I readily accept that, in their initial responses to the Christchurch earthquakes, this government has provided useful financial assistance for those in need, however this flow of funds will shortly dry up. As we all should know Neo-Liberal Economics is advanced through crisis, whether it be real or created, and this National Government has reached the end of its benevolent tether. The opportunity to advance their real agenda is too tempting to miss and now we have been told that the only ways to manage the rebuild of our second largest city and the general slump in our economy is through cutting, slashing, selling up and borrowing.
Russel Norman and the Green Party advanced the idea of a one off levy that would come out of incomes over $48,000, but this was vigorously rejected by Finance Minister, Bill English. His claim that levies incurred at this time would damage any economic upturn just doesn't make sense, yet his own solutions will cost us dearly over time. It is obvious that those who have benefitted most from earlier tax cuts will not be expected to return some of their windfall in our time of need, it is those at the bottom end of our economic spectrum who will again have to pay.
The anger and frustration that I feel through this blatant distortion of economic reality to create a picture of financial prudency is almost unbearable, especially when I think of the ongoing pandering to the already wealthy. As usual it was the generosity and caring of ordinary New Zealanders who rushed in to provide essential support for the people of Christchurch. Many who had little money gave what they could and others who had no money to spare, like tertiary students, turned up in thousands to provide physical support. I am aware of the occasional act of generosity from our financially privileged but research generally supports the fact that those who have less give proportionally the most and this is especially true of women in New Zealand who often fill supporting or charitable roles while on minimal incomes:
Soon after this year's major earthquake the Prime Minister approached his corporate mates for support and what resulted from this meeting appeared underwhelming. Fonterra provided a few water tankers but I didn't see supplies of free dairy products being trucked in, for example (I am happy to be corrected). One US survey found that those on the lowest wages gave 4.9 % of their incomes to charity while the rich gave considerably less. 4.9% of the Fonterra CEOs salary would be almost $250,000 and I'm pretty sure that this would make less difference to his lifestyle than a smaller sum provided by a less affluent donor (in fact Andrew Ferrier received a whopping 41% increase income this year so a 4.9% cut would barely register). Another who wouldn't notice a great deal of difference from a 4.9 % levy would be Karen Sewell, chief executive of the Ministry of Education, who got a 6.25% increase in her salary (despite the fact that a recent review of government ministries thought that her ministry was one of the worst performers). The levy would reduce her increase to a similar percentage to that which poorly paid school support staff received, at one shocking point it was suggested that to save money in Christchurch schools they could just sack their teacher aids.
A percentage levy on our incomes makes sense on so many levels. Cutting services, slashing benefits, selling state assets and borrowing more will only hurt those who have already given the most, the burden of recovery should be shared equally!