I really wonder sometimes about Bill English. He seems to think he has a licence to just make things up. Take his claim yesterday that our low national savings rate is due to the ‘government paying for everything’. According to English, people don’t need to save because the government pays for early childhood education, superannuation, Working for Families, and interest-free student loans. Does he have any evidence that is the case? Of course not.
This is faith-based government – English has faith that whatever silly idea he comes up with must be correct.
Leaving aside arguments over whether taxation to pay for superannuation, etc, is a form of collective saving/insurance, just look at nations that have more comprehensive public services than we do – Germany, the Nordic countries etc – they are huge net savers. Look at countries with similar or worse public provision than us – the US, Australia – they are big borrowers. No, public provision of services does not crowd out private saving.
If anything, it should make it easier for most people because they are net recipients of public services (they get more in public services than they pay in tax). Those public services replace private spending that families would have to make to get those services instead (either that or they would miss out entirely). That suggests lower expenses for families, which gives them more chance to save or less reason to go into debt.
Imagine a young family with a child in pre-school. In English’s utopia, they would not be getting WFF, they would be repaying their student loans (or, more likely, couldn’t have afforded tertiary education at all), they would be paying for their child’s pre-school and would have to be saving anything they can for retirement. In return, they would have a small tax cut.
Is that family going to be able to save more now or in English’s fantasyland?
Why can’t English just be honest and say he wants public services cut so he and his rich mates can have tax cuts? His CEO buddies certainly have no trouble being up front about the name of their game.
At least, English has once again given us a glimpse at National’s true vision for this country – public services cut to the bone and privatisation – a land for the few.
On a side note, English also says Corrections is about to become the largest government department. What an indictment on our society. We refuse to invest in young people and jobs to alleviate poverty but we’ll spend up big to lock up those people when they go off the tracks. If only we had a government with the vision to invest in the future of our people, rather than one whose only solution is to put more people in prison.