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Posts Tagged ‘neo-liberal’

Neo-liberal Libertarian holds up Victorian England as “model for success”

30 September 2012 21 comments

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As the sun slowly sets on the political tragi-farce that was the rich man’s parliamentary vehicle – the ACT Party – it’s core supporters are desperate to find a new Party to call home.

Colin Craig’s  Party is most likely anathema to  socially-liberal and fiscally neo-liberal ACT-types and Libertarians – they would view the Conservatives as another ‘false god‘, to be studiously avoided.

Libertarians are of a strange species who hold ideological views diametrically opposed to socialists/marxists/social democrats – and even National Party policies.

For Libertrarians, the State is something to be cut back and allowed to wither away.

Which, strangely enough, is what Marxist/Leninists also propose in their vision of  a communistic society, where the State “withers away”.

The difference, of course, is that in a Libertarian world (which I shan’t call a “society” as societies do not exist in an individualistic, Libertarian model) property is individually owned and protected by all means, including use of deadly force.

In a communistic society, the same property is collectively managed, though again deadly force is used to prevent counter-revolution taking place…

It’s interesting to note that whilst marxist/socialist/communist regimes have existed in various forms, throughout the world – not one single modern nation has ever existed using  a Libertarian model.

In some ways, Somalia came close, with two out of three Libertarian tenets in play; minimal government and no taxation. The third tenet, a strict rule of law to protect private property rarely exist – though property rights were often enforced by force of private militias.

Indeed, the use of private militias to protect one’s own property is naked libertarianism at it’s  truest form. After all, if Libertarians argue that taxation is theft; that individuals should not contribute to  the education of everyone’s children – then it stands to reason that one should not have to pay for a Police Force to protect someone elses’ property.

When Richard McGrath was asked on TV3’s “The Nation”  about the implementation of libertarianism in any country, his response was eye-opening,

THE NATION: ‘Is there anywhere in the world that’s  a model for how you think?”

RICHARD McGRATH: “Well though it sounds strange, Victorian England actually had a lot of institutions that really looked after people in need, the friendly societies, and those sorts of voluntary organisations. And a lot of that’s gone now because the government’s moved in, muscled in, and taken it over.”

See: Is John Banks causing ACT’s demise?

Victorian England“?!

Is that the model of a Libertarian nation? A society that was class-ridden; poverty-stricken; poorly-educated; rampant with disease and crime; and where factories were free to dispense massive pollution into the air (causing the infamous London “fog”) and Thames River,  turning it into an open-air sewarage channel?

Is McGrath holding up, as the ideal Libertarian model, a society where mentally ill were incarcerated as criminals; ill treated; and poorly fed? Where children worked as slaves in vast factories? Where, if a husband deserted his wife and children, she’d be forced into prostitution to survive?

McGrath refers to the charity work of  “ friendly societies, and those sorts of voluntary organisations ” – which was indeed the case. There was no organised State social welfare, healthcare, or superannuation for pensioners.

Whilst factory owners made vast sums of profits on the backs of lowly-paid, over-worked, and mis-treated workers – those without work; the sick; the infirm; and other unfortunates survived on the meager handouts from charities that relied solely on the generosity of  some benefactors.

Oliver Twist‘ was not some fanciful tale of a dark Fantasy World. It was a slice of life from our nasty, brutish past.

A nasty, brutish past that Libertarians want to bring back?

To show how utterly mad these people are, and how disconnected they are from the real world, I refer the reader to another Libertarian, Peter Cresswell.

In the same programme, on Christchurch’s rebuild,  Peter Cresswell suggested,

” You could say, no taxes; get rid of the RMA;   so for 3 or 4 years or 5 years you’ve got complete freedom for people to do what they wish with what little they have left.”

See: Ibid

Complete freedom for people to do what they wish“?!

What – like rebuild on the same fault-lines where previous buildings crashed into piles of rubble on 22 February, last year? Or re-build using techniques , designs, and material that would be wholly inappropriate and dangerous to occupants?

Perhaps build a fifty story high-rise in the same manner as the ill-fated CTV Building?!

It is little wonder that in last year’s general election, the Libertarianz Party won only 1,595 votes (See: 2011 general election official results).

Very few people would want to live in a Libertarian nirvana that replicated Victorian England. It might be a fine thing if you’re a rich Estate holder, Industrialist, or Merchant.

But it’d be Hell to be working in one of their factories.

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When a failure of neo-liberal policy is pointed out to a right winger…

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… they will always default to one of three positions;

1. Blame the previous government
2. Blame the welfare state and/or beneficiaries
3. Blame the global recession (but not for an increase in welfare beneficiaries – that’s a “lifestyle” choice”)

Pick a public on-line messageboard at random. Look at the postings on  political discussion-threads. Note the response from right wingers and neo-liberals.

When confronted by a failure of the ‘free market’, the neo-liberal and/or right winger will always respond with one of the three  options above.

Rule #1 of the Right Wing mentality: never accept responsibility. (That’s only for  welfare beneficiaries and the poor.)

It’s all they have to explain the failure of their ideology.

 

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A little trick borrowed from the former Soviet bloc…

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Full Story

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In the late 1970s, I had the opportunity to visit my parent’s homeland, behind the Iron Curtain. It was possibly the most educative experience of my life, and I had an opportunity to witness, first hand,  an economic and social system that was quite alien to me.

Some of the lessons I learnt…

  1. Extreme economic policies – whether marxist-leninist or neo-liberal – don’t work, and will ultimately fail. Neither cater for human needs, individually or socially.
  2. It’s true what they say about centralised planning and the public transport system; it was incredibly cheap, efficient, and very user-friendly.
  3. Alway take extra jeans with you to sell on the black market.
  4. Do not mess with the local police. Ever.
  5. Unemployment doesn’t exist in a socialist country – though they have three or four people doing the job of one. That’s the trade-off; unemployment or over-staffing. Which do you prefer? (At least with over-staffing, there were few idle hands for mischief-making and you didn’t have to waste money on unemployment benefits.)
  6. New Zealand was actually more egalitarian (or socialist or whatever you want to call it) in the 1970s, under Norman Kirk and Robert Muldoon – than an actual Soviet Bloc country. Weird – but that’s how it felt.
  7. There was no such thing as inflation. Oh no – they just changed the labels. So Brand X of coffee at 100 forints would disappear off the shelf, to be replaced with Brand Y, at 110 forints. Or a lower weight. That was marxist/leninism’s version of capitalism’s “creative accountancy”.

And it appears that, judging by recent media reports, New Zealand businesses have caught on to Item #7. Instead of raising prices, simply reduce the content.

The only thing is… it didn’t work very well for the Soviet Bloc, and their economies  eventually all but collapsed by the late 1980s, or early 1990s.

Just a thought for us smug Westerners. Reducing content and/or brand-name replacement is only a temporary sticky-plaster and hides fundamental problems with the economy.

As if the lessons of the global banking crisis and resultant recession wasn’t enough of a clue for the West…?

Ok, who’s up for a 150 135 gr bar of Cadbury?

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Once Were Warm-hearted…

16 December 2011 14 comments

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Source

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Once upon a time…

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1935 First Labour government takes office

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The first Labour government assumed office as a result of its landslide victory in November’s general election. Led initially by the charismatic Michael Joseph Savage, it is best remembered for its landmark social welfare reforms.

One of the most significant aspects of this welfare policy was the 1938 Social Security Act, which has been described as ‘the greatest political achievement in the country’s history’. The Act combined the introduction of a free-at-the-point-of-use health system with a comprehensive array of welfare benefits. It was financed by a tax surcharge of one shilling in the pound (5%). The family benefit was extended to all mothers irrespective of the family’s income, increasing the number of allowances overnight from 42,600 to 230,000. This policy, which was often described as looking after New Zealanders from the ‘cradle to the grave’, was a key factor keeping Labour in power until 1949.

nzhistory.net.nz

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Which led to the beginnings of our modern society – a society which placed a high value on fairness; healthy families; and giving children every opportunity to grow up healthy. It truly was a concept of “no child left behind” – but put into practice and not just empty rhetoric,

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The family in the 1930s and ’40s

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The need for the New Zealand government to promote national interests during the Depression and the Second World War created a renewed appreciation of the role of the family within society. From 1935 the Labour government’s social policies supported young families with children, and from the 1940s there was an emphasis on preventative child welfare.

Much of this concern for children and their families stemmed from the perceived need to maintain a healthy nation: one capable of providing robust workers and, if necessary, soldiers for defence. It was also felt, in the spirit of egalitarianism, that everyone should have access to the nation’s resources.

Housing

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By the early 1940s there was a serious shortage of adequate housing in inner-city areas. A ‘needy families’ scheme, administered by the Child Welfare Branch, was set up in 1941. This provided assistance, primarily by re-housing large or poor families to maintain the household unit. By 1946 the scheme had helped over 900 families and more than 5000 children.

The Family Benefit

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In October 1945, Deputy Prime Minister Walter Nash introduced legislation for the Universal Family Benefit. The maternal figure of the family was to be sole beneficiary. William (Bill) Parry, Minister of Internal Affairs, explained: ‘We have to create such enthusiasm for the service the mother renders, that it will be lifted to the highest pinnacles of service in the nation.’ This benefit and other measures such as cheap housing and a well-funded health system did much to contribute to stability of household income and, in turn, to raise living standards.

nzhistory.net.nz

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Which in turn led to this, perhaps one of the most ambitious programmes to lift the health of our nation’s children,

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1937: Free Milk Every Morning

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Young New Zealanders once lined up for a free bottle of milk at school every morning. This scheme was introduced in 1937 to help children who had become undernourished during the Depression. It was also enthusiastically supported by famous dramatist, George Bernard Shaw, when he visited this country in 1934. And so, for the next 30 years, school children sat down for their daily half-pint. Crates of bottles were carried into the classroom by official milk monitors, who were also responsible for collecting up the empties after the session. Occasionally, an older amber glass bottle would arrive with the morning delivery and prove an attraction for keen consumers.

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Linton schoolboys delivering the school milk c. 1941.

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School milk bottles in the 1950s had cardboard tops which had a small hole for the straw and were often put to further use. Lengths of colourful wool were wound tightly around a pair of these cardboard discs to produce a decorative pom-pom.

In the 1960s 3,500,000 gallons of milk was distributed to the schools of New Zealand each year, but the value of the scheme was now being questioned. There were mixed views on the matter; some felt it had become unnecessary and was a disruption to the class, while others claimed that a number of New Zealand children still came to school without an adequate breakfast…

kiwianatown.co.nz

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1967: End of free school milk

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…  The scheme was a world first. Each day, milk monitors supplied a half-pint (284 ml) of milk to each pupil. By 1940, the milk was available to over 80% of schoolchildren. For a few years during the Second World War, pupils also received an apple a day.

The scheme lasted until 1967, when the government dropped it on cost grounds — and because some people were starting to question the benefits of milk…

www.nzhistory.net.nz

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I’m of the age where I can vaguely recall the crates of milk left in the concrete “pill-box” at my Primary School. I recall the “powerful” position of the Milk Monitor… and using the straws as make-shift blow-guns to fire small paper darts at my near-by class-mates.

It is interesting to consider that by 1967, the government-of-the-day decided that school milk was no longer required. Perhaps Keith Holyoake, the Prime Minister of the day, considered that it was a relic from a by-gone age of Depression, poverty, and extreme childhood health-problems that by the mid-1960s were but a distant memory.

New Zealand in the 1960s was healthy; single-incomes were sufficient to live on; and the country exported more than it earned because of our special relationship with Great Britain. But all this was to change…

  • Britain entered the EEC in 1973, impacting on our sheep-meat trade with that country. Suddenly we had lost our  major export market.
  • The oil shocks of 1973 and 1979 drove our balance of payments into the red, as we struggled to cope with  higher and higher fuel-prices.
  • Property prices skyrocketed in 1979, as people abandoned the outer suburbs and satellite-towns, in favour of inner-suburbs, to cut down on fuel costs.
  • Inflation soared, unemployed rose.
  • And in 1984, New Zealand elected a Labour Government with a secret agenda to implement neo-liberal “reforms” to create a free-market; reduce and eliminate trade trariffs; implement a  massive programme to sell state assets; and “reduce government expenditure” (ie; cut services).

We were assured that the implrementation of these “reforms” would generate wealth and that this would “trickle down” to lower socio-economic (ie, poor people) groups in our society.

The rest, I think, we can all remember without too much trouble.

“Trickle down” has proven to be a singularly poor joke – without much of a punch-line.

Wealth has certainly been generated – at the top.

We went from one income to double-incomes to maintain a household. Now even that is insufficient for many families.

Seven tax cuts have benefitted mainly high-income earners and the wealthy.

And wealth disparity has become so bad that even the OECD has taken notice and commented on it, in a recent report.

The Prime Minister, meanwhile, has his own thoughts on why we having worsening poverty in our once egalitarian country,

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.” – John Key, 17 Feb 2011

Thank you for that, Dear Leader.  By the way, how is your  pay increase of $11,000 p.a. that you were recently given?

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How is it that we have arrived at a situation where, once again, we are returning to 1937 – and having to resurrect milk-in-schools?

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Full Story

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Full credit and kudos to Fonterra for going ahead with this plan.  There are many low-income families that find it hard to buy sufficient quantities of good, wholesome, nutritious food for everyone. After rent, power, rates, phone, etc, is paid for, food is usually at the bottom of the list.

This is especially so for the 90,000+ people who have lost their jobs in the last four years as the global recession hit our economy and impacted on communities.

However, ingrained poverty has been with us since the 1980s, and many of the gains of the last century have been lost.

Little wonder that Bryan Bruce’s recent documentary, “Inside NZ: Child Poverty” generated such a heavy, nationwide response.  Bryan Bruce laid it out for all to see, that poverty had returned to this country and that governments had no idea how to address this growing crisis. Or were unwilling to.

Clearly, we have a choice in front of us. Do we continue down our present course, and keep hoping for the best? Or admit that policies over the last thirty years have been a failure;  change tack; and proactively address the root causes of wealthy disparity and income gaps?

If the latter, then we have the wrong government in power to make good on three decades of failed economic policies.

Bill English was interviewed on Radio NZ this morning (16 December), and his responses to Kathryn Ryan’s questions were not reassuring,

Bill English and the new ministerial committee on poverty

This excerpt from the interview was most telling,

RYAN: “It’s to report every six months, the committee. What measures will it use?”

ENGLISH: “Well, look, we won’t  spend a lot of time arguing over measures, there’s any number  of measures out there ranging from gini co-efficients  to kind of upper quartile [and] lower quartile incomes. Lot of of that is already reported in the MSD social report that it puts out each year…”

If the Committee doesn’t monitor itself, how will it be able to measure it’s success (or fail) rate?

Why has the government not set measures in place – that it expects of every other government department to assess what value they give back to taxpaters?

And how does English’s rejection of measures compare with the National-ACT coalition agreement which stated, in part,

Key features of the agreement are:

• Continuation of ACT’s focus during the last term on publicly monitoring progress on improving the country’s economy wide performance using international benchmarks, and building on the work of the 2025 Taskforce, with a requirement for Treasury to report annually on the progress being made to improve the quality of institutions and policies, raise productivity, and reduce the income gap with Australia.Source

So the “country’s economy wide performance” will be measured using “international benchmarks” – but the Ministerial Committee on Poverty “won’t  spend a lot of time arguing over measures“?

Ok, got it.

We’ve got that, if anything, it is apparent that the so-called “Ministerial Committee on Poverty” is simply going to be another talk-fest, along the lines of the “Jobs Summit” in early 2009. Does anyone recall how many jobs came out of that “summit”? Perhaps this many.

At most, the so-called “Ministerial Committee on Poverty” appears to be little more than a sop to  Maori Party members, to justify the decision of party leaders to coalesce with National.

So here we are: New Zealand, circa 2011A.D.  Poverty. Low incomes. School milk. Growing wealth gap. New Zealanders migrating en masse to Australia. And paralysis/inertia in  our political leaders.

Seventysix years after Michael Joseph Savage implemented radical, bold, policies to create a new, egalitarian society – we are back at Square One.

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SAD STATISTICS

Children who go to school without breakfast – 17 per cent.

Households with children which run out of food – 22 per cent.

Households with children who use food banks – 10 per cent.

Source: Ministry of Health 2003 survey of 3000 children aged 5-14

Source

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Postscript

To all the food-faddists, right wing reactionaries and Me First people – your negative reaction to Fonterra’s plan to reintroduce milk to low-decile schools is simply apalling. Your knee-jerk hostility is not only unhelpful – but is a stark illustration as to why this once healthy and wealthy country is slipping further down on nearly every international and local  indicator-ranking.

Food faddists:  If you think milk is evil – fine. Don’t drink it. But leave our kids alone. They have the rest of their lives to live, whilst your particular food-fetishes come and go with the latest seasonal-fad. Their growing bodies need the calcium, vitamins A, D, etc, and other nutritional benefits of this simple food. Children cannot live on fresh air and sunshine  alone.

Right wing reactionaries: New Zealand has been the experimental “hot house” for neo-liberal, free market policies, since 1984. That’s about 28 years. In that time, the top income earners and 150 Rich Listers have increased their wealth. The rest of society has stayed still or gone backwards.

Latest reports confirm that the wealth-gap continues to widen – and you can’t dismiss  the OECD as some dastardly socialist satrap.

How much longer before this experiment is labelled a failure?

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Additional

Govt likely to back milk inquiry

Minister seeks parliamentary milk price probe

Woolworths lifts NZ supermarket earnings

Special inquiry into milk prices opens today

Soft drinks win in milk debate

Rolls Royce sales rocket as super-rich drive in style

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John Key’s foot-in-mouth syndrome

16 October 2011 3 comments

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In Parliament last week (4 October), John Key quoted a mysterious, anonymous, “email” which he daid  “inferred”  that, “when Standard and Poor’s was giving a meeting in New Zealand about a month ago, what it did say was that there was about a 30 percent chance that we would be downgraded. That is what happens when one is on a negative outlook. It did go on to say, though, that if there was a change of Government, that downgrade would be much more likely.”

However, a quick glance at the official government website, the NZ Debt Management Office not only doesn’t support that claim – but actually shows the reverse: Labour  actually RATES BETTER than National/Rogernomics governments.

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[Click on image for full size version]

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Note that three credit downgrades happened duting three National governments; 1991, 1998, and this year. And if you include the Rogernomics period – that makes FOUR neo-liberal governments that were downgraded.

Do credit ratings agencies  seem “risk averse” to new right governments? Do they prefer centre-left governments?

First, look at 10 September 1998 (National government) – AA+ (negative outlook)

But when Labour came to power – 7 March 2001 – AA+ (stable outlook)

Stable outlook?!

Nah, must be a mistake. Let’s have another look at a following period…

6 August 2008  (Labour Government) – AA+ (stable outlook) re-affirmed

“Reaffirmed”?!

Well, bugger me! It  rather does seem that credit agencies look favourably upon  centre-left government policies rather than centre-right administrations.

Whoda thunk?!

John Key – wrong again. It’s rather getting to be a habit with the ‘infallible’ Dear Leader.

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Reference Sources

Hansards – 1. Credit Rating Downgrade—Effect on New Zealand Economy

NZDMO – New Zealand Sovereign Credit Ratings

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A warning from a very, very rich man…

17 August 2011 1 comment

Warren Buffet is  regarded as one of the most successful investors in the world.  He is  ranked among the world’s wealthiest people and was ranked as the world’s wealthiest person in 2008. He is the third wealthiest person in the world as of 2011.

He is not a disaffected socialist, nor  “random leftie” – he has serious money in his bank account(s). So when this guy warns us that the wealthy are not paying their way, and have been “coddled by billionaire-friendly governments” – you know he’s saying something important.

And that we should take note…

Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.

To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.

Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.

The taxes I refer to here include only federal income tax, but you can be sure that any payroll tax for the 400 was inconsequential compared to income. In fact, 88 of the 400 in 2008 reported no wages at all, though every one of them reported capital gains. Some of my brethren may shun work but they all like to invest. (I can relate to that.)

I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.

Twelve members of Congress will soon take on the crucial job of rearranging our country’s finances. They’ve been instructed to devise a plan that reduces the 10-year deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. It’s vital, however, that they achieve far more than that. Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.

Job one for the 12 is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill. Big money must be saved here. The 12 should then turn to the issue of revenues. I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get.

But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

(Warren E. Buffett is the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway.)

Buffet’s analysis holds true for New Zealand as much as it does for his own country, the USA.

In April 2009 and October 2010, this government awarded the highest income earners and the wealthiest the most in tax-cuts.

At the same time, the top ten wealthiest people in NZ (and probably others  throughout the world also increased their wealth by 20 percent) – whilst the rest of the global economy was wracked by the worst recession since the 1930s, and millions lost their jobs.

The old excuse that the “wealthy work hard and should be rewarded for their labours” no longer deserves to be taken seriously.  Most of us work hard, and long hours.

It is time that governments stopped coddling the rich. It’s not like they can take their wealth off-planet to Mars or elsewhere. The rich will still invest their vast wealth.

But it’s time they paid their fair share as the price of living in societies that gave them the opportunities to create their wealth.

It’s high time National looked at a fairer taxation system, and paid for the social services and job creation-friendly policies, rather than the top 10% of  the population and middle-class rich-wannabees.

Otherwise, prepare yourselves for a society of growing inequality.

So far, the indicators are not good…

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Well, I think the ‘message’ is reasonably clear for all but the most ideologically-blind.  Question is – what are we going to do about it?

(Hint: more of the same will probably not work.)

TVNZ7, Radio New Zealand, and distracting trinkets.

A neo-liberal is one who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. In this case, this National government are slowly strangling good, quality broadcasters like RNZ and TVNZ7 – whilst  feeding us a daily diet of brain-cell deadening, pseudo-news on TV1 and TV3 and apalling programming that consists mostly of American sitcoms, cooking programmes, and bleak crime shows.

If only New Zealanders were as passionate about the lack of governmental support for quality broadcasting as we were about stranded penguins; “Wellywood” signs; and books by Ian Wishart.

Oh, but that would mean thinking about complex issues, wouldn’t it? Jerking the knee with superficial,  emotion-tugging,  issues is much easier:  no effort required.

The state-owned broadcaster registered itself as the Radio New Zealand Charitable Trust with the Charities Commission last month.

Some of its charitable purposes, which were listed on the commission’s website, included education, research, fundraising and providing grants to a number of individuals and groups.

A spokesperson for Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman said the broadcaster still received $34 million a year but couldn’t say how long it had been receiving that amount.

A financial review of Radio NZ for the 2009/10 financial year showed it had a net deficit of $498,000 after tax, compared to a surplus of $13,000 the year before.

The review said RNZ had been too cash-strapped to participate in the 2010 New Zealand Radio Awards or put in a bid for the Rugby World Cup 2011 coverage.

Kedgley said she first thought the charity registration was a joke.

“I am appalled to discover that it is serious proposition and that the Board of Radio New Zealand has been forced by the Government’s funding freeze on Radio New Zealand to set up a trust so that it can go out with a begging bowl to the public,” she said.

“The move suggests there is quiet desperation at Radio New Zealand. The broadcaster simply cannot make ends meet under the Government’s funding freeze.”

Curran said the move raised some “serious questions”.

“Not the least of which is why the whole of RNZ has been registered as a charity, and what the long-term intention is,” she said.

“Radio NZ’s survival should not be dependent on it having to solicit donations. It is our state radio broadcaster and holds a special place in New Zealand.”

Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman couldn’t be reached for comment and neither could RNZ chairman Richard Griffin.

Griffin told Fairfax earlier this year that RNZ could only survive a funding freeze for another two years.

He said the current freeze put the public broadcaster in a “more than difficult” financial position.

“If we’re left in a position where every year costs increase and funding remains static, we’re going to wither.”

It was believed that the charity was mainly to fund its concert station.

It is an unbelievable, bizarre state-of -affairs when a public service such as Radio New Zealand , has to register itself as a charity. If this doesn’t ring alarm bells with us, then we are truly asleep.

It should also give us cause for concern that National  will be closing down TVNZ7. This free-to-air; advertising free; public network is a wealth of news, documentaries, and offers an un-commercialised look at ourselves and the world around us.

TVNZ7  treats the viewer with intelligence and respect.  It is television as it should be – and not the mindless rubbish that we are now served up every day on other channels. (Parliament TV excepted – that contains very mature, erudite debate from our Honourable Members of Parliament.)

It is a great shame that two quality public services – TVNZ7 and Radio New Zealand – can be put in jeopardy through the lack of political support from the government-of-the-day, and because of public apathy.  If New Zealanders were as passionate about their own  public broadcasting system, as they were about wayward penguins, oh what a much more mature society we would be.

But we are like children, it seems, and easily enthralled by the latest distracting trinket.

New Zealand has often been described as a “young country”.

That is truer than we realised.