30 Years of GST is 30 Years Too Many

The 1st of October 2016 marked 30 years since Roger Douglas and his Labour government dropped the tax rate for New Zealand’s wealthy from 66% to 48% (and later 33%) and gave the rest of us GST.

GST was a bad idea in 1996 and it is an even worse idea today. It means that everything we pay money for is 15% more expensive than it needs to be – from doctors visits, to prescription charges, to school uniforms, to food. Continue reading

International Basic Income Week

Monday 19th September to Sunday 25th September is International Basic Income Week. A universal basic income (UBI) can perhaps best be described as a social dividend for the modern world, generated by all the work that has been done by previous generations to build the technology and infrastructure and develop the society we live in today.

The basic tenets of the unconditional/universal basic income are that everyone is entitled to receive this dividend on an individual basis. UBI is independent of marital status or household configuration. As a human right, UBI does not depend on any preconditions, such as an obligation to look for paid employment or to be involved in community service. Nor is it means tested. Everyone gets it whether they are in paid work or not. And the amount should provide for a decent standard of living. It should prevent poverty and provide the opportunity to participate in society and to live in dignity. Continue reading

When Good Money Goes Bad

Debt is bad. Saving is good. Or so we are told. The government has been squirrelling taxpayers money away to invest via the Superannuation Fund. It has also been squirrelling away money from ACC levies to invest for the future.

To encourage us to save, most New Zealanders have had at least 3% of their weekly wages spirited away into a Kiwisaver fund. Employers have contributed another 3% per week.

It is doubtful whether anyone really knows what happens to all this money when it leaves our pockets / pay packets. The main goal is to accrue interest, use the money to make more money. This used to be called usury and was considered immoral in many religions, including Christianity. Continue reading

Immigration – Refugees Not Richlisters

Immigration is not the ‘issue’ – our government’s approach to it is. Over the past few decades our politicians in their wisdom have decided to apply the neoliberal trickle down theory to immigration. According to neoliberal theory, the ideal immigrants to New Zealand would be the wealthy.

So successive governments have gone to great lengths to encourage people with large sums of money to invest to come and live here. Their wealth was supposed to trickle down and provide jobs and income for the rest of us. Continue reading

Affordable Housing – There’s No Nice Way To Do It

The old saying “you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs” pretty much sums up the affordable housing debate. There is no ‘nice’ way to make housing affordable again.

Higher density housing is a red herring. Anyone thinking of going down that path should have to spend a month on some of the English high rise housing estates or the high rise ‘affordable’ housing on the outskirts of most major cities of the world. High rise is best left to the wealthy who want to live in the inner city to make the most of the vibrant nightlife, cafés and restaurants, and harbour views. They can afford safe, well-built, well-maintained apartments.

House prices are high. Wages are low. It just doesn’t work, no matter how you spin it. To get affordable housing, the prices of houses will have to drop, and drop by a lot. Continue reading

Fair Trade Agreements Are The Way Of The Future

Many New Zealanders have spent the best part of the last two years fighting that misnamed “free trade” agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), with no end in sight. And now we have its spawn, TISA (Trades In Services Agreement) and PACER-Plus (a Pacific free trade and investment agreement covering 14 Pacific Island countries, plus Australia and New Zealand), to contend with. The Europeans have their equivalent in the TTIP, and they don’t like it any more than we do. Continue reading

Time For Coalition To Show Willing

The master of spin, Prime Minister John Key, has fired the first shots across the bow of the opposition parties. His quip to the media about “the coalition of the unwilling” will set the tone for the 2017 election and destroy the credibility of the opposition unless they move swiftly to prove him wrong and demonstrate that the wider left can work together. Continue reading

Brexit: Know Your Enemy

The British people are struggling. They are hurting. And they have lashed out in the only way open to them right now – voting to leave the European Union.

Like New Zealand, Britain has never recovered since neoliberalism popped up, seemingly out of the blue, and caught us unawares in the Thatcher years (Rogernomics in our case). Under neoliberalism, cunning corporates managed to get the rules changes so that the rich get richer, those in the middle get poorer, and the poor miss out altogether. Continue reading

Dunedin’s Private Public Hospital?

Dunedin Public Hospital is in line for a much needed $300 million revamp. It has recently been revealed (ODT Sat 11 June) that potential tenderers have been told by the Ministry of Health that a public private partnership (PPP) should be considered.

The question is why? Why would the government get a private corporation to borrow money for the costs of the revamp as well as build it? Then repay this corporation the costs of construction, plus the cost of borrowing the money, plus a generous profit margin for both. Surely it is cheaper for the government to pay for the costs of construction itself. And it would have far greater control over the rebuild, albeit with greater public accountability. Continue reading