The Dim-Post

January 29, 2010

Le Radeau de la Méduse

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:05 am

Grant Robertson at Red Alert defends Goff’s new policy on the grounds that it’s been suggested by the British Conservative Party. They really are lost, aren’t they?
Thanks again to Joe for the image. While preparing for the work he visited Labour Party MPs and electorate offices where he could view first hand the color and texture of the dying and the dead

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39 Comments »

  1. They really are lost, aren’t they?

    Yes? I also noted the rather delicious irony that Labour has been furiously attacking the idea of capping public sector pay as a smokescreen for a “secret Tory agenda” (beginning to sound familiar?) to rip into public services like Freddy Kruger on speed.

    Does that make Gordon Brown stupid, Grant?

    Comment by Craig Ranapia — January 29, 2010 @ 9:40 am

  2. The Labour Party Brain Trust has been re-registered as an LAQC.

    Comment by Neil — January 29, 2010 @ 9:49 am

  3. If I beat my head against the wall for every time Labour said something stupid, I’d be down to a bloody neck stump by now. They’ll be calling for the SuperCity CEO to be paid the same as the SuperMayor next.

    Comment by Will de Cleene — January 29, 2010 @ 10:15 am

  4. I used to enjoy this blog. Now it is just becoming kiwiblog mark II. I’m out!

    Comment by Tim — January 29, 2010 @ 11:00 am

  5. Yes, Tim. Run. Run like the wind. Because you should only ever be exposed to things on the internet that you already agree with.

    On point, though – I have sympathy with the general policy proposal. The growing gap between rich and poor in NZ is socially destructive, and while raising the incomes of those at the bottom of the pile is important, this isn’t enough if the incomes of those at the top keep on growing at the same rate or faster (i.e. a 5% increase for both the minimum wage and the chief executive of a govt. department still results in increased inequality). So it would be desirable to cap top end incomes in NZ. Doing so in the public sector is a start, and perhaps all that government can do in the present climes.

    Further, the whole “why didn’t you do it in government?” meme is a bit blah. Parties in government spend most of their time fighting fires. It’s really only when you get kicked out, have to re-examine what it is you stand for, and repitch yourself to the electorate that you can reinvent yourself. So, yes … Labour was wrong to let top-end public sector salaries balloon out. That doesn’t mean that they can’t now say these should be lowered.

    All that said – Grant is a bit silly playing tit-for-tat gotcha with Kiwiblog. It ain’t a battle he’s likely to win, and even if he does … so what? Choose your enemies wisely, for they will define you.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — January 29, 2010 @ 12:05 pm

  6. Parties in government spend most of their time fighting fires. It’s really only when you get kicked out, have to re-examine what it is you stand for, and repitch yourself to the electorate that you can reinvent yourself.

    I would hazard that if they weren’t so inclined to believe their own hype, and more time re-examining what they really stand for while in office, governments would spend less time fighting fires and shorter periods of soul-searching in the political wilderness after the binge cycle.

    L

    Comment by Lew — January 29, 2010 @ 12:12 pm

  7. There’s a “spent” here, and I’m sure you can insert it at the correct location in the comment above to make up for my lax writing.

    L

    Comment by Lew — January 29, 2010 @ 12:13 pm

  8. “So it would be desirable to cap top end incomes in NZ.”

    At which point CEO’s, and anyone else deemed by the State to have a high salary and in need of a good old capping, would simply become self-employed contractors.

    What then? Name and Shame? Arrest? Exile?

    And how long would the cap last – until every high school drop-out has finally caught up to the Surgeon or Police Chief?

    The more you think about it, the more Key is right – the idea is plain dumb.

    Comment by Pat — January 29, 2010 @ 12:51 pm

  9. Further, the whole “why didn’t you do it in government?” meme is a bit blah.

    Of course, you’re right Andrew. “For The Many, not The Few” should turn into “Do What I Say, Don’t Say What I Do” the moment it becomes politically inconvenient to have your own record put under the microscope.

    Sorry, but I think it’s entirely fair to ask the leader of the Opposition and his deputy whether they expressed any disquiet about the now obscene pay-packets of the CEO of MFAT and the Director-General of Health when they were, respectively, Foreign Affairs and Health Ministers.

    After all, this speech is being spun as a restatement of Labour’s core values — it’s hardly handwavium to ask what those core values were when Goff and King were senior members of Cabinet.

    Comment by Craig Ranapia — January 29, 2010 @ 12:57 pm

  10. Also, Andrew, it’s not dirty pool when Labour has been quite happy to scream “remember Ruthenasia!” “flip-flop!” and “secret agenda!” at National every chance it gets.

    Comment by Craig Ranapia — January 29, 2010 @ 1:00 pm

  11. Pat,

    Yes – free market economics (including Labour markets) are in tension with income equality. And that makes it difficult to promote the latter without creating unintended consequences for the former. However, saying “it is difficult to combat inequality” doesn’t equate to saying “we should just ignore inequality” when the social costs it imposes are so high. Further, not every nation (here I’m referring to western market societies with democratic institutions – Cuba/Nth Korea/etc are irrelevant to the debate) suffers the same levels of income inequality, meaning there are regulatory responses to the issue that can work. Insofar as Labour is restating a commitment to investigating such responses, then I say good on them.

    Craig,

    Just how far should the message be entangled with the messenger? Of course it is fair to demand an explanation from Goff and King as to why they only now recognise these problems … I’m by no means saying they should get a clean slate on ’99-08. And if they can’t provide such an explanation, then by all means don’t trust them when you get to the polling booth in 2011. But equally, if we’re going to spend the next three years simply responding to every Labour idea/critique with “but you were in government and you didn’t do it!”, then our public discourse is going to be pretty shallow (much as it was in ’99-02).

    Point being – even if Goff/King are hypocrites, and even if Labour has (unsuccessfully) mined the “secret agenda” vein, I’d still prefer to talk about what they are saying. I mean, if William Bell was on the TV saying “It’s a bad thing to murder people”, should we really just respond by saying “but you are in jail for murder! Why should we think murder is bad just ’cause you say so?”

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — January 29, 2010 @ 2:28 pm

  12. Point being – even if Goff/King are hypocrites, and even if Labour has (unsuccessfully) mined the “secret agenda” vein, I’d still prefer to talk about what they are saying.

    I used to argue a similar thing with my friends about Fox News … that they’ve started holding the Government to account is a good thing, what does it matter that they didn’t in the past? John Stewart attacks them when they’re craven toward the government, and attacks them when they hold it to account, because they were craven to the last lot – he should make up is mind what he wants!

    Used to argue because now C4 isn’t showing the Daily Show … booo, hiss, etc.

    Similar arguments about New Zealand too … I don’t care if Labour used to over-use urgency, I like that they’re for proper Parliamentary procedure now. Bad hypocrisy is being in favour of something good in opposition and then not doing it in government. Not doing some good thing in government and then coming out in favour of it in opposition is good hypocrisy*.

    *Also known as ‘seeing the light’.

    People should save their criticism for when Labour doesn’t follow through on what they’re talking up now, not vent it now.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — January 29, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

  13. Just how far should the message be entangled with the messenger?

    Fair question — but as any number of American legislators have found in recent years, if you’re going to be posturing on the moral high ground you better not be knocking up the interns or banging the rent boy you score drugs off while you’re doing it. :)

    Bad hypocrisy is being in favour of something good in opposition and then not doing it in government. Not doing some good thing in government and then coming out in favour of it in opposition is good hypocrisy*.

    Or a flip-flop? Graeme, sorry, but I recall Labour banging on to great effect about “waste and extravagance” in the civil service. If Howard Broad is some trans-gendered Christine Rankin or Judy Bailey, NOW is the time to put up or shut up.

    Comment by Craig Ranapia — January 29, 2010 @ 3:50 pm

  14. “Further, not every nation (here I’m referring to western market societies with democratic institutions – Cuba/Nth Korea/etc are irrelevant to the debate) suffers the same levels of income inequality,”
    Andrew, would you mind identifyingh those Western nations and their rate of unemployment?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — January 29, 2010 @ 4:55 pm

  15. Clunking Fist,

    Interested in the connection that you imply by the question. So, for example, when I say that Norway (with lowish levels of social inequality) has an unemployment rate of 3.2%, while the US (with high levels of social inequality) has an unemployment rate of 10%, the conclusion is …?

    (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_unemployment_rate)

    Unless, of course, you’ve some idea that trying to promote social equality leads to higher unemployment rates – in which case, evidence is always welcome.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — January 29, 2010 @ 5:58 pm

  16. I don’t think they suggested this policy because it’s really dear to their hearts, or because they think it’ll make a big difference in the fight for equality and social justice. I think they wanted a policy that didn’t buy into the National Party narrative about their brand, so:
    – no taxing
    – no spending
    – no proscriptive behaviour (ie banning stuff)
    That doesn’t leave a whole lot of room when you’re a left-wing party.

    I think that this was a mistake. Imagine if they’d, say, promised to introduce a land tax on all residential properties worth more than a million bucks and pay the revenue into the Cullen fund. Sure, John Key would have made fun of them (‘Labours answer to everything is tax, tax and more tax.’) But Key made fun of them anyway – so why not do something that will be popular with the public?

    A tax like that would not affect 99.9% of the population – but it would affect Nationals backers who would howl with outrage. The government would be forced onto the unpopular side of the argument. Far right outfits like ACT, the NBR the Herald editorialists and the Business Round Table would be clawing their own eyes out with fury – but a lot of the population thinks those entities are crazy and evil, and they represent a class of voter that will never vote for Labour under any circumstances so you haven’t lost anything by antagonising them.

    (I’m not saying Labour should do that, btw, just an example I pulled out of my ass to illustrate the sort of thing they SHOULD be doing.)

    Comment by danylmc — January 29, 2010 @ 5:59 pm

  17. Graeme,

    “Used to argue because now C4 isn’t showing the Daily Show … booo, hiss, etc.”

    Far better to watch it direct from http://www.thedailyshow.com – don’t need to worry about those pesky adds.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — January 29, 2010 @ 6:01 pm

  18. “People should save their criticism for when Labour doesn’t follow through on what they’re talking up now, not vent it now.”

    Graham, the one thing the public will take home from Phils talk is that the one promise he or his replacement will immediately implement is the next Labour PM *will* be paid more than any State CEO.

    When coupled with the Tax Working Group’s report another take home is that 10% of those earning over $70,000 pay 76% of the net tax. Income inequality is thus overly compensated by income tax inequality.

    And another is that 70% of us are low(er) paid because the country doesn’t earn enough and must rely on tax of some pretty average salaries in world terms to keep us afloat.

    JC

    Comment by JC — January 29, 2010 @ 6:09 pm

  19. Is it only me, or does that picture get bigger every time I come to this page? It now nearly fills the screen.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — January 29, 2010 @ 6:52 pm

  20. “So, for example, when I say that Norway (with lowish levels of social inequality) has an unemployment rate of 3.2%, while the US (with high levels of social inequality) has an unemployment rate of 10%, the conclusion is …?”

    The conclusion is that Norway has had so much oil and gas that its economy, political structures, egalitarianism and standard of living is hugely dependent on it. Take it away suddenly and its back to somewhere below NZ.

    NZ can relate to Norway’s situation.. our famous egalitarianism of yore was also based on a single very profitable industry 40-50 years ago. Like Norway and the EU and OPEC we too could stand out from trade relationships like CER.

    I might add that disparities of income occurred right through our earlier years of agricultural prosperity, but we didn’t have the tools or the conspicious personal expenditure to recognise it. In support of that I was looking at the monthly costs of running the farm in 1949.. the junior farm labourer was receiving 10 times less than the farrier.

    JC

    Comment by JC — January 29, 2010 @ 6:56 pm

  21. Labour took John McCain as role model for their election campaign, Don Brash for race relations and David Cameron for civil servant pay.

    I’m tryig to think which Tory leader they’ve modeled their policy of unfriending potential coalition partners on.

    Comment by Neil — January 29, 2010 @ 7:01 pm

  22. Andrew,

    I glazed over after the first sentence in your multi part novella of regulatory porn.

    You are the reason Labour lost and will continue to lose, keep up the good work.

    Minty.

    Comment by Minty — January 29, 2010 @ 7:52 pm

  23. Wealth != income.

    When you “earn” a lot of money you also pay tax at source as PAYE. There is no escaping/evading/avoiding your obligations. On the other hand when you “have” a lot of money you can hide it in a trust fund. You can buy property and live off of the rental income with many of your expenses “before tax”.

    As a salaried employee your future earnings are at the whim of an employer and your ability to earn now dependent on your health. As a wealthy person your assets and therefore future earnings are mostly protected by the government.

    It’s not the high earners you need to get stuck into, it’s the very wealthy. Name me someone who got rich just from earning a salary, even $250K a year.

    Comment by John (the idiot) — January 29, 2010 @ 10:35 pm

  24. John the idiot – good call (your name, I mean).

    So high wage earners are one of the good guys, unless they accumulate wealth i.e. SAVE – then they become Public Enemy No 1.

    Maybe you are confused about how someone may have acquired their assets. They are not always inherited.

    Wake me up when you get the class war started.

    Comment by Pat — January 29, 2010 @ 10:55 pm

  25. To Norway, you could also add Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands on the list of countries with half the unemployment of the US and much greater income equality.

    But as a resident of one of the above I have to say that the equality is achieved via progressive taxes, a comprehensive welfare and education systems and strong savings cultures.
    Not the setting of arbitrary restrictions on high earners that Goff has proposed.

    Comment by Expat — January 29, 2010 @ 10:56 pm

  26. A tax like that would not affect 99.9% of the population – but it would affect Nationals backers who would howl with outrage. The government would be forced onto the unpopular side of the argument.

    Ah yes, Danyl — and here’s an interesting question for historians: How often has the partisan spite fuck lead to good public policy?

    Comment by Craig Ranapia — January 30, 2010 @ 1:24 am

  27. NEVER!

    But by god those baby eating capitalists need to be taught a lesson.

    Comment by OH! Me me me! I Know! — January 30, 2010 @ 6:39 am

  28. Minty,

    “I glazed over after the first sentence in your multi part novella of regulatory porn.”

    As I said earlier in this comment thread … Run. Run like the wind. Because you should only ever be exposed to things on the internet that you already agree with.

    Interesting, though, that you think the reason Labour lost the election is its approach to regulation, whilst National presently is enjoying record poll standings by retaining virtually all those policies in place. I guess I’ll buy your “NZ’ers hate regulation” line when ACT becomes a single party majority government.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — January 30, 2010 @ 7:14 am

  29. …the equality is achieved via progressive taxes, a comprehensive welfare and education systems and strong savings cultures.

    In other words, the kind of things that Labour theoretically stands for and that right-wingers ridicule as the path to poverty? Yes, I agree.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — January 30, 2010 @ 7:29 am

  30. Yeah, of course you are correct, we need more regulation and more left wingnuts on the internet.

    Comment by expat — January 30, 2010 @ 7:30 am

  31. Expat,

    We need more regulation on the internet? But play nice … there’s always Kiwiblog if you want to flamewar.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — January 30, 2010 @ 7:32 am

  32. You hop over to Kiwiblog Andrew, I’ll meet you there in a day or so.

    Comment by expat — January 30, 2010 @ 7:38 am

  33. expat,

    Who do you think “redbaiter” is?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — January 30, 2010 @ 8:20 am

  34. Is it only me, or does that picture get bigger every time I come to this page? It now nearly fills the screen.

    What I want to know is why the Labour Party doesn’t have any pants.

    Comment by Idiot/Savant — January 30, 2010 @ 9:38 am

  35. Pants aren’t enviromentally friendly – they take energy, which is created from fossel fuels.

    There’s nothing wrong with that raft, you could easily fit more people on there and the sail is in really good nick for it’s age.

    Comment by scrubone — January 30, 2010 @ 2:32 pm

  36. Sigh, it’s only when you’ve just hit “submit” that you realise you forgot to spell check.

    Comment by scrubone — January 30, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

  37. Lew’
    I think your comment has much merit.
    It seems to me that the Clark/Cullen years achieved great things but lost
    the last election on the basis of of minor irritants based on so called “focus groups”.

    Consider who would be irritated (often many times).

    1. Microchips in dogs ears. No dog I have spoken to has agreed not to bite a human,
    or any other thing (I recently lost a slipper, and a couple of unmatched socks to a pup).
    My local vets have dollar signs in their eyes. There is not one dog owner who would not register a
    dog under the earlier system is going to have any new acquisition (I use the word advisedly) microchipped.

    Who pays extra for a useless law?

    Check the demographics.

    What demographic got irritated by this focus group lunacy after a tabloid blitz from the
    “chattering classes” that pass themselves off as media personalities or (groan) journalists.

    2. Increasing excise tax on fortified wines (port, sherry and their imitations). There is a problem
    with teenage binge drinking. The problem was largely exacerbated by lowering the alcohol drinking age.

    Teenagers drinking port and sherry? I do not think so.

    who paid extra?

    Check the demographic.

    3. Hint of tax cut (= chewing gum)

    who got pissed off?

    Check the demographic.

    4. Health supplements. We have to do what John Howard (GW Bush brown nose)
    wants us to do, no reasons given. Ministerial decree.

    Check the demographic.
    I went to my local Labour MP’s office to query it. Never got a response.
    Tanx D Hughes for no response.

    Check the demographic.

    5. Sue Bradford mistaken as Helen Clark.
    Every child minder in the country can now be convicted as a criminal.

    This could have been handled so much better. But no let us offend
    as many people as possible (like all of the above).

    I hear a rumour that the Nats are using “focus groups”, hopefully they will screw iup as badly ,but quicker.

    Comment by peterlepaysan — January 30, 2010 @ 10:26 pm

  38. Damn!

    I forgot to add those bloody light bulbs!

    Comment by peterlepaysan — January 30, 2010 @ 10:35 pm

  39. They should be drinking their own piss and eating the cabin boy any day now . . .

    In my opinion . .

    Comment by Lee C — January 31, 2010 @ 6:55 am


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