As expected Bill English has served up a budget with no greater focus than reducing a government deficit that really doesn’t matter much at all.
Of course he’s doing this at the expense of a whole lot of things that do matter – our kids’ education, our families’ health, our retirements.
What they’re offering instead is a series of hollow promises of more jobs and greater wealth. How are they going to get us there? Well there wasn’t a lot of a plan laid out for that and even John Key’s good mate, and fellow traveller, Mark Whelan described the forecasts used as making a lot of optimistic assumptions.
It’s not surprising this go-nowhere budget is what we’re seeing from English and National. It’s the same strategy they applied the last time they were in power – a slow constriction of government spend in the blind hope that the private sector will fill the void. And it’s going to get us the same systemic problems of ongoing recession, income disparity, skills shortages, and increased private debt (the real debt problem).
Admittedly this is no “mother of all budgets” but what people forget is that that infamous budget was surrounded by budgets just like this one. The fact English’s been around the small-government block before and seen the results make me pretty certain this is blind ideology at work rather than naive trust in the invisible hand.
With regard to the response, it was clear Shearer was running on a practised speech with little new information in it. My advice would be that if you’re going to make the (ill-advised) claim that economics goes over the heads of most Kiwis it pays not to follow up with a gazillion numbers related to economic indicators. I’d also have liked to see a bit more of a kick back against the austerity meme.
The fact John Key can use the phrase “zero budget” as a boast is indicative of an opposition that has lost control of the discourse on the economy – the phrase would be used pejoratively in any of (the many) other countries that are creeping out from under the recession. On that point – a note to the media. “Greece” is not New Zealand. Indeed the “Greece” meme from the government is absurd – it’s like your doctor telling you the only cure for your head-cold is to have your foot amputated – but you should feel lucky because Mr Greece in the next ward over had his whole leg amputated after he was crushed by a mercedes benz.
All this aside, there have been no real surprises in this budget. The tories are still taking us to hell in a handbasket, the opposition is still failing to do its job and the media are still failing to provide any analysis past the usual commentary on how it will sell. Frankly, the whole thing is predictable and depressing.
Update: I take back what I said about the media. There’s a particularly good piece by Brian Fallow here