Friday, May 21, 2010

Pooh-like Musings on the Budget

No nation is an island. The American stock-market weakens as the European monetary crisis deepens. A Grecian sneeze, a German freeze, and round the world financiers watch and worry how to break out of a tailspin.

Never mind. We have a budget that in the Dominion Post headlines says ‘lollies’ for all.’ Bunkum! Acid drops for the poor. Swiss chocolates for the rich. The paper’s figures – which are probably based upon statistics supplied from Bill English’s office – assume the rich will spend their tax cuts and thus increase the GST coffers.

Why should they? They’ll squirrel some of it away. Spend some of it overseas. Find further tax loopholes. Meanwhile those at the other end of the scale will be hard-pressed to retain present standards of living. Everyday things will be more expensive. What and where do I cut down?

And what about local body rates? That issue will figure large in this year’s forthcoming elections.

The budget could have worse. Sir Roger would have us cutting government expenditure much more. Rodney would have us ignoring climate change. There is belt-tightening but it not as bad as some had been predicting. The drip-feeding of increased taxes has been skilfully managed.

Let’s face it. The budget flies the flag of National’s true blue colours. Labour on the whole is the party of redistribution on humane grounds. National is traditionally less inclined to be so charitable. The boundaries are blurred. Labour has its aberrations like Sir Roger in the 1980s. National has always had its Coates and Talboys, even Muldoon with his appeal to the battlers. The centre is the ground either party wants to gain and retain. I suspect – in the short term at least – this budget will not erode National’s occupation of that ground. Though the Maori party’s commitment will be tested.

So this government was reverting to type. Two comments have got up my nose this year. The first was Paula Bennet’s comment to beneficiaries to stop dreaming. I thought that was offensive. The safety net for the deserving is always going to provide support for some who are undeserving. That’s the nature of life. But to say it’s the dream of the majority… I thought it a demeaning comment.

The other was John Key’s comment about jealousy. I am not and have never been jealous of the rich. That is their lot, their luck, their effort. I am critical of those who use their power to destroy the savings of the small investor. But I do not buy into the politics of envy.

All I want is a decent deal. I’ve paid my taxes down the years. A commentator asks why his taxes should be helping dole-bludgers? They also help pay teachers, nurses, surgeons, surveyors, immigration officers, the list is long. OK, he’ll have more take home pay, much more than the people who collect his garbage. They provide a more essential service than his.

Most of the education vote seems to be for building. That’s good. Kids need the best possible environment. It provides a stimulus to the building trade and shows the government achieving something. But teacher salaries? I’ve long argued teachers deserve better pay. You get what you pay for. The Government will say tax cuts are in lieu of increased salaries. It appears to have backed off confrontation over class sizes. Turmoil over the implementation of standard achievement tests is probably enough to cope with. Return us to power in 2011 and we’ll bring in performance pay.

It seems to me that is the crux of this Budget – keeping power for a second term at least.

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