- Date published:
8:00 am, August 19th, 2016 - 122 comments
Categories: christchurch earthquake, class war, economy, employment, john key, national, national/act government, same old national - Tags:
Why is New Zealand saying it’s slowly losing confidence in National? It’s not high childhood poverty, suicide, jailing, obesity, or domestic violence; we’ve had high levels of all of that for decades.
By a whole bunch of measures, New Zealand is fine. Apparently, only 6% of us who really want a job don’t have one.
Overall that’s pretty good. Sucks if you’re young, brown, and under-educated, but it has for a while.
Not as many people own houses, but then, it’s been tracking like that for a while. Same for voting and democratic participation. Hardly just this government’s fault.
The climate’s getting silly, but y’know, the climate always did suck here truth be told.
Depending on whether you believe the Economist August 2016 or the Mercer Management Survey 2014, Auckland is either 8th or 5th best city in the world.
According to the Legatum Institute, New Zealand has the 5th best government in the world after Switzerland in 2015 (evaluation categories included economy, entrepeneurship and economy, governance, education, health, safety and security, personal freedom, and social capital).
Choke on your Weetbix!
In crime, just to pull out safety and security for a moment, Police stats for all crime types are about the same as they were four years ago.
According to the long-running UMR Mood of the Nation survey, the February 2016 results are still pretty good. We still expect things to get better, nearly 60% think we’re going in the right direction, and we still expect living standards to continue improving. Not as bullish as previous years, but still pretty good.
We still win Rugby World Cups, get Olympic medals, produce good movies, and tonnes of people want to visit, permanently settle, or not leave. The economy trucks on, despite being brittle and spatially uneven, unproductive and dumb-reliant on commodities, cheap tourism and construction. Deep into their third term, those are collectively good results.
Since all of those benchmarks as a collective can’t be wrong (and yes they all have statistical holes), why are we slowly sliding away from this government?
It’s not like they’re not trying. They are reforming the entire social welfare system, education funding system, local government sector, RMA, and a bunch of others. They are fully interventionist in cities and in housing like we’ve not seen a National government in decades. Sure they’re incoherent in policy terms, but they’re well led, well funded, reshuffled, and still politically coherent. So what gives, you ungrateful wretches?
The first is that people can see government operating at their limits and it’s just not enough. Interest rates from our independent Reserve Bank are a spent economic instrument both here and the world over. They’re rebuilding Christchurch with dumptrucks of debt, but the stimulus no longer registers. The tax cuts are a distant memory.
It’s not enough.
The essence of New Zealand comes from class mobility. And that’s leaving us. A little-read 2014 Treasury piece says it used to be not too bad on average:
It found evidence of large increases from those who started off at the bottom, and stability or decline in those at the highest income group.
The difference to now is you can grind up the income ladder, but if you don’t control appreciating equity in an asset (i.e. a house), you’re a rat on a treadmill.
This, I think, is why we can still feel good and look good globally on so many levels, still have job growth, and yet lose our mojo with the government. Despite income mobility only corroding slowly, the broad housing crisis sees our future evaporate in front of us. The combination has hit almost the whole of society at different strata at once and we are getting more afraid for our station in life.
Subsidised by Working for Families, NZSuper, free healthcare and strong employment, the broad middle were on a stable if slowly sinking platform for decades. But it’s the accelerated sinking that’s really starting to hit.
Housing ownership is now confirmed middle-class chimaera, and that matters in a fading-kiwi-dream way.
There’s an “it’s the vibe” thing missing. I think it’s New Zealand.
I don’t mean a collective nostalgia for an all pervasive state. But the goodies that were bankable out of this lot, have been banked. Those who were going to be in Kiwisaver, are. Those who can get a first or second mortgage, have. Those who can buy a new car, are still the very few and the fleets. Those who could get out of poverty, have.
Too many people are feeling stuck while the future accelerates away from them and their children. And there’s not enough out there in the world now for them to try something better and just leave.
I think we are very slowly getting more intelligent about this government. It’s slow, but it’s trending.