Russel Norman followed Phil Goff and John Key’s state of the nation speeches with the annual Greens state of the planet address. The capital gains tax initiative grabbed headlines but there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface. As we face myriad economic and environmental problems, the Greens have the real answers.
Russel makes a crucial linkage, which the Left should hit again and again and again until the election, between National’s tax cuts for the rich and the debt levels it is using to justify public service cuts and asset sales:
National’s tax cuts will add $15 billion to government debt by 2015. And for what? A person on the median income got an extra $14 a week, while the head of Westpac got an extra $5000 a week. Borrowing for tax cuts targeted at the wealthiest is reckless and immoral.
National’s leaders then have the gall to use the fiscal deficit that they created to justify spending cuts to social and environmental programmes, such as night classes and community environment grants.
John Key is using the debt his Government created to justify privatisation of public assets. We should be under no illusions; they are heading down a path that will lead to full privatisation and foreign ownership of key parts of the New Zealand economy. As we’ve seen with the banking sector, profits will flow overseas, prices will rise, innovation will be stifled by monopolies and revenue to the Government will drop.
Instead of inheriting public assets, the next generation will inherit $84 billion in National Party debt.
National needs to stop bludging off our grandkids.
To the extent that there is a debt problem, and analysts say the government’s books are in fine shape compared to other countries’, it is a result of National slashing revenue. The government’s revenue base needs to be restored so that we afford the public services we want and not have to undertake a fire sale of our profitable public assets. The Greens, very sensibly, propose a capital gains tax:
The truth is that the Government needs more revenue and the Greens are the only party in Parliament to put forward a serious plan to generate serious revenue – a capital gains tax excluding the family home. In virtually every other developed country you pay tax on income whether that income comes from wages or capital gains.
The Green Party stands for smart, fair taxes and has the courage to say what National and Labour both know: that a capital gains tax excluding the family home will move capital away from property speculation; it will put downward pressure on house prices and help make the dream of home ownership a reality for more Kiwis; it will redirect much-needed capital to a starved productive sector; and it will reduce spiralling government debt.
The National Party is building up massive government debt because they won’t make changes that the tax system desperately needs. Labour is scared to do more than tinker at the edges.
Smart Green economics is about having the courage to make the changes our tax system needs so that we don’t dump our debt on our grandchildren.
Now, you might be saying ‘where’s the environment stuff’? This is the Greens, after all. I think what we’re seeing is a maturing of the Green’s position. They are not, and never have been anti-economy but now they are phrasing their arguments in a way that recognises the environment and the economy are inherently interlinked. Norman is fond of saying there’s no economy without the environment but it’s also true that if we want to protect our environment it is going to be primarily through economic reforms – like taxing or charging for carbon emissions.
There’s also a recognition that an unequal society where the rich live in massive luxury and the poor are desperate to scramble for some semblance of the good life will always be willing to exchange environmental costs for short-term wealth gains. Therefore, we need a more equal and better educated society – one that can think the way out of the environmental/economic problems we face, not just turn away from them in favour of fleeting hedonism:
Smart Green economics says invest in children, education, training and jobs. National puts money into prisons and motorways.
Smart Green economics says workers and unions are central to economic success and we should increase the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour. This government weakens labour laws at the whim of a multinational corporation.
Smart Green economics says invest in our kids right from the start, because they are the future. National has cut funding to early childhood education.
And, of course, the Greens also want to stop spending billions on what Norman calls the new Think Big. Comparing Steven Joyce to Muldoon with an iPad, Norman is blistering on the government’s economically and environmentally destructive motorway and irrigation projects which, in the best Muldoon tradition, are only possible because National is willing to ride roughshod over democratic institutions and public opposition.
There’s much to like in the Green’s vision. I hope that the coming Labour/Green government will put a lot of these ideas into effect.
PS. Keith Locke announced his retirement last week. The last of the first-generation Green MPs to announce he is going, Locke will be missed. A tireless human rights campaigner, he and his cohort were all unique characters that each brought a face to a different group that had never truly been represented in Parliament before and could never have been if not for MMP. Today’s Greens are, perhaps, blander than the first generation but they’re also savvier. As long as they don’t lose touch with those groups that the first generation represented, they stand every chance of getting the Green vote up over 10% this election.