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Posts Tagged ‘taxes’

National and the Cult of Buck-Passing

22 December 2012 12 comments

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said no teacher ever 2

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Successive National governments have had a problem.

New Zealanders, like all other human beings, don’t like paying taxes.  National, like all other right wing political parties, are only too happy to oblige  and try to cut taxes at every opportunity. They did this in 2009 and a  year later in 2010. (Though recently they have been sneakily raising indirect taxes wherever possible. See: Parents face burden of preschool squeezeTax hikes disguised as reinvestment’,   Petrol, road charges hikes are ‘bad news‘)

But at the same time, New Zealanders love their tax-payer funded social services. Whether it be free hospitals; highly-subsidised medicines, nearly-free education; free roading, etc. Quite simply, we like the “goodies” that are expected of a developed, First World nation.

What we don’t like are governments that attempt to tinker with, and cut-back, on our state-provided social services.

Which is where Miniaster of Education, Hekia Parata, has gone disastrously wrong.

Her first “crime” was the announced – discovered, more like – policy just after the Budget was released on 24 May. It did not take long before a cunning plan for teacher cuts and larger class sizes, buried deep within the Budget, was uncovered,

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Schools face teacher cuts threat

Full story

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The uproar from parents, teachers, principals, school boards, and others throughout the community was such that the policy was literally ‘gone by lunchtime, two weeks later,

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Backlash forces Government class size U-turn

Full story

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Parents and sector workers were no fools. They knew precisely what this cash-strapped “government” was trying to do.  National had already reached into the pockets of paper-delivery children, to extract taxes from them. (See:  Budget 2012: ‘Paper boy tax’ on small earnings stuns Labour)

National had previously blown billions in it’s 2009/2010 tax cuts (see:  Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting) and they were now gearing up to recoup those losses by cutting back on State services.

This was pure, unadulterated, and re-cycled National Party policy from the 1990s. Who remembers National’s attempt in 1991, to implement a User-Pays charge of $50 per day in hospitals, up to a maximum of ten days? (See: Teara – Funding public hospitals) The policy was hugely unpopular and failed because New Zealanders simply refused to pay it.

The classroom-teacher debacle was the first of several major crises (I refuse to call them “issues”) to confront Hekia Parata and her Ministry.

Others included,

  • the ongoing Novopay fiasco
  • the enforced amalgamation/closures of 30+ Christchurch schools, using data that was discovered to be hopelessly wrong,
  • the attempt to force closure of Salisbury School, which would have placed special-needs female students in a male school, and making them potential victims of sexual abuse (See:  Parata did not heed warning over closure),
  • Ministry of Education suggestions that misleading information be given in respect to Official Information Act requests about Christchurch school closures. (See: Education ministry criticism ‘serious‘)

It seems fairly clear that Parata has wilfully ignored the advice of her own officials and failed to consult with parents, teachers, and others in local communities. The result has been a growing dillusionment and enmity between Parata and her constituents.

The problems became so great; coming one after another in over-lapping succession; and seemingly increasing in intensity, that Parata eventually ceased to front up to the media.

Instead, it was left to bureacrat, Education Secretary Lesley Longstone, to answer for the Education Minister,

Education Minister Hekia Parata declined an interview with Campbell Live last night. Instead, the ministry’s chief executive Lesley Longstone fronted, and admitted mistakes had been made – though defended the ministry’s processes.

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Lesley Longstone - John Campbell - TV3 - Ministry for Education - Campbell Live - Hekia Parata

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Hekia Parata could no longer answer to the public without appearing to be hopelessly ineffective in her own portfolio.

As a Minister, she seemed utterly out of her depth and this blogger strongly suspects that she has been given instructions from on high (Steven Joyce?) to steer clear of the media.

The untreated human effluent finally hit the fan when Ms Longstone became the “patsy”, falling on Parata’s sword as a political sacrificial ewe.   Only about thirteen months into a five year contract, Ms Longstone is leaving New Zealand with her tail firmly between her legs. (See:  Education Secretary Lesley Longstone resigns )

One doubts she will be in a hurry to return, even to savour the delights of the  touristy-destination of  “Middle Earth New Zealand”.

During this crisis, Parata was again nowhere to be seen. The resignation and resultant media conference was handled by State Services Commissioner, Iain Rennie (along with a blond “Minder”, wearing copious quantities of red lippy, standing anxiously in the background),

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State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie announces Longstone's resignation

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So to re-cap,

  1. Parata has stuffed up at least half a dozen critical problems impacting on her ministerial portfolio,
  2. She has succeeded in alienating almost all her constituents,
  3. When she could no longer function effectively as a Minister, nor field media queries, she dumped the whole stinking mess into Longstone’s lap,
  4. The  entangled mess of problems were such that Ms Longstone was unable to cope. Her overseas background and lack of knowledge of New Zealand society and politics was probably one of her greatest handicaps,
  5. Longstone finally had a gutsful and bailed. (And who on Earth could possibly blame her?!)
  6. And Parata was still nowhere to be seen – instead dumping the mess into yet another lap; Iain Rennie.

Talk about dodging responsibility and passing the buck!

So what was our Esteemed Dear Leader doing during this crisis?

Apparently, he was busy,

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See also: Key puts dancing ahead of explaining

Buck-passing – best done as a group National thing.

Considering that Ms Longstone’s resignation was known in advance – with State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie confirming Longstone resignation was made two to three weeks ago – it defies belief that Key was goofing around on radio stations that morning.

It occurs to this blogger that John Key no longer wants the highest job in the land. We saw a hint of this earlier in the year, in May, when he told children at Holy Family School in Porirua East,

Frankly, the way it’s going at the moment you can have the job“.

See: John Key’s midterm blues?

I’m sure there are many people in this country who would love to see someone else take Key’s job.

As  for Hekia Parata, this blogger is ambivalent about her resigning her portfolio.

A new Minister would simply take up the reins and pursue current National Party policies. Perhaps with a new vigour. That would be of no help to this country whatsoever.

Parata’s presence as Minister of Education has an ongoing “benefit” of focusing on the ideological nuttiness of National’s education “reforms”.

National’s education portfolio is a mess because National’s policies are, in themselves, a mess.

Why take away a constant reminder of National’s failings, by sacking one of it’s most inept Ministers?

Why put a fresh, new, clean face on a cesspit of problematic policies?

Why let the Nats off the hook?

Let Parata stay. It will give voters something to think about in 2014 (if not earlier).

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Addendum

National seems to have a dodgy track-record when it comes to losing highly skilled, talented, managerial staff,

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Work and Income boss quits

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And of course we had the recent extraordinary spectacle of Canadian ex-Supreme Court Judge, Ian Binnie, being publicly derided and humiliated by Justice Minister Judith Collins – despite Justice Binnie being invited by National to oversee an indepent review of the Bain case   (See:  Bain could have an enemy in the Beehive).

At this rate, the most highly skilled and experienced professionals and civil servants will think twice before coming to New Zealand to take up government contracts. Like some evil Master Mind in a James Bond story,

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Dr Evil John Key

“National does not tolerate failure, Ms Longstone. Would you like a Speights or water with your Professional Cyanide Pill?”

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References

Dominion Post: Schools face teacher cuts threat

Fairfax media: Backlash forces Government class size U-turn

Radio NZ: Education ministry criticism ‘serious

NZ herald: Work and Income boss quits

Radio NZ: Education Ministry head resigns

Dominion Post: Key puts dancing ahead of explaining

NZ Herald: Is Parata next?

Fairfax media: Education secretary quits

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A refrigerator!?!? “F**k the Poor!”

5 April 2012 3 comments

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Jon Stewart sums up why the poor should for pay for everything. And why taxing the “productive class” is simply unthinkable…

Yeah, right.

Enjoy!

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Genius!

Two questions spring to mind;

  1. Why don’t we have clever satirists like that here in New Zealand? (Bomber Bradbury comes pretty damn close)
  2. Why can’t we have Jon Stewart  for a Prime Minister?
  3. How many right wingers can stay right wing after watching that?

(Ok, that was three. I snuck one in.)

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= fs =

Silly Idea # 341,907,774

26 August 2011 56 comments

Floating cities: PayPal billionaire plans to build a whole new libertarian colony off the coast of San Francisco

  • Ocean state would have no welfare, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons
  • Platforms would house 270 people and hundreds could eventually join together

PayPal-founder Peter Thiel was so inspired by Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand’s novel about free-market capitalism – that he’s trying to make its title a reality.

The Silicon Valley billionaire has funnelled $1.25million to the Seasteading Institute, an organisation that aspires to launch a floating colony into international waters, freeing them and like-minded thinkers to live by libertarian ideals.

Mr Thiel recently told Details magazine: ‘The United States Constitution had things you could do at the beginning that you couldn’t do later. So the question is, can you go back to the beginning of things? How do you start over?’

Life on the ocean wave: A design for one of the floating cities which Peter Thiel wants to start constructing next year off the coast of San Francisco

Green land: An aerial view of the city, complete with landcaped gardens. Mr Thiel believes many of the islands could eventually be joined together

Design for living: This island even has a high-level helicopter pad. The cities would be constructed on oil-rig like terminals

The floating sovereign nations that Mr Thiel imagines would be built on oil-rig-like platforms anchored in areas free of regulation, laws, and moral conventions.

The Seasteading Institute says it will ‘give people the freedom to choose the government they want instead of being stuck with the government they get’.

Mr Theil, the venture capitalist who famously helped Facebook expand beyond the Harvard campus, called Seasteading an ‘open frontier for experimenting with new ideas for government’.

After making his first investment in the project in 2008, Mr Thiel said: ‘Decades from now, those looking back at the start of the century will understand that Seasteading was an obvious step towards encouraging the development of more efficient, practical public sector models around the world.

‘We’re at a fascinating juncture: the nature of government is about to change at a very fundamental level.’

Light city: Peter Thiel called the project, Seasteading, an ‘open a frontier for experimenting with new ideas for government’

Mr Thiel and his colleagues say their ocean state would have no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons.

Mr Thiel said: 'the nature of government is about to change at a very fundamental level'

Aiming to have tens of millions of residents by 2050, the Seasteading Institute says architectural plans for a prototype involve a movable, diesel-powered structure with room for 270 residents.

The long-term plan would be to have dozens and eventually hundreds of the platforms linked together.

Patri Friedman, a former Google engineer who is working on the project told Details that they hope to launch a flotilla of offices off the San Francisco coast next year.

‘Big ideas start as weird ideas,’ Mr Friedman said.

He predicted that full-time settlement will follow in about seven years.

But while some Ayn Rand acolytes may think the idea is brilliant, it’s not without its critics.

Margaret Crawford, an expert on urban planning and a professor of architecture at Berkeley, told Details: ‘it’s a silly idea without any urban-planning implications whatsoever.’

Big ideas: A close-up of how one of the islands could look. The billionaire founder of Paypal has invested $1.25million to create a floating island utopia

Mr Thiel told an audience at the Seasteading Institute Conference in 2009 that: ‘There are quite a lot of people who think it’s not possible.

‘That’s a good thing. We don’t need to really worry about those people very much, because since they don’t think it’s possible they won’t take us very seriously. And they will not actually try to stop us until it’s too late.’

I fully support founding such a colony. In fact, I’ll donate $100 for a (one way) ticket for Don Brash to migrate there.

I’ve suggested – on several occassions – that neo-liberals who want to live in a free-market, minimalist government, zero-tax, user-pays society have just such a country to migrate to: Somalia.

Somalia is perfect and meets their criteria in every respect.

Of course, as part of user-pays, they would have to pay for their own security; their own private police force. And why shouldn’t they? After all, why should other taxpayers pay for protection of someone elses’ property, in a User Pays nirvana?

Strangely enough, as far as I’m aware, no neo-lib has ever taken up my offer.

And stranger even still, neo-libs seem to prefer living in New Zealand; a country built on collective efforts by it’s citizens to build up every aspect of present day society; electricity sector, education, railways, health, roading, police, bridges, libraries, etc. Even telecommunications, airlines, and television started off as tax-payer funded services. All paid by our taxes.

Private enterprise was focused on providing citizens with supermarkets, clothing, shoes (once upon a time), and other consumer goods. It was a good balance.

“Mr Thiel and his colleagues say their ocean state would have no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons.”

No minimum wage? But… who would clean their toilets?

No building codes? On a free-standing oceanic city? Oh, I can see that working… not.

Few restrictions on weapons. I can see gun nuts loving that. Including gentlemen like Anders Behring Breivik, David Gray, Martin Bryant, et al.

Call me cynical, but I doubt if Peter Thiel’s  ‘Seasteading’ project will succeed. For one thing, human nature is involved – and as we all know, human nature can be a bugger of a thing to deal with.

Secondly, what happens if Thiel’s ‘island’ gets in trouble? Perhaps struck by a hurricane? Will the Seasteaders expect rescue from the international community? And will they be willing to PAY for assistance? (User pays, of course.)

The article further states,

“The Seasteading Institute says it will ‘give people the freedom to choose the government they want instead of being stuck with the government they get’.”

Uh oh. That sounds perilously close to that pesky concept popularly know as “de-mo-cra-cy”. Damned dangerous, that “de-mo-cra-cy”. What happens if, in time, the population of ‘Seastead’ elect a government that is more interventionist?

Will Thiel then build another libertarian community? To get away from the first ‘Seastead’, taken over over “leftists”?

Personally, I think Somalia would still be a cheaper option.

Let’s be honest here, though.

This is about one thing: money. Thiel wants to keep as much of his money as possible and not pay taxes.  There may be other, immensely wealthy individuals, who feel lifewise.

Well, I say “good luck” to them. Let them set up their little sovereign “Island State”. Let them learn the hard way that a functioning, balanced,  society involves more than just having a bloated bank balance. A dynamic society is a collection of mutually supporting groups and individuals – not just a handful of wealthy people.

My guess is that this little “Profit Paradise” will not last long. Nor will it be self-sufficient. And, the inhabitants will still want to spend (most of) their time on the US mainland, socialising, doing business, and all the other things that the rest of us enjoy.  Their Island State will be nothing more than a taxation “bolthole”; a floating bank account.

And herein lies the dishonesty of such an idea.

But if billionaires want to spend their entire lives on such an Island, and not leave, then they are welcome to it.  Imagine being forced to live your life in one little area; never leaving; and associating only with others of your ilk.

It’s called “prison”.