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Posts Tagged ‘Rogernomics’

Letter to the editor – homelessness, class eugenics, and middle class sensibilities

11 June 2016 2 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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The first three paragraphs are brilliant. The next three are a descent into the depths of wilful human blindness. It is tragic how many people feel this way…

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letter to the editor - homelessness - class eugenics - russell vant

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… as if the right to have a family and raise children to be good citizens of this country  is now the sole privilege of the affluent.

So I replied, with my thoughts;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: The Wellingtonian <editor@thewellingtonian.co.nz>
date: Sat, Jun 4, 2016
subject:Letter to the editor

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The editor

The Wellingtonian

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Russell Vant’s first three paragraphs of his letter, on homelessness, conveyed the true spirit of Kiwi generosity. (26 May)

But his last three paragraphs appears to make a subtle argument for what can only be described as class eugenics; the elimination of undesirables from society for economic reasons.

Mr Vant demands, “at what point does the collective have a say in the reproductive process, coming together to work out how many children our society can adequately support”?

It is a chilling suggestion that our “reproductive processes” should be pre-determined and enforced like some Kiwi version of China’s one-child policy.

Perhaps his idea is more targetted at a specific group in our society? Not Jews – this time it’s poor families. The suggestion that poor people shouldn’t “breed” because of their financial circumstances is not uncommon.

It is a naive, simplistic response to low incomes and growing poverty since the neo-liberal revolution in 1984.

Addressing the real causes of income/wealth disparity is a complex process. That is no reason to make scapegoats out of those who have been crushed by the cold invisible hand of the so-called “free” market.

The day New Zealand allows only the affluent to raise a family is not a day I want to live to see.

.-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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halloween trickle down - what could go wrong

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 June 2016.

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Questionable assumptions ‘bad for small democracies’

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smells like media bullshit

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This item in Fairfax’s Dominion Post caught my eye a few days ago;

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Labour governments bad for small business

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In this story, author John Anthony is reporting on a study by two  academics –  Massey University economics and finance senior lecturer Dr Chris Malone, and associate professor, Hamish Anderson. They came to the astonishing conclusion;

Small listed companies have performed significantly worse under Labour governments over the past 40 years because of major policy changes, a report says.

[…]

“The smaller firms have done abysmally poor during Labour terms of office.”

Funny thing about this article – it’s mostly rubbish. The Labour government in the mid/late 1980s was hardly a traditional left-wing administration as it implemented neo-liberal, free market policies at breakneck speed. It was the government that gave us the term “Rogernomics“.

In essence, it was a Labour government in name only, having been hijacked by future-ACT MPs and neo-liberal cadres. It was a foretaste of how Brash seized power in 2011 after a putsch overthrew Rodney Hide as ACT’s leader.

Yet the heading of the article is utterly misleading;

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Labour governments ‘bad for small business’

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Indeed, anyone glancing at the story would come away with entirely the wrong impression until their attention was caught by this bit;

The main reasons for poor performance in small firms during Labour governments included market under-performance, periods of falling inflation, harsh default-risk and credit conditions and the introduction of deregulation in 1984 that opened up firms to increased foreign competition and exchange rate pressures.

Notable features were the two Labour governments of the 1980s under Prime Minister David Lange.

In the first term from 1984 to 1987 the mean returns were amongst the highest in the sample but in the second term the smaller firms had a mean monthly return of minus 7.2 per cent.

Roger Douglas’s neo-liberal “free” market reforms truly kicked in during Labour’s second term in office (1987-1989) and the academic’s report is not very flattering;

“…in the second term the smaller firms had a mean monthly return of minus 7.2 per cent”.

It is interesting to note that overseas ratings agencies (Standard & Poors, Moodies, and Fitch) also seem to have a somewhat dim view of right-wing governments. Note the credit rating movements during right-wing Labour/National governments compared to the Clark-led Labour government;

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new-zealands-foreign-currency-credit-rating-history2

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Note the credit downgrades (red underlined) in the chart above and detailed belowed;

  1. Standard & Poors: From AA+ in April 1983,  to AA in  December 1986  (Rogernomics Labour)
  2. Standard & Poors: From AA in  December 1986, to AA- in January 1991 (National)
  3. Moodys: From Aa1 Stable Outlook, February 1996, to Aa1 Negative Outlook on 30 January 1998 (National)
  4. Standard & Poors: From AA+ Stable Outlook in January 1996, to AA+ Negative Outlook on 10 September 1998 (National)
  5. Moodys: From Aa1 On Review for Possible Downgrade  on 5 June 1998, to Aa2 Stable Outlook on 24 September 1998 (National)
  6. Fitch: From AA+ Stable Outlook on 28 November 2008, to Aa+ Negative Outlook Reaffirmed on 16 July 2009 (National)
  7. Fitch: From Aa+ Negative Outlook Reaffirmed on 16 July 2009  to AA Stable Outlook on 24 September 2011 (National)
  8. Standard & Poors: From AA+ Negative Outlook Reaffirmed on 22 November 2010 to AA Stable Outlook on 30 September 2011  (National)

Eight credit down-grades under two Right-wing governments.

By contrast, during Clark’s more left-wing Labour administration,  from 2000 to 2008;

  1. Standard & Poors: From AA+ Negative Outlook on 27 March 2000, improved to AA+ Stable Outlook on 7 March  2001
  2. Fitch: From AA on 27 March 2002, improved to AA+ on 16 August 2003
  3. Moodys: From AA2 Stable Outlook on 24 September 1998, improved to Aaa on 21 October 2002
  4. Fitch: From AA on 27 March 2002, improved to AA+ on 16 August 2003

Eight years, four credit upgrades.

As Labour’s economic development spokesperson,  Grant Robertson, stated in the same article,

“The last Labour government ran nine surpluses in a row while having the highest average growth rate of any government for 40 years.”

He’s right. Under Labour’s administration of the economy,

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New Zealand New Zealand Government Debt To GDP 2000-2014

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New Zealand unemployment rate 2000-2014

Graph

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New Zealand Building Permits 2000-2014

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  • The NZ stock market showed a steady rise, until the 2007/08 Global Financial Crisis;

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New Zealand Stock Market (NZX 50) 2000-2014

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New Zealand GDP 2000-2014

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  • Consumer Confidence vs Business Confidence – showed conflicting results, with consumer confidence staying bouyant whilst business confidence appeared to fall. (It seems bizarre that whilst customers were happy to open their wallets/purses to spend – businesses remained gloomy until nearly two years after the initial effects of the GFC   were felt and the Recession was biting hard. Masochistic tendencies appear at play here?)

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New Zealand business - consumer confidence To GDP 2000-2014

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It seems farcical in the extreme that two academics – with the willing assistance of an uncritical  journalist – have presented “research” which brands the Labour Party as “bad for small business” when the 1984-89 Lange-led administration was an undemocratic aberration that was closer to the ACT Party than the Kirk or Clark governments.

In essence, Malone and Anderson have passed judgement on  governments implementing right wing, neo-liberal economic policies and, rather unsurprisingly,  given them a *fail* mark. But you wouldn’t think it with the headline “Labour governments ‘bad for small business’” and the statement that “smaller firms have done abysmally poor during Labour terms of office”.

But at least this has given  right-wing bloggers some joy – even if those same bloggers have been less than honest at what Malone and Anderson have actually written. But that’s the right wing for you; never let inconvenient truths get in the way of a good propaganda moment.

 

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References

Fairfax media: Labour governments ‘bad for small business’

New Zealand Debt Management Office: New Zealand Sovereign Credit Ratings

New Zealand Debt Management Office: Summary of Direct Public Debt

Trading Economics: New Zealand Government Debt To GDP

National Party: What about the workers?

Statistics NZ: Unemployment Rate Falls to 3.4 Percent

Trading Economics: New Zealand Unemployment Rate

Ministry of Business, Innovation, & Employment: Previous minimum wage rates

Trading Economics: New Zealand Stock Market (NZX 50)

Trading Economics: New Zealand Building Permits

Trading Economics: New Zealand GDP

NZ Treasury: Recent Economic Performance and Outlook

Trading Economics: New Zealand Consumer Confidence

Trading Economics: New Zealand Business Confidence

Kiwiblog: Labour bad for small business


 

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National dance to corporate interests

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 30 May 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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“You Break It, We Fix It” – Is That How It Works?

13 January 2014 6 comments

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It all began in 1984…

But first, let’s look at the Governor-General, Sir Jerry Mateparae’s 2014 New Year’s speech,

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"As a nation, and as communities, we need to both celebrate our successes, and examine how we can help those families facing particular difficulties, so every child can grow up in a safe and secure home."

As a nation, and as communities, we need to both celebrate our successes, and examine how we can help those families facing particular difficulties, so every child can grow up in a safe and secure home.”

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My initial reaction upon hearing this statement from the Governor General was, thank god that the issue of deprivation facing children in our country is finally ‘trickling up’  the coridors of The Establishment.

It’s not like we haven’t been banging on for the last few years about the problems confronting us with child poverty; increasing inequality; homelessness; unemployment, under-employment; the growing wage-gap with Australia; etc, etc; etc; etc…

Once upon a time, New Zealand was one of the most equal societies on this planet. And we took great pride in that fact.

But then, something happened. Something disastrous which we were aware of; initially viewed with alarm; and then, like the frog in the pot of water steadily heating up, we got used to it.

We got Rogernomics.

Later followed shortly thereafter by the nastier, “crack-cocaine” version referred to as “Ruthenasia”.

From there, despite all the rhetoric and promises of wealth “tricking down”, things got worse. Much worse.

Sir Jerry’s speech was duly reported in the Otago Daily Times on 1 January;

The release of Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills’ report into child poverty in December found a quarter of Kiwi children were under the standard 60 per cent income poverty line, of which, 10 per cent were in severe and persistent poverty.

The report also highlighted the links between the lack of affordable housing and the preventable diseases spread through overcrowding.

Sir Jerry said while the structure and dynamics of New Zealand families had changed, the desire of parents to raise their children in a caring, loving environment had not.

“I often hear people say that everyone should have a New Zealand childhood.

“The care we provide to our most vulnerable citizens – our children – is a barometer of the wellbeing of our families and our society.”

But not all families could cope with the “inevitable challenges” life threw at them, Sir Jerry said.

IBID

Perhaps families could have coped better had National – not “life” – not thrown these challenges at them;

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English confirms big ACC levy rise likely

Source

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Note how only a month after being elected into office, National was already spinning the public meme that Labour was to blame for the consequences of National’s impending ACC levy-rises? Such would be National’s modus operandi for the following years; everything blamed on the previous Labour government; accept no responsibility whatsoever.

If National wins a third term in office this year (unlikely), will they still attempt to use Labour as a scapegoat for their unsuccessful policies?

In the meantime, National continued their policy of raising government charges and taxes,

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Budget 2010 - Income tax slashed, GST to 15 pc

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English’s promise that income tax cuts would be “more than offset the rise in GST” ended up  hollow when more government charges were further raised;

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Tax hikes disguised as `reinvestment'

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Yet more indirect tax rises were forthcoming;

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Petrol prices creep higher

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And cuts to funding for social services. Again, children were targetted;

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Hundreds march over early childhood cuts

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And hefty user-pays charges implemented and increased;

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Vulnerable children at risk from Family Court fees increase

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With perhaps this, being the most odious and damaging of all to struggling low-income, poor families;

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Prescription fees increase

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Although NZMA chair, Paul Ockelford, asserted that prescription charge increases were “unlikely to be a barrier for most”, that statement appears to be the kind of arrogant, self-delusional nonsense that people out of touch with reality readily express amongst polite company, at well-laden dinner tables, of the tut-tutting affluent classes.

As writer, Herman Melville pointed out,

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed.”

Reality away from the likes of  Mr Ockelford’s genteel circle  is much different, and grimmer;

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Pharmacies carry debt for prescriptions

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From the above Herald story,

Nikki Turner, who works as a GP in Wellington as well as sitting on the Child Poverty Action Group, said any assumption that the $2 increase was a minor issue was not looking at the bigger picture.

“For a lot of people that’s fine, but for many people there are a lot of barriers to access to primary health care.”

New Zealanders on lower incomes, particularly those with large families or complex medical problems, would find the hike in prescription costs as another barrier.

“We know from the Ministry of Social Development’s own data on severe and significant hardship that many families don’t pick up prescriptions because of costs. If they’ve got a small amount of money left over, then prescriptions will go or they’ll delay picking them up,” she said.

Source

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And remember – National presided over two tax cuts in 2009 and 2010. Cuts which benefitted the highest income earners in the country.

It is abundantly clear that those tax cuts were paid for by massive borrowings; state asset (partial-)sales; raising GST; cuts to funding for  state services; and raising user-pays charges for other State services (often for the most spurious reasons).

In simple, easy-to-understand-terms, low and middle income earners (but especially those on low and fixed incomes) ended up paying for tax cuts for the rich,

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Tax cuts - High earners set to benefit most

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This is what National does.

In the meantime, unemployment is still at 7.1% and – according to the Children’s Commissioner, in his first Child Poverty Monitor – child poverty has dramatically worsened,

The 2013 Monitor shows that one in four Kiwi kids are growing up in income poverty and one in six are going without the basic essentials like fresh fruit and vegetables, a warm house, decent shoes and visits to the doctor. Ten percent of children are at the hardest end of poverty and three out of five kids living in poverty will live this way for much of their childhood.

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Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills says the project is about giving New Zealanders the full picture on child poverty rates and to get Kiwis talking about it.

“265,000 New Zealand children are living in poverty. Is this what we want for our kids?

[…]

The Child Poverty Monitor is funded by the J R McKenzie Trust, an organisation with a long history of involvement in important social issues. The Trust’s Executive Director Iain Hines says they initiated this project because they saw an opportunity to make a difference for children missing out.

“We are concerned that the rate of child poverty in 2013 is twice that of the 1980s. We think this is unacceptable. If New Zealand’s road toll was twice that of the 80s there would be outrage and immediate action taken to reduce it. We need the same momentum and action on child poverty.

It is mind-boggling that we have arrived at a state of affairs where child poverty is increasing each year – and successive governments seem unable/unwilling to tackle it.

To our shame, governments seem more interested in throwing money at multi-national corporations and yacht races rather than the nation’s children – our future.

National, in particular stands guilty of inaction.

This was clearly highlighted when it was revealed that the Children Commissioner’s report was funded by a private organisation, the J R McKenzie TrustKey’s government refused point-blank to fund the investigation and subsequent report. Instead, the cost – $500,000 – was paid by the Trust.

By contrast, National found it easier to hand out corporate welfare such as $30 million to the Rio Tinto private aluminium smelter. Or millions to the Rugby World Cup tournament. Even Southern China Airlines got a $4 million tax-paid hand-out, courtesy, National.

One thing is for certain – Dr Russell Wills should not be expecting to be re-appointed Children’s Commissioner when his term is up. Not if the Nats are still in office by then.

Just to remind the reader, in his speech, Sir Jerry said,

“But not all families could cope with the “inevitable challenges” life threw at them.”

Source

Unsurprisingly, I take great exception to Sir Jerry’s comments. It is not “life” that is throwing “challenges” at New Zealand’s families: it is successive government policies and inaction. And nor are they “inevitable”. The sun rising every day is inevitable – government policies are not.

Polices such as these have been carefully planned for years prior to National winning the 2008 election and  have been methodically and unscrupulously executed with deliberate  intent to further an agenda of gradual “transformation” to a user-pays, low-tax, minimal-State economy.

It is shameful and sickening that Sir Jerry now laments that  “not all families could cope”. Once again, those at the bottom of the socio-economic heap are blamed for their precarious position. Unfortunately Sir Jerry, not all of us can live at the Governor-General’s residence at tax-payers’ expense.

Some families, however, can cope better than others,

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The NBR Rich List 2013 - The Rich Continue to Get Richer

Source

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Perhaps equally galling is that even while our social problems worsen and poverty increases, people like John Key and Bill English continue to insist that things will, eventually, get better.

John Key in January 2008,

“This is a great country.  But it could be so much greater.  It has been so much greater. 

So the question I’m asking Kiwi voters is this:  Do you really believe this is as good as it gets for New Zealand?  Or are you prepared to back yourselves and this country to be greater still? National certainly is.

[…]

National knows New Zealand has a great future if we embrace good ideas and put them into action. And my sense is that in 2008, New Zealand is ready for those new ideas – ready for a fresh start.

At this election, the National Party has the chance to harness the growing mood for change and march New Zealand towards a better tomorrow.

We know this isn’t as good as it gets.  We know Kiwis deserve better than they are getting.  We are focused on the issues that matter and we have the ideas and the ability to bring this country forward. 

National is ambitious for New Zealand and we want New Zealanders to be ambitious for themselves. “

Five years later, John Key, in December 2013,

“I am passionate about the future of New Zealand, and I’m in politics to make a difference for the better of our society.

By 2038, young people of today will be our leaders – whether it be in politics, business, academia, education, sport or arts.

They will guide the values, principles and direction of the country in years ahead.

One thing I’m sure of is while we will still be a young country, we will be a more confident multicultural country than we are now, a country that was built on a bicultural foundation. And today’s young people will help guide that future.

From the calibre and talent I see in our youth today, there is cause for real optimism about the years ahead.”

According to Key and other right-wing politicians, we just have to keep persevering with their policies.  So that, sometime in the future, things will “get better”.

Even as they get worse.

Getting worse since 1984…

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Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 January 2014.

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References

John Key:  A Fresh Start for New Zealand

Otago Daily Times: English confirms big ACC levy rise likely

Scoop media: Government delivers April 1 [2009] tax cuts, SME changes

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

Dominion Post: Petrol prices creep higher

NZ Herald: Budget 2010: Income tax slashed, GST to 15 pc

Dominion Post: Tax hikes disguised as `reinvestment’

Sunday News: Hundreds march over early childhood cuts

NZ Herald: Govt borrowing $380m a week

Scoop media: Vulnerable children at risk from Family Court fees increase

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlights – Work-Unemployment

NZ Herald: Prescription fees increase

Radio NZ: Pharmacies carry debt for prescriptions

Otago Daily Times: Governor-General urges Kiwis to care for children

Radio NZ: Challenge to help vulnerable families

Fairfax media: Govt pays $30 million to Tiwai Pt

Scoop media: NZ’s first monitor of child poverty released

Scoop media: Wellington philanthropic trust helping with survey of child poverty

Scoop media/NBR: The NBR Rich List 2013: The Rich Continue to Get Richer

NZ Herald/John Key: Kids of today offer bright future for NZ

Fairfax media: Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

Additional

Facebook: Inside Child Poverty New Zealand

Facebook: Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)

Scoop media: Inequality keeps rising, says UC social research expert

Previous related blogpost

A Blighted Future – the price of an apple

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Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment y/e 2012 – inequality & poverty

9 January 2013 3 comments

To Whom It May Concern; the following Report Card detail’s Johnny’s achievements over the last four years.

The following contrasts compare four years, ranging from the end of 2008 to the end of this year, 2012.

Whilst it is acknowledged that the Global Financial Crisis impacted harshly on our society and economy, it is also fair to say that National has had the benefits of starting out with a sound economy (surpluses, low unemployment, etc)  in 2008 and four years in office to make good on it’s election promises..

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Inequality & Poverty

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give the rich tax cuts

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The rhetoric:

You can measure a society by how it looks after its most vunerable, once I was one of them. I will never turn my back on that.

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Yet, also, you can measure a society by how many vulnerable people it creates – people who are able to work, and able to take responsibility for their own lives and their children’s lives, yet end up depending long-term on the State.” – John Key, 28 November 2006

See: Speech to North Shore National Party luncheon

My father died when I was young. My mother was, for a time, on the Widow’s Benefit, and also worked as a cleaner. But the State ensured that I had a roof over my head and money for my mother to put food on the table. It also gave me the opportunity to have a good education. My mother made sure I took that opportunity, and the rest was up to me.” – John Key, 30 Jan 2007

See: The Kiwi Way: A Fair Go For All

I have said before that I believe in the welfare state and that I will never turn my back on it. We should be proud to be a country that looks after its most vulnerable citizens. We should be proud to be a country that supports people when they can’t find work, are ill, or aren’t able to work. ”- John Key, 30 Jan 2007

See: IBID

When Sir Ed climbed Mt Everest back in 1953, he wasn’t the only New Zealander on top of the world. We all were.  We were among the five wealthiest countries on earth. Not any more.

Fifty-five years on, we are no longer an Everest nation.  We are among the foothill nations at the base of the OECD wealth mountain. Number 22 for income per person, and falling.

But what does a wealth ranking matter, you might ask?  Why does it matter if we’re number 22 or number four? 

It matters because at number 22 your income is lower, you have to work harder, and you can save less.  You face more uncertainty when things go wrong, when you or your family get sick or lose a job.  No New Zealand sports team would be happy to be number 22.  Why is the Government?

This is a great country.  But it could be so much greater.  It has been so much greater. 

So the question I’m asking Kiwi voters is this:  Do you really believe this is as good as it gets for New Zealand?  Or are you prepared to back yourselves and this country to be greater still? National certainly is. 

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So, make no mistake: this election won’t be fought only on Labour’s economic legacy.  National will be asking Labour to front up on their social legacy, too. Many of the social problems the Government said it would solve have only got worse.

This time a year ago, I talked about the underclass that has been allowed to develop in New Zealand. Labour said the problem didn’t exist.  They said there was no underclass in New Zealand.

But who now could deny it?  2007 showed us its bitter fruits. The dramatic drive-by shooting of two-year-old Jhia Te Tua, caught in a battle between two gangs in Wanganui. The incidence of typhoid, a Third World disease, reaching a 20-year high. The horrific torture and eventual death of three-year-old Nia Glassie. The staggering discovery of a lost tribe of 6,000 children who are not enrolled at any school.

The list goes on and on.  The fact is, that under Labour, there has been no let-up in the drift to social and economic separatism.

We don’t need more of their hand-wringing, their strategies, and their interdepartmental working groups. What’s needed is the courage to make the tough calls to fix these problems.” – John Key, 29 January 2008

See: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

I’m a product of the welfare state – there hasn’t been any great secret about that.” – John Key,  27 Aug 2011

See:  ‘Socialist streak’ just means we have a heart, says Key

The results:

Interestingly, whilst Key’s 2008 speech (A Fresh Start for New Zealand) started off describing New Zealand’s growing underclass, National’s Dear Leader went on to describe a series of punitive actions that his Administration would undertake, if elected to power.

The following sub-headings in Key’s speech are illuminating,

  • Youth Plan (education, youth crime)
  • Youth Guarantee (education, training, universal educational entitlement, threat of benefit sanctions)
  • Youth Justice (extending Youth Court; tougher sentences for youth offenders; new Youth Court orders)
  • New powers for the Youth Court
  • First, the power to issue parenting orders.
  • Secondly, the power to refer young offenders to mentoring programmes.
  • Thirdly, the power to refer young offenders to compulsory drug or alcohol rehabilitation programmes.
  • Tougher sentences
  • The first is longer residential sentences.
  • In addition, National will fund a new type of programme for teenagers who aren’t bad enough to be put in a youth justice facility but who need a serious dose of intervention.
  • National will fund a new range of revolutionary ‘Fresh Start Programmes’. (boot camps)
  • Finally, we think the Youth Court needs better teeth for following up serious youth offenders when they are released back into the community.

This was John Key’s “vision” of a “Fresh Start for New Zealand”; more punitive action against youth offenders – but precious little to address the root causes of youth crime; poverty, lack of jobs, poor housing, worsening health, lack of training and apprenticeships, etc, etc, etc.

Key’s “solution” was to treat the symptoms of this country’s growing underclass.

So it should be hardly any surprise that those symptoms worsened, and the underclass; prison population; domestic violence; hungry children; poor housing – all grew.

The truly unbelievable aspect to Key’s shonkey speech in 2008 was how comprehensively New Zealand voters sucked it up, en masse.  (We seriously need to introduce comprehensive  Civics courses in our schools, to teach young New Zealanders how to recognise and deconstruct political BS.)

Tax cuts:

Whichever way we look at it, New Zealand in the last four years has become a more unequal society, and with growing poverty.

The first causal factor was the 2009 and 2010 tax cuts, which gave the most to the highest income earners and most wealthy New Zealanders,

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tax-cuts-april-2009

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Additional info

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When, on 1 April 2009,  then-Maori Party MP, Rahui Katene asked John Key in Parliament,

How do low-income New Zealanders benefit from the tax changes introduced today?”

Dear Leader replied,

They benefit because 630,000 New Zealanders—the New Zealanders who do not have children and who have been relatively low-income New Zealanders, and who got absolutely nothing under the previous Labour Government for 9 years—get $10 a week, or $500 a year. It is a small start, and it will be welcomed.”

See: TheyWorkForYou Blog – Tax Cuts—Implementation

At least Key wasn’t bullshitting us this time; for those on minimum wage up to  it was indeed small. Someone on $100,000 would receive two and a half times more than someone on minimum wage.

The following year’s October tax cuts were hardly better – but this time the rate of GST was increased from 12.5% to 15%,

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Budget 2010 - What the tax cuts mean for you

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The impact on low-income families – along with increased costs for medicines (see:  Prescription charges to increase), and other user-pays government fees – would be harsh.

Contrary to the NZ Herald’s claim above, the average earner would not be “better off”. The $15 a week “extra” would be quickly swallowed up in rising government charges; medicine prescriptions; increased petrol taxes; and the flow-on inflationary effects throughout the economy.

This was not a “tax switch” – it was a tax-swindle – with the richest making the biggest gains.

Interestingly, ACT’s Roger Douglas – commenting on the 2009 tax cuts – realised that National was having to borrow heavily to finance said tax-cuts,

Does the Prime Minister agree with Professor Eric Leeper’s statement in the latest Reserve Bank Bulletin that counter-cyclical fiscal policy could actually be counter-productive; if not, why not; if yes, why, then, is he borrowing $1 billion plus interest a year in order to give tax relief of $1 billion?” – Roger Douglas, 1 April 2009

So much for National’s promises in 2008,

National’s rebalancing of the tax system is self-funding and requires no cuts to public services or additional borrowing.

[…]

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.”

See: National – Tax Policy

Salvation Army Report: The Growing Divide – A state of the Nation Report 2012

This document by the Salvation Army is one of the most insightful and far-reaching analyses of current economic stagnation; political factors; and related social problems. It pulls no punches.

This blogger encourages people to read the Report (it’s written in plain english; very little jargon; and contains excellent data, with references). It should be put into the letterboxes of every home in this country. Click here to link to the report.

[NB: The report was written at a time when unemployment was at 6.3%. Since then it has increased three consecutive Quarters to the current 7.3% (see: Unemployment January 2012 to November 2012.]

Amongst the Report’s findings,

1. Inflation, higher prices, increased GST, raised indirect taxes (eg, fuel taxes), and government charges, have off-set the tax cuts of October 2010.

2. If New Zealand is to return to the historically low rate of unemployment of 3.8% in December 2006, (from the then-figure of 6.3%), we would require  90,000 jobs, in on top of  25,000 to 30,000 jobs required each and every year just to keep up with the growth of the labour force. The figure of 90,000 will have increased as unemployment now stands at 7.3%.

3. The rapid growth in the labour force participation rate of people aged 65+ (from 14.1% in December 2006, to 19.5% in December 2011)  has been at the expense of  falling employment participation of young people in the 15 – 19 year old age group.

Those in the 15 – 19 year old age group, the Report states, have “borne the brunt of the recession and tightening of the job market”. Unemployment for this group rose from 14.3% in December 2006, to  24.2% in December 2011.

It is also this group targetted by National’s harsh “welfare reforms”, which attempts to blame young people as “work shy” – a ‘double whammy’ from the Global Financial Crisis and a right wing government keen to shift blame for rising  unemployment onto powerless victims of the Recession.

4. The numbers of welfare recipients receiving the Domestic Purposes Benefit has also been affected by the Global Financial Crisis and resultant Great Recession. DPB recipients dropped from a peak of approximately 111,000 in late 2003, to 96,000 in mid 2008. Since 2008, and as redundancies increased; unemployment rose; and jobs disappeared, the number reversed. DPB recipients skyrocketed to an all time record of 114,230 benefits by December 2011.

Far from being “bene bludgers” opting for the DPB as a “lifestyle choice”  (which is constantly parrotted by ill-informed conservatives and low information voters), solo-parents are as vulnerable to recessionary forces as other  workers.

5. In the year to December 2011,  average weekly earnings rose a only 2.6% from $991.05 to $1016.95. Taking annual inflation of 1.8% into account, weekly earnings rose  by a fractional 0.8%. With increases in rent, fuel tax, and other government charges, that increase will have vanished altogether.

6. The Report gave as an example of unequal wage increases the difference between hourly earnings in the finance sector increasing by $1.01 per hour, from $36.63 per hour in June 2011 to $37.64 in December 2011.

By contrast, the average wage in the traditionally poorly paid accommodation sector increased by only 3 cents an hour from $16.40 to $16.43 per hour.This was a clear illustration of  the average hourly earnings of the highest paid sector increasing 2.3 times more than those for lower paid workers.

7. Most of the increase in State benefit payments  over the past five years was made as  higher spending on New Zealand Superannuation (43% of the increase) and  Working for Families (37% of the increase). Approximately 568,000 people were receiving superannuation by June 2011.

This compared to 319,000 of other welfare recipents as at December 2011 – up  from 264,500 from December 2006. Welfare numbers were dependent on the economy and increased only because of the impact by the GFC-caused Recession.

8. Food parcels issued to families and people in need doubled from 24,250 in 2006, to 53,360 in 2011. Again, this was in accordance with the advent of the GFC in 2007/08; skyrocketting unemployment; and a lack of job-creation policies by National, once it won the election in late 2008. (John Key admitted to this on 18 October 2011.  See: Key admits underclass still growing)

9. Inflation of living costs for  2011 was fractionally higher for Low-Income Household CPI at 2.1% than it was for the All Groups CPIs, at 1.8%. Low-Income Households were more vulnerable to increasing costs such as rent, government charges, and gst increases.

10. The Report correctly predicted  that levels of unemployment would rise during 2012, and would negatively impact on growth in wages and salaries of poorest paid workers.

For a full understanding the the Report, it is recommended that people read the document in it’s entirety, as I have  abridged and condensed much of the information contained therein.

The Report reinforces anecdotal evidence, facts, and  stats, that are already in wide circulation and confirms that jobs, incomes, and those receiving social welfare assistance are all affected by the global downturn over the last four to five years.

After all, John Key uses that very excuse to explain away National’s poor economic performance,

We did inherit a pretty bad situation with the global financial crisis... ” – John Key, 11 Sept 2011

See: View from the top

Ministry of Social Development: The widening gap: perceptions of poverty and income inequalities and implications for health and social outcomes

In New Zealand, income inequalities have increased since the neo-liberal reforms and benefit cuts of the late 1980s and 1990s, although the rate has slowed this decade (Blakely et al. 2007, Ministry of Social Development 2006, Ministry of Social Development 2007). The New Zealand Living Standards 2004 report showed a million New Zealanders living in some degree of hardship, with a quarter of these in severe hardship. Despite the buoyant economy and falls in unemployment levels, not only was there a slight increase in the overall percentage of those living in poverty between 2000 and 2004, but those with the most restricted living standards had slipped deeper into poverty (poverty defined as exclusion from the minimum acceptable way of life in one’s own society because of inadequate resources) (Ministry of Social Development 2006, 2007).

[…]

This greater income inequality has seen New Zealand move into 18th place out of 25 in the OECD in terms of income inequality from 1982 to 2004 (Ministry of Social Development 2007). Over the preceding two decades New Zealand experienced the largest growth in inequalities in the OECD (2000 figures), moving from two Gini coefficient points below the OECD average to three Gini points above (Ministry of Social Development 2007:45-46). One indication of the impact of these inequalities has been that relative poverty rates, including child poverty rates, have increased.

Source: MSD

OECD: Growing Income Inequality in OECD Countries: What Drives it and How Can Policy Tackle it ?

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Over the two decades to the onset of the global economic crisis, real disposable household incomes increased in all OECD countries, by 1.7% a year, on average (Table 1). In a large majority of OECD countries, household incomes of the top 10% grew faster than those of the poorest 10%, leading to widening income inequality. Differences in the pace of income growth across household groups were particularly pronounced in some of the English-speaking countries, some of the Nordic countries and Israel. In Israel and Japan, real incomes of people at the bottom of the income ladder actually have fallen since the mid-1980s.

Over the two decades to the onset of the global economic crisis, real disposable household incomes increased in all OECD countries, by 1.7% a year, on average. In a large majority of OECD countries, household incomes of the top 10% grew faster than those of the poorest 10%, leading to widening income inequality. Differences in the pace of income growth across household groups were particularly pronounced in some of the English-speaking countries, some of the Nordic countries and Israel. In Israel and Japan, real incomes of people at the bottom of the income ladder actually have fallen since the mid-1980s.

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Source: OECD

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At present, across OECD countries, the average income of the richest 10% of the population is about nine times that of the poorest 10%. While this ratio is much lower in the Nordic countries and in many continental European countries, it rises to around 14 to 1 in Israel, Turkey and the United States, to a high of 27 to 1 in Chile and Mexico. The Gini coefficient, a standard measure of income inequality that ranges from zero (when everybody has identical incomes) to 1 (when all income goes to only one person), stood at 0.28 in the mid-1980s on average in OECD countries; by the late 2000s, it had increased by some 10%, to 0.31. On this measure, income inequality increased in 17 out of the 22 OECD countries for which data are available (Figure 1, left-hand panel). In Finland, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States, the Gini coefficient increased by more than 4 percentage points: and only five countries recorded drops, albeit small ones .

Source:  IBID

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[See also Addendum 2 below.]

So it’s official – the Great Experiment in free market reforms from the mid 1980s to the late 2000s, has produced growing inequality here in New Zealand. Indeed, the trend has been global,

Income inequality followed different patterns across OECD countries and there are signs that levels may be converging at a common and higher average. Inequality first began to rise in the late 1970s and early 1980s in some Anglophone countries, notably in the United Kingdom and the United States, followed by a more widespread increase from the late 1980s on. The most recent trends show a widening gap between poor and rich in some of the already high-inequality countries, such as Israel and the United States. But countries such as Denmark, Germany and Sweden, which have traditionally had low inequality, are no longer spared from the rising inequality trend: in fact, inequality grew more in these three countries than anywhere else during the past decade. However, some countries recorded declining income inequality recently, often from high levels (Chile, Mexico and Turkey).

Source:  IBID

It is no coincidence that the trends “first began to rise in the late 1970s and early 1980s in some Anglophone countries, notably in the United Kingdom and the United States” – that is the precise period when Margaret Thatcher won office in May 1979 and Ronald Reagan became US president in January 1981.

Our turn came three years later with the Lange/Douglas government that ushered in “Rogernomnics“.

The OECD report above is simply being ‘coy’ by not connecting-the-dots.

What is more telling? Any person reading this would not be surprised. We have become innured to an unfair economic system which produces unequal outcomes and great disparities in incomes and wealth. As the OECD report states with alarmingly candour,

Increases in household income inequality have been largely driven by changes in the distribution of wages and salaries which account for 75% of household incomes of working-age adults. With very few exceptions (France, Japan and Spain), wages of the 10% best-paid workers have risen relative to those of the 10% least-paid workers. This was due both to growing earnings’ shares at the top and declining shares at the bottom, but top earners saw their incomes rising particularly sharply (Atkinson, 2009). The highest 10% of earners have been leaving the middle earners behind more rapidly than the lowest earners have been drifting away from the middle.

Source:  IBID

Furthermore, as the OECD report points out, “…more working hours were lost among low-wage than among high-wage earners, again contributing to increasing earnings inequality“.

The OECD report is backed up by Statistics New Zealand,

As with total employment, the drop in full-time employment mainly reflected a decrease in male
full-time employment, which was down 12,000 (down 1.2 percent).
Usual hours worked decreased 0.4 percent – down to 79.6 million hours over the quarter. The
changes in full and part-time employment reflect the fall in the number of hours people usually
work during a week. Over the quarter, the number of hours people actually worked decreased
0.8 percent, down to 73.2 million hours.

See: Household Labour Force Survey: September 2012 quarter

Ministry of Social Development – Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011

Whilst New Zealand has no formal or official measure of poverty or material hardship/deprivation, there are studies and conclusions leading to reports that offer a disquieting insight into the state of income inequality, poverty, and child poverty in our country.

One  such report was conducted by Bryan Perry for the Ministry of Social Development in August 2012, entitled the “Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011” – a 195 page study.

The full report is available here: MSD – Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011

A much-condensed precis of the Report;

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2012 MSD Household Incomes Report ‘Summary’

  1. Household incomes BHC (before deducting housing costs) rose in real terms for all income groups from 2007 to 2009, continuing the steady growth that began in 1994,
  2. Income inequality increased significantly between 1988 to 2004, then fell from 2004 to 2007 as a result of the WFF package, and was still around the same level in 2009 as in 2007,
  3. Income inequality grew very rapidly from 1988 to 1992, followed by a slower but steady rise through to 2004,
  4. From 2004 to 2007 inequality fell mainly as a result of the WFF package,
  5. Median Household  incomes fell 3% in real terms after little change (+1%) from HES 2009 to HES 2010,
  6. This fall followed a long and strong rise in the median from the mid 1990s to 2008-09 averaging 3% pa in real terms. GDP per capita increased at 2.5% pa over this period on averagwe,
  7. Incomes fell for deciles 3-6, but rose for the top decile especially,
  8. At the very bottom (P15 down), incomes were flat from HES 2010 to HES 2011 (protected by benefit rates being CPI adjusted and NZS being wage related),
  9. Inequality decreased significantly from HES 2009 to HES 2010 then rose from HES 2010 to HES 2011 to its highest level ever. This volatility reflects the impact of the GFC,
  10. On the AHC (HouseHold income after deducting housing costs) moving line measure, the child poverty rate increased from 2007 (22%) to 2009 (25%), reflecting the rise in the proportion of households with children with high  ‘outgoings-to-income’  (OTIs),
  11. The 2009 child poverty rate is almost double the rate that prevailed in the early 1980s,
  12. In 2009, on the Social Report measure (AHC ‘fixed line’ 60%), there were 230,000 children (22%) below the low-income threshold (ie ‘in poverty’), down from 380,000 (37%) in 2001,
  13. Hardship rates for children rose from 15% in the 2007 HES to 21% in HES 2011 using the ELSI measure. In part, this reflects the falling incomes of those in deciles 3-6, some of whom may already have been in a precarious financial position – the loss of income has been enough to tip them into hardship even though their incomes are still above the poverty threshold,
  14. Chronic poverty (as defined in the Incomes Report) is about having an average household income over seven years that is below the poverty threshold over those years. Looking at children in poverty in a HES survey (cross-sectional), 60% of them are in chronic poverty in any survey and 40% in temporary poverty. In addition there are others who are in chronic poverty but not in current poverty in that one year – this group is about 20% of the number in current poverty.
  15. In 2009, between 460,000 and 780,000 people were in households with incomes below the low-income thresholds (ie ‘in poverty’),
  16. In 2009, on the Social Report measure (AHC ‘fixed line’ 60%), there were 650,000 (15%) below the low-income threshold (ie ‘in poverty’, down from 930,000 (25%) in 2001,
  17. In 2009, just over one in three poor children were from households where at least one adult was in full-time employment, down from around one in two before Working for Families (2004),
  18. Income poverty rates for single person working-age households trebled from the 1980s to 2007 (10% to 30%) and were 35% in 2011. One in 9 poor people and 1 in 4 poor households are from this group. The rates are higher for the older group living on their own (45-64 years) than for the younger group,
  19. In 2001, 42% of households in the lowest income quintile had high ‘outgoings-to-income’, but this fell to 34% by 2004 reflecting the introduction of income-related rents, and has remained steady since then (33% in 2009),
  20. In 2009, 37% of children lived in households with high ‘outgoings-to-income’, a rise from 32% in 2007, and 26% in 2004 – the 2004 figure was the lowest proportion for some time, following the introduction of income-related rents in 2001 (when the proportion with high ‘outgoings-to-income’ was 32%),
  21. In 2009, on the Social Report measure (AHC ‘fixed line’ 60%), there were 650,000 (15%) below the low-income threshold (ie ‘in poverty’, down from 930,000 (25%) in 2001,
  22. The child poverty rate increased from 2007 (22%) to 2009 (25%), reflecting the rise in the proportion of households with children with high ‘outgoings-to-income’,
  23. The 2009 child poverty rate is almost double the rate that prevailed in the early 1980s,
  24. Just over two of every three two parent families were dual earner families in 2009, up from one in two in the early 1980s, but down from nearly three in four in 2004,
  25. Children in sole parent families have a higher risk of hardship (46%) than those in two parent families (14%). This reflects the relatively low full-time employment rate for sole parents (35% in 2009) –  73% of sole parents were in receipt of a main benefit in 2009,
  26. The value of New Zealand Superannuation (NZS) fell further below the median household income from 2007 to 2009,
  27. People living in sole parent households are a relatively small subgroup, making up only 8% of the population.    Only 3% of those in sole parent households are found in the top income quintile.  On the other hand, a high proportion have incomes in the lower end of the income distribution.
  28. High housing costs relative to income are often associated with financial stress for low to middle income households.  Low-income households especially can be left with insufficient income to meet other basic needs such as food, clothing, transport, medical care and education,
  29. For the bottom quintile, the proportion with high ‘outgoings-to-income’ reduced from 2001 to 2004 with the introduction of income related rents, then remained steady in 2007 and 2009 at the 2004 level.1   For all but the bottom quintile, the proportion with high housing costs rose strongly from 2004 to 2007.  From 2007 to 2009, the situation for the second quintile continued to worsen, such that by 2009, each of the two lower quintiles had one in three households with high ‘outgoings-to-income’,
  30. From 2007 to 2009, median household incomes (BHC – HH income before deducting housing costs) rose by 4.3% pa in real terms (8.6% in total).  This continues the steady growth in the median from the low point in 1994.  The AHC (HH income after deducting housing costs) median rose less rapidly (3.2% pa), reflecting the relatively rapid rise in average accommodationcosts,
  31. The increasing dispersion of household incomes from the 1980s through to 2009 is clear. For the period as a whole, incomes for households above the median increased proportionately much more than did the incomes of households in the lower three deciles Real equivalised household incomes (BHC) decile boundaries, 1982 to 2009   .
  32. In 2009 the incomes of the bottom 30% of the population were on average only a little better in real terms than those of their counterparts two decades earlier in 1988. On the other hand there were more substantial gains in the period for the top half of the distribution. The income distribution is therefore much more dispersed in 2009 than in 1988,    Real equivalised household incomes (AHC) decile boundaries (2009 dollars)  .

  33. The most significant structural change to the income distribution over the two decades from 1984 to 2004  is a significant hollowing out of the middle parts of the distribution from $12,000 to $30,000 (equivalised) and a corresponding increase in the proportion of the population in higher income households.  There was also a small increase in the proportion of the population in low-income households in this period.  From 2004 to 2007, the impact of the Working for Families package in that period is very clear for low to middle income households.The income distribution was more dispersed in 2004 than in 1984.  From 2004 to 2007 income inequality decreased.
  34. The significant change in shape of the income distribution from 2004 to 2007 reflects two main factors: (A) the impact of the WFF package on low to middle income households and (B) the reduction in the number of people in households whose main source of income is an income-tested benefit (100,000 fewer in 2007 than in 2004)
  35. As recently as 1996, the government of the time in New Zealand was openly disapproving of any poverty discourse.  However, in 2002, in the context of the Agenda for Children, the government made a commitment to eliminate child poverty, and in the Speech from the Throne in November 2005, the Governor-General described the Working for Families package as “the biggest offensive on child poverty New Zealand has seen for decades”.   The current National-led government, like the previous Labour-led government, espouses the principle that ‘paid work is the best way to reduce child poverty’. New Zealand does not however have an official poverty measure.
  36. The rise in moving line child poverty rates from 1990 to 1992 was driven by two factors: the rise in unemployment, and the 1991 benefit rate cuts which decreased real incomes for beneficiaries by a greater amount than the median fell in the period,
  37. From 1992 to 1998 the 60% of median moving line poverty rate for children fell as unemployment rates fell and incomes for those around the poverty line rose more quickly than the median in the period,
  38. From 1998 the median continued to grow in real terms, but the incomes of many low-income households with children remained fairly static through to 2004.  This meant that the moving line child poverty rate rose to 2004, indicating that low-income households with children were on average further from the median in 2004 than in 1998,
  39. On the After Housing Costs (AHC) moving line measure, the child poverty rate increased from 2007 (22%) to 2009 (25%), reflecting the rise in the proportion of HouseHolds with children with high OTIs (‘outgoings-to-income’ ratio),
  40. From 2004 to 2007, the poverty rate fell strongly … for the working poor than for the beneficiary poor. There were no further policy changes to housing assistance from 2007 to 2009 – the maximum rates of assistance remained fixed and did not move in line with movements in housing costs, and net housing expenditure rose for low-income households with children.  This is reflected in the rise in child poverty rates from 2007 to 2009 using the moving line AHC approach.

.(Report Note: when a household spends more than 30% of its income on accommodation it is said to have a high “OTI”  –  ‘outgoings-to-income’ ratio)

The above is a heavily condensed version of Bryan Perry’s report. For a full report, please refer to: Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011

It is fairly clear that income inequality is not only still prevalent – but increasing. The ‘Gini’ does not lie – and the Inequality Factor has risen from 30.2 to 33.5 (the higher the figure, the more inequality).

Child poverty is still with us, and remains  New Zealand’s most critical problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”).

Despite John Key’s fine words and stirring rhetoric, National has failed to change it’s core “values” and adheres to a dogmatic faith in the Market to deliver solutions to poverty in our country.

Yet, John Key should know precisely what needs to be done. As he told the nation five years ago,

My father died when I was young. My mother was, for a time, on the Widow’s Benefit, and also worked as a cleaner. But the State ensured that I had a roof over my head and money for my mother to put food on the table. It also gave me the opportunity to have a good education. My mother made sure I took that opportunity, and the rest was up to me.” – John Key, 30 Jan 2007

See: The Kiwi Way: A Fair Go For All

The State invested heavily in Mr Key – as it did with many other people prior to the Rogernomics roll-backs of the late 1980s – and New Zealand benefitted accordingly from that social investment.

The social welfare system is designed as a safety net for citizens in time of need. Whether through job losses or injury or raising children single-handed, our society – through the State – demands that no one suffers. (Never mind the deranged ravings of the ill-informed on talkback radio.)

However, there is another role for our welfare society; to guarantee that the young from impoverished and vulnerable families  are accorded the same opportunities that other, luckier parents can provide for their own children.

This is a country of plenty. There is no reason why we cannot eradicate poverty; poor housing; disease; lack of adequate, nourishing food for all children; and low schooling/training outcomes.

The only reasons that this blogger can see for the perpetuation of poverty is a double curse on our country, namely,

  1. An irrational prejudice against the poor
  2. A debilitating lack of will

Until we resolve both of these collective “disabilities” to our vision for a better society, we will continue to reap the rotten fruits of our inaction.

On 28 November 2006, John Key said,

You can measure a society by how it looks after its most vunerable, once I was one of them. I will never turn my back on that.”

I see no evidence of that.

Indeed, six years later, Key admitted that the underclass he spoke of has not diminished,

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Key admits underclass still growing

Full story

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Addendum 1

It is interesting and worthwhile to compare the rhetoric of John Key’s speech, A Fresh Start for New Zealand, with the data contained in the Salvation Army report, “The Growing Divide“.  Both are worth reading. It rapidly becomes clear how Key cynically mis-represented facts to suit his Party’s election agenda.

Addendum 2

It is worth noting that the GINI Coefficient – which is one method by which to measure income inequality – shows interesting figures for New Zealand,

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OCED_New Zealand_GINI_coefficient 1970s_late_2000s

Source: OECD Income distribution – Inequality (GINI co-efficient)

A high GINI factor (close to 1 or 100, expressed as a percentage) indicates maximum inequality. A figure at zero indicates absolute income equality.

New Zealand’s GINI Coefficient rose (income became more unequal) from the mid-1980s to around 2000. At the mid-2000s, the GINI Coefficient began to reduce – indicating incomes are becoming less unequal. (Though has not addressed growing poverty in this country.)

What factor intervened in the mid-2000s to stem the rising inequality of incomes?

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working for families

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The same policy introduced by the preceding Labour Government,  which Dear Leader, John Key, once described as “communism by stealth”  (see: National accuses Government of communism by stealth) – but  by 2008 had decided that he liked “Working for Families” after all (see:  National to keep Working for Families unchanged).

After 2010, the GINI coefficient begins to rise again, as effects from our stagnating economy and National’s policies begin to over-take the positive income-redistribution aspects of ‘Working for Families’.

Income inequality in New Zealand is once again on the rise,

Gini scores (x100) for market and disposable household income, 1986 to 2011 (18-64 yrs)

HES year

Before taxes and transfers (market income)

After taxes and transfers (disposable income)

Reduction (%)

1986

36.4

26.4

27

1991

42.4

31.3

26

1996

43.1

32.9

24

2001

43.1

33.1

23

2004

41.7

32.9

21

2009

40.3

32.3

20

2010

38.3

30.2

21

2011

42.2

33.5

21

 Source: MSD – Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2011

Additional

Dominion Post:  Children need changes now – commissioner

 

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Inequality and poverty

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=fs =

Why did the Kiwi cross The Ditch?

6 March 2012 3 comments

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During the Cold War, Eastern Europeans used to “vote with their feet” and escape to the West. Often that migration was done at great personal risk to themselves and their families.

The Poles, Hungarians, Czecks, East Germans, et al, who crossed from the Eastern European Zone did so in search of freedom – political, economic, and social. For them, the repression in their home nations was sufficient motivation to up-root and leave behind family and friends, in search of something better.

Whilst the risk isn’t quite the same for us (no armed border guards; semi-rabid guard dogs; sentry towers with searchlights and machine-gun posts), New Zealanders are still voting with their feet,
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Full Story

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Unlike their Eastern European cuzzies, New Zealanders are not leaving simply to improve their financial lot (though that certainly plays a major part).

I believe there is much more involved in the psychology behind this migration.

Since the Rogernomics New Right “reforms” of the late 1980s, New Zealand  has been socially re-engineered. New, neo-liberalistic values of obeisance for wealth; state sector “efficiency”; low taxes; minimal government;  user pays in many, previously free social services; and a quasi-religious intolerance of those at the bottom of the socio-economic scale who are left behind in the mad scramble for money and status.

A new creed of Personal Good trumps Social Needs, and Individual Rights/Needs trumps Community Well-being.

It is a New Right puritanism that demands solo-mothers (but not solo-fathers) “go out to work” –  blind to the concept of raising a family as being a vital form of work.

It is the demand for Individual Rights to have 24/7 access to alcohol – irrespective of harm caused to society (see BERL report) and the eventual cost to tax-payers.

It is the craven reverance shown to 150 Rich Listers who increased their wealth by a massive 20% in 2010 – whilst condemning working men and women who are struggling to keep their wages and conditions in the face of an onslaught by employers, emboldened by a right wing government. (Eg; AFFCO, Maritime Workers, ANZCO-CMP Rangitikei)

It is a nasty streak of crass, moralistic judgementalism that blames the poor for being poor; invalids for being born with a disability or suffering a crippling accident; solo-mums (but not solo-fathers) for daring to be responsible enough to raise a family; and the unemployed for being in the wrong Place/Time when the global banking crisis metastasized into a full-blown worldwide Recession, turning them from wage earning tax-payers – to one of crony capitalism’s “collateral damage”.

In all this, having a sense of community; of belonging to a wider society; and of being a New Zealander  – has been sublimated. Except for ANZAC Day; a national disaster; and when the All Blacks are thrashing the Wallabies, we show very little sense of nationalistic pride or social cohesion.

Indeed, I recall some years ago being in a 24/7 convenience store in downtown Wellington, on ANZAC Day. It was not yet 1pm, so by law alcohol could not be sold.

I noticed a customer in the store selecting a bottle of wine from the chiller and taking it to the checkout, to purchase. As per liquor laws, the checkout operator could not legally sell that bottle of wine, until after 1pm.

The operator explained that it was the law; it was ANZAC Day; and it was a mark of respect (most shops weren’t even open before 1pm).

The customer, a  fashionably-dressed young(-ish) man remonstrated with the checkout operator and said in a voice loud enough for everyone in the shop to hear; “I don’t give a shit about ANZAC Day. I just want to buy this wine.”

And that, I believe sums up our present society. That young man simply didn’t care. He  wanted something and he couldn’t believe it was being denied to him.

To him (and others like him, who usually vote ACT and/or National), all he knew was that he WANTED a THING and his right to have it, if he could pay for it, was paramount.

What does that say about a society?

Firstly, what it says is, to some folk,  a society is little more than a flimsy, abstract concept – and not much more – with ‘Society’ being subservient to the demands of the Individual.

Secondly, if Society is nothing more than an abstract concept – as one person recently wrote to me on Facebook – then there is no way whatsoever that an individual can feel a sense of “belonging”.

“Belong” to what? A geographic place on a map that happens to have a different name and colouring to another geographic place adjacent to it?

If people who happened to be born in a Geographic Area; designated “New Zealand”; coloured pale-green on the map; decide that they can earn more money in another Geographic Area; designated “Australia”; coloured ochre on the map – then moving from “A” to “B” is nothing more than a logistical exercise. Kinda like shifting house from one street to another.

When we have no concept of “society” – then people will “vote with their feet”. They simply have nothing else to consider when making a decision except solely on material factors.

An expat New Zealander, living in a Geographic Area across the Tasman Sea, told the “Dominion Post“,

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“A Victorian-based Kiwi with a student loan debt, who did not want to be named because he did not want to be found by the Government, said he did not intend to pay back any of his student loan.

The 37-year-old’s loan was about $18,000 when he left New Zealand in 1997. He expected it was now in the order of $50,000. The man was not worried about being caught as the Government did not have his details and he did not want to return to New Zealand.

“I would never live there anyway, I feel just like my whole generation were basically sold down the river by the government. I don’t feel connected at all, I don’t even care if the All Blacks win.

“I just realised it was futile living [in New Zealand] trying to pay student loans and not having any life, so I left. My missus had a student loan and she had quite a good degree and she had paid 99c off the principal of her loan after working three years.”Source

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If we extrapolate this situation to it’s logical outcome, it becomes obvious that New Zealand’s future is to become a vast training ground for the global economy, with thousand of polytechs, Universities, and other training institutions churning out hundreds of thousands of trained workers for the global economy.

Our children will be born; raised; schooled; educated; and then despatched to  another Geographic Area. It gives a whole new meaning to Kiwis “leaving the nest”.

When Finance Minister Bill English  told Radio New Zealand,
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We know roughly what the recipe is, policies that support business that want to employ and create opportunities, that provide people with skills and reward those skills.

“We are getting those in place, despite the fact that we’ve had a substantial recession. We believe we can make considerable progress over the next four to five years.” – Source

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… he was quite correct – though not quite in the way he was intending. New Zealand will “provide people with skills and reward those skills” – just not for this country.

National leader John Key, once again, was of in la-la land as usual when he said,
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Over the last three years I believe we’ve made some progress, so much that we have been closing that after-tax wage gap, we are building an economy that is now growing at a faster rate than Australia, but it will take us some time to turn that around.” – Source

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Dear Leader really should stop smoking that wacky baccy. It’s all utter rubbish of course. The economy is not “growing at a faster rate than Australia” (except in Key’s fantasies) and rather than “closing that after-tax wage gap” – it’s actually been widening.

Worse than that, employers – with support from National  – are actively engaged in a “class war” against their own employees to lower wages and to destroy workers’ rights to bargain collectively through a  Union.

The lockout of AFFCO workers  and threat by Ports of Auckland Ltd to casualise and contract out their workforce is nothing more or less than a campaign to reduce wages and increase profits for shareholders.

So much for Key’s bizarre claim “we have been closing that after-tax wage gap“. (No wonder we trust politicians at the same level as used-car salesmen.)

Not a very pretty picture… and yet that is the future we seem to be creating for ourselves.

How do we go about undoing the last 27 years of free-market, monetarist obsession?

Do New Zealanders even want to?

We should care – quite a bit, in fact.

The more skilled (and semi-skilled) people we lose to another Geographic Area, the fewer taxpayers we have remaining here.  Those taxpayers would be the ones who would be paying for our retirement; our  pension; and caring for us in Retirement Homes up and down the country.

Which means, amongst other things, that we’d better start paying Rest Home workers a more generous wage rather than a paltry $13.61 an hour  –  or else we’ll be wiping our own drool from our mouths and sitting for hours on end in damp, cold, incontinence pads. Even semi-skilled workers contribute more to our society than we realise.

If we want to instill a sense of society in our children – instead of simply living in an “economy” or Geographic Area – then we had better start re-assessing our priorities and values.

We can start with simple things.

Like; children. What is more important; a tax-cut, or providing free health-care and nutritious meals at schools for all children?

(If your answer is “Tax cut” because feeding children is an Individual and not a  Social need, then you haven’t been paying attention.)

Children who are all well-fed and healthy tend to do better at school. They learn better. They succeed. And they go on to succeed in life.

But more importantly, if society as a whole looks after all children – irrespective of whether they were lucky enough to be born into a good family,  or unlucky to be born into a stressed family of poverty and despair – then those children may, in turn look after us in decades to come.

If we want our children to feel a part of a society – our society – then we have to instill that sense of society in them at an early age.

Who knows – instilling a sense of society in all our children may achieve other desirable goals; lower crime; lower imprisonment rates; an urge to contribute more to the community;  less family stress and divorce; stronger families; less community fragmentation and alienation…

We’ve tried everything else these past three decades – and things aren’t getting better.

The focus on materialism and Individualism has not delivered a better society, higher wages, or other beneficial social and economic outcomes. Instead, many of our fellow New Zealanders are turning away and going elsewhere for a better life.

Quite simply, if people are Voting with their feet, then this is a Vote of No Confidence in our country.

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Labour: the Economic Record 2000 – 2008

16 November 2011 49 comments

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There has been considerable commentary made by Labour’s critics and political opponents that Labour was an incompetant economic manager, during their nine year term in office. The reality, though, is somewhat different. There are many things that Labour did well and some not-so-well.

But the records speaks for itself.

The following is data, in the form of easily understandable graphs, from Trading Economics, an American website. They collect data from the IMF, World Bank, Statistics NZ,  the Reserve Bank of NZ, etc,  (the usual motley crew of subversive, left wing organisations) to compile their finished presentations.

Each category will be presented via two graphs. Eg,

“New Zealand GDP Growth Rate”

Graph 1: 2000 – 2011

Graph 2: 1990 – 2011

National was in power from 1990 to the end of 1999.

Labour governed from the beginning of 2000 to the end of 2008.

National took office After November 2008.

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New Zealand Population 1960 - 2011

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New Zealand Unemployment Rate

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New Zealand Unemployment Rate 2000 - 2011

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New Zealand Unemployment Rate 1990 - 2011

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Long-term unemployment (% of total unemployment) in New Zealand

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Some politicians use long-term unemployed as an election weapon, to win electoral support. However, despite their mis-use of the facts and figures, long-term unemployment was dropping in the last ten years. Not that certain politicians would admit it, though.

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Long Term Unemployment (% of Total Unemployment) in NZ 2000 - 2008

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Note how long-term unemployment rose in the late 1980s and spiked in the early to mid 1990s. Can we remember what happened to New Zealand in that time? The terms “Rogernomics” and “Ruthanasia” might jog our memories.

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Long Term Unemployment (% of Total Unemployment) in NZ 1990 - 2008

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New Zealand Employment

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New Zealand Employment 2000 - 2010

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New Zealand Employment 1990 - 2010

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New Zealand Government Debt To GDP

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Despite claims that Labour “spent up large” during their nine year term, the truth is completely different.  As the IMF data shows with crystal clarity, Labour paid down debt. It was not until National came to office that debt levels took of again.

It could be said, with considerable truth, that Finance Minister Michael Cullen ran the government accounts with a fiscal discipline that would make Scrooge sit up and take notice.

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New Zealand Government Debt To GDP 2000 - 2011

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The IMF data shows fairly well why Labour had such massive debt kevels to pay down. It was an inheritance from the previous Bolger-led National Government of the 1990s. (Though National were addressing that debt, the reduction slowed from 1997 onward.)

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New Zealand Government Debt To GDP 1990 - 2011

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New Zealand GDP

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One of the many “charges” made by neo-liberals against the Labour Party is that centre-left governments are poor stewards of the economy and are anti-business. Yet, the World Bank data below shows quite dramatically how well New Zealand’s economy fared in the 2000s. Our growth was such that a common complaint from business was a lack of skilled, experienced staff.

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New Zealand GDP 2000 - 2010

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The early 1990s were marked by “Ruthanasia” – a continuance of Roger Douglas’s extremist neo-liberal, free market policies. All socio-economic indicators worsened during Ruth Richardson’s tenure as Minister of Finance. The World Bank data below shows how New Zealand’s economy was practically crippled under the tender mercies of the New Right.

It was not till 2003, under Labour’s governance, that the economy began to grow.

As an aside, there were took tax cuts during the 1990s. Result: minimal benefit for the economy.

Labour increased taxes for top income earners in the early 2000s. Except for a short-term ‘dip’, the tax rise doesn’t seem to have impacted on the economy.

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New Zealand GDP 1990 - 2010

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New Zealand GDP per capita

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New Zealand GDP per capita 2000 - 2009

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New Zealand GDP per capita 1990 - 2009

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New Zealand Interest Rates

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New Zealand Interest Rates 2000 - 2011

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New Zealand Interest Rates 1990 - 2011

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New Zealand Inflation Rates

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New Zealand Inflation Rate 2000 - 2011

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New Zealand Inflation Rate 1990 - 2011

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New Zealand Current Account

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This is the bit which shows how much we sell overseas (export), compared to what we buy (import). Exports can be wool, timber,  fish, dairy products, company profits, etc. Imports can be fuel, consumer products, vehicles, raw materials, heavy machinary, etc. The shaded gray should be above the ‘O’ line, instead of below it.

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NZ Current Account 2000 - 2011

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NZ Current Account 1990 - 2011

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New Zealand Government Budget

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This graph is an interesting bit. When John Key and Bill English refer to the previous Labour government expanding State expenditure, this is what they are referring to. And they are correct – but only half correct. As per usual, they are telling you only half the truth – and leaving out the  next, important bit.

Look at the next graph below, 1990 – 2000.

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New Zealand Government Budget 2000 - 2011

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In the graph below, it is clear that the National government from the early to mid 1990s (commonly referred to as “Ruthanasia”) and in the late 1990s, consistantly cut back on expenditure. Some of you may recall horror stories of those times; ex psych patients living rough, in toilets, with no State-community support; market housing rentals; and hospital waiting lists far longer than anything we have today.

On 3 April 1998, Southland dairy farmer Colin Morrison (42) died on a waiting list, awaiting a triple heart bypass surgery. In death, Mr Morrison symbolised everything that was terribly wrong with the health system in the late 1990s.  Public anger mounted as an unpopular government seemed unable to respond to concerns that our public services were being run down in the name of “efficiency”.

Little wonder that there was a 11.55% swing toward Labour in the 1999 General election – the electorate had had a gutsful of neoliberal policies resulting in growing inequality and social problems that seemingly went unheeded.  Contrasts

That is the reason why Labour spent so much during it’s term: to make up for the lack of social spending in the 1990s, and to meet growing public clamour for social services to be better resourced.

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New Zealand Government Budget 1990 - 2011

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Cash surplus/deficit (% of GDP) in New Zealand

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Contrary to the fantasies of some history-revisionists, trying to paint the previous Labour Government as “bankrupting the country”, Cullen actually posted some fairly respectable surpluses.

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Cash surplus-deficit (percent of GDP) in New Zealand

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New Zealand Sovereign Credit Ratings

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The following data-sheet shows New Zealand’s credit downgrades from 1977, when Rob Muldoon was Prime Minister, to the present.

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)

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Source

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New Zealand Prison Population trend since 1980

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The prison sentenced population demonstrates continuous and steady growth since 1986. The seasonal pattern of reduced numbers toward the end of each year is well established, and reflects the influence of the prisoner Christmas release policy 1 , as well as cycles of activity involving Police and the Courts. Notable is the sharp upturn in numbers which commenced in mid-2003, continuing through to June 2007.

Source

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A closer look at the period 1962 to 1996. Note the huge ‘spike’ in the prison population from 1986 onwards. Except for occassional dips, the prison population has continued to rise steadily since the mid-1980s.

It cannot be a coincidence that New Zealand’s entire socio-economic fabric was unravelled and “reformed” in a process commonly referred to as “Rogernomics”. The process of “economic reform” continued  into the 1990s, referred to as “Ruthanasia”, up until 1996.

The prison population, though, continued to rise.

The ongoing effects of “Rogernomics/Ruthansia” are ongoing to the present day.

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Total prison population 1962 to 1996

Source

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[This page still under construction – more data to follow. Keep checking back for more info.]

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