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Election ’17 Countdown: Joyce – let the lolly scramble begin!

25 February 2017 1 comment

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(Or, “Under-funded health, education, and other social services? Let them eat tax-cut cake!”)

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23-september-2017-elections-nz

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2017 Election – Opening Gambits and Giveaways

You can tell it’s election year; the lolly-scramble (aka, hint of tax cuts) has begun;

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steven-joyce-tax-cuts-lolly-scramble-2017-election

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Historical Context

Cutting taxes (and social services on-the-sly) is one of National’s mainstays when it comes to election promises. Bribes work best when a government has nothing left to offer.

Who can forget the infamous  2008 election campaign, where – despite the Global Financial Crisis firmly taking hold of the New Zealand economy – then-National Party leader, John Key promised tax cuts.

In January 2008;

“We will cut taxes, not just in election year, but in a regular programme of ongoing tax cuts.

[…]

And we will do all of this while improving the public services that Kiwis have a right to expect. ”

In March 2008, then Finance Minister, Michael Cullen warned against borrowing for tax cuts;

“ Those who would actively choose to drive New Zealand into further debt to pay for tax cuts lack real ambition for our economy…

[…]

Even before these challenges hit home John Key wants to increase our debt to at least 25 per cent of GDP. But he does not pretend he wants to borrow more to pay for more services and he does not really believe he needs to borrow more to pay for roads. He only wants to outspend Labour on tax cuts.

His plan would cost an extra $700 million a year in financing costs alone, around what the government has invested in new health services for each of the last two years.

But the real worry is that Mr Key’s pro-debt policy shows he does not take long-term challenges seriously. His risky deal for tax cuts today would leave the bill to our children and grandchildren tomorrow.”

Undeterred, Key pursued his irresponsible promises and in August 2008 announced to a gullible public;

National will fast track a second round of tax cuts and is likely to increase borrowing to pay for some of its spending promises.

Key made the incredible assertion that tax-cuts would not impact on government debt;

So that will be extremely clear cut and rather hermetically sealed.

Key’s claim of “hermetically sealing” tax cuts from the rest of government fiscal activity was never fully explained, and nor did the MSM ever challenge that unbelievable promise.

In October 2008, Key repeated his fantasy of affordable tax cuts;

Our tax policy is therefore one of responsible reform…  We have ensured that our package  is appropriate for the current economic and fiscal conditions… This makes it absolutely clear that to fund National’s tax package there is no requirement for additional borrowing and there is no requirement to cut public services… National’s rebalancing of the tax system is self-funding and requires no cuts to public services or additional borrowing’ .

The rest is history. National was elected to power on 8 November and tax cuts implemented in 2009 and 2010. Government borrowing and  debt rocketed;

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budget-blow-out-by-national

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A third round scheduled for 2011 was cancelled as the budget blow-out  caused – in-part – by  unaffordable tax-cuts began to hit home even on a profligate National-led administration.

By May 2011, National was borrowing $380 million per week to fund it’s debt. Bill English and John Key seemed startled by the government’s deteriorating financial position;

Finance Minister Bill English said the Government’s financial position had deteriorated “significantly” since late 2008.

“The pre-election update in 2008 forecast that the deficit for this year would be $2.4 billion,” he said.

“It’s much more likely to be around $15b or $16b.”

That level of deficit, as NZPA has previously reported, will be the highest in New Zealand’s history and Mr English confirmed that today.

Prime Minister John Key confirmed the average weekly borrowing figure, which he said was unaffordable.

Michael Cullen’s warnings over unaffordable tax cuts seem to have been long-forgotten as collective amnesia over-took the National Party leadership.

Worse still, it was the rising army of unemployed who were to pay the fiscal bill for National’s profligacy;

More than three quarters of all beneficiaries will be forced to seek work or face cuts to their payments under sweeping recommendations from the Government’s Welfare Working Group… Working group chairwoman, economist Paula Rebstock, said the present high levels of welfare dependency meant major changes were needed. “ There are currently few incentives and little active support for many people reliant on welfare to move into paid work. Long term benefit dependency can be avoided if investments are well targeted and timely…”  Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said the report was an opportunity to change the welfare system and would feed into Government work in the area.

Key indulged in National’s favourite activity when things went horribly wrong after his administration’s apalling policty-decisions. He blamed those at the bottom of the economic heap;

Prime Minister John Key says beneficiaries who resort to food banks do so out of their own “poor choices” rather than because they cannot afford food. “But it is also true that anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice. If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills. “And that is true because the bulk of New Zealanders on a benefit do actually pay for food, their rent and other things. Now some make poor choices and they don’t have money left.”

By 2016/17, National’s net debt had reached $66.3 billion. (Damn those beneficiaries’ “poor choices”.)

The Joy of Joyce’s Tax Bribe

On 8 February this year, Joyce announced aspects of this year’s coming Budget. Joyce  dangled the tax-cut carrot  in  front of voters;

It is also very important to remain mindful that the money the Government spends comes from hard working Kiwi families. We remain committed to reducing the tax burden on lower and middle income earners when we have the room to do so.

On the same day, Joyce voiced concerns about New Zealand’s massive mountain of private debt;

I have discussed DTIs with the Reserve Bank Governor, who remains concerned about the levels of debt in some households in the context of recent increases in house prices.

Joyce has good reason to be nervous. As of this year, New Zealand’s household debt has reached stellar proportions;

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new-zealand-residential-property-hits-1-trillion-mark

 

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Any further tax-cuts will not only be based on cuts to social services (health, education, housing, NGOs, etc), but may further fuel the housing bubble.  This would raise the prospect of a monstrous  three-headed creature of National’s making where;

  • it would likely have to have to borrow to fund the tax-cuts,
  • fuel an increase in private debt as tax-cuts are spent on a property-buying binge,
  • as well as driving first-home buyers out of the market as housing-prices take off again.

Joyce voiced this concern on 8 February;

The use of macro-prudential tools can be complex and affect different borrowers in different ways. I am particularly interested in what the impacts could be on first home buyers.”

So further tax cuts may have negative impacts that a fourth National administration would have to deal with if it wins the 23 Sept election.

On top of which, New Zealanders would be faced with further cuts to social services and increasing user-pays in health and education. From our on-going housing crisis;

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homelessness-in-new-zealand

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… to more user-pays in education;

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…in healthcare;

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… and the gutting of NGO services through budget-cuts;

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relationships-aortearoa-funding-cuts-anne-tolley-budget-2015

 

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When Kiwis take up National’s tax-cut bribes, they end up paying more, elsewhere.

But even slashing the budgets for the state sector and NGOs is insufficient to meet the multi-billion dollar price-tag for tax-cuts.  National is desperately having to scramble to find money where-ever it can. So-called student loan “defaulters” are firmly in National’s eyesights;

Almost 57,000 student loan borrowers found in Australia

The agreement came into force in October and the details of around 10,000 New Zealanders were found in the first data match. The process has since been refined and a total of 56,897 people have now been located.

“These borrowers have a combined loan balance of $1.2 billion and $430 million of that is in default. Inland Revenue will now start chasing up these borrowers and taking action to get their student loan repayments back on track,” says Mr Joyce says.

Mr Woodhouse says “The data shows that more than half of these borrowers left New Zealand over five years ago, with nearly a quarter having been away for more than 10 years. A third of them have not returned to New Zealand in the past four years. One third of the group has had no contact with Inland Revenue, and 43% have not made a payment since they left New Zealand.

“It’s time these people did the right thing and met the obligations they signed up to when they took out their student loan,” Mr Woodhouse says.

Who else will National target to squeeze money out of?

What social services will National slash to fund tax-cuts?

What further user-pays will be implemented?

One further question; if National does not pay down our sovereign debt – how will the country cope with another global financial crisis and shock to our economy? As Joyce himself pointed out;

 

“ We need to keep paying down debt as a percentage of GDP. We’ve set a target of reducing net debt to around 20 per cent of GDP by 2020. That’s to make sure that we can manage any shocks that may come along in the future.”

 

When National took office from Labour, the previous Clark-Cullen government has prudently resisted National’s tantrum-like demands for tax cuts and instead paid down our sovereign debt. As former Dear Leader Key himself was forced to admit;

In 2005, as Leader of the Opposition;

“ Firstly let me start by saying that New Zealand does not face the balance sheet crisis of 1984, or even of the early 1990s. Far from having dangerously high debt levels, gross debt to GDP is around a modest 25 percent and net debt may well be zero by 2008. In other words, there is no longer any balance sheet reason to justify an aggressive privatisation programme of the kind associated with the 1980s Labour Government.

In 2012*, as Prime Minister Key  justified the partial sale of state-owned assets;

The level of public debt in New Zealand was $8 billion when National came into office in 2008.  It’s now $53 billion, and it’s forecast to rise to $72 billion in 2016.  Without selling minority shares in five companies, it would rise to $78 billion.  Our total investment liabilities, which cover both public and private liabilities, are $150 billion – one of the worst in the world because of the high levels of private debt in New Zealand.”

(* No link available. Page removed from National Party website)

With our current debt of $66.3 billion, we no longer have a safety-buffer. That is the current dire state of our government books.

It is astonishing that Joyce has the nick-name of “Mr Fixit”, as he makes irresponsible hints of tax cuts to come.

Little wonder that Joyce’s unearned reputation as “Mr Fix It” was deconstructed by journalist and political analyst, Gordon Campbell;

The myth of competence that’s been woven around Steven Joyce – the Key government’s “Minister of Everything” and “Mr Fixit” – has been disseminated from high-rises to hamlets, across the country. For five years or more, news outlets have willingly (and non-ironically) promoted the legend of Mr Fixit…

[…]

Of late however, the legend has lost some of its lustre. More than anything, it has been his handling of the SkyCity convention deal that has confirmed a lingering Beltway suspicion that Joyce’s reputation for business nous has been something of a selfie, with his competence appearing to be inversely proportional to his sense of self-esteem. Matthew Hooton’s recent critique of Joyce in NBR – which was inspired by how the SkyCity convention deal had cruelly exposed Joyce’s lack of business acumen – got a good deal of traction for that reason. On similar grounds, Joyce’s penchant for (a) micro-managing and (b) the prioritising of issues in terms of their headline potential has resulted in his ministerial office becoming somewhat notorious around Parliament for (c) its congested inefficiency and for (d) a not-unrelated extent of staff burnout.

[…]

Not only is Joyce’s ministerial office renowned as an administrative bottleneck – where issues tend to be ranked in terms of their p.r. potential for the Minister – none of this seems to be in service of any wider goal or vision. As Mr Fixit, Joyce tends to be engaged in the equivalents of blown fuses and leaking taps – rather in the re-design of the political architecture. Joyce has simply never been – and has never pretended to be – a big picture kind of politician. He has been never someone with an abiding interest in – or the intellectual stamina for – systemic change.

The re-election of National this year – by any means necessary, whether beneficial to New Zealand or not, no matter what the social or financial costs – appears to be ‘Mr Fixit’s’  latest ‘DIY’ project.

And like most DIY budgets, wait for the blow out.

Just like 2009.

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References

Interest.co.nz: Finance Minister says Government remains ‘committed to reducing the tax burden

Scoop media: Tax cuts still in the mix for Joyce’s first budget

Sharechat: Tax cuts still in the mix for Finance Minister Steven Joyce’s first budget

Radio NZ: Budget date set, tax cuts likely

NBR: Government hints at tax cuts in Budget 2017

Fairfax media: Joyce signals low and middle earners’ top rates target for tax cuts

NZ Herald:  The Economy Hub – About those tax cuts… Steven Joyce, the big interview

NZ Herald: John Key – State of the Nation speech

Scoop media: Government will not borrow for tax cuts

NZ Herald: Nats to borrow for other spending – but not tax cuts

Guide2: National Party – Tax Policy

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

NBR: Tax cuts scrapped in budget

Interest.co.nz: Budget deficit worse than forecast; debt blows out by NZ$15.4 bln

NZ Herald: Govt borrowing $380m a week

Fairfax media: Extensive welfare shake-up needed – report

NZ Herald: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

NZ Treasury: Budget Economic and Fiscal Update 2016

Beehive: 2017 Budget to be presented on 25 May

Beehive: Finance Minister requests cost-benefit analysis on DTIs

NZ Herald: New Zealand residential property hits $1 trillion mark

Beehive: Almost 57,000 student loan borrowers found in Australia

Scoop media: John Key Speech – State Sector Under National

Werewolf: The Myth of Steven Joyce

Other Blogs

The Hand Mirror: A crack in the wall

Previous related blogposts

Tax cuts & school children

Letter to the editor: Setting it straight on user-pays in tertiary education

Letter to the Editor: tax cuts bribes? Are we smarter than that?

The Mendacities of Mr Key #3: tax cuts

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

The Mendacities of Mr English – Social Services under National’s tender mercies

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 February 2017.

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When National is under attack – Deflect, deflect, deflect!

22 April 2016 5 comments

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national-and-john-key-blames

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As I have pointed out in previous blogposts, when threatened with bad headlines or a scandal of some description, National’s automatic defense is to generally to default to one of three* deflections;

  1. Blame previous the Labour government
  2. Release story on ‘welfare abuse’
  3. Blame Global Financial Crisis or similar overseas event

There are plenty of past instances of this kind of strategy.

In February 2013, the Auditor-General found that National gave Skycity special treatment when negotiating a convention centre in return for 500 additional pokie machines. In a damning report, Deputy Auditor-General Phillippa Smith said;

“Although decisions were made on the merits of the different proposals, we do not consider that the evaluation process was transparent or even handed.”

National’s response was immediate. The following day, Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows launched into an attack on so-called welfare fraud;

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government-cracking-down-on-benefit-fraud

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In May 2014, faced with mounting criticism over National’s incompetent mis-handling of legalised synthetic marijuana, our esteemed Dear Leader announced a new policy to introduce a new, restrictive, regulatory framework for psychoactive substances. Key had no shame in blaming Labour for the  Opposition attempting to offer solutions to a botched drug-policy that National was wholly responsible for;

Mr Key said that, in hindsight, the Government should have taken an ultra conservative view last year and not given any legal high substances a waiver.

And he said the Labour Party forced his Government’s hand over announcing a new ban on synthetic drugs, which will take effect on 8 May.

The Government’s new ban was announced late on Sunday after the Labour Party said it would announce on Monday its own plan to immediately stop the sale of synthetic cannabis and other psychoactive substances.

Mr Key said his cabinet decided last Tuesday on a ban but wanted to keep quiet about it to cut down on stockpiling by consumers.

He said the Labour Party has not affected the Government’s policies on synthetic drugs but forced its hand in terms of the announcement.

Also in mid-2014, National was hit with multiple bad-news media stories;

Smith gives nod for open-cast coal mine on conservation land

NZ unprepared for a deep water oil spill,  Greens say

Consumers hard hit by hefty electricity price rises

National’s fix over GCSB draws a storm of protest

Loans door shutting on first-home buyers

High petrol prices hit struggling families

Job ad stall hints at unemployment rise

SkyCity deal doesn’t add up: Treasury

Housing plan ‘a weak compromise’

Right on cue,

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Currently, our esteemed Dear Leader is facing political, media, and public heat over New Zealand being a party to the tax-haven industry. When challenged, Key first denied that New Zealand was a tax haven;

“Tax havens are where there is non-disclosure of information – New Zealand has full disclosure of information, and so all you’ve got is New Zealand’s taken a different view from a lot of different jurisdictions and that’s because the way we tax is we tax a settlor.

In other words, it’s all about making sure New Zealanders pay their fair share of tax, what we’ve got is quite a legitimate regime.”

As mounting evidence from several sources disproved Key’s weak assertions, he was forced to announce an enquiry into the country’s trust laws.

Then Labour Leader, Andrew Little, challenged Key to disclose his tax-returns – which Key refused point blank.

Again, on cue, National’s media strategists dropped a Deflection #2 ‘bomb’ into the public discourse, with this offensive vilification of ” basically young males” from Bill English;

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Farmers agree Kiwi farm labourers 'hopeless' - radio nz - bill english - beneficiary bashing

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English’s disparagement of young, unemployed New Zealand men was roundly condemned by fair-minded New Zealanders – but the demonisation tactic had worked. For a moment, the public and media had taken their eyes of the Tax Haven ball. Which would not be the first time;

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hey everyone look up there

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However, in making that ill-advised comment, English may have accidentally opened a can of inconvenient but still-salient facts;

  1. Prior to the 2007/08 GFC, unemployment stood at around 3.4% – or 78,000 workers.
  2. As the GFC/Recession impacted on our economy, unemployment reached 7.3% by 2013 – throwing 154,000 people out of work.
  3. Seventysix thousand people lost their jobs as a result of dubious activities in the financial markets. Or did those 76,000 suddenly decide to voluntarily give up their jobs to go on the dole for $200 a week?
  4. Though the official unemployment rate is currently at 5.3% – there still remains 133,000 out of work.
  5. In 2009, National scrapped the Training Incentive Allowance which benefitted many solo-parents looking to re-train and move off welfare into paid employment

The history of entrenched high-unemployment can be seen to have taken root in the late-1980s, as right-wing economic “reforms” were implemented by Roger Douglas and his cronies. Note the rise of unemployment rate and numbers from late 1987 and early 1988, when neo-liberalism was introduced into the economy and workplace;

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trading economics - unemployed persons - 1986 - 1989

 

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trading economics - unemployment rate 1986 - 1989

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Reference: Trading Economics – Unemployed PersonsUnemployment Rate

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So not only was English blaming 133,000 workers for being out of work as the global economy was slowly recovering from the Global Financial Crisis – but is evidently blaming workers for the steady rise of unemployment since the implementation of neo-liberal economics in this country.

Free trade agreements have also played a role in the destruction of jobs in New Zealand. As more and more manufacturing and service jobs were relocated to low-wage societies (China, Vietnam, Pakistan, Fiji, India, etc), the numbers thrown out of work increased in our own country.

Cheap clothes and shoes from low wage societies are not cheap. They were paid for with the jobs of our fellow New Zealanders.

Bill English’s repugnant diatribe at Federated Farmers – where his ignorant, red-neck views no doubt found sympathy with certain elements from the crudely-informed rural community – are in stark contrast with his stated comments on 28 May 2009. As the GFC storm was beginning to buffet our economy, English was full of sympathy as more and more people were ending up unemployed;

“We are particularly concerned that the economy creates new jobs. The burden of a recession falls most harshly on those who lose their jobs and on their communities. We owe them every effort to create the opportunity for a new job.”

Mr English apparently no longer believes “we owe them every effort to create the opportunity for a new job” and has shifted the “burden of recession” firmly back onto the shoulders of the unemployed.

Or perhaps it is high time that people started asking the acolytes of the Church of Neo-liberalism – at what point do they understand and accept that blaming the victims of their failed, inflexible, free-market doctrine will not make that ideology work?

How long do we have to wait, Mr English?

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Postscript

* In Auckland’s on-going housing-crisis situation, a fourth Deflection can be applied as a useful tactic to take the heat of National’s inept policies;

4. Blame the RMA

Number 4 deflection can be used in conjunction with Number 1 deflection. Or even Deflection #2, for maximum reactionary responses from the ill-informed.

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References

Fairfax media: SkyCity report slates Government ministers

Radio NZ: Govt cracks down on benefit fraudsters’ partners

Radio NZ: Legal highs to be regulated by July

Radio NZ: Thousands stopped from getting benefits not entitled to

Radio NZ: NZ’s ‘world-class’ tax system defended

Parliament: 3. Prime Minister—Statements

TV3 News: ‘No doubt’ NZ is a tax haven – expert

Radio NZ: Farmers agree Kiwi farm labourers ‘hopeless’

Fairfax media: ‘Hopeless’ comment a sign of a tired Government

Employment.govt.nz: Employment and unemployment – March 2008 Quarter

Trading Economics: Unemployed persons

Statistics NZ:  Household Labour Force Survey: September 2012 quarter

Statistics NZ:  Labour Market Statistics: December 2015 quarter

NBR: Bennett cutting a benefit that helped her – Labour

Scoop media: Speech – Bill English – Budget 2009

Additional

Radio NZ: Deputy PM will not apologise for comments (alt. link) (audio)

Other bloggers

The Daily Blog: Hypocritical narrative blames the victim rather than the cause for economic ‘failings’

The Standard: Trickledown has failed

The Standard: Offers of help flood in to Bill English

Previous related blogposts

Benefit fraud? Is Chester Borrows being totally upfront with us?!

The Mendacities of Mr Key #2: Secret Sources

John Key – Practicing Deflection 101

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #1

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2

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Yellow-crosses

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 April 2016.

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Report: Increasing the minimum wage v.s. job losses

7 August 2014 6 comments

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PUT-THE-POLITICIANS-ON-MINIMUM-WAGE-AND-WATCH-HOW-FAST-THINGS-CHANGE

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Introduction

Labour recently announced a policy which evidence strongly indicates will impact positively on every low-wage earner in this country; families;  as well as benefit small-medium businesses;

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Labour pledges $2 rise in minimum wage to $16.25

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The knee-jerk reaction from Dear Leader Key and his little wannabe side-kick, Simon Bridges, was as predictable as the sun rising;

Key hit back at the announcement.

[…]

New Zealand already had the highest minimum wage relative to the average wage in the developed world, he said.

Pushing it up too too fast would cost jobs.

“It’s pretty well documented around the world that, yes, you can make changes and do that over time but if you think about the mass of employers in New Zealand they’re not the big companies like Fletcher Building or Fonterra they’re actually the hundreds of thousands of small businesses around New Zealand and they simply will employ less staff, fire people or ultimately not take on staff in the future.”

Labour Minister Simon Bridges, reiterated Key’s claims, saying the policy would hurt businesses.

“Labour’s policy to immediately increase the minimum wage to $16.25 would cost at least 6000 jobs … If you want to make people unemployed this is a good way to go about it,” he said.

So how true is it that raising the minimum wage “would cost 6,000 jobs”?

As far back as November 2011 (the previous election campaign)  Key repeated the mantra  that  6,000 jobs would be lost if Labour increased  the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

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raising-minimum-wage-wont-cost-jobs-treasury

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However,  those bright young things at Treasury  seemed to hold a radically different view;

The Department of Labour says the rise will cost 6000 jobs. But Treasury has a counter view; “This has not been true in the past. The balance of probabilities is that a higher minimum wage does not cost jobs.

Indeed, according to a report on the Australian Business Insider, the notion that increasing minimum wages led to unemployment was “exploded as a myth”, after it was revealed that;

“…  a November 2011 study from Barry Hirsch and Bruce Kaufman of Georgia State University and Tetyana Zelenska sheds light on how businesses respond to increases in labour costs, and the results were surprising. 

The group surveyed managers of fast food restaurants in Georgia and Alabama as they contended with three annual increases in the federal minimum wage between July 2007 and July 2009. 

They asked the managers if they were taking any steps to offset increases labour costs. 

[…]

…only 8 per cent of managers surveyed thought that firing current employees was at all important to make up for lost wages. 

Indeed, raising the minimum wage allowed management to extract more performance from current employees in more than half of all cases. 

Higher labour costs weren’t only offset from cuts to total labour cost, either. Management also took several steps to increase efficiency and productivity to compensate for the higher costs… “

The Georgia State University study also asserted (page 31);

Further, our study does not find evidence of clear-cut employment losses – even
over three years and a 41% increase in the MW. Possibly over a still longer time span, or with a larger
sample of restaurants, a negative effect might appear. Discussion with owners and evidence outside our
study period suggest that negative effects may manifest through reduced store openings and increased risk
of store closings. Given this important qualification, the message from our study, along with other results
in the literature, is that employment effects in the short-to-medium run are small, perhaps near zero in
many settings, and certainly smaller than expected based solely on the competitive model. It would be
surprising (at least to us) were an important reason for this result not the behavioral dimensions of wage
setting and human resource management (e.g., discretionary effort, equity concerns, management heterogeneity)
 that the standard competitive and monopsony models largely ignore.

The data

Here in New Zealand, the minimum wage has risen fifteen times since March 2000;

Previous minimum wage rates

In force from: ADULT YOUTH TRAINING
1 March 1997 $7.00 $4.20
6 March 2000 $7.55 $4.55
5 March 2001 $7.70 $5.40
18 March 2002 $8.00 $6.40
24 March 2003 $8.50 $6.80 $6.80
1 April 2004 $9.00 $7.20 $7.20
21 March 2005 $9.50 $7.60 $7.60
27 March 2006 $10.25 $8.20 $8.20
1 April 2007 $11.25 $9.00 $9.00
In force from: ADULT NEW ENTRANT TRAINING
1 April 2008 $12.00 $9.60 $9.60
1 April 2009 $12.50 $10.00 $10.00
1 April 2010 $12.75 $10.20 $10.20
1 April 2011 $13.00 $10.40 $10.40
1 April 2012 $13.50 $10.80 $10.80
1 April 2013 $13.75 $11.00 $11.00
In force from: ADULT STARTING OUT TRAINING
1 May 2013[4]
n/c
$11.00
n/c
1 April 2014 $14.25 $11.40 $11.40

Notes:

  1. From 2001 to 2008 the adult minimum wage applied to employees aged 18 years and over. Prior to that, the adult minimum wage only applied to those aged 20 years and over. From 1 April 2008, the adult minimum wage applies to employees aged 16 years and over, who are not new entrants or trainees.

  2. The youth minimum wage applied to employees aged 16 and 17 years. From 1 April 2008, the youth minimum wage was replaced with a minimum wage for new entrants, which applies to some employees aged 16 or 17 years.

  3. The training minimum wage was introduced in June 2003.

  4. From 1 May 2013 the minimum starting-out wage replaced the minimum wage for new entrants and the training minimum wage for trainees under 20 years of age.

[Above chart and information-notes courtesy of MoBIE/Dept of Labour]

So how do those increases compare to our employment/unemployment rates? Let’s superimpose the dates for each increase in the adult minimum wage with numbers of  employed persons. (Red vertical bars indicate increase in minimum wage. All data courtesy of Dept of Labour/MoBIE.)

6 March 2000 – Increased from $7.00 to $7.55 p/h

(Labour)

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NEW ZEALAND EMPLOYED PERSONS - 2000NEW ZEALAND UNEMPLOYED PERSONS - 2000

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5 March 2001 – Increased from $7.55 to  to $7.70 p/h

(Labour)

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NEW ZEALAND EMPLOYED PERSONS - 2001NEW ZEALAND UNEMPLOYED PERSONS - 2001

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18 March 2002 – Increased from  $7.70 to $ 8.00 p/h

(Labour)

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NEW ZEALAND EMPLOYED PERSONS - 2002NEW ZEALAND UNEMPLOYED PERSONS - 2002

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24 March 2003 – Increased from   $ 8.00 to $8.50 p/h

(Labour)

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NEW ZEALAND EMPLOYED PERSONS - 2003NEW ZEALAND UNEMPLOYED PERSONS - 2003

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1 April 2004 – Increased from  $8.50 to $9.00 p/h

(Labour)

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NEW ZEALAND EMPLOYED PERSONS - 2004NEW ZEALAND UNEMPLOYED PERSONS - 2004

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21 March 2005 – Increased from  $9.00 to $9.50 p/h

(Labour)

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NEW ZEALAND EMPLOYED PERSONS - 2005NEW ZEALAND UNEMPLOYED PERSONS - 2005

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27 March 2006 – Increased from  $9.50 to 10.25 p/h

(Labour)

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NEW ZEALAND EMPLOYED PERSONS - 2006NEW ZEALAND UNEMPLOYED PERSONS - 2006

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1 April 2007  – Increased from 10.25 to $11.25 p/h

(Labour)

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NEW ZEALAND EMPLOYED PERSONS - 2007NEW ZEALAND UNEMPLOYED PERSONS - 2007

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1 April 2008   – Increased from  $11.25 to $12.00 p/h

(Labour)

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NEW ZEALAND EMPLOYED PERSONS - 2008NEW ZEALAND UNEMPLOYED PERSONS - 2008

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1 April 2009   – Increased from $12.00 to $12.50 p/h

(National)

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NEW ZEALAND EMPLOYED PERSONS - 2009NEW ZEALAND UNEMPLOYED PERSONS - 2009

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1 April 2010   – Increased from $12.50 to $12.75 p/h

(National)

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NEW ZEALAND EMPLOYED PERSONS - 2010NEW ZEALAND UNEMPLOYED PERSONS - 2010

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1 April 2011   – Increased from  $12.75 to $13.00 p/h

(National)

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NEW ZEALAND EMPLOYED PERSONS - 2011NEW ZEALAND UNEMPLOYED PERSONS - 2011

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1 April 2012   – Increased from $13.00 to $13.50 p/h

(National)

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NEW ZEALAND EMPLOYED PERSONS - 2012NEW ZEALAND UNEMPLOYED PERSONS - 2012

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1 April 2013   – Increased from  $13.50 to $13.75 p/h

(National)

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NEW ZEALAND EMPLOYED PERSONS - 2013NEW ZEALAND UNEMPLOYED PERSONS - 2013

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The above graphs reveal the following;

  1. In eleven out of fourteen years, numbers of employed rose after a minimum wage increase.
  2. Nearly all the years which show a fall in employment numbers are post-Global Financial Crisis; 2009, 2010,  and 2012.
  3. The fall in employment numbers in 2009, 2010, and 2012, occurred post-minimum wage increases which were smaller amounts than pre-2008 minimum wage increases. Ie; 50 cents, 25 cents, and 50 cent incremental increases for respective years 2009, 2010, and 2012.
  4. One of those three years – 2010 – showed a drop in employment for only one Quarter before rising again.
  5. By contrast, increases between 2000 and 2008 range from 15 cents an hour (2001) to $1 an hour (2007) – and show continuing, sustained, employment growth.
  6. Employment fell in 2006, due in part to  a “… slowing in growth over 2005 was largely driven by the external sector.  A relatively high exchange rate and some relatively poor agricultural production seasons resulted in weak export growth, while a strong domestic economy contributed to considerable growth in import volumes.  Recently, however, growth in the domestic economy appears to have eased with weakness in the household sector as growth in private consumpti on and residential investment slow.  This has led to a significant slowing in import volume growth and has seen some rebalancing towards net exports following strong increases in agricultural production“.

So would increasing the minimum wage benefit every low-wage earner in this country; families;  as well as benefit small-medium enterprises (SMEs)?

Why do critics – usually adherents of neo-liberal dogma and National Party ministers, supporters,  and fellow-travellers – vociferously deny the advantages of raising the minimum wage?

Neo-liberals who maintain that increasing the minimum wage creates job losses see only one half of the Grand Picture. They see money flowing from employers to employees – and that’s as far as they see what is happening.

What they are missing is the second half of the Grand Picture; those employees do not bury their extra pay in the back yard, forever consigning it to the earth as compost.

Instead, employees spend their pay increases.

There are currently 54,600 workers currently on minimum wage in this country.

Increasing the minimum wage from $14.25 per hour to $16.25 per hour means an extra $80 per week for a worker (gross). That means 54,600 workers’ spending power increasing by a staggering $4,368,000 per week (gross).

That’s a whole lot of extra groceries, clothing, shoes, appliances, medication,  and other essentials and  consumer goods being purchased in our economy.

All of a sudden, small-to-medium businesses will have 54,600 potential customers spending an extra $227,136,000 annually(gross). Plus additional tax-revenue gained by the State. Plus less paid on welfare, as more people are employed.

Right-wingers will make the oft-parroted, plaintive cry, “But where will the money come from?”

The answer; from the productivity created by those 54,600 workers. They just get to keep more of that productivity, instead of  into the bank accounts of invisible share-holders or disappear off-shore to corporate owners.

And as those 54,600 workers spend more, SMEs will sell more; which will mean higher turn-over; more profits; more investment; more jobs…

The logic is clear-cut; increasing the minimum wage increases spending power; generates more economic activity; and achieves the same goal which Key & Co used to justify their 2009 and 2010 tax-cuts;

 “…The tax cuts we have delivered today will inject an extra $1 billion into the economy over the coming year, thereby helping to stimulate the economy during this recession. More important, over the longer term these tax cuts will reward hard work and help to encourage people to invest in their own skills, in order to earn and keep more money.”

If  tax cuts for the rich can help “stimulate the economy“, then so can a livable wage increase for 54,600 low income earners.

It cuts both ways.

Even as Key has stated on numerous occassions,

We think Kiwis deserve higher wages and lower taxes during their working lives, as well as a good retirement.” – John Key, 27 May 2007

We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

I don’t want our talented young people leaving permanently for Australia, the US, Europe, or Asia, because they feel they have to go overseas to better themselves.” – John Key, 15 July 2009

Science and innovation are important. They’re one of the keys to growing our economy, raising wages, and providing the world-class public services that Kiwi families need.” – John Key, 12 March 2010

We will also continue our work to increase the incomes New Zealanders earn. That is a fundamental objective of our plan to build a stronger economy.” – John Key, 8 February 2011

We want to increase the level of earnings and the level of incomes of the average New Zealander and we think we have a quality product with which we can do that.” –  John Key, 19 April 2012

Summation

Evidentially speaking, the data above shows;

  1. More often than not, employment numbers rise after an increase in the minimum wage.
  2. Unemployment is affected by factors other than minimum wage increases (eg; Global Financial Crisis, drought, etc).
  3. Labour increased the minimum wage $5 per hour (2000 to 2008), and unemployment dropped to 3.4% by December 2007.
  4. National increased the minimum wage  $2.25 per hour  (2009 to 2014)  and unemployment currently stands at 6% (new unemployment stats due for release on 6 August).

Key’s assertion that lifting the minimum wage would lead to “6,000 jobs lost” is therefore patently false, and electioneering with peoples’ lives.

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References

Fairfax media:  Labour pledges $2 rise in minimum wage to $16.25

TV3: Raising minimum wage won’t cost jobs – Treasury

Australian Business Insider: A 2011 Study Exploded One Of The Biggest Fears About Raising The Minimum Wage

Georgia State University: Minimum Wage Channels of Adjustment

MoBIE/Dept of Labour:  Previous minimum wage rates

NZ Treasury: New Zealand Economic and Financial Overview 2007

MoBIE/Dept of Labour:  Employment & unemployment – December 2007

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: March 2014 quarter

MoBIE: Minimum Wage Review Report 2013

NZ Parliament: Tax Cuts—Implementation

Trading Economics: New Zealand Employed Persons

Trading Economics: New Zealand Unemployed Persons

Previous related blogposts

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 5. The Minimum Wage

Dollars and common sense – raising the minimum wage

Treasury’s verdict on raising the Minimum Wage?

Treasury’s verdict on raising the Minimum Wage? – Part II


 

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Living Wage

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 3 August 2014

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Radio NZ: Nine to Noon – Brian Easton – 7 February 2013

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– Nine To Noon –

 

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– Friday 7 February 2014  –

 

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– Kathryn Ryan & Brian Easton –

 

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Income inequality in New Zealand is set to become a central election issue, but is it really getting worse?

Brian Easton offers a solution how to address income inequality. Listen and find out what he suggests.

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Radio NZ logo -  nine to noon with Brian Easton

 

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Click to listen: Brian Easton, Economist ( 13′ 37″ )

 

 

 

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Acknowledgement: Radio NZ

(Hat tip: Murray Simmonds)

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Key & Joyce – competing with Paula Bennett for Hypocrites of the Year?

7 February 2014 3 comments

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Labour hasn't learned from the past - Joyce

Source

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Reacting to Labour’s newly announced “Best Start” policy, National launched into a wholly predictable – and somewhat repetitive – reactionary condemnation of the plan.

According to “Economic Development” Minister, Steven Joyce,

Once again, the moment we get a lift in the economy, they want to start bribing people with massive extra spending. We haven’t even got to the end of January and Labour and the Greens are already promising to spend the thick end of an extra three quarters of a billion dollars a year. You can’t spend your way to prosperity. This Government understands that and is building a stronger economy to provide higher incomes for Kiwi families.”

Bribing people“?

Massive extra spending“?

You can’t spend your way to prosperity“?

Aside from being more meaningless right-wing cliches, the sheer hypocrisy of Joyce’s remarks beggar belief.

It was only five years ago that John Key was promising bribes – a-la tax cuts – even as the Global Financial crisis was beginning to impact on our economy.

Here in New Zealand, by 26 September 2008 (note the date) – we were officially in Recession – convincing evidence just how rapidly individual economies were being shaken as the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) spiralled out of control.  Three days later, as global share-markets lost value, the NZ Superannuation Fund posted a $880.75 million loss for the year to June 2008 , compared with a $1.09 billion profit the previous year.

By October, Republican President Bush signed into effect a US$700 billion bailout package for firms facing bankruptcy and the Bank of Scotland and HBOS – both facing collapse – were “effectively” nationalised by the UK government.

By November 2008, Lehmann Bros was bankrupt; over 200 US banks were in serious financial troubles; US mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had collapsed; the Russian stock exchange closed after massive share-price falls; and other shocks reverberated throughout the global economy.

As the media was reporting the crisis day-by-day, with financial  headlines dominating every newspaper and television network in the country – what was National doing?

It was promising tax cuts. Big tax cuts “north of $50” for each taxpayer. Tax cuts which Cullen said were unaffordable as then-Finance Minister, and warned,

Finance Minister Michael Cullen yesterday sent the country a further warning that the Government’s cupboard was bare, saying the pre-election fiscal update was expected to show “significantly worse” deficits than the $3.5 billion forecast in the Budget.

As Key’s promises mounted up, Cullen  challenged the Nats to say they would not borrow to pay for their tax cut programmes.

Despite the country being in recession, and the global situation deep in trouble, Key was still promising tax cuts. And he promisedthat the package announced today requires no additional borrowing, or cuts to frontline services to fund it“.

“No additional borrowing.”

In another speech at around the same time, Key said that “National has been mindful of recent global events“. So they were not oblivious to the financial storm swirling around the planet.

On 8 October 2008, Key was even more specific;

“Several months ago I made it clear that our tax plans would be hermetically sealed from other government spending tracks. That continues to be the case.

Paying for this package will not require additional borrowing. It will not require any cuts to public services.”

Unfortunately, like so many of Key’s promises, it was hollow rhetoric. Blatant lies, to be more accurate.

By March 2009, as the GFC and recession impacted on our economy, government revenue was already falling,

“The New Zealand government’s operating balance before gains and losses (OBEGAL) for the seven months ended January 31 was NZ$600 million, which was NZ$800 million below the pre-election update and NZ$300 million below December forecasts, Treasury said. Tax revenue and receipts during the period were NZ$500 million lower than the pre-election forecast.

Meanwhile, Treasury also disclosed a NZ$15.4 billion rise in Gross Sovereign Issued Debt to NZ$45.4 billion (25.3% of GDP) from the pre-election forecast.”

Despite worsening indicators and falling government tax revenue, in  April 2009, the newly-elected National Government enacted it’s first round of tax cuts. The second was scheduled for October 2010.

The result was wholly predictable. As the government lost hundreds of millions in foregone revenue, National  cut state sector services  – despite Key’s promise not to make such cuts,

“Government biosecurity cut backs leaves billion dollar industry vulnerable

The National Government’s decision to make more than 50 workers whose job it is to protect New Zealand from biosecurity risks leaves this country’s primary production industries vulnerable, Labour Biosecurity spokesperson Damien O’Connor says.”

As Andrea Vance wrote in October 2010,

“More than 2000 positions have been cut from the core public service since the Government capped numbers soon after it came to power.

State Services Minister Tony Ryall said yesterday more jobs were likely to go as many government departments would have little or no increase in funding in the next few years.”

And debt continued to rise,

(Year Ended 30 June 2010)

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As the second round of tax cuts was implemented on 1 October 2010, two thousand positions had been cut from the public State sector. And John Key’s government was borrowing $380 million a week – despite his earlier assurances that “paying for this package will not require additional borrowing”,

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Govt borrowing $380m a week

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A month later, all those borrowings were totalled up;

Treasury today published the Government’s financial statements for the 10 months ended April 30, which showed the debt mountain had grown to $71.6b. “

Meanwhile, despite assurance by Key,  cuts were also being made to public services such as  early childhood education, which was amongst the worst to suffer,

The Government is refusing to rule out further cuts to early childhood education as reductions affecting more than 2200 centres kick in today.

The Government announced at last year’s Budget it would eliminate the top rate of funding to early childhood centres.

Later in the year, Education Minister Anne Tolley announced an ECE taskforce would review the effectiveness of spending in the sector and propose new ideas.

Asked yesterday if she could rule out further cuts in this year’s Budget, she said: “Any budget decisions will be announced on Budget day.”

Tolley said the Government was “bringing spending under control”.

Labour says thousands of families will face average fee increases of $20 to $45 as a result of the funding cuts.

It has promised to restore funding and will today put its name to a petition against any more cuts.

Ministry of Education figures show 2249 of the country’s 5251 services will be affected by the cut.

Without much doubt (except to the most blinded-by-ideology National/ACT supporters), National won the 2008 election with big promises of “affordable” tax cuts; no cuts to public services; nor State sector redundancies.

None of those promises were kept.

On 29 January,adding to Joyce’s comments, Key said,

David Cunliffe’s developing a reputation around Parliament for being very tricky. He [Cunliffe] just needs to learn to be up front with the public so they can actually trust his word. I read his speeches and now after a number of examples of this, I really question whether the guy is telling me the truth …”

The same might be said of John Key’s reputation  for being very tricky, and perhaps Key  needs to learn to be up front with the public so they can actually trust his word.

Because really, when Key makes promises, I really question whether the guy is telling me the truth.

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References

TV3: Labour hasn’t learned from the past – Joyce

Labour Party: Best Start Package

Marketwatch: The fall of Lehman Brothers

CNN Money: New recession worry: Bank failures

Washington Post: Treasury to Rescue Fannie and Freddie

Huffington Post: Russia Halts Trading After 17% Share Price Fall

NZ Herald:  Recession confirmed – GDP falls

Fairfax media: NZ Super Fund drops $880.75m

The Telegraph: Financial crisis: HBOS and RBS ‘to be nationalised’ in £50 billion state intervention

NZ Herald: National sticking to $50-a-week tax cuts

Dominion Post: Cullen to Nats: will you borrow for tax cuts?

NZ Herald: Nats to borrow for other spending – but not tax cuts

John Key Website:  NEWS: Economic plan: A tax package for the times

John Key Website: SPEECH: National’s Economic Management Plan

NZ Herald: John Key on Tax Cuts: The National leader’s speech

Interest.co.nz:  Budget deficit worse than forecast; debt blows out by NZ$15.4 bln

Scoop Media:  Biosecurity cut backs leaves industry vulnerable

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

Fairfax media: ‘Unrealistic’ workloads on civil servants after cuts

NZ Herald: Govt borrowing $380m a week

Fairfax media: Government debt rises to $71.6 billion

Fairfax media: Further early childhood education cuts possible

Scoop Media: National Election Pledge Card

NZ Herald: Key launches scathing attack on Cunliffe’s credibility

Previous related blogposts

The National Party, common sense, and sausage sizzles

Another day in a lie of the National Party

From 2011 back to 1991?

Other blogs

The Standard: Gower plays a shocker

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Election 2014

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 30 January 2014.

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Journalists encouraging irresponsible government policy?

6 January 2014 3 comments

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John Armstrong - Cutting tax tempting for National

Source

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Sorry, John, but precisely WHO is talking about tax cuts?

Because so far, all I’m hearing is a couple of journos putting the question to Dear Leader and his faithful little side-kick, Lassie Bill English. No one else is seriously contemplating cutting taxes – not when New Zealand’s sovereign debt is now $60 billion as at 9 November this year – and  increasing by $27 million every day since Key’s hopelessly  incompetent government came to power in 2008.

According to Hamish Rutherford, writing for Fairfax Media, this equates to $13,000 for every man, woman, and child in New Zealand – and expected to increase by another $10 billion by 2017.

We need to address this problem – not fuel it by increasing consumption of imported goods, thereby worsening our balance of payments.

For god sakes, stop encouraging National to engage in any further irresponsible slashing of revenue.  National’s two previous tax cuts in 2009 and 2010 did nothing to  help stem the growth in our sovereign debt. Not when revenue fell by up to $4 billion after those tax cuts.

We have other priorities.

For example, why is the Wellington City Mission short of $2 million to carry out it’s valuable work to assist the poorest in our society? It is obscene that the Mission will have to consider reducing some services, as Chief executive Michelle Branney recently suggested.

Why are New Zealand’s poorest families unable to afford basic  medicines since this government-for-the-rich increased prescription charges in January 2013? When National cut taxes, it attempted to make up for the revenue shortfall by raising GST (despite promising in 2008 not to) and increasing government charges such as for prescriptions, Court fees, etc.

Why are New Zealanders needlessly suffering from rare diseases because PHARMAC cannot afford life-giving medication?

Why are poverty-related diseases making a come-back with such a vengeance?

Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills…

… report is expected to reveal a 12 per cent rise from 2007 to 2011 in hospital admissions for poverty-related illnesses such as acute bronchiolitis, gastroenteritis, asthma, acute upper respiratory infections and skin infections.

“Most New Zealanders will find the numbers of children affected by disease shocking,” Wills told the Herald on Sunday, “but for those of us working clinically with families in poverty it is not surprising.”

Wills also works as a paediatrician in Hawke’s Bay. He said hospital wards were now full of poor, sick children every month of the year – not just in winter. There was no longer a “summer lull” in diseases.

English found himself so cash-strapped after their tax cut profligacy that, by 2012, he was even reaching into the meagre pay-packets of newspaper delivery boys and girls to grab extra tax revenue.

Instead of frittering away taxes, we need to be looking at the real problems confronting us;

  • Address child poverty problems

When children go to school hungry because families cannot afford sufficient food after paying high rents, electricity bills, etc. then there is something seriously wrong with our country.

Especially when we are now seeing children eating out of rubbish bins because there is no food at home for them. I refuse to believe that most New Zealanders want this kind of society for their children.

This is not the New Zealand I grew up in.

The next Prime Minister must make this a #1 priority, and begin with taking on the role of Minister for Children and implementing a comprehensive Food In Schools programme (not the shonkey half-measures undertaken by National earlier this year).

Next on the agenda; returning welfare payments to pre-1991-slash levels (inflation indexed); reduce prescription prices for medicine;  and implement a massive job creation programme.

  • Pay down debt

From 2000 to 2008, Clark’s administration not only paid down debt, but also posted Budget surpluses,

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Government Debt

New Zealand Government Debt To GDP

Source

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Government Budgets

New Zealand Government Budget

Source

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To be fair, Labour’s Finance Minister, Michael Cullen did not have the Global Financial Crisis to contend with. But by exercising fiscal prudence –  instead of  tax-cut lolly-scrambles demanded by the then-National opposition – he left the country in a fit state to weather the on-coming financial storm that was about to envelope the planet.

By the time National came to power in 2008, the global financial crisis was well and truly upon us, with the collapse of Lehman Bros on 15 September 2008. The GFC had started earlier, and signs were apparent to all but the most intransigent optimist that dark storm clouds were on the horizon.

As unemployment rose and economic activity slowed, National persevered stubbornly with it’s tax-cut programme – a move that would further indebt this country and put our government’s books back into the red again. At one stage, National was  borrowing $380 million  a week to make up for the shortfall.

This despite the fact that it was common knowledge that we were facing a dire crisis, as Tracy Watkin and Vernon Small reported on 23 April 2009,

The recession was expected to blow a $50b hole in the economy during the next three years, plunging the Government further into the red as costs climb and tax revenues fall.

“That’s $50 billion we will not recover as a nation, and $50 billion that cannot be taxed by the Government,” Mr English told a business audience in Auckland.

And yet, despite his own candid admission, English went ahead with tax cuts that we could ill afford, and had to make up with massive borrowings; cuts to government services; increased user-pays; mass sackings of state sector worker, and eventual partial asset sales. Even welfare was targetted for “reforms” (read; cost cutting) to claw back government spending.

Little wonder that by September 2011, credit rating agencies Fitch and Standard & Poors had downgraded us.

  • Invest in upskilling the unemployed

Why are we importing tradespeople from overseas when we have 7.1% (153,210) unemployment in this country?

National’s response to the skills shortage was this ideological fob-off from Bill English, in June 2011,

In the first place, it is the responsibility of the companies that expect to rebuild Christchurch to ensure that they have the skills.

And to ensure that everyone understood that National was maintaining it’s long-held tradition of shirking responsibility, he added,

Of course it will be tight, because they are competing with very, very large salaries, particularly those in Western Australia where something like $250 billion worth of capital projects are in the pipeline.”

IBID

That’s the problem with a government that places it’s faith in a free market solution to everything (except corporate welfare) – nothing happens.

Wouldn’t it have made more sense to offer free skills training to every unemployed person in New Zealand, along with subsidised accomodation in Christchurch for workers moving from other towns and cities to take up work offers?

There would have been a cost, to be certain. But that would have been off-set by (a) reduced welfare payments; (b) upskilled workers who would continue to use their new training for subsequent building projects; (c) more taxes paid by more employed workers;  and (d) a flow-on effect to other businesses as income-earning workers spent their wages.

The $4 billion frittered away in tax cuts would have made a considerable dent in our unemployment and given a much needed boost to our economy. And by providing work to the unemployed, the government would have saved millions in welfare.

But by sitting on it’s hands and doing nothing, National has maintained the status quo; 160,000 unemployed wasting their time, and requiring more of our taxes to be paid for the dole.

Is this crazy or what?

Hopefully an incoming Labour-Green-Mana(-NZ First?)  will have more sensible policies than what we’ve seen thus far from National. (Which won’t be hard to achieve.)

And other areas which desperately require State intervention,

  • A fairer taxation system, including reducing (or even eliminating) GST; introducing a comprehensive Capital Gains Tax;  looking at a Financial Transactions Tax (or “Robin Hood” tax, as Mana refers to it); making the first $20,000 tax free; and increasing tax for the top 1%.
  • A sensible pricing system for electricity especially for low/fixed-income earners.
  • Increase funding for early childhood education.
  • More state housing, so our fellow New Zealanders have a decent roof  over their heads.
  • Invest in public transport, especially in Auckland, before the city grinds to a stop.

Those are the things we need to look at. Not cutting taxes for the well off (which is usually what the Nats end up doing).

These should be the priorities of a sensible government. Anything, everything,  else is grossly irresponsible.

Otherwise, what the hell are we leaving our children?

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debt-mountain-cartoon.

May I have some food, a home, parents

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Postscript

Armstrong’s article on tax cuts features a large image of a smiling David Cunliffe. Note; Cunliffe. Not English, nor John Key.

Is there a subtle sub-text being conveyed here that I’m missing? Perhaps I’m getting the wrong ‘message’ from Armstrong’s piece, especially when he finishes with this intriguing comment,

Overall, English will not want to tie himself to future tax cuts without more solid evidence they can be sustained.”

My… that almost sounds like a veiled warning, doesn’t it?

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 30 December 2013.

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References

Bill English: Dr Cullen maintains tradition of tax-cut denial

Wikipedia: Bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers

NZ Herald: Govt borrowing $380m a week

Fairfax media: $50b hole in economy

TV3 News: Double credit downgrade a double blow for NZ economy

Fairfax media: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges

NZ Herald: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

The Press: Irish rush for quake jobs

NBR: Chch rebuild companies will have to find skilled workers – English

TV1 News: Rise in prescription charges ‘not fair’ – Labour

NZ Herald: Tax cuts: High earners set to benefit most

NZ Herald: Budget 2012: ‘Paper boy tax’ on small earnings stuns Labour

Fairfax media: $4b in tax cuts coming

Dominion Post: Bennett expects welfare reform to save $1.6b

Fairfax media: Public debt climbs by $27m a day

Radio NZ: Pharmacies ‘carry cost’ of increases

NZ Herald: Child poverty ills rising

Fairfax media: Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

Fairfax media: Mum Not Prepared To Wait And Die

Radio NZ: PM defends record of helping poor families

Radio NZ: 5th year in deficit at City Mission

Radio NZ: Funding declined for housing project

NZ Herald: John Armstrong: Cutting tax tempting for National

The Atlantic: Tax Cuts Don’t Lead to Economic Growth, a New 65-Year Study Finds

Sources

Trading Economics:  New Zealand Government Debt To GDP

Trading Economics: New Zealand Government Budget

Statistics NZ: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2013 quarter (6 Nov 2013)

Roy Morgan: New Zealand real unemployment down 0.3% to 8.5% and a further 8.6% (down 1%) of workforce are under-employed (5 Dec 2013)

Statistics NZ: 2006 Census

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census

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Bennett & Borrows – where are the jobs?!?!

1 August 2013 8 comments

From a recent Fairfax report,

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Hundreds apply for 90 Fonterra jobs

Source: Fairfax Media – Hundreds apply for 90 Fonterra jobs

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And there have been plenty of other similar situations, where job applicants have outnumbered available vacancies. See:

Employment-Unemployment Fact Sheet #1: Queues for Vacancies

So instead of welfare “reforms” which consist of re-naming various benefit categories and constant belittling of unemployed as drug-takers; alcohol abusers; prolific “breeders”; and mis-treating children – what is really needed are,

Jobs

But aside from a Convention centre deal with Skycity, which will most likely result in more problem gamblers, this National government has done precious little to generate more jobs for the unemployed.

Even the Christchurch rebuild, we are now told, will be done by foreign workers,

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Deal opens door for Chinese workers in Christchurch rebuild

Source: TV3 -Deal opens door for Chinese workers in Christchurch rebuild

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Why is there a “shortage of 17,000” workers?!

The last big quake hit Christchurch in February 2011 – two and a half years ago! In that time, what have National ministers been doing?  Surely they must have received advice from governmental departments; industry organisations; and other expert advisers, that an army of trained workers would be required in the coming years?

Why was no plan set up to,

  1. Assess New Zealand’s current “stock” of skilled tradespeople,
  2. Begin a crash-programme to train people where perceived gaps were indicated,
  3. Organise infra-structure (accomodation, transport, meals, etc) to cater for the Rebuild Army

This is how previous governments built past massive projects such as the Manapouri power station, Clyde, etc: planning.

Indeed, I spoke to one person who worked at the Deep Cove end of the Manapouri Power Project in the 1960s. He  informed me that as part of his employment, his accomodation (aboard the Wanganella) and meals were all paid for.  (He also mentioned how his lunch box and tools kept regularly vanishing, and he thought his work-mates were playing pranks on him. Then, one day he saw a Kea make of with his shiny new lunchbox…)

This was the style of planning, support, and incentives offered to workers to travel to an isolated part of the country where the work was difficult, dirty, and often dangerous.

The building of our nation was certainly not left to the vaguaries of the “marketplace” to achieve.

Because really, when you hear comments like this,

“We frankly can’t run our industry without significant numbers of immigrant workers,” says Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills. “The industry is just too important to be hijacked by a lack of labour. If we can’t get Kiwis in these roles, then we’ve got to make it easy to attract and retain good immigrant labour.”

The problem is there aren’t enough New Zealand workers with the right skills.

“They need to be experienced,” says John Hughes of Rural Contractors New Zealand. “They need to have a work ethic. They need to have an ability to hit the ground running.”

Source: IBID

– this is nothing but a pathetic excuse that the “marketplace” has failed spectacularly to plan ahead and invest in up-skilling New Zealand workers.

“They need to be experienced,” says  John Hughes of Rural Contractors New Zealand, without explaining where that experience will come from if  workers are not hired and trained by people like Mr Hughes.

“They need to have a work ethic,” says John Hughes. Really? Is Hughes saying that since 2008, New Zealanders have misplaced their work ethic?? Yet, the situation of 900 people applying for jobs at Fonterra (see above) seems to indicate that workers not only have a work ethic – they want the work to go with it.

“They need to have an ability to hit the ground running,” says John Hughes. What does that mean? Because what I’m getting from Mr Hughes’ statements is nothing but self-serving excuses that his industry – Rural Contractors New Zealand – has done stuff all to train workers to meet their needs.

Who else is he expecting to meet the needs of the “marketplace”? The State?

But… isn’t the State supposed to stay out of the marketplace, according to neo-liberal business doctrine?

Anyway, this lazy, incompetant government is the last place we should be looking for active leadership on this growing problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”).  As Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said on TV3’s The Nation, on 21 July,

“Any employer will tell you when Work and Income sends some workers to them they will have some of those barriers. That is they’re not skilled or educated enough to do the jobs. They may have some issues with drug and alcohol or mobility, and I think those are barriers that we need to continue to move so Kiwis are first in line for the jobs.”

Source: IBID

So what Woodhouse is trying to tell us is that 95,000 New Zealanders suddenly developed a drug habit, alcohol dependency, lost their skills, forgot their education since 2007/08?

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New Zealand Unemployed Persons 2008 - 2012

Source: Trading Economics – Unemployed Persons in New Zealand

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So the Global Financial Crisis, which National regularly uses as an excuse for the poorly performing economy, had no part to play in the massive growth in unemployment from 3.50% in December of 2007 to the high of 7.3%  last year?

Which is strange, because even social welfare minister, Paula Bennett, was forced to concede on TV1’s Q+A, in on 29 April 2012,

There’s not a job for everyone that would want one right now, or else we wouldn’t have the unemployment figures that we do. “

See:  TVNZ  Q+A: Transcript of Paula Bennett interview

Let’s be quite clear here. When Borrows, Bennett, and other National Ministers refer to “drug dependency”, “alcohol abuse”, “lack of skills”, “lack of work ethic”, and other derogatory terms for unemployed and other welfare recipients – in reality they are shifting blame for on-going chronic unemployment from government inaction, to the victims of National’s “hands-off”, market-based policies.

This is a failure on the part of a government that is so wedded to hands-off, free market policies, that it’s hands are “tied” and cannot bring itself to be proactive on this growing problem.

National’s failure is so entrenched; so widespread; that it is, in effect, utterly paralysed to do anything.

The only recourse is to import cheap foreign labour to make up for this gross deficiency in government and industry  planning.

Once upon a time, our great little nation had the determination, resources,  vision, and sheer guts to build dams and roads  in isolated, rugged, wilderness areas.

By contrast, after two and a half years, we are scrambling to find workers trained to whack a nail into a piece of four-by-two.

With 146,000 jobless (HLFS) there is no reason in this wide world why government and industry groups, with union participation, could not have begun planning from Day One after the February 2011 earthquake.

What, exactly, do we pay the Minister for Earthquake Recovery (Gerry Brownlee) to do?

This mess is further proof (not that we needed it) that a hands-off, free-market approach, will not deliver on large scale development where only  the State has the necessary resources to plan and execute such projects.

Blaming the unemployed for lack of planning may fool some gullible members of the public. But the rest will eventually begin to question why we are importing foreign labour when 146,000 pair of hands are ready, willing, and able to do the work.

Once upon a time, we could do this. We rebuilt Napier after the 1931 earthquake, a more devastating seismic event than the 2011 Christchurch quake,

Few insurance policies covered earthquakes, and many insurers refused to pay for fire damage that resulted from the quake. In 1931 Parliament had passed the Hawke’s Bay Earthquake Act, which provided loans for local companies and individuals to rebuild their premises. Because of the economic depression, however, the funds granted were far from adequate, and repayment terms were harsh. Much of the money for recovery came from charity, which poured in during the weeks after the quake…

[…]

In November 1932, Hastings celebrated its reconstruction, and in January 1933, almost two years after the earthquake, during the New Napier Carnival, Napier was declared officially ‘reborn’.

Source: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand – Story: Historic earthquakes- Page 8 – Rebuilding Napier

Almost two years after the quake...”

With far more destruction; greater loss of life (256); less money available (no EQC funding or insurance cover back then!); and limited technology, our grandparents didn’t faff around waiting for the “market place” to deliver results. Nope, they pulled up their sleeves and got down to it.

Whilst it’s true that circumstances between Napier 1931 and Christchurch 2011 differ in many respects – we also have more resources than our grandparents did, eighty years ago.

More resources, perhaps.

Lacking in a bit of #8 fencing wire spirit…

But with a surplus of ideology.

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Show us the jobs!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 July 2013.

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Other blogs

Ideologically Impure: Oh look, Diane Vivian: Paula Bennett DID come for you

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