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George on tax

Written By: - Date published: 7:20 am, August 5th, 2011 - 57 comments
Categories: newspapers, tax - Tags: ,

Could somebody please nip outside and check and see if hell has frozen over? I ask because I’m trying to deal with the rather disturbing experience of finding myself in agreement with Garth George.

Well, mostly in agreement, George clearly doesn’t understand the American deficit. In fact his article (on debt) is a confused and rambling piece in general. But he makes up for it at the end:

The other astonishing thing about the US debacle is that the debt limit is to be raised but taxes are not. Surely the obvious way to cap or to reduce debt is to increase income, rather than take the axe to public services.

Why is it that the wealthy, some of whom have more money than they could possibly spend in several lifetimes, refuse to pay their fair share of taxes?

Giving tax breaks to the wealthy makes as much sense as doubling or tripling payments to social-welfare beneficiaries and pensioners.

That, of course, has an echo in New Zealand, where the latest tax cuts, introduced by the Key Government and which benefit mainly high income-earners, are ostensibly being paid for by deep cuts to public services.

Could that, perhaps, explain why New Zealand’s 10 richest Rich Listers managed a 20 per cent increase in their wealth in just 12 months? That this is somehow seen as praiseworthy in some quarters makes me want to puke.

And don’t talk to me about “investment” and “business growth” and the “trickle-down effect”.

If any of those things were anything but mirages, this country and others would not have hundreds of thousands, and in some places millions, of citizens unemployed, living in poverty, riddled with sickness and facing the daily fear, or reality, of hunger if not starvation.

Powerful writing, and as good a critique of right-wing greed as you will find anywhere. I don’t personally have a problem with a few rich folk getting richer, but I join George in puke land when they do so while fighting tooth and claw against paying reasonable taxes to help a country in hard times. It isn’t about envying those with wealth, it is about feeling compassion for those in need. Well done Garth George for speaking up.

57 comments on “George on tax”

  1. Draco T Bastard 1

    Yeah, sometimes he’s right. Just not often enough to make reading his column a worthwhile objective.

    • aerobubble 1.1

      I disagree, being almost right is far worse than be obviously wrong.

      He framed the reason why the rich have to take their medicine as – having too much money.

      But to emphasis the lie he places the remarks in their own paragraph.

      The explaination why the rich need to take a cold shower is inflation.

      There is too much call on future wealth projected off cheap oil valuations when everyone now knows that oil has peaked.

      So no, the rich don’t have too much money, that’s not entirely true, there’s too many exuberance valuations hanging over the market.

      • Colonial Viper 1.1.1

        Frak these people at the top making a game out of collecting piles of wealth

        Don’t they know that people living within 1km of them are cold and hungry, desperate for even basic livable income?

        So no, the rich don’t have too much money, that’s not entirely true,

        They wouldn’t have too much money if they helped us construct a society where everyone could get by on decent incomes. As it is, its becoming obscene.

        • aerobubble

          Rubbiish. Past tense retortic. if only we could have gotten decent incomes.

          We obviously were hoodwinked.

          We assumed that all the exuberance was down to right wing policies like free markets and
          deregulation. That’s where we were wrong. Deregulation allowed for debt to be loaded up
          on society and free markets are not a policy, they are a abstract theory that never can exist.

          What’s chronic about the debate is the framing, how we assume because the media keeps retelling us how it is, that markets work best if we don’t look to carefully at them, don’t
          worry about regulation.

          When its patently absurd. We could never have afforded to pay for much of the infrastructure
          we have now and would not have it, if we’d waited for the market.

          The lies are from people like George who papers over the rot when it doesn’t matter, but come election time will be gunhoe for rightwing dogmatic ideology that harms us all.

          We were told by the talking heads in the media that the right wing view was credible, that
          we should stop worrying about markets because some ivory tower intellectual has this free market theory.

          The solution is actually quite simple. Theres a minimum churn in employment ?3%?.
          Governments should subsidies all employers until the unemployment rate hits 3%.
          That will mean everyone can start a company hire their mates and keep people active
          and working. Not those crappy work schemes goverment creates, that are designed to
          not work. Need people to plant trees? No problem.

          • ropata

            The lies are from people like George who papers over the rot when it doesn’t matter, but come election time will be gunhoe for rightwing dogmatic ideology that harms us all.

            Ironically, ‘gung-ho’ is a concept from the Chinese communist revolution

            “Gung ho” is an anglicised pronunciation of “gōng hé” (工合), the shortened version and slogan of the “gōngyè hézuòshè” (工業合作社) or Chinese Industrial Cooperatives, which was abbreviated as INDUSCO in English.

            The two Chinese characters forming the word Gung Ho are translated individually as “Work” and “Together”.

          • AAMC

            ” some ivory tower intellectual has this free market theory.”

            Isn’t it interesting that the Right so often denigrate the left as a bunch of out of touch academics, and yet the Mecca of the last 30 years of their economic thinking is straight out of the Chicago School of Economics.

    • Vicky32 1.2

      Yeah, sometimes he’s right.

      IMO more often than some people think! I have a collection of clippings from the 90s, many of them his columns, he’s keenly interested in justice for the poor…

  2. Afewknowthetruth 2

    ‘I don’t personally have a problem with a few rich folk getting richer’

    I think you should. Almost all wealth is obtained via exploitation of people and exploitation of the environment.

    ‘George clearly doesn’t understand the American deficit. In fact his article (on debt) is a confused and rambling piece in general.’

    That is why his articles are published by the Herald. Their main agenda is to make a profit, and that is best achieved by keeping ‘the proles’ confused and by keeping all the fundamentals flaws in the system well hidden.

    There was a bit of a market meltdown overseas yesterday (most markets down 3 to 5%), just as anyone who understands how the system works has been expecting.

    There will be no economic recovery of the global economic system, just further staggering from one crisis to the next, until the system breaks down completely.

    Those who have will do their best to hang on to their ill-gottten gains and prevent the have-nots from sharing the loot. It has been that way since the dawn of civlisation.

    • KJT 2.1

      While I mostly disagree with Garth George’s conclusions, excepting this article, I have never doubted that his heart is in the right place. A genuine concern for peoples welfare does show.

      He is an example of an old style conservative. The ones who have principles apart from greed.

      Personally I have no problem with someone getting richer if:

      They contribute something to general well being.
      The entrepreneur who develops and markets a 20% more efficient wind generator will deserve whatever wealth he gets from a grateful world.
      The person who starts and builds a useful productive business.
      Those who’s original ideas enhance our lives.
      The skilled, highly trained professionals who look after our health, build our housing and infrastructure.
      Even! politicians, who advocate for the general welfare.

      It is no coincidence that most of those who have genuinely earned are prepared to contribute back into society.

      I do have a problem with those who have unearned wealth.
      People who manage to award themselves earnings way in excess of their contribution.
      Managers and directors who think they add 100’s of times more value than their staff.
      Those with inherited wealth who think they have a natural right to accumulate it further at everyone else’s expense.
      Speculators in assets who never add anything but rising prices.
      Financiers that destroy more wealth than they add.
      Those who use trusts, shelters and transfer pricing to avoid paying their fair share.

      • Afewknowthetruth 2.1.1

        The present economic system is geared to rewarding those who cause the most environmental destruction and those who exploit others.

        Practically all economic activity is predicated on the conversion of fossil fuels into waste -at the expense of the next generation, since that waste is killing the planet.

        Many people who superficially are contribiting to society are in practice wandering around with wrecking balls. But that reality is only visible to those whi understand the complex relationships between energy, pollution and economics.

        • aerobubble

          yes, exactly. We need only so much food, heat, social connection, etc each day, its not ‘growing’, there essentially is no extra growth potential past population growth. Everything extra is more productive farmland turned into suburbs, more land dug up for the minerials, more and degraded by industry. Growth is death, a death cult. where’s the wealth in making people self-sufficient, engaged, centered, happy. Not in the ‘pragmatic’ politics of the market driven economy. I’m no communist, and capitalism that leads to self-genocide is stupid.

          • AAMC

            I wonder how many who chose not to see this are in fact subscribers to the Apocalypse? It seems belief in endless growth requires an anthropocentric faith.

      • Morrissey 2.1.2

        An utterly bizarre comment by KJT…
        I have never doubted that his heart is in the right place. A genuine concern for peoples welfare does show.

        What you have written is perfect nonsense. Clearly you have not read much by Garth George.

        • Vicky32

          What you have written is perfect nonsense. Clearly you have not read much by Garth George.

          I am with KJT here. I have read ‘much’ by Garth George, and it’s clear that he does in fact have great concern for people’s welfare…

        • Draco T Bastard

          His heart does appear to be in the right place. His problem is his belief that a right-wing government will address those problems.

          • Morrissey

            His heart does appear to be in the right place.

            Garth George is already infamous for his humiliatingly inept performance on Media 7 last December, when he was exposed by Jon Stephenson to be corrupt, ignorant, and incorrigibly lazy. But that’s not all.

            During the 22-day bombardment and invasion of Gaza in 2008-9, George repeatedly made callous and brutal statements about the victims, even as the death toll climbed way over one thousand. He expressed a sniffy contempt for “the whole lot of them” and opined learnedly that there would “never be an end to it”.

            The evidence that Garth George has a heart, leave alone it being “in the right place”, is about as compelling as the evidence he has read one serious book on Palestine or Afghanistan.

            • Draco T Bastard

              Ah, I should’ve paid more attention to him. Those actions are the actions of a Right Wing Authoritarian. Which is what I thought he was I just didn’t realise he was quite that rabid.

            • Steve Withers

              Garth George embodies the usual mix of human inconsistency and irrationality.

              The most recent example I can think of is the fuss over “Happy Feet” the penguin.

              We might kill a thousand such penguins every year in nets while fishing without any real care or regard…..but when faced with one on the beach in difficulty we will expend serious resource to “save” it and return it to where it came from.

              This is why the planet we know has no real future as a human-habitable place. The problems we create don’t poke us individually in the eye until it’s far too late….and we will happily ignore and deride people to try to warm us before we get our eyes poked.

              It doesn’t mean we don’t care. We just don’t know or understand. We are simply too stupid (functionally – through ignorance) – collectively – to make good choices.

              Pick almost any subject. Collectively NZ society IS ‘Garth George’ in the end.

              This election should see National at 15% in the polls if voters actually understood their policies and what they will result in. They wouldn’t ask “Who else is there..?” They’d vote for ANYONE else.

              But we will “GG” it. That’s just who NZ is – collectively – these days.

          • Vicky32

            His problem is his belief that a right-wing government will address those problems.

            Where have you got that idea?


  3. LynW 3

    Yes, strange times indeed! Who would have thought a Garth George column would cover the tax debate so well. Well said Garth. This election really will tell us about the true character of New Zealanders and I live in hope we will be pleasantly surprised. It is not about change for change sake this time.With asset sales clearly on the agenda, supporting National will give them the mandate to lead New Zealand down the path of no return. Short term gain, long term pain!

    • Afewknowthetruth 3.1


      NZ was put on the path of ‘no return’ back in the 1980s, by a so-called Labour government. And the pro-globalisation, pro-free trade, pro-multinational corporation, pro-money-lender government of Helen Clark did nothing to take the nation off the road that ultimately leads to catastrophe.

      The outcome of the next election will make no difference to the final outcome -well not if it the next government comprises of any of the following: National, Labour, Act, Green, Maori Party, UF. NZF etc. They are all locked into redundant paradigms which make matters worse. The only variation is the speed at which they make matters worse.

      Industrial society is headed for complete collapse because industrial society is founded on completely unsustainable practices.

  4. Garth is a bit of an enigma.  Most of the time he is bat shit crazy but occasionally very coherent.

    I wonder if Garth is related to Pete? 

  5. vto 5

    The tide is turning. The columnist Hubbard wrote a near identical piece in the SST a couple of weeks ago. And now this fulla Garth George.

    This turning is catching on in my opinion. Even Bernard Hickey, yesterday on Nat Radio, simply stated outright as a matter of fact not opinion that the rich have simply been too greedy in the last decade or two or so.

    Those of you on the left should pick up this turning tide and push it along quick smart. You gonna have to be quick and smart about it though. Key and his troops will no doubt already have a counter-attack ready for launch in defence. Drop the SIS shit Goff and Cunliffe and concentrate all your energies on this. It is far more important.

    Get stuck into them. I wrote a rhyme when Clark first came to power that was ..

    Facsists in Helengrad,
    Born to be bad,
    Encourage the dope and put up the fags,

    Get the bosses, and the bankers,
    And especially all those fucking rich wankers,
    Just do everything, stick ya nose in,
    Tear their guts out, give us more gin,

    On it went. It was actually intended to expose the envy of left politics but now that my own politics has, some decade later, swung back leftish again it seems appropriate in the opposite sense (except perhaps the last bit).

    Expose their greed

  6. vto 6

    gah, moderation… what did I say, what did I say?

  7. Bored 7

    I don’t personally have a problem with a few rich folk getting richer…good, neither do I, in fact I applaud anybody who works hard, takes the risk and creates employment, good and services that we can all partake of.

    Where I differ from the anti tax RWNJs is that I understand that there are lots of anomolies that slant playing fields to the advantage of certain individuals such as inherited wealth, educational privelege, inherited brains etc etc. It is easy to reconcile paying tax. You take responsibility for yourself to make the cash happen using the environment provided by the collective. You then responsibly return back to the collective the cash you dont need or cant use.

    The mindset behind it all is greed and a refusal of the rich person to see himself as anything other than truly exceptional because he has “achieved”. History tells me they are all pretty ordinary, I can think of f**k all wealthy dead NZers of the last 100 years, they join the rest of us in the oblivion of time and memory. Common as the dirt we are cast back to.

  8. seanmaitland 8

    So when are you going to admit that 30% of government revenue being spent on welfare is completely unaffordable? (14 billion out of 48)

    That is the reason we are up the creek – pretending it is because rich people don’t pay tax (when they clearly do) is just FUD and you know it.

    • vto 8.1

      So when are you going to admit that just 1% of the population holding more wealth than the bottom 90% is completely unaffordable?

      That is the reason we are up the creek – pretending it is because poor people need to be given money to buy bread is just FUD but you don’t even know it.

      Wake up and look around mr blinkers.

      • Colonial Viper 8.1.1

        sean is complaining that the super wealthy are now a picked on minority group who need state protection, life is so tough for them.

        Hey Reese, pass me a bottle of the vintage Bollinger, I’m feeling so under-appreciated by society today 😛

    • Lanthanide 8.2

      When are you going to realise that if we had higher tax rates for the wealthy, government revenue would be much greater than “48” and therefore the welfare bill would cease to be 30% of it.

      Seems pretty obvious really.

    • bbfloyd 8.3

      sean… there are so many reasons why your comment is lacking any kind of substance i won’t even bother to start.. (having no wish to exceed your attention span).

      just understand one simple truth, to remove the welfare net would create exponentially greater cost to the very fabric of what we laughably refer to as “society”… case in point…. without that network(created by the labour movement, who fought and died for the rights we take for granted), unless you were born into the aristocracy, then you wouldn’t be sitting in front of your computer making facile comment now…. you would, if you even existed, be working for no more than enough food to get you back to whatever task is dictated by your owners, and shelter to keep you from freezing to death until you get too old to be of use… then you’d be on your own…

      do some thought… do some historical research… come back with comments that show knowledge that isn’t just what you have had put right in front of you…

  9. Morrissey 9

    In fact his article (on debt) is a confused and rambling piece in general. But he makes up for it at the end…

    A (rare) lucid paragraph doesn’t compensate for George’s standard mode of bad-tempered bewilderment. He’s an intellectually lazy, incurious commentator on a par with Paul Holmes and Leighton Smith. Searching for dregs of gold amidst the dross he turns out is largely a futile exercise.

    Don’t encourage the old fool.

    • AAMC 9.1

      But as a byproduct of his usual commentary, he will have readers who would not usually have that argument put in front of them, especially from one of their own.

    • Vicky32 9.2

      He’s an intellectually lazy, incurious commentator on a par with Paul Holmes and Leighton Smith. Searching for dregs of gold amidst the dross he turns out is largely a futile exercise.

      I absolutely could not agree less! What is the issue so many people have with GG? He has one thing in his favour that neither Smith nor Holmes have – honesty!
      Almost no one is always wrong all the time (I’d make an exception for Key and Dubya). Even the egregiously awful Frank Haden, defended solo mothers to the hilt, for which I wrote and thanked him. (Years ago, obviously). GG is not a ‘right wing fundamentalist’, he’d blench at the very idea – he’s a Catholic, and they tend to be leftish…

      • Draco T Bastard 9.2.1

        He may have honesty but that doesn’t mean to say that he knows what he’s talking about. In fact, the total lack of fact in his columns proves beyond doubt that he doesn’t have a clue.

      • KJT 9.2.2

        Never thought I would be defending GG.

        I disagree with Garth George a lot of the time. Especially his conservative Catholic views on sex, the role of women and abortion.
        But he has the, equally Catholic views, which I do agree with, on working for the good of the poor and disadvantaged.

        His views come from a background of caring, not the Neo-liberal ones of taking what you can get.

      • Morrissey 9.2.3

        …he’s a Catholic, and they tend to be leftish…

        Actually, Vicky, the opposite is true. Certainly, there is a strong tradition of left wing Catholicism, in New Zealand and Australia as well as in the U.K. and the United States. It was a group of brave Catholic activists that worked for the release of the democratic Algerian parliamentarian-cum-refugee Ahmed Zaoui, to the fury of Helen Clark. And it was a group of Catholic activists who popped that obscene carbuncle in Marlborough, once again to the fury of Helen Clark. Catholic activists have taken the lead in attacking, with hammers, U.S. and British war planes in the U.S. and in Ireland.

        But despite this, the Church is usually an extremely reactionary institution. Garth George belongs firmly to that deeply smug, complacent, reactionary tradition.

        • Vicky32

          It was a group of brave Catholic activists that worked for the release of the democratic Algerian parliamentarian-cum-refugee Ahmed Zaoui,

          I know, I was one of them! 
          I remain convinced that you’re doing GG a dis-service. I’d like to point out that he will never support abortion as a woman’s right, and neither will I, and in fact, it’s a dreadful error that so many people use that as their only criterion whereas it’s a ‘right’ most women actually don’t want – but that the man does want…
          (Tangentially relevant, Peter Hitchens, in an ill-tempered book I read last week, admitted that very thing – that he felt it himself, the reluctance of the man to allow his life to change – and the powerful temptation to ask for an abortion instead.)

          • Morrissey

            I know, I was one of them!

            Gosh, Vicky, my opinion of you, already a very high one, has gone up even more!

            I remain convinced that you’re doing GG a dis-service.

            I’m judging him on his public utterances, whether on Jim Mora’s show (where he likes to say he is a “curmudgeon”), or glibly repeating Army propaganda in print and on television, or writing brutally ignorant attacks on the victims of war crimes.

            I’d like to point out that he will never support abortion as a woman’s right, and neither will I, and in fact, it’s a dreadful error that so many people use that as their only criterion whereas it’s a ‘right’ most women actually don’t want – but that the man does want…

            His opinions on abortion have nothing to do with my assessment of him. I condemn Garth George for his laziness and his adamantine refusal to do the decent thing and apologize for his corrupt practice, even when confronted with this by Jon Stephenson on television.

  10. Terry 10

    This the best I have seen frm George (which does not say much!) Even he seems to be “getting the message” and should that be the case maybe there is still hope for us all!

  11. ak 11

    This is quite a major. A near-deathbed epiphany. As vto points out, part of a swelling tide, today’s global stock shock another mini-tsunami.

    Ironically, we can thank the manipulated polls: no Goffy/Helenhate fear to kill the mind, the view becomes clearer.

    “Reds under the beds” sustained insanity for four decades, but has been ebbing since wallfall 1989: “maorification” on its last legs ever since Key needed the Maori Party for his ACT balancing.

    One by one the straw men collapse, the god of greed and his slippery moneychanging minions exposed.

    Smiling assassins; gilded geldings; grin without chin, and the tide’s coming in.

    • Colonial Viper 11.1

      This equities crash is gonna be a bad one. Watch Europe when it opens later today.

      In 2008 the US Govt had a chance of regulating all the bad out of the system to get it moving again.

      Instead they got it moving again by pumping the bad players full of free cash from the Federal Reserve, in essence letting the bad players go back to their old games with much more (tax payer provided) money.

      Watch Bank of America self-destruct.

    • ChrisH 11.2

      @Ak very well put, you should be a ranter poet.

    • AAMC 11.3

      We have to topple the baby boomers before the reds will cease to be under the beds!

      Although they conveniently chose not to acknkwledge that their capitalist system is being underwritten by Communist China.

    • vto 11.4

      oh you hae a turn of phrase, mr ak

  12. Jan 12

    Garth said “And don’t talk to me about ” … the “trickle-down effect”.

    Yep – As Margaret Atwood said in 2008 Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth” http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/massey-archives/2008/11/06/massey-lectures-2008-payback-debt-and-the-shadow-side-of-wealth/
    ” There’s a reason its called trickle down” than rather than gush, flow or flood!!

    • Colonial Viper 12.1

      That warm trickle down you feel from the Super-Rich pitter-pattering down on top of your working class head…

      it’s not money.

  13. If Garth George can see the neo-liberals are full of crap, maybe there is hope after all.

    What amazes me is no one in the MSM has made the connection between what Bush and the GOP did to US finances between 2001 and 2008….and what happening here right now.

    Cut the taxes. Allow time for the deficit to explode…then say you need to cut spending to fix the deficit you made with your tax cuts. Talk about how a house needs to balance the grocery budget…..blah blah.

    The plebs fell for it in America…and they fell for it here, too.

    I thought Kiwis were smarter than that.

    • aerobubble 13.1

      What’s astonishing is our economy, schools declare their students all need mobile devices!
      Wifi could be free everywhere and we would need this energy rich mobile devices, we could have a lot of standard PC available everywhere connected freely to wifi. But no, the markets rigged, there should be no need for dial up, every town should have a backbone of free slightly low broadband if there was a free market. i.e. a market response ease to get to all consumers is a huge payoff and
      would wipe our lots of retailers.

      We have nothing like a free market, nothing close at all that resembles it.

  14. Steve 14

    *What* is going on with Garth George lately??!! He also wrote a (mostly) agreeable piece on school breakfasts last week. If people like that grouch are waking up to the greed and lunacy of right-wing ‘trickle down’ economics there is considerable hope for the left 🙂

  15. felix 15

    I’m with vto and ak, the tide is turning and the “greed is good” mentality personified by Key is going out of fashion.

    Fast enough? Dunno. But it’s on the way out and there’s nothing they can do about it.

    It’s in the wind.

  16. billy fish 16

    I was listening to Dan Carlin’s podcast today, his latest one was commenting on the whole manufactured debt debacle in the states.
    One of the points he made – at length – is the way to solve a debt “crisis” is not to reduce spending or increases taxes. Its to increase the wage of MOST people across the board and do a big FU to the liberal capitalist globalisation lie that we must compete in a global free market with no barriers. As he correctly pointed out, your government should be working FOR your country, not for a theory.

    Worth listening to the man, I do not agree with a fair bit of what he says but he does put forward a good debating point and is a great insite into US politics.

  17. Jum 17

    Garth George was so intent on getting rid of a woman Prime Minister that he was quite happy to sell the rest of New Zealand out; now he regrets it. Boo hoo.

    He’s only interested in people’s welfare on his terms and you can forget about women’s rights on his agenda. Far too many people lied or misled or left out information that could have kept this rightwing government in check and now they’re bleating about the back to the future crap that’s now occurring.

    Garth George can also take part responsibility for the further loss of our sovereignty and assets.

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