I thought that with a devastating earthquake, a record oil/food price spike, an unemployment tsunami, and a double-dip recession that the Nats’ apologists might have realised it was time for honest discussion of the issues and solutions. Instead, they’re still trying to bury our heads in the sand.
National pollster David Farrar takes umbrage with a Herald on Sunday article on rising food prices. You’ll remember that National made a big song and dance about food prices before the last election during the last oil/food price spike, so it’s a sensitive matter to National that the same thing is happening under their watch.
First he tries to minimise the food price spike, which, remember, has driven world food prices to the highest level in history:
Food prices did increase a lot in January 2011 [but] prices have been fairly stable for 11 months and have only increased since Christmas.
From January 2010 to January 2011 (Feb food prices are due out Friday), the price for 1 kg of apples has gone up 3% only. For carrots it is 26%, mushrooms 4% and potatoes 35%.
There’s some nice statistical trickery here. Farrar could have compared prices now to, say, two years ago or six months ago, but comparing to last January just so happens to give the smallest increase. The truth is food prices have never been higher and the Food Price Index is now 10% here than when National was campaigning on lowering food prices back in 2008.
Then Farrar tries to say our incomes have gone up more than the rise.
After tax wages have increased for someone on the average wage either 12% or 16% (off memory. You buy food from your after tax income not your before tax gross wage)
In fact, the Nats’ claim is that the average after-tax wage has gone up 10% after-inflation since they came to power. In calculating those figures, they count Labour’s tax cuts and exclude their GST increase. More importantly, Farrar is wrong to use the average ordinary-time full-time wage as a measure of how much incomes have changed. That figure has actually risen rapidly as low-income workers have lost their jobs in the last three years. Families buy stuff with their incomes not the average fulltime wage, and Stats NZ says the median household income had fallen 5% after inflation from June 2008 to June 2010.
In other words, food prices are up 10% since National came to power and incomes are down 5%. No wonder we’re felling the pinch.
That’s before the tax changes but NZIER said in January that GST and price rises had already eaten up the tax cuts for 60% of families, and that will be even worse now.
But you don’t need these numbers to prove that food prices are rising faster than incomes. You know it is true every time you go shopping. 80% of people in the Herald’s online poll say their income is not keeping up with price increases.
I don’t understand why Farrar, and the Nat research unit who clearly supplied his numbers, think some cheap statistical tricks will make us blind to the realities we’re experiencing every time we go to the supermarket and the petrol station.
I’ve said before that I’m well-off, but I know I’m feeling the effects of these prices, and it’s much harder on other families I know who aren’t as privileged. Maybe Farrar and his mates in the rich elite are simply too rich to notice.
Or maybe they’re so desperate they’ll try to spin even when it just reduces their already shot credibility.