Over-balancing the Books

Good news, of sorts; the nation’s books balance, even over-balance. It transpires there is a spare $1.8 billion left in the coffers, according to our Minister of Finance Bill English.

If running our nation were a business, this would be a great success. But it is not a business. Our government’s job is not to make a profit. Our government’s job is to manage our collective wealth in a way that benefits everyone who lives here. Underspending has dire consequences. Continue reading

Likely Outcome Of Outcomes Model: Social Disaster

Our social services focused government departments have recently moved to an Outcomes Model. The Outcomes Model is supposed to result in improved efficiency and greater accountability from service providers. This should mean the government gets better value for its investment. Sounds good in theory. However, in the context of our neoliberal political environment, the Outcomes Model has the potential for social disaster.

Neoliberal governments are wedded to austerity and desperate to reduce social spending. It is couched in other terms, but the purpose for the change to the Outcomes Model is clear; the desired outcome is that people no longer use social services. Continue reading

Housing 101 – Back to Basics

The United Nations Charter states in article 25 of its Universal Declaration of Human Rights that “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and necessary social services”.

Any discussion on housing needs to start from the premise that adequate housing has been identified as a basic human right. Housing, whether rented or owned, needs to be affordable for everyone. Houses are for people to live in, to provide shelter, not a way to make money. Continue reading

New Zealanders Don’t Like Inequality But They Vote For It

New Zealanders don’t like inequality. Nigel Latta’s programme on inequality on TV1 recently drew so many donations for the people featured on the programme that he has had to start a trust to deal with the excess funds. Every time Campbell Live on TV3 runs a programme about someone down on their luck the donations come pouring in. The programme raised many times the amount needed for a young boy’s orthodontics; a family whose house was attacked by termites were given enough for a new home. The list goes on.

When confronted by concrete examples of the effects of inequality on people’s lives i.e. people not able to afford the necessities of life out of their own income, New Zealanders dig into their pockets and try to make things right. We want everyone to have a fair go, to have a decent life.

What gets lost, though, is the connection between politics and inequality. Continue reading

Three Cheers for Tax and Spend!

Our Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce cries “tax and spend” like it’s a bad thing. But that makes no sense. What other option does a government have?

Tax is virtually the only source of income for our government and is used to pay for the things we all benefit from; the justice system, transport, education, health, social security, science and innovation, trade development, even Mr Joyce’s own salary and that of the departments he is responsible for. Personal taxes provide the largest portion of this income. Continue reading