I wrote a post the other day, About that wealth tax, explaining how the Green Party’s proposed wealth tax would work. It’s worth reading if you still believe that the tax will hurt Grandma and Grandad savers (it won’t).
This week the heat has been turned up on the Greens, from both Labour and National. Jacinda Ardern is busy telling everyone that Labour won’t even talk with the Greens about the tax, and Judith Collins is saying that Labour are lying and they will implement it. Green co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw are both saying that income inequality is a high priority for the Greens and if they have the numbers they will be bringing the wealth tax to the negotiating table with Labour. Ball firmly in the voters’ court.
So the tax is getting a lot of air time. But here’s the thing that’s telling. Not many people (apart from the Greens) are talking about what the tax is meant to pay for (a number of things, including this awesome Guaranteed Minimum Income policy). Which is weird, because haven’t we been talking poverty for years now? Hasn’t this been a high priority for New Zealand, especially the left?
FYI, NZ’s house values have risen $75 billion to $1.3 trillion in the last 3 months. In the middle of the worst recession in living memory. With unemployment doubling. But the Reserve Bank is printing money to make the rich richer to boost the economy. Good for some. Not others.
That’s a tweet from business, economics and political journalist Bernard Hickey. There’s the argument that Labour want house prices to keep inflating, because this will support the economy and buffer the recession. That would certainly explain a few things. What it says to me is that New Zealand isn’t ready to eliminate poverty. Yet.
In the 2017 election campaign, Metiria Turei stood up and made this speech, introducing the Green Party’s radical welfare policy and talking about her own experience many years before being on welfare and what that meant in real terms.
All hell broke loose, resulting in the Greens dropping from 14 MPs to eight. I understand three things about Turei’s speech
And it’s happening again. As Standardista Pat pointed out to me yesterday, “the worst thing that could happen for National would be the implementation and for the wider electorate to discover it doesn’t negatively impact them”. Hence Collins’ rabid attacks on Labour and the Greens aren’t about votes, but a last ditch attempt to wreck the chances of real change that would come from an effective wealth tax.
I’ve been a bit surprised about the Greens’ focus on the tax rather than say the GMI, but with Collins, Ardern and the MSM intent on it, I wonder if NZ just has to have it out. And if this is not only the conversation that has to happen before we get to the real conversation (ending poverty in NZ), but is also exactly the time to have it. It’s the time above all others when it cannot be ignored. If that is the case, then Go Greens I say.
Here’s the thing about the Greens. They want change. They want change more than they want power. I think that they fully understand that we are out of time on climate, poverty, the environment. That if someone doesn’t stand up for poor people now, we will cement in Labour’s deserving poor positioning for another generation.
Sure as shit when National get in next they will take the bits of Labour’s policies that serve them, tear them apart and use the remains to build a welfare system made out of barbed wire and car tyres. Just like they did last time. Only by the late 20s, we won’t have the chance to rebuild. We will be staring down the barrel of the climate and ecological crises, and quite possibly the spread of fascism internationally.
I’ve been asking for a long time how to tory-proof progressive legislation. I think this is how. If the Greens can change the culture in NZ around tax and ending poverty, get the country on board, then by the time National get in it will be much harder for them to do damage. This is triply so if we have more Green MPs in government, pulling Labour leftward and greenward and writing the legislation itself.
(for those thinking that the Greens should be solely or mostly focused on the environment, please read this piece from 2017 by Nandor Tanczos, then read the actual GP election policy on environmental issues, it’s all there).
It scares me that so many previous Green voters, and so many Labour voters are content with centre left BAU. Deep green politics fully understands the connections between climate and poverty, and between this wealth tax and our willingness to act or not on climate. It takes time to shift understanding of that. But I can’t ignore the storm clouds that have gathered outside, and the hour now is very very late.
I will be ticking Green twice when I vote and hoping that enough of us do to give the Green Party some choices post-election. I’m also mindful that most New Zealanders haven’t prioritised climate, the environment or ending poverty, and that whatever happens on Saturday a strong extra-parliamentary activism is needed more urgently than ever.