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Speaker: Honest Bastards & Dishonest Cowards

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  • Russell Brown,

    In New Zealand the vaunted Cullen surplus run in the first decade of the 21st century occurred in the boom period, ending immediately after the GFC took hold. It’s manifestly clear that, post-GFC, we are nowhere near the domestic or international stability which produced those past results.

    But it is also true that in paying down net government debt to around zero – and launching a remarkably successful superannuation fund – Cullen left New Zealand better set to weather the GFC than most other developed countries. Voters are entitled to like that kind of stewardship.

    Unfortunately, Labour frittered away the chance to campaign on stewardship by giving the impression it had lost the ability to do it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22817 posts Report Reply

  • Mikaere Curtis,

    Labour need to do what National did so well - identify weaknesses in the government, research which frames resonate with voters and then have a coordinated campaign of describing the government using these resonant frames.

    National are a horrible government, with many, many issues that can be used to provide effective frames.

    None of this is rocket science, it's about connecting the voters to the issues, but it is *not* about explaining in detail.

    Simple concepts like national want to remove worker's job security, they love to bribe Big Business, or they are all about transferring wealth to the wealthy.

    While they can (and should) frame perceptions of the government even while they are a divided party, they still need to get their act together because voters really are suckers for competence and unity.

    Tamaki Makaurau • Since Nov 2006 • 528 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    We've become quite good at spotting what's wrong with Labour, but not very good at agreeing on what they should do now. Not surprisingly, since the wrongs are in the past, fixed items of consideration, but the future has unlimited possibilities. It's also particularly hard for progressive parties compared to conservative ones, because the conservative agenda does not change much - it's by definition "staying the course", but with the marketing flavour of "harsh but effective". Whereas progressive groups have to think of alternative courses, or at least pretend that they are, and their flavour is usually more along the lines of "affordably compassionate", even when they actually aren't, quite frequently.

    I also think we have a lot of seeing the past through the prism of our wishes, rather than seeing it as it was. We can invent entire narratives to explain the left/right political waves washing on the shores of the present, finding all sorts of particular explanations for the underlying mechanism of the endless left-to-right swing.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to BenWilson,

    We've become quite good at spotting what's wrong with Labour, but not very good at agreeing on what they should do now.

    Another more radical view (and I'm trying to play devil's advocate here) might be that Labour is simply past its time, at the very least in its current form.

    It's necessary to go back to the early 1930s to find a time when Labour and National weren't the two dominant political parties. That's 80 years ago, so an election and parliament that's not dominated by Blue versus Red opposing each other is beyond living memory for nearly everyone, but that doesn't mean things can't change again. Is it possible that we're just all too tied down to thinking that Labour has to succeed or there's no hope of challenging the government?

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Of course. The other thing the Clark government did was to encourage (to some degree, at least not prevent) finance companies to take on a secondary banking role, which meant that the inevitable banking crashes were ring-fenced away from the real banks, and there was no systemic impact. This kept the costs to the treasury in the <$2bln range (even that could have been avoided if they'd let the "dumb and mad" investors taken the losses rather than allowing South Canterbury etc into a compensation scheme meant for real banks).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • bob daktari, in reply to BenWilson,

    We've become quite good at spotting what's wrong with Labour, but not very good at agreeing on what they should do now.

    I think the single thing labour need do is to offer up a vision of hope, hope to those so utterly devastated by this govt policies and those stuck in the middle watching their lifestyles crumble (but house prices go ballistic)

    Engage, empower and excite

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 540 posts Report Reply

  • Stuart Munro,

    I think that while the obvious example of Greece is dominating the news the utterly treasonous irresponsibility of National's 'policy' needs to be highlighted and ridiculed. That Stuff should print the arrant fantasy that the Gnats have somehow achieved a surplus by massive borrowing should be contested. We are going the same way as Greece, and people need to hear it. Real unemployment is at Greek levels - subtract fulltime workers from working age population - it's not 5% or so the way the Gnats pretend. More like 50%.

    Seoul • Since May 2014 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to izogi,

    I agree that's a possibility, and that the 30s are a period to look to for at least some possibilities and glimpses of the future. It's hard to do that without Godwinning any discussion, of course, but that in itself should be cause for pause about thinking we're all good right now.

    One thing I've thought since the GFC began is that in the 30s the Labour movement was not a no-brainer as the only direction progressive economics could take. The Social Credit version of economics had at least some hold then and for many decades later, and it was quite a different view of how to reconcile capitalism with socialism. It was a view that might have been ahead of its time then, because it envisaged not a world of work for everyone to more fairly distribute the social product (the way Marxism seems to), but instead a world where work itself was becoming less and less necessary, and that a fairer future was to acknowledge that humanity as a whole had reached a point where reducing the amount of human labour for everyone is a very real possibility. Obviously reduced human labour has been something the rich have enjoyed forever, and the impoverished have endured in a more punitive form. It was a vision of a human future of self actualization without punitive economic coercion. It was not, however, an anti-capitalist view. Quite the opposite, it projected that massive industrial organisations would be headed by super wealthy people getting massive riches from doing more and more at every opportunity to cut human effort out of the loop, to flood the world with economic production done in the most efficient manner possible.

    My feeling is that it failed because it was too progressive. In the 30s the world simply did not believe that such an organization was possible, and the idea of valuing human labour as the prime economic driver appealed to communists and capitalist alike, and those two groups were the most powerful because the model of working for money had been long established. The working classes don't have much money but there are a lot of them. The rich have tons of money but not many people. The people left out entirely by this model are probably bigger than both of those groups now, though. But they're not well organized because they don't organize themselves around class warfare and its corollary - international war. They're not built for war at all, they're built for a future that just hasn't happened yet.

    A future in which the model for humans is self-actualization rather than wealth accumulation is one that has obvious appeal to anyone whose economic contributions under the current model leave them powerless. Also people who find the idea of a life grubbing for money endlessly to be an incredible waste of human potential. And finally people who are simply content with very little (a growing number, as "very little" is a whole lot more than what it was in the 30s).

    Our endless obsession with unemployment and growth seem to me major roadblocks to us every getting our heads around a future in which unemployment might be normal, and growth could still be phenomenal. Our system pits all of humanity against itself in a scramble to do the few remaining real jobs that cater to providing the basic needs of people, squandering our incredible potential to do everything else that humans might value. There is so much art, science, literature, hobbies, and entertainments that we could be getting on with.

    Not that we aren't getting on with them. Lots of people do, we live in incredible times. But lots also can't, because of this endless obsession with them earning a crust. We've generated real misery with our system for huge numbers of people to no purpose at all. We could stop doing that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Grant McDougall, in reply to bob daktari,

    I think the single thing labour need do is to offer up a vision of hope, hope to those so utterly devastated by this govt policies and those stuck in the middle watching their lifestyles crumble (but house prices go ballistic)

    Hear, hear. Labour also needs to stick to its knitting. It needs to focus on the fundamentals - employment, welfare, health, education, housing, etc. Instead, there is a perception, rightly or wrongly, that it has been too focused on "identity politics", "political correctness", "minority issues", etc.
    Unfortunately, such things are not vote winners. There is nothing wrong with these issues unto themselves, but they lack broad appeal.
    They may have some appeal in Grey Lynn, but they sure as hell lack appeal in the provincial cities, many of which Labour held under Clark.

    Labour really needs to stick to the basics, not fringe issues.

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2006 • 760 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to izogi,

    That’s 80 years ago, so an election and parliament that’s not dominated by Blue versus Red opposing each other is beyond living memory for nearly everyone, but that doesn’t mean things can’t change again.

    Surely must be time for the the 'Bastards vs Complete Bastards' game to run its natural course...
    Look for the introduction of Moneytheism...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7939 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Given National has gutted education, health and social welfare spending foisting ever more onto user-pays type operations that are great for the rich but suck for the poor (and even for the middle class) ... the Labour policies shouldn't be hard to write.

    Fixing those core institutions after the damage done by National will cost money. The blame for the increased taxes that must come lays squarely on National - but it must be Labour and The Greens that enact those taxes.

    Sadly too many people here and elsewhere are unwilling to accept that in order to have the nice things we need taxes. My guess is Labour will again shy away from a commitment to proper government including taxation. In that case one can hardly blame the voters for walking away from them in disgust.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4458 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Sadly too many people here and elsewhere are unwilling to accept that in order to have the nice things we need taxes.

    I’m unwilling to accept it because it’s not true. Taxes are only one way that governments can get money. There are at least 4 other sources I can think of off the top of my head, and obviously private development is a way of things being built without the government even needing money at all.

    Without further privatization, governments also have as sources of money:
    1. More debt.
    2. Incomes from existing assets
    3. Incomes from services – more user pays
    4. Directly tapping the money supply

    Taxation is obviously the biggest source of money, but it’s completely and utterly false to consider it the only possibility for funding – even under a left wing model of government. Of the 4 I give, the top three are already used. Especially debt, which National has used quite a lot of. That doesn’t have to be debt from banks, btw. In times of crisis it’s not unusual for government to borrow from the population in the form of bonds. The 4th option is generally seen as disastrous, despite very little evidence of that beyond economic theory. It’s the one source that could massively transform our economic management, since it puts us far, far more in control of stimulus and inflation than the way we have hamstrung ourselves to be. It’s potentially the most powerful method of all for controlling our growing wealth gap, since general inflation can work as a completely unavoidable taxation that targets the wealthy.

    ETA: I think its the fact that it might actually work that is the main reason it has never been tried properly. The wealthy can see that it would quite literally put an unavoidable downwards pressure on their easy money. I’d say that poor people who disagree with it do so out of a conception that there’s something morally repugnant about the idea, despite the possibility that it would benefit them. It breaks the cycle of poverty directly and could invalidate many a working person’s entire self-image as the noble lynchpin of the world. The idea of the dastardly unemployed being able to live more comfortable lives than before…shudder. Let alone the sick, disabled, young, students, foolish, weak. Or, horror upon horror, the hordes of oppressed minorities able to work but finding no one who will hire them.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Tinakori, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Sometimes these policies work best when the two major parties are in agreement. The debt repayment started when National first had a surplus in 1994. Similarly both parties had effective bi-partisan approaches to bank regulation which improved the banks' ability to withstand the shocks of the GFC. That both Australia and NZ were not hit as hard as other countries is also partly attributable to the fact the banks in both countries were different in kind from the banks that faced such strife elsewhere.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2013 • 118 posts Report Reply

  • Tinakori, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Given National has gutted education, health and social welfare spending............

    According to the OECD

    "The real value of social spending in New Zealand increased by 22% from 2007/08 to 2012/13. This is well above the OECD average of 14%. "

    Wellington • Since Jul 2013 • 118 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to BenWilson,

    The Social Credit version of economics had at least some hold then and for many decades later, and it was quite a different view of how to reconcile capitalism with socialism. It was a view that might have been ahead of its time then, because it envisaged not a world of work for everyone to more fairly distribute the social product (the way Marxism seems to), but instead a world where work itself was becoming less and less necessary

    Social Credit went into the 1984 election with the slogan "Chipping Away", focusing on the rise of technology and its threat to traditional jobs. What should have been the perfect issue for a party whose time had come was overwhelmed by the small-party glamour of Bob Jones's spoiler NZ Party.

    As the Party's only Douglas-doctrine intellectual with a public profile, Bruce Beetham's election night defeat left only the lukewarm Neil Morrison and the flagrant opportunist Gary Knapp. While Social Credit founder C.H. Douglas's aversion to "international jewry" wasn't exactly a cornerstone of the Party's policies, it was certainly a factor in it becoming a magnet for a host of crackpot causes.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4592 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    I’m unwilling to accept it because it’s not true.

    Well since you said so ...

    I suggest you visit Cambodia, a country with essentially no taxation. Lots of schools, paid for by foreign aid but no teachers because there is no money to pay them. No money to maintain roads. No money to provide sewerage or electricity.

    But since you've said taxation isn't the answer it must be true.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4458 posts Report Reply

  • Ianmac, in reply to BenWilson,

    "We’ve become quite good at spotting what’s wrong with Labour, but not very good at agreeing on what they should do now."

    The clearly enunciated vision of Bernie Sanders might resonate here.
    http://crooksandliars.com/2015/07/bernie-sanders-responds-attacks-being-too

    Bleneim • Since Aug 2008 • 135 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Of course. The other thing the Clark government did was to encourage (to some degree, at least not prevent) finance companies to take on a secondary banking role, which meant that the inevitable banking crashes were ring-fenced away from the real banks,

    Had they not done that we may have found ourselves in a position not too dissimilar to Greece, bailing out SCF was a step in entirely the wrong direction and sending the wrong message.
    Our Govt. is now borrowing at unprecedented levels and if this continues and history repeats, which it will, we will be up shit creek. Our currency carries a, roughly, 3% risk on the international markets already, hence the closely matched interest rate, so we will always be behind the 8 ball on borrowing. If we had serious overseas lending and/or investment the boot would be on the other foot but Key's insistence on suspending payments to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund suffocated that possibility, even though that fund is doing really well (The sovereign fund posted a record 25.8% return in the twelve months till 30 June 2013) [1].
    I noticed an article in today's National Comic, the Herald, quoting our PM as saying

    "New Zealand is Samoa's second largest trading partner. The agreement will provide a platform for increased trade and investment between our two countries - and will help assist the economic development of our Pacific Island neighbour."

    This is from an Order in Council from 2010 ffs, not the swift act of a progressive and "ashperashunal" government but a good soundbite to link Key with the All Blacks once more.
    It is power and profit for these guys as usual, as Mikaere Curtis noted up-thread

    Simple concepts like national want to remove worker's job security, they love to bribe Big Business, or they are all about transferring wealth to the wealthy

    Simple, but people believe Key when he says Labour are useless and with them and the Greens in power NZ would be a basket case.
    Well, with Key's legacy that may well turn out to be true.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    But since you’ve said taxation isn’t the answer it must be true

    No, that's not the reason. The reasons were given, and you can engage with them if you want to have a sensible discussion, or keep bringing up poor underdeveloped nations laid waste by war and disastrous ideological interventions if you want to waste your time.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    While Social Credit founder C.H. Douglas’s aversion to “international jewry” wasn’t exactly a cornerstone of the Party’s policies, it was certainly a factor in it becoming a magnet for a host of crackpot causes.

    Yes, I'm definitely not advocating their party here. But the underlying economic analysis was very interesting and hit prominence in very similar economic times, at least with respect to runaway capitalism. It's another way that isn't the "third way" because it is in an entirely different direction, rather than sitting in the middle and getting bashed by both sides. The party I see most likely to grasp it is the Greens. But they are a party that has a particular issue that far overwhelms economic options, so I don't know. They have at least been for a UBI for a long time, and they do understand just how crazy the model of unrestrained production driving our economics is.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Mikaere Curtis, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    Simple, but people believe Key when he says Labour are useless and with them and the Greens in power NZ would be a basket case.
    Well, with Key's legacy that may well turn out to be true.

    Yeah, a Labour/Greens government may well end up having to fix a lot of broken stuff thanks to Key and his mates.

    However, the reason people believe Key is because he uses very simple frames to depict Labour or Labour/Greens. Labour either over-explain or talk about stuff most people don't care about. They need to focus on identifying ways to depict the Key government as dirty, crony-capitalists. It really isn't that hard since that's what they are.

    Tamaki Makaurau • Since Nov 2006 • 528 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    1. More debt.
    2. Incomes from existing assets
    3. Incomes from services – more user pays
    4. Directly tapping the money supply

    To address your alternatives to taxation

    1 More debt leads to more debt repayment costs and eventually defaulting on loans. What you are suggesting is just fine if and only if you have a real expectation that your income will increase to service the debt and eventually pay off the loan. None of those conditions are true.

    2 What assets? We sold those income delivering assets to the private sector.

    3 WTF I just pointed out that we have replaced government funding with user pays which is fine if you are rich and can pay but if you are poor you are fucked. User pays is what you get when government funding is inadequate for the purpose. That is fine in some cases but for a Labour party arguing for users pays for education health and social welfare is beyond stupid.

    4 Yup you can print more money, that works for about a second.

    You forgot about buying lotto ticket.

    So how about you come up with a real reason why taxation is bad.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4458 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    Oh stop it you two!

    However, the reason people believe Key is because he uses very simple frames

    Imagine yourself a couple of centuries back and indigenous...

    "If you make your mark here, you wont have to worry anymore and you will be better off"

    Yes the power-possessing beings have been at it for centuries lying to everyone... and getting away with it.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • Tinakori, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    "Our Govt. is now borrowing at unprecedented levels...."

    That's not true and our gross foreign government debt is going to start to fall in 2016/17 because of debt maturing exceeding projected additional debt. Check out the fiscal and economic update on the Treasury website. The changes to the surplus/deficit announced today will make the debt outlook even better.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2013 • 118 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    None of those conditions are true

    1. You only list one condition, which makes me think you're barely putting any thought into what you're writing here and makes me wonder if I should even bother to reciprocate with serious answers. That condition is that you have an expectation of income from whatever the debt is put towards. It's quite ridiculous of you to say suggest this can't happen. A great many investments are made on debt all the time with excellent returns. The government has done many and could do many more. Unless you are specifically talking about investments that do not in themselves directly generate revenue. Maybe you mean schools or hospitals or science investment. In that case the revenue the government considers is from other future earnings (if it is only taking revenue into account, rather than any other reasons for the investment, like conscience, belief in education or scientific endeavour). These can be substantial on all counts. A healthy, educated workforce that conducts science can earn money for more future taxation. So suggesting debt can't fund growth is neither true in theory nor in practice. It can and it has and it is.

    2. From the financial statements for 2014 I can see that the government had (as at May 2014) about 251 billion in assets and 174 billion in liabilities with a difference of 76 odd billion. We've got heaps of assets, actually, and they generate billions in revenue.

    3. User pays can go so much deeper than it has. Again, I don't want it to, but we have a huge number of free services in this country. It's not like the model by which people are charged for these services is unheard of. In fact, that's the facts of life for most of the world. There are a small number of things, however, in which I think user pays is not a bad model - the construction of transport projects is a good example. Furthermore, the Green model of charging pollution producers is a form of user-pays - there's no reason that polluters should be getting everyone else to clean up for them for free.

    4. Prove it.

    I'm not trying to reason taxation is bad. I'm saying it's not the only option, which you claimed when you said.

    Sadly too many people here and elsewhere are unwilling to accept that in order to have the nice things we need taxes.

    No. We don't. It really is that simple. Taxes are a large part of the equation, but they're not the only part. There is no reason that Labour or any other left wing party should be forced to limit their understanding to your tight and false set of beliefs on this.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

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