard of living, and there’s a number of ways you could deliver that.”

Key has once again dangled a billion-dollar carrot in front of New Zealanders as the country heads towards next year’s election.

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National’s previous election “carrots”

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During the 2008 General Election,  as the Global Financial Crisis was impacting on our own economy, Key was promising tax cuts. In May 2008, he said;

“But in 2005 we promised tax cuts which ranged from about $10 to $92 a week, roughly $45 a week for someone on $50,000 a year.

“I described it as a credible programme of personal tax cuts and I’m committed to a credible programme of personal tax cuts,” he said.

Questioned on whether National’s tax cuts programme of 2005 was credible today given the different economic circumstances, Mr Key said: “Well, I think it is.”

At the time, then Labour’s Finance Minister, Michael Cullen  described National’s tax-cut-bribe as ‘reckless‘.

By October 2008, as NZ Inc’s economic circumstances deteriorated, Treasury issued dire warnings that should have mitigated against any notions of affordable tax-cuts;

John Key has defended his party’s planned program of tax cuts, after Treasury numbers released today showed the economic outlook has deteriorated badly since the May budget. The numbers have seen Treasury reducing its revenue forecasts and increasing its predictions of costs such as benefits. Cash deficits – the bottom line after all infrastructure funding and payments to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund are made – is predicted to blow out from around $3 billion a year to around $6 billion a year.

Key’s government won the 2008 election and proceeded with tax-cuts in 2009 and 2010.

Predictably, government debt – which had been paid down by the Clark-Cullen government – ballooned as the recession hit New Zealand’s economy and tax revenue fell;

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National government debt - tax cuts

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Key himself estimated tax cuts to be worth between $3  or $4 billion.

In 2008, New Zealand’s core government debt stood at nil (net)

Current government debt now stands at $62.272 billion (net).

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Nature intervenes in National’s “cunning plan” for a Fourth Term

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According to Dear Leader Key, estimates for the re-build of earthquake damage in and around Kaikoura; State Highway One, and the rest of the South Island  is likely to be at least “a couple of billion dollars“.

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 The repair bill from Monday's earthquake near Hanmer Springs is estimated to be billions of dollars. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The repair bill from Monday’s earthquake near Hanmer Springs is estimated to be billions of dollars. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

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Finance Minister Bill English has hinted the cost may be much more;

“The combination of significant infrastructure damage in Wellington, obvious damage in Kaikoura – all roading and rail issues – this is going to add up to something fairly significant. We also know that those estimates change over time.”

No wonder Labour leader Andrew Little was less than impressed at tax cuts being mooted. Echoing Michael Cullen from eight years ago, he condemned the irresponsible nature of Key’s proposal;

“Well this is crazy stuff, I mean in addition to a government having $63 billion worth of debt it is yet to start repaying, and you’ve got a billion dollars extra each year just in the cost of superannuation.

Now we have another major civic disaster that is going to cost in terms of repairs. I do not see how John Key can say tax cuts are justified in the present circumstances.”

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National spends-up large on new prison beds

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On top of which, English announced last month that National was planning to spend over $2.5 billion on new prison beds. He questioned whether tax cuts were affordable with such looming expenditure;

Finance Minister Bill English has warned an announcement today of plans for an extra 1,800 prison beds will reduce the room for the Government to consider tax cuts before next year’s election.

English told reporters in Parliament the extra beds would cost NZ$1 billion to build and an extra NZ$1.5 billion to run over the next five or six years.

“It will have an impact because it is a very large spend and, two or three years years ago, we probably thought this could be avoidable,” English said when asked if the extra spending would make it harder for the Government to unveil tax cuts and other spending before the next election.

“It’s all part of this rachetting up of tougher sentences, tighter remand conditions, less bail and taking less risk with people who commit serious offenses,” he added.

Asked if that meant there would be less room for tax cuts, he said: “I wouldn’t want to judge that because it is a bit early, but certainly spending this kind of money on prison capacity is going to reduce other options.”

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The inevitable cost of tax-cuts

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As billions more is wasted on prisons, money spent on health, education, housing, and other social services is being frozen; cut back, or not keeping pace with inflation.

This has resulted in appalling cuts to services such as recently experienced by  96-year-old Horowhenua woman, Trixie Cottingham;

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Other social services have also been wound back – as previously reported by this blogger;

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Cuts to the Health budget have resulted in wholly predictable – and preventable – negative outcomes;

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A critic of National’s under-funding of the health system, Phil Bagshaw, pointed out the covert agenda behind the cuts;

New Zealand’s health budget has been declining for almost a decade and could signal health reforms akin to the sweeping changes of the 1990s, new research claims.

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The accumulated “very conservative” shortfall over the five years to 2014-15 was estimated at $800 million, but could be double that, Canterbury Charity Hospital founder and editorial co-author Phil Bagshaw said.

Bagshaw believed the Government was moving away from publicly-funded healthcare, and beginning to favour a model that meant everyone had to pay for their own.

“It’s very dangerous. If this continues we will slide into an American-style healthcare system.”

As the public healthcare system faces reduction in funding – more and New Zealanders will be forced into taking up  health insurance. In effect, National is covertly shifting the cost of healthcare from public to private,  funding the public/private ‘switch’ through personal tax-cuts.

Tax dollars have previously been allocated to social services such as Education or Health. By implementing tax cuts, those “Health Dollars” become “Discretionary Dollars”; Public Services for Citizens becomes Private Choice for Consumers.

And we all know how “well” that model has worked out in the United States;

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(Yet another) Broken promise by Key

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But equally important is that, in promising to spend the government surplus on tax-cuts, Dear Leader Key has broken yet another of his promises to the people of New Zealand.

In July 2009, National suspended all contribution to the NZ Superannuation Fund. At the time  Bill English explained;

“The Government is committed to maintaining National Superannuation entitlements at 66 per cent of the average wage, to be paid from age 65.

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The suspension of automatic contributions will remain until there are budget surpluses sufficient to fund contributions. Under current projections, the Government is not expected to have sufficient surpluses for the next 11 years.

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Once surpluses sufficient to cover automatic contributions return, the Government intends to contribute the amount required by the Fund formula.”

In 2010, English said;

“We’re managing government spending carefully, the economy is improving a bit faster than we expected, and that means it’s six years instead of 10 years until we start making contributions to the fund. If the economy picks up a bit faster again, we’ll get to that point sooner.”

In 2011, John Key said;

“Once we’re back to running healthy surpluses, we’ll be able to auto-enrol workers who are not members of KiwiSaver, pay down debt and resume contributions to the Super Fund.”

In 2012, English said;

“The Government’s target is to return to surplus by 2014-15 so that we will then have choices about repaying debt, resuming contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, or targeting more investment in priority public services.”

In 2013, English said;

“It remains our intention that contributions will resume once net debt has reduced to 20 percent of GDP, which is forecast for 2020.”

In 2014, English told Patrick Gower;

“… In this Budget we will have a paper-thin surplus , I mean we’ll just have a surplus but that’s the beginning of a series of surpluses and that means we have choices. And there’s a lot of choices. We’ve got the New Zealand Super Fund to resume contributions, an auto-enrolment for KiwiSaver, paying off debt more quickly, something for households to help them along. Those are choices that New Zealand fortunately will have if we have a growing economy and we stick to being pretty careful about our spending.”

In 2015, Key and English issued a joint  statement saying;

“Through Budget 2015, the National-led Government will…

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Reduce government debt to less than 20 per cent of GDP by 2020/21 when we can resume contributions to the NZ Super Fund.”

In October this year, English said;

“There has not been any broken commitment regarding the Superannuation Fund. We have said for some time that when the Government returns to a sufficient budget surplus and can contribute genuine savings rather than borrowing, National will resume contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund. The straightforward issue is that even when the Government shows surpluses under the operating balance before gains and losses measure, it does not always have cash surpluses until those accounting surpluses get reasonably big.

[…]

I remember that Sunday in 2009 in vivid detail, in fact, and constantly go back to it. The Government has outlined its position many, many times since 2009, and when there are sufficient surpluses and when we have debt down to the levels we think are prudent, which is 20 percent of GDP by 2020, then we will resume contributions, which we would like to do.”

In every year since National ceased contributing to the NZ Super (“Cullen”) Fund, both Key and English have reiterated their committment to resume payments when government books returned to surplus.

By hinting at tax cuts instead, Key and English have broken their promises, made over a seven year period.

Even their “qualifyer” of resuming contributions “when we have debt down to the levels we think are prudent, which is 20 percent of GDP by 2020” becomes untenable with their hints of an election-year tax-cut bribe.

By cutting taxes instead of paying down debt, resuming contributions to the NZ Super Fund is pushed further out into the dim, distant future.

The very suggestion of tax cuts is another potential broken promise.  What’s one more to add to his growing list of promises not kept?

After all, there is an election to be fought next year.

Since National has not thought twice at under-funding the Health Budget, it certainly does not seem troubled at using tax-cuts as an election bribe, and undermining this country’s future superannuation savings-fund for selfish political gain.

Muldoon did it in 1973 – and got away with it.

Carrot, anyone?

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References

Radio NZ: Morning Report – John Key urges New Zealanders to look out for their neighbours

Radio NZ: Morning Report – Key not ruling out tax cuts despite billion-dollar Kaikoura bill

Radio NZ: Morning Report – Government not ruling out tax cuts despite $1B Kaikoura bill

Fairfax media: John Key reveals plans for ‘tax and family’ package, but quake might affect plans

NZ Herald: National’s 2005 tax cut plans still credible – Key

Beehive: National ignores inflation warning

NZ Herald: Key – $30b deficit won’t stop Nats tax cuts

NZ Treasury:  Financial Statements of the Government of New Zealand for the Year Ended 30 June 2010 – Debt

Fairfax media: $4b in tax cuts coming

NZ Treasury: Fiscal Indicator Analysis – Debt  as at 30 June 2008

NZ Treasury:  Financial Statements of the Government of New Zealand for the Year Ended 30 June 2016

Radio NZ: Earthquake’s billion-dollar bill won’t compare with Chch

Radio NZ: PM ‘irresponsible’ to talk tax cuts after quake – Labour

Interest.co.nz: English says NZ$1 bln capital cost and NZ$1.5 bln of operating costs for extra 1,800 prison beds reduces room for tax cuts

Radio NZ: Checkpoint – DHB threatens to cut off 96-year-old’s home help in Levin

Dominion Post: Women’s Refuge cuts may lead to waiting lists

NZ Herald: Govt funding cuts reduce rape crisis support hours

NZ Doctor: Christchurch’s 198 Youth Health Centre to close its doors as management fails to implement directives from CDHB

TV1 News: ‘Devastating news for vulnerable Kiwis’ – Relationships Aotearoa struggling to stay afloat

Radio NZ: Patients have ‘severe loss of vision’ in long wait for treatment

Fairfax media: Researchers claim NZ health budget declining, publicly-funded surgery on way out

Radio NZ: Patients suffering because of surgery waits – surgeon

Fairfax media: 174,000 Kiwis left off surgery waiting lists, with Cantabrians and Aucklanders faring worst

Fortune: How the U.S. Health Care System Fails Its Sickest Patients

NZ Super Fund: Contributions Suspension

Beehive: New Zealand Super Fund – fact sheet

Fairfax media: English signals earlier return to Super Fund payments

Scoop media: John Key’s Speech to Business New Zealand Amora Hotel Wgtn

Parliament Today: Questions and Answers – November 7

TV3 News: $23 billion in NZ Super Fund

Throng: Patrick Gower interviews Finance Minister Bill English on The Nation

Beehive: Budget 2015

Scoop: Hansards – Questions and Answers – 18 October 2016

Fairfax media: Compulsory super ‘would be worth $278 billion’

Additional

The Standard: The great big list of John Key’s big fat lies (UPDATED)

Other Blogs

The Standard: The eternal tax-cut mirage

Previous related blogposts

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash”

Tax cuts & school children

The Mendacities of Mr Key #3: tax cuts

The consequences of tax-cuts – worker exploitation?

Plunket and the slow strangulation of community organisations

The cupboard is bare, says Dear Leader

An earthquake separates John Key and ‘The Iron Lady’, Margaret Thatcher

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 Novembr 2016.

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An earthquake separates John Key and ‘The Iron Lady’, Margaret Thatcher

24 November 2016 2 comments

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In October 1987, British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher – apostle of Britain’s neo-liberal, free-market “reforms” – was famously quoted in an interview saying;

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And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour…

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Twenty-nine years later, as much of New Zealand is ravaged by a 7.5 earthquake, John Key makes an appeal to the people of Aotearoa on Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report‘;

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The one thing I’d we’d just say to New Zealanders at the moment is stay close to your family and friends. Make sure you listen to the radio and listen to the best information that you’re getting. And if you do have certainly older neighbours or family, if you could go in and check up on them that would be most appreciated. Because there will be people feeling genuinely alone.

 

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Far from decrying Key’s sound advice, I would applaud him for giving it at a time when the country is rattled by ongoing,  severe,  seismic activity.

But it illustrates one fact with crystal-clarity;  Thatcher was wrong. There is such a thing as ‘society’.  We are our Brothers and Sisters Keepers; and functioning solely and purely  for our own Individualistic and immediate Familial benefit is not to our  advantage.

For without it, we are very much alone and left vulnerable to the immense, implacable, forces of nature.

Which is why the dictates of neo-liberalism – the so-called “invisible hand of the free-market” and selfish Cult of Individualism –  is doomed to failure. That is why the international  arm of neo-liberalism – globalisation – is  being rejected from country to country.

Because at the end of the day, when this country is hit by earthquakes that tear apart our roads, bridges, offices, community facilities, factories, ports, schools, and our own homes – I don’t see the “Invisible Hand of the Free Market” coming to our assistance, “invisible” or not.

Only people, working collectively for the greater good, can achieve mutual support – quite often for no personal benefit or gain.

Defenders of the neo-liberal/free market/globalisation ideology should stop and consider; we cannot have the Primacy of the Individual in good times, and then seek sanctuary within the strength of society in bad. People acting together as a community is either within us all the time, or not at all.

It is time for the leader of New Zealand’s free-market, pro-neo-liberal, political party to understand this simple truth.

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References

Margaret Thatcher Foundation: Woman’s Own – interview – 31 October 1987

Radio NZ: Morning Report – John Key urges New Zealanders to look out for their neighbours

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 19 November 2016.

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When Life is a Lottery

20 November 2016 2 comments

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Fun Fact #1: Between 2006 and 2013,  the number of homeless grew by 25%. Based on Census data;  one in 100 were homeless in 2013; one in 120 in 2006, and one in 130 in 2001.

Fun Fact #2: In 1986, home ownership in New Zealand stood at 73.5%. By 2013, Census data showed home-ownership had fallen to 64.8%.

Fun Fact #3: In August this year, Auckland’s average house price reached – and passed – the $1,000,000 mark.

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Make no mistake, housing has become a crisis in New Zealand as this May poll for  a TV3/Reid Research Poll highlighted;

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Even 61% of National voters accepted the new reality in our once-egalitarian nation. Housing unaffordability (for the middle classes) and homelessness (for beneficiaries and the working poor)  could no longer be ignored.

Stepping back to 20 August 2007, National’s newly-elected leader, John Key, made an impassioned speech to the  Auckland branch of the New Zealand Contractors Federation. In it, he excoriated the then-Clark-led Labour government;

“Over the past few years a consensus has developed in New Zealand. We are facing a severe home affordability and ownership crisis. The crisis has reached dangerous levels in recent years and looks set to get worse.

This is an issue that should concern all New Zealanders. It threatens a fundamental part of our culture, it threatens our communities and, ultimately, it threatens our economy.

The good news is that we can turn the situation around. We can deal with the fundamental issues driving the home affordability crisis. Not just with rinky-dink schemes, but with sound long-term solutions to an issue that has long-term implications for New Zealand’s economy and society.

National has a plan for doing this and we will be resolute in our commitment to the goal of ensuring more young Kiwis can aspire to buy their own home.”

Nine years later, Key’s description of New Zealand’s housing crisis has changed markedly. It is now a “challenge“, as he painfully tried to explain on TVNZ’s Breakfast programme;

“I don’t think it’s a crisis, but prices are going up too quickly. There are plenty of challenges in housing, and there have been for quite some time.”

On 9  November, a Hibiscus Coast couple were the incredibly lucky couple to win the latest multi-million dollar Lotto prize;

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The Radio NZ story further reported;

The man’s wife said at first she thought her husband was joking about the win.

“My head started spinning, my heart was racing and I got the shakes.”

The couple claimed their prize at Lotto’s head office on Thursday afternoon.

“As we sat in the winner’s room, he kept turning to me and saying ‘Am I in a dream?’ and I kept turning to him and saying ‘is this real?'” the woman said.

“We’ve been busting our guts trying to buy our first home,” the winner said.

“We just went to the mortgage broker earlier this week to see what they could do to help. But they just couldn’t make anything work for us.

“We were absolutely gutted and I just said ‘maybe that ship has sailed’.

“But my wife tried to stay positive and said ‘don’t worry, something good will happen for us’.

“I don’t think either of us thought that the something good would be $44 million.”

Note what the woman said here;

“We’ve been busting our guts trying to buy our first home. We just went to the mortgage broker earlier this week to see what they could do to help. But they just couldn’t make anything work for us. We were absolutely gutted and I just said ‘maybe that ship has sailed’.”

When couples have to rely on winning Lotto to be able to afford to buy their first home,  there is something seriously askew in society.

Remember Dear Leader Key’s own words;

“We are facing a severe home affordability and ownership crisis. The crisis has reached dangerous levels in recent years and looks set to get worse. This is an issue that should concern all New Zealanders. It threatens a fundamental part of our culture, it threatens our communities and, ultimately, it threatens our economy.”

In the United States, commentators from the msm, politics, dissident community; and further afield, have rapidly come to the realisation that Donald Trump’s unlikely, unforeseen, and up-till-now improbable victory in the 2016 Presidential  race was predicated on the belated understanding that globalisation and neo-liberalism  have left behind millions of people.

In the Voting Booths across the United States, Consumers became Citizens again, and cast their ultimate sanction against the political establishment and those who supported the neo-liberal orthodoxy. The status quo of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan (the latter, ironically a Republican like Trump) was utterly repudiated.

The disenchantment and alienation of the Working and Middle classes germinated during the 2008 Global Financial crisis and resulting Great Recession – the effects of which are still with us, eight years late. In the United States, millions of Americans lost their homes.

More than four million Americans have lost their homes since the housing bubble began bursting six years ago. An additional 3.5 million homeowners are in the foreclosure process or are so delinquent on payments that they will be soon. With 13.5 million homeowners underwater — they owe more than their home is now worth — the odds are high that many millions more will lose their homes.

Most telling was this criticism by

Housing remains the biggest impediment to economic recovery, yet Washington seems paralyzed. While the Obama administration’s housing policies have fallen short, Mitt Romney hasn’t offered any meaningful new proposals to aid distressed or underwater homeowners.

Writing for the Huffington Post a year later, David Coates pointed out

“… the vast majority of those four million lost their homes because they lost their jobs, not because they had in better times taken out mortgages that they could not afford.

[…]

It is not the rich who are being foreclosed. It is those on the margin of the core middle class. It is particularly middle class minorities who have taken the greatest hit on both their personal wealth and their associated credit scores. Falling house prices since 2008 have pulled median white net-worth down by 27 percent but median black net-worth down by anywhere between 40 percent and 53 percent.”

All the promises of neo-liberalism had come to nought. Instead millions had lost their jobs and those lucky enough found new work in low-paid service industries. Take-home pay was cut – and Humiliation applied in abundance as ‘compensation’.

The Working and Middle Classes not only lost their job and homes – their new status in low-paid work was precarious.

Events post-2008 hastened the  demise  of the American Dream and the rise of the Precariat, as Richard  McCormack wrote, in February of this year for the Manufacturing and Technology News;

The effects on the U.S. economy caused by 30 years of offshore outsourcing of production and jobs is starting to drive major changes in the American political system. The rise of a “precariat” class of Americans — those who are living “precarious” lives — has created a populist movement that shows no sign of acquiescing to the “establishment” in both the Democratic and Republican parties.

The new precariat comprises a growing class of people who are going nowhere in their jobs, who are insecure and unstable. The group is “experiencing the breaking apart of the American Dream, which is what historically held the country together — the rise of the middle class, with everyone doing better,” notes visiting scholar John Russo of Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor. “It’s not working that way any more.”

Driving the rise of the precariat is a society that is not generating enough wealth. De-industrialization, the shift of major goods-producing industries to foreign nations, and both the Republican and Democratic establishment’s embrace of free trade, are leading to a populist uprising.

The precariat is becoming one of the largest classes of Americans, encompassing far more than blue-collar workers who have been slammed by economic forces outside of their control. It now includes millions of Americans with college degrees who are under compensated or can’t find full-time employment with benefits.

As white-collar jobs have been outsourced, Americans with more than high-school degrees are starting to see their prospects “mirror those of the working class,” says Russo. “That insecurity and instability is now part of their life. That is why this new group is not yet a class in itself. It hasn’t defined what it is going to be.”

It is fragmented, but it is big, and much of it is angry.

In his article, McCormack quotes John Russo from the Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor;

“As steady formal work has been disappearing over time, informal work began to move beyond traditional concepts such as consulting, internships, subcontracting, privatization and intermittent employment,” Russo explains. “Rather than the continued rise of the formal economy, it is the informal economy that is growing.”

The precariat is “potentially all of us united by the fear of insecurity,” he notes. It is made up of “individuals living precarious and insecure existences lacking employment security, job security, income security, skill security, occupational security and labor market security.”

This is no longer the underground economy, but includes displaced individuals from the public and private sectors, millennials dealing with mountains of student debt, and baby boomers forced into early retirement without enough savings to support themselves.

There is little public assistance for the precariat class and “they’re not making demands to get better wages or improved benefits [because they] are replaced easily,” Russo notes.

Three years after Coates’ story,  and nine months after McCormack’s insightful analysis of the public mood, Trump’ ascendance as America’s 45th President was complete. Trump won the States where blue-collar workers had suffered the most.

The story of globalisation and neo-liberal “reforms” of our own economy has followed a familiar story; loss of long-term employment; ever-increasing need for re-training; the rise casualisation and contract piece-work; and the increase of lower-paid service-work.

Depressingly, economist Shamubeel Eaqub has predicted;

“The workplace is likely to be further casualised. “

Which adds further hopelessness to New Zealanders increasingly locked out of what was once known as the Great Kiwi Dream of home-ownership.

The National government ostensibly understands the notion of aspiration, as Dear Leader Key said six years ago;

“I want New Zealanders to be aspirational – to want more for themselves and their families, and to know that they have opportunities to do that.”

Those words ring hollow as National scrambles frantically to make itself  “look busy”, trying to alleviate the dual crisis of  worsening home ownership and homelessness.

Bennett’s suddenly-announced  policy of bribing state house tenants with (up to) $5,000 was widely seen as a panic-driven, ad hoc policy. It certainly caught Finance Minister Bill English by surprise, having no forewarning of Bennett’s media announcement on the issue.

The twin tsunami-waves of homelessness and housing unaffordability appears to have utterly over-whelmed National Ministers.

As Trump’s victory in the US Presidential election has demonstrated with crystal clarity, Consumers can easily become  Citizens again, re-discovering the power of their Vote. When Citizens’ anger becomes focused, and a perceived solution (or even just an opportunity to say “FUCK YOU!” to the Establishment) is put before them – they will vote for it.

Especially when they have lost so much, and have little left to lose.

Such was the case of  the US presidential elections, and before that, the ‘Brexit’ Vote.

As New Zealanders become more and more conscious of how much they have lost in the last thirty years, they too, will find themselves pissed off.

The opening lines of the song  from ‘Les Miserables’ – Do You Hear The People Sing? – should serve as a reminder to the political establishment in this country;

“Do you hear the people sing?
Singing the song of angry men?”

The Great Kiwi Dream of home ownership was never predicated on the long-odds offered by  a little yellow piece of paper;

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Home ownership should not be a Lottery.

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References

Otago Daily Times: Homelessness increasing in NZ

Fairfax media: NZ home ownership at lowest level in more than 60 years

Radio NZ: Auckland’s average house value tops $1 million

TV3 News: Government gets thumbs down on housing

Scoop: Key – Speech to New Zealand Contractors Federation

TVNZ: Is there a housing crisis? John Key fails to say yes or no after being put on the spot

Radio NZ: Claimed – $44 million lotto prize

NY Times: The One Housing Solution Left – Mass Mortgage Refinancing

Huffington Post: America’s Half-Forgotten Housing Crisis

Manufacturing and Technology News: The Rise Of The American ‘Precariat’ – Globalization And Outsourcing Have Created A Combustible Political Culture

Chicago Tribune: How Trump won the presidential election – Revenge of working-class whites

Fairfax media: Shamubeel Eaqub – Job casualisation a global phenomenon

NZ Herald: John Key’s speech to the National Party convention

Interest.co.nz: Paula Bennett announces plan to offer $5,000 to homeless Aucklanders and state house tenants to leave Auckland

TV3 News: Govt to help fund Auckland homeless to move

Metrolyrics: Les Miserables – Do You Hear The People Sing?

Previous related blogposts

Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!

Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

National recycles Housing Policy and produces good manure!

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

Housing Minister Paula Bennett continues National’s spin on rundown State Houses

Letter to the Editor – How many more children must die, Mr Key?!

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #1

National Housing propaganda – McGehan Close Revisited

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Tahi)

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Rua)

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Toru)

Another ‘Claytons’ Solution to our Housing Problem? When will NZers ever learn?

National’s blatant lies on Housing NZ dividends – The truth uncovered!

National and the Reserve Bank – at War!

The seductiveness of Trumpism

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 November 2016.

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2016 – Ongoing jobless tally and why unemployment statistics will no longer be used

14 November 2016 3 comments

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Unemployment logo

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Continued from: 2015 – Ongoing jobless tally

So by the numbers, for this year;

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Events

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January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

October

November

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Statistics

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This blogger previously reported how Statistics NZ recently implemented a so-called “revision” which would materially affect how unemployment stats were counted and reported;

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On 29 June 2016, Statistic NZ announced that it would be changing the manner in which it defined a jobseeker;

Change: Looking at job advertisements on the internet is correctly classified as not actively seeking work. This change brings the classification in line with international standards and will make international comparability possible.

Improvement: Fewer people will be classified as actively seeking work, therefore the counts of people unemployed will be more accurate.

The statement went on to explain;

Change in key labour market estimates:

  • Decreases in the number of people unemployed and the unemployment rate
  • Changes to the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate range from 0.1 to 0.6 percentage points. In the most recent published quarter (March 2016), the unemployment rate is revised down from 5.7 percent to 5.2 percent
  • Increases in the number of people not in the labour force
  • Decreases in the size of the labour force and the labour force participation rate

The result of this change? At the stroke of a pen, unemployment fell from 5.7% to 5.2%;

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And on-cue, National was quick to capitalise on Statistics NZ’s figure-fudging;

On 2/3 July, TV3’s The Nation, Dear Leader Key told Corin Dann;

“The unemployment rate in New Zealand is now falling pretty dramatically.”

On 8 August, Key was quoted on Interest.co.nz;

“On the other side, we need these people in an environment where unemployment is 5.2% and where growth is still very, very strong. You’ve just got to be careful when you play around with these things that you don’t hamstring certain industries that need these workers.”

On 12 August, in Parliament, English also gleefully congratulated himself on the “fall” in unemployment;

“The Reserve Bank is forecasting an increase of about 1 percent more growth in the economy over the next 3 years, compared with what it thought 3 months ago. It is forecasting that unemployment is going to continue falling from 5.2 percent this year to 4.5 percent by 2019 and that job numbers will increase by more than 2 percent on average over the next 2 years. A significant component of that, of course, will be the construction boom, where thousands of houses will be built over the next 2 or 3 years. These forecasts are in line with Treasury’s forecast for the labour market and show an economy that is delivering more jobs, lower unemployment, and real increases in incomes when in many developed countries that is not happening.”

The latest Statistics NZ (soon to be re-branded Ministry of Truth) unemployment figures showed another “fall”. The unemployment rate for the September 2016 Quarter is now purportedly 4.9%;

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Can that figure – 4.9% – be trusted?

When Statistics NZ “re-jigged” its criteria for measuring unemployment in June, unemployment dropped from 5.7% to 5.2% (subsequently revised again to 5.1%);

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Predictably, National were quick to once again exploit the September statistics, as their Twitter-feed showed on 2 November;

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And three days later;

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It’s all nonsense, of course – made worse by Statistics NZ’s other dodgy criteria used when considering their definition what constitutes being “employed”;

Employed: people in the working-age population who, during the reference week, did one of the following:

  • worked for one hour or more for pay or profit in the context of an employee/employer relationship or self-employment
  • worked without pay for one hour or more in work which contributed directly to the operation of a farm, business, or professional practice owned or operated by a relative

Statistics NZ’s mis-representation of our “low unemployment” environment has gone largely unnoticed and unchallenged. No one in the mainstream media has picked up on the questionable data;

This meant the size of the labour force rose 33,000 and unemployment fell by just 3,000 to 128,000. The unemployment rate fell to 4.9% from a revised 5.0% in the June quarter. This was the lowest unemployment rate since the December quarter of 2008. Unemployment has fallen by 7,000 over the last year and is up 1,000 from two years ago.Interest.co.nz

Unemployment has fallen below 5 percent for the first time in nearly eight years thanks to the growing economy, but it is still not translating into booming wages. Official figures show the unemployment rate declined to 4.9 percent in the three months to September, or 128,000 people, the lowest rate since December 2008.Radio NZ

According to Statistics New Zealand, the unemployment rate fell to 4.9% in the September 2016 quarter. This is the lowest unemployment rate since the December 2008 quarter. There were 3,000 fewer people unemployed than in the June 2016 quarter and 10,000 fewer over the year.Maori TV

The unemployment rate has fallen to 4.9 percent for the September 2016 quarter, according to new figures from Statistics NZ. That’s the lowest it’s been since December 2008. – TV3 News

New Zealand’s unemployment rate fell below 5 percent for the first time since December 2008 as employers took on more staff than expected, although that didn’t spur wages to rise at a faster pace. The kiwi dollar rose on the figures. The unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent in the three months ended Sept. 30 from a revised 5 percent rate in June, Statistics New Zealand said.Sharechat

New Zealand has recorded its best unemployment rate in almost eight years with third quarter figures falling to a better than expected 4.9 per cent. The jobless rate declined from a revised 5.0 per cent in the June quarter, according to Stats NZ, taking it to its lowest point since December 2008. – NZCity/NZ News

New Zealand’s unemployment rate fell below 5 per cent for the first time since December 2008 as employers took on more staff than expected, although that didn’t spur wages to rise at a faster pace. The kiwi dollar rose on the figures.

The unemployment rate fell to 4.9 per cent in the three months ended September 30 from a revised 5 per cent rate in June, Statistics New Zealand said.NZ Herald

New Zealand’s unemployment rate fell more than expected in the third quarter to drop to 4.9 per cent – the lowest rate since last 2008. The jobless rate declined from a revised 5.0 per cent in the June quarter, according to Stats NZ taking it to its lowest point since the December quarter nearly eight years ago. There were 3,000 fewer people unemployed than in the previous quarter and 10,000 fewer over the year. – TVNZ News

Of course there were “3,000 fewer people unemployed than in the previous quarter and 10,000 fewer over the year“! Ten thousand unemployed people vanished from the data, at the click of a mouse, as Statistics NZ worked their “magic”.

Statistics NZ could potentially make unemployment vanish entirely, overnight, by changing the unemployment criteria to people with only two hearts and scaly blue skin.

Only Hamish Rutherford, at Fairfax media, pointed out the questionable value of Statistics NZ’s data;

Unemployment has fallen to the lowest level in almost eight years, as the economy creates more than 10,000 new jobs a month. Official figures show the unemployment rate dropped to 4.9 per cent in the the September quarter, the first time it has fallen below 5 per cent since December 2008.

Earlier this year Statistics New Zealand revised the way it conducts the quarterly household labour force survey (HLFS), in a bid to bring the survey more in line with international standards. However the changes mean Statistics New Zealand cannot make confident comparisons with all of the figures from previous surveys.

But even in Rutherford’s article, the all-important point of dodgy stats was lost amongst the ‘rah-rah‘ of the mythical drop in unemployment.

The Otago Daily Times made an even less impressive, passing, reference to Statistics NZ’s fudged figures;

Unemployment in New Zealand is at its lowest level since 2008 but there will be lingering concerns about the lack of wage growth and the impact this will have on the inflation outlook.

Statistics New Zealand has changed some of its survey data to measure unemployment and employment and those changes are still bedding in.Otago Daily Times

Government Statistician, Liz MacPherson, has rejected any suggestion of political partisanship in the way unemployment data is now being presented.

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She was defensive in the face of criticism from Labour’s Grant Robertson and on  16 August, Ms MacPherson stated;

Like my predecessors I am fiercely protective of the statutory independence of the role of the Government Statistician and strongly refute any assertions made by Grant Robertson that there has been political interference in the production of official statistics.

This independence means that I maintain the right to make changes necessary to ensure the relevance and quality of our official statistics. Changes to the Household Labour Force Survey have been made to ensure that we produce the best possible measure of the current state of the labour market and to maintain consistency with international best practice.

Far from ignoring technological change during the past 30 years, such as the advent of the internet, we are incorporating these changes so as to be technology neutral.

Within the survey questions, to be regarded as actively looking for a job you must do more than simply look at job advertisements, whether it is online or in a newspaper.

It is not uncommon for revisions to be made to official statistics as a result of more accurate information becoming available or changes to international standards and frameworks.

In addition we are introducing new measures – for example underutilisation – enabling a deeper, richer understanding of New Zealand’s labour market.

When this does occur it is standard practice for Statistics NZ to communicate reasons for revisions and anticipated changes well in advance of their official release, as we did on 29 June 2016. […]

Statistics NZ has a legislative obligation to release objective official statistics. We will continue to do this at all times.

One of many ironies not lost on this blogger is that other government departments extoll the virtues of jobseeking on-line. As CareersNZ and WINZ state the blindingly-obvious, “most job vacancies are listed online”;

Careersnz;

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WINZ;

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Ms MacPherson’s assertion that Statistics NZ has changed it’s definitions of unemployment and jobseeking  “to maintain consistency with international best practice” is not an acceptable explanation.

If “international best practice” does not recognise on-line jobseeking as constituting a definition of unemployment – then that in itself is worrying and suggests that global unemployment may be much, much higher than current international statistics portray.

As a consequence of Ms MacPherson’s decision to exclude on-line jobseekers from official stats, this blogger concludes that official unemployment data is  severely flawed and unrepresentative of our real unemployment numbers.

In simple terms; the numbers are a sham.

Unemployment statistics will no longer be presented in on-going up-dates of the Jobless Tally.

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This Statement has not been endorsed by MiniTruth (formerly StatsNZ)

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Addendum1: Definition of Employment

Employed: people in the working-age population who, during the reference week, did one of the following:

  • worked for one hour or more for pay or profit in the context of an employee/employer relationship or self-employment

  • worked without pay for one hour or more in work which contributed directly to the operation of a farm, business, or professional practice owned or operated by a relative

  • had a job but were not at work due to: own illness or injury, personal or family responsibilities, bad weather or mechanical breakdown, direct involvement in an industrial dispute, or leave or holiday.

Source

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References

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey – Revisions to labour market estimates

Scoop media: On The Nation – Patrick Gower interviews John Key

Interest.co.nz: Key deflects calls for migration review; says migration needed with 5.2% unemployment

Scoop media: Parliament – Questions & Answers – 11 August 2016

Statistics NZ: Labour Market Statistics – September 2016 quarter

Statistics NZ: Labour Market Statistics – June 2016 quarter

Twitter: National (2 Nov)

Twitter: National (5 Nov)

Interest.co.nz: Jobs grew 35,000 or 1.4% in Sept quarter, but unemployment fell just 3,000 and jobless rate falls to 4.9%

Radio NZ: Unemployment drops to lowest level since 2008

Maori TV: Work force grows despite youth unemployment

TV3 News: Unemployment drops to lowest rate since 2008

Sharechat: NZ jobless rate falls below 5% for first time since 2008, wage inflation muted

NZCity/NZ News: Jobless rate falls to near eight-year low

NZ Herald: NZ jobless rate falls below 5 per cent for first time since 2008, wage inflation muted

TVNZ News: Unemployment rate falls to near eight-year low

Fairfax media: Unemployment drops to lowest level since 2008 on booming job creation

Otago Daily Times: Unemployment lowest in eight years

Radio NZ: Statistician denies political interference over job seeker figures

Statistics NZ: Government Statistician responds to Grant Robertson

Careersnz: Job hunting tips

Work and Income: Where to look

Additional

TVNZ: Q+A – Interview with John Key

Previous related blogpost

Lies, Damned lies and Statistical Lies

National exploits fudged Statistics NZ unemployment figures

Lies, Damned lies and Statistical Lies – ** UPDATE **

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 9 November 2016.

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Black Ops from the SIS and FBI?

6 November 2016 3 comments

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2016-us-elections-broken-parallel-universe

 

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Two days ago (28 October), FBI Director, James B. Comey, sent a letter to the US Congress disclosing that  the Bureau was investigating newly-discovered emails from disgraced former US Congressman, Anthony Weiner.

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FBI Director James B. Comey

FBI Director James B. Comey

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The new  material  “appeared relevant” to the Hillary Clinton private-server/email case, according to Comey. In an explanatory email to FBI employees, Comey wrote;

“This morning I sent a letter to Congress in connection with the Secretary Clinton email investigation.  Yesterday, the investigative team briefed me on their recommendation with respect to seeking access to emails that have recently been found in an unrelated case.  Because those emails appear to be pertinent to our investigation, I agreed that we should take appropriate steps to obtain and review them.

Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record.  At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression.  In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood, but I wanted you to hear directly from me about it.”

 

The political version of an atomic-bombshell came eleven days before the US Presidential Election (early voting in several states notwithstanding) on 8 November.

Interestingly, Comey himself admitted;

“Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations…”

Comey tried to justify his disclosure to Congress;

“I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record…”

But in his rambling note, he then revealed;

“…however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails…”

And then pointed out the blindingly obvious;

“I don’t want to create a misleading impression…”

Director Comey had already created “a misleading impression“. By publicly announcing the “re-opening” of the investigation and referencing a “connection with the Secretary Clinton email investigation“, irreparable damage had been done to Clinton’s campaign and Trump’s presidential chances suddenly took on new life.

As former Attorney General, Eric Holder, pointed out;

“Justice Department officials are instructed to refrain from commenting publicly on the existence, let alone the substance, of pending investigative matters, except in exceptional circumstances and with explicit approval from the Department of Justice officials responsible for ultimate supervision of the matter,” the letter says. 

They are also instructed to exercise heightened restraint near the time of a primary or general election because, as official guidance from the Department instructs, public comment on a pending investigative matter may affect the electoral process and create the appearance of political interference in the fair administration of justice.”

Current US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, also opposed Comey’s decision to formally write to Congress;

Lynch expressed her preference that Comey follow the department’s longstanding practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations, and not taking any action that could influence the outcome of an election, but he said that he felt compelled to do otherwise.

The response from both Republicans and Democrats has been unrestrained anger. Senate minority leader Harry Reid  was unequivocal in condemning Comey’s behaviour;

“Your actions in recent months have demonstrated a disturbing double standard for the treatment of sensitive information, with what appears to be a clear intent to aid one political party over another.

My office has determined that these actions may violate the Hatch Act, which bars FBI officials from using their official authority to influence an election. Through your partisan action, you may have broken the law.”

What is even more startling is that at the time that Comey made his disclosure to Congress (28 October), it was not until two days later that the FBI  obtained a warrant to actually look at the emails on Weiner’s computer.

So on what basis did Comey feel the need to advise Congress?

When Comey sent that letter, he had no way of knowing what the emails contained. For all he knew, they could have been recipes for apple pie.

In which case, Comey has single-handedly interfered in an election process by using the power of his position.

Which would be an abuse of power.

Which would be a situation that we here in New Zealand would be intimately familiar with;

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As the NBR reported over this incident in November 2014;

Security Intelligence Service director Rebecca Kitteridge has made a formal apology to former Labour leader Phil Goff for the way in which the SIS released “incomplete, misleading and inaccurate information” in response to an OIA request from Whale Oil Blogger Cameron Slater.

In 2011 Mr Goff said he hadn’t been briefed about alleged Israel spies being caught in the Christchurch earthquake earlier that year, a contention Prime Minister John Key and then-SIS director Warren Tucker disputed.

Dr Tucker’s briefing notes were declassified, then swiftly released to Mr Slater after he requested them under the Official Information Act.

The notes appeared to confirm Mr Goff had been briefed on the matter but Ms Gwyn’s investigation has established this was not the case.

The apology to Mr Goff is one of the recommendations in the report of inspector-general of intelligence and security Cheryl Gwyn, which stated “These errors resulted in the misplaced criticism of the then leader of the Opposition, Phil Goff. Phil Goff is owed a formal apology by the Service.”

Although Ms Gwyn found no evidence of political partisanship by the SIS, its actions did have a politically partisan effect and she found the agency had failed to take adequate steps to maintain political neutrality.

 

The NZ Herald reported;

 

Prime Minister John Key is “in denial” over a report which backs Dirty Politics allegations his staff used information from the SIS to orchestrate a smear campaign against former Labour leader Phil Goff, the Opposition says.

Inspector General of Security Intelligence Cheryl Gwyn’s report yesterday found primarily that former SIS director Warren Tucker was at fault for supplying “misleading” information about Mr Goff to the Prime Minister during a 2011 war of words between the pair.

Mr Goff claimed he had not been briefed by Dr Tucker about suspected Israeli agents in Christchurch at the time of the earthquakes earlier that year. However, based on the information supplied by Dr Tucker, Mr Key said he had been briefed.

The report found Mr Key’s former senior communications adviser Jason Ede helped attack blogger Cameron Slater obtain that misleading information from the SIS which Slater then used to embarrass Mr Goff in blog posts.

[…]

Ms Gwyn’s report said the information supplied by Dr Tucker about the briefing was “incomplete, inaccurate and misleading” and “resulted in misplaced criticism” of Mr Goff. It also found that after learning of the information, Mr Key’s deputy chief of staff and primary point of contact with the SIS, Phil de Joux, suggested to Mr Ede the information “might prompt an OIA request”.

Mr Ede then gave that information to Slater, discussed how an Official Information Act request should be worded, and provided Slater with draft blog posts attacking Mr Goff.

Ms Gwyn’s inquiry found Mr Ede was on the phone to Slater when Slater emailed his OIA request to the SIS.

Patrick Gower from TV3 was his usual ‘delicate’ self when he expressed his assessment of the politicisation of the NZSIS  by the National government;

3 News understands the spy agency and Prime Minister John Key’s office were found to be in cahoots with Slater to get the information out.

It was sensitive information that embarrassed Mr Goff, pertaining to the issue of supposed Israeli spies Mr Goff said he didn’t know about, though he had been briefed about it.

The report deals with how the information got out, and that is through former SIS director Warren Tucker. Mr Tucker is found have been unfair and politically partisan in the way he dealt with the Prime Minister’s office to get it out, according to 3 News’ understanding of the report.

Then-head of the SIS, Warren Tucker, used his position to embarrass the Leader of the  the Labour Party, just months out from the 2011 General Election. It was done with the full knowledge of members of John Key’s staff. Our esteemed Dear Leader was probably fully aware of the plot.

No wonder the Comey Affair seemed so hauntingly familiar when news of it broke.

Because FBI Director Comey has his own political affiliations;

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Even though he has been a registered Republican for most of his adult life, FBI Director James Comey testified Thursday that he is no longer a registered member of the GOP.

“Although our politics are different — I gather you’re a Republican — that correct?” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) asked Comey in prefacing his remarks.

Comey responded, “I have been a registered Republican for most of my adult life, not registered any longer.”

The FBI director, who previously served as deputy attorney general in George W. Bush’s administration before President Barack Obama appointed him to his current position, donated to the presidential campaigns of John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

 

Mr Comey – meet Mr Warren Tucker.

You two would appear to have a bit in common.

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References

Washington Post: Read the letter Comey sent to FBI employees explaining his controversial decision on the Clinton email investigation

Wikipedia: Anthony Weiner

Politico:  Polls show battleground map tightening

The Hill: Holder, ex-Justice officials question Comey’s ‘breach of protocol’

The New Yorker: James Comey Broke with Loretta Lynch and Justice Department Tradition

The Guardian: Clinton emails inquiry – FBI gets warrant as Comey told he may have broken law

NBR: SIS report equals egg all over Key’s face – Goff

NZ Herald: Dirty Politics – John Key ‘in denial’ over SIS report

TV3: SIS to say sorry for Whale Oil OIA release

Politico: FBI director says he’s no longer a registered Republican

Additional

Radio NZ: Phil Goff receives apology from SIS over release of information to Whaleoil

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Timeline – Key responsible for SIS release

Wheeler’s Corner: SIS Forced to Apologise to Phil Goff says leaked report

The Pundit: John Key – The buck doesn’t stop with me

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 November 2016.

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Expose: Winston Peters; the 1997 speeches; and neo-liberal tendencies

13 September 2016 2 comments

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On Radio NZ’s Morning Report, on 5 September, NZ First leader  Winston Peters, told Guyon Espiner that his party would be a force for major economic change. NZ First, he insisted, would spell an end to neo-liberalism;

“It’s no use having what we’ve had, perhaps you can call it tweedledum and tweedledummer, who have persisted with the neo-liberal experiment. Who have gone along with allowing the foreign banks to dominate New Zealand market for example. Allowed the overseas ownership of our share martket which went from 19% when this experiment started to beyond 70% now.

[…]

New Zealand First is not going to swap one side for the other side because they think it’s their turn so that they can carry on the same economic direction they’re going.

[…]

You’ve got a group on the Right, with a whole lot of cling-ons. You’ve got an unholy wedding or pre-nuptials on the Left, and we don’t want to be part of either of those things. We’re out for economic change and we intend to be successful.

[…]

We believe, if we’ve succeeded in getting our message away then economic and social direction change is a certainty.

[…]

And we’re not going to go around starting negotiating pre-election, with parties who have proven since the last 32 years, one started this economic disaster and the other one has continued it.”

Peters’ repudiation of the neo-liberal economic model had been made two months earlier on TVNZ’s Q+A, when he told Corin Dann;

Corin Dann: Do you think globalisation has failed?

Winston Peters: Of course it has. Because, see, it’s not so much about free trade, so to speak; it should be about fair trade, and there’s a world of difference.

Corin Dann: What is the alternative to globalisation if you believe that it’s failed? Is it a return to protectionism, nationalism?

Winston Peters: No, no, it’s not. It’s being like Norway; it’s being like Switzerland; it’s being like Taiwan. It’s being as smart about protecting the interests of the economy you’re trying to build rather than just going along with being told internationally what you must accept. There’s a world of difference, and right around the Western world, there is a coming now rejection of the neoliberal experiment after 30, 35 years. It is under serious challenge now.

Corin Dann: Mr Peters, globalisation has lifted millions and millions of people out of poverty. It’s brought New Zealand great diversity; it’s brought us all of the mod cons that we take for granted – our phones – everything like that. Hasn’t globalisation been great?

Winston Peters: You’re just confusing sound trade arrangements with globalisation. Globalisation in the UK consequence meant they were being told, out of the European Commission – unelected, in the UK Parliament – they were being told how their laws would be. 55% of the laws in the UK were being dominated out of Brussels. Now, no self-respecting country’s going to take that.

Peters’ comments roundly rejected globalisation, free trade, neo-liberalism. He  inferred protectionism when he told Dann, “It’s being as smart about protecting the interests of the economy you’re trying to build rather than just going along with being told internationally what you must accept“.

However, in a speech made in 1997, when Peters was Treasurer in the National-NZ First Coalition Government, he told the NBR Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Government to Business Forum that he would be pursuing conservative fiscal management; supporting  an “open, internationally competitive economy”; lower taxes; and a de-regulated market.

Peter’s speech is in the form of a hard-copy in this blogger’s possession. It is headed “Office of the Deputy Prime Minister & Treasurer” and is dated 11 February 1997.  It was embargoed till 8.35am for that day, when Peters made his speech at Wellington’s up-market Park Royal Hotel.

Peters began by saying that there were “four core economic principles at the heart of the government’s strategy;

  • “sound, stable government
  • ensuring an economic climate conducive to sustainable development and growth, more employment opportunities, high quality education and social services, a strong commitment to low inflation, prudent and conservative fiscal management and over time, lower taxes and reduced public debt
  • an open, internationally competitive economy, a strong export sector, and policies to stimulate private sector and individual performance
  • planning for the country’s future, emphasising intergenerational fairness and increasing the nation’s saving”

Later in the speech, Peters reiterated the Coalition’s fiscal policy;

“That is why we are committed to low inflation, prudent and conservative fiscal management, lowering taxes and reducing public debt.”

Peters made clear that those were the core principles of the National-NZ First  Coalition. They  also happen to be core ideological tenets of neo-liberal doctrine.

Peters’ “core principles” are mirrored by the so-called “NZ Initiative” (formerly the Business Roundtable), a right-wing, neo-liberal think-tank;

We [NZ Initiative] are committed to developing policies that work for all New Zealanders, and we believe that promoting such policies will benefit all of our members as a matter of fact. But we are certainly an Initiative that usually prefers Adam Smith’s invisible hand to government’s visible fist.

Most of all, though, we believe that our goals and values are similar – if not identical – to what most New Zealanders want to see achieved:

  • A good education system.
  • Affordable housing.
  • An open economy.
  • A free and democratic society.
  • The protection of our natural resources and heritage.
  • Sound public finances.
  • A stable currency.

The NZ Initiative/Business Roundtable also promotes lower taxes; a competitive, open economy; and prudent and conservative fiscal management – in short all the core principles expressed by Peters in February 1997.

In case his audience did not understand Peters’ commitment to “an open, internationally competitive economy” he repeated himself again, in his speech;

“The key to maintaining an open internationally competitive economy  will be:

  • stable macroeconomic policies;

  • de-regulated, competitive and open market;

  • quality public services provided as efficiently as possible;

  • and the lowest possible taxes”

He went on;

“Another reform… removing restrictions on air services to and from New Zealand is important for reducing barriers to trade and tourism. To this end, the government remains committed to reciprocal liberalisation where possible…

[…]

To make the most of the opportunities a global economy provides…”

Not content to cement in an  adherence to a neo-liberal agenda, Peters then attacked the social welfare system in this country – another prime target of the New Right;

“What distinguishes this government is the prominence given to the value of self-reliance… moving people away from State dependence to independence.”

Bear in mind that Peters was giving his speech only six years after Ruth Richardson’s notorious “Mother of All Budgets” in 1991. By the time Peters addressed the Government to Business Forum in 1997, 19% of households were already living below the poverty line and unemployment was at 6.8%. By June the following year it had ballooned to 7.9%.

Peters’ response was to attack and demean the welfare system that  kept many of these people alive as the scourge of neo-liberalism ravaged the country.

Peters’ speech continued, parroting many of neo-liberal cliches that we are now so familiar with;

“We want to create an environment which encourages New Zealanders to move away from welfare dependency to employment. And for those who still need welfare support, we want a move away  from a welfare mentality to a positive attitude  and greater acceptance of social obligations.

It is also about people taking greater responsibility for their futures rather than simply relying on the state.”

Peters was promoting the Cult of  Individualism and cutting back state support – another basic tenet of neo-liberalism.

Next, he took a swipe at families and their “reliance” on welfare;

“A prime area needing attention is the family… this government will create an environment which instils greater levels of parental responsibility.

Our destiny is ultimately in the hands of individual New Zealanders. Breaking the cycle of dependency means taking primary responsibility for our own welfare and the welfare of our families.

This government expects each and every New Zealander to… live up to their responsibilities…”

This speech and it’s conservative message sounds ominously as if the  ACT Party might have given it;

“To alleviate poverty, reduce dependency and shift able-bodied people from welfare to work.”

“To put personal responsibility, self-reliance and work above welfare dependency.”

“Welfare must not put children at risk by undermining the two-parent family.”

“True compassion demands welfare that provides a hand up to work, independence and a better future.”

Source: Welfare and The Family, ACT Party policy, September 2014

In  a later speech by Peters, on 28 February 1997, to the American Chamber of Commerce in Auckland, Peters reiterated his commitment to a free market regime;

“…Maintaining an open, internationally competitive economy, supporting a strong export sector, particularly  by managing cost structures downwards and continuing deregulation and policies to stimulate private sector and individual performance.

[…]

The government’s approach to fiscal management is orthodox and consistent

[…]

Maintaining an open and competitive enterprise economy is essential because an open and competitive economy drives New Zealand firms to lift their game, and provide a more profitable investment base for our savings.

Let me be clear, this government is not opposed to foreign investment. When it is in the national interest we welcome all investment that boosts employment, productivity and growth.”

Peters was reassuring his capitalist audience; this man was not for ‘turning’.

Conclusion

There is little clear evidence that Peters is hostile to neo-liberalism, whether of the brutal Ruthenasia variety or the more insidious neo-liberalism-with-a-relaxed-face.

Instead, the evidence from his 1997 speeches is there for all to see. Peters may profess to have distanced himself from the neo-liberal experiment, but his own words betray him.

There is not one monolithic conservative/centre-right party in New Zealand, but two, distinct parties on the conservative spectrum. Just as Australia has the Liberal Party and it’s own rural-based National Party,  we have National and NZ First. Like left-wing voters who have a choice between Labour or the Green Party,  conservative voters in this country have a choice between National and NZ First.

As long as everyone is crystal-clear on this; NZ First’s leader remains committed to neo-liberalism.

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Addendum1

The following are scanned images of Winston Peters’ 1997 speech to the Government to Business Forum;

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Winston Peters - Government to Business Forum - 1997 (1)

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Winston Peters - Government to Business Forum - 1997 (2)

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Winston Peters - Government to Business Forum - 1997 (3)

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Addendum2

The following are scanned images of Winston Peters speech, on 28 February 1997, to the American Chamber of Commerce in Auckland;

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winston peters - american chamber of commerce - 1997 (1)

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winston peters - american chamber of commerce - 1997 (2)

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winston peters - american chamber of commerce - 1997 (3)

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winston peters - american chamber of commerce - 1997 (4)

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winston peters - american chamber of commerce - 1997 (5)

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winston peters - american chamber of commerce - 1997 (6)

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winston peters - american chamber of commerce - 1997 (7)

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winston peters - american chamber of commerce - 1997 (8)

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Addendum3

All media enquiries can be made to the author at fmacskasy@gmail.com.

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References

Radio NZ: Morning Report – NZ First leader targets youth (audio)

TVNZ: Q+A – Winston Peters interviewed by Corin Dann

NZ Initiative: About Us

NZ Initiative: The Case for Lower Taxes

Business Roundtable (NZ Initiative): Submission to the Finance and Expenditure Committee on the 1997 Budget Policy Statement (March 1997)

Te Ara Encyclopedia: Mother of All Budgets

Ministry of Social Development: Assessing The Progress On Poverty Reduction

Statistics NZ: When times are tough, wage growth slows

ACT Party: Welfare and The Family

Other Blogs

Fightback: Nationalism and the left: A reflection on Winston Peters and the Northland by-election (2015)

The Standard: Can We Trust Winston Peters?

Previous related blogposts

An open letter to Winston Peters…

John Banks and Winston Peters, Apples and Oranges

Winston Peters recycles pledge to “buy back state assets” – where have we heard that before?

Northland by-election – a damning poll and a damnable lie?

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 18: “No question – NZ is better off!”

A Message to Winston; A Message to John Key; and a Message to the Regions

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hats_lo

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 September 2016.

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= fs =

Letter to the editor – Do National voters want us to be tenants in our own country?

12 September 2016 Leave a comment

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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The latest on housing unaffordability made worse by speculation. It seems our Canadian cuzzies are on the right track;

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Vancouver's property market - foreign speculators - radio nz - housing prices

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Which merited this response from me, addressed to National voters;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Mon, Sep 5, 2016
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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Canada’s Vancouver has been suffering a mirror-image of Auckland’s runaway housing price boom. Like Auckland, average house prices were past the $900,000 mark. Canadians were being locked out of buying their own home by cashed-up foreign speculators.

Last month, the State government of British Columbia imposed a 15% sales tax on foreign house buyers (Chinese, Americans, etc) and the result has deterred foreign speculators.

Here in New Zealand, National is obsessed with it’s free-market doctrine and is willing to sacrifice our tradition of home-ownership. Foreign (and homegrown) speculators are inflating a housing bubble that is not only unfair to New Zealanders wanting to buy their own home, but is ultimately unsustainable.

Unless we literally want to become tenants in our own country, the sale of houses to non-New Zealanders must be banned immediatly. The free-market doctrine serves wealthy overseas investors, as well as local speculators, but not New Zealanders wanting their own homes.

I urge those who vote National to consider what sort of country they want to live in, and what sort of country they want to leave their children.

If National voters think that money is all that matters, then we truly will get the kind of society we deserve.
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-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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Let’s hope the ‘light goes on‘ with National voters…

 

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References

Radio NZ: Lending restrictions start to take effect on Auckland’s housing market

Radio NZ: Vancouver’s property market slumps after new foreign buyers tax

Previous related blogpost

That was Then, this is Now #10

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plutonians protect their own housing

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on  6 September 2016

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= fs =