Hard News by Russell Brown

The who-the-hell-knows debate

I really wish this election hadn't turned into a bidding war. That it has means Labour is heading in a direction with which I'm not entirely comfortable, and National is making spending assumptions I seriously doubt it can meet.

I'm not sure how many people watched Campbell Live last night, but it was quite sobering. Gareth Morgan bleakly declared that either party's promises might be enough to prompt the long-awaited housing market crash, with National's carrying slightly more inflation risk than Labour's.

On the same programme, Rod Oram doubted that National's budget numbers added up. He said that National had assessed every risk on the down side, noting that John Key was assuming substantial savings in Social Welfare spending at the same time as he backed policy (work for the dole) that will, any way you dice it increase costs, in the short term at the very least.

This annoys me. If they're going to have shithouse policies like work for the dole and abolition of parole, I think it would be polite for them to properly provide for them, and I don't think they have. Michael Cullen is already claiming that the compulsory bulk funding policy has not been properly allowed for, and that National, after promising a roading bonanza, has quietly halved Labour's transport spending.

This morning's Herald editorial also concludes with a thought on National's saving assumptions:

Party leader Don Brash and finance spokesman John Key are confident they can find sufficient savings but voters might be more wary. It is never a good idea to accept tax cuts from politicians who have not yet cut their cloth accordingly. Tax cuts are the easy side of the equation; expenditure cuts come with a cost to political popularity and, depending on their timing, they can carry an economic cost, too. Labour is bound to challenge the fiscal responsibility of yesterday's largesse; voters have four weeks to assess whether National would have the backbone to balance the ledger.

Technically (and perhaps even philosophically) speaking, National's plan is tidier than Labour's; or would be if there weren't so many rebates and this and that (we're supposed to factor the carbon tax into family incomes?). And the delay in cutting the business tax rate doesn't make sense in light of their rhetoric for the past three years. A National victory wouldn't mean a so-called strategic deficit or anything of the like, although government debt would rise under National. (By $11.5 billion, according to Jordan Carter, but I'm damned if I can tell.) This assumes, of course, that National's coalition partner would let it all happen.

Anyway, in keeping with the who-the-hell-knows tone of the argument, Frogblog has updated its tax comparison table to find that its sample family is better off with Labour all the way up to an annual household income of $70,000, and DPF is busily demonstrating all the ways that people would be better off under National. (Personally speaking, with a home-based business and one PAYE earner in the house, our household income is a mystery best unravelled by our accountant, but I don't see a sufficient degree of self-interest to sway me either way, even if I was so minded.)

I switched over to the leaders' debate on TV One after the Campbell Live discussion. My God, what a depressing spectacle that was. If they're going to allow the crowd to be packed by the party faithful, they should make them shut up, at least while the participants are speaking. I thought Brash had slightly the better of what I saw, but looking at the video this morning, Clark clearly nailed the opening exchange on tax and spending. It's all here on TVNZ's leaders' debate page.

Elsewhere, there's a stonking new Fundy Post, which catches Weekend Herald columnist Sandra Paterson parroting Maxim Institute talking points even more slavishly than usual.

God I think I need a Daily Show clip.