Former National Prime Minister Jim Bolger has admitted Neoliberalism was a mistake. It is music to the ears. May he be the first of many to recant.
It would be churlish (but tempting) to point out that the Alliance Party and others warned at the time that Neoliberalism would be a mistake. Neoliberalism, we said, would lead to poverty, inequality, and unaffordable housing and all the social problems associated with this.
The Left was right. But now is not the time to gloat. Too much damage has been done. Now is the time to talk about how to clean up the mess the Neoliberals have left us.
Poverty is a political choice. The Neoliberals chose, albeit unwittingly in some cases, to have a significant proportion of the population live in poverty so that a few could enjoy an extremely affluent lifestyle. This must be redressed urgently.
The settlement of the equal pay claim for care workers strikes a major blow for impoverished workers. There will be a flow-on effect to other low-paid sectors. This is essential. Everyone needs a liveable income. Any government that cared about the people it represents would recognise this and immediately increase the minimum wage to a living wage, and increase benefits to a liveable level.
Any government that cared about the people it represents would immediately move to deal with excessive salaries by refusing to procure services from any organization where the highest salary was more than 12 times the salary of the lowest paid worker. And it would adjust the tax system by raising the highest tax bracket to further deter excessive salaries and excessive profiteering by the privileged few.
Relativity is irrelevant. Everyone makes a valued contribution – even if they are not in traditionally paid work. A person’s pay packet in no way indicates their worth to society or their level of skills or the effort they put into their work. Once pay gets beyond a reasonable level it simply indicates the recipient’s level of self-absorption, greed, and lack of respect for everyone else.
Poverty is a political choice. Any government that refuses to share the wealth equitably and fails to ensure that everyone has a liveable income chooses to inflict poverty. Acknowledging this is the first step in cleaning up the mess the Neoliberals left behind.