So, how are you enjoying your brighter future? Not too flash, eh? GST up. Wages down. No jobs. More crime. Earthquakes. Oil and food shocks. No bloody cycleway. Discretionary income (after tax, housing, food, transport) is down about 15%. No wonder Kiwis don’t believe Key and National can deliver on their promises.
There’s no denying that the country has been dealt a tough hand in the last few years, both before and after National came to power. But government isn’t about cruising along on a wave of good fortune. It’s about building in the good times while making insurances for the future – like Labour did by paying down debt, building up savings, and getting unemployment down. When tough times come, it’s about actively managing the situation to protect jobs and families.
National hasn’t done that.
We elected a party government in 2008 with Key as chief merrymaker. After 10 years of economic good times (and despite the recession that had just started) the mood was that everything was going well and it was time to cash in our chips, in the form of tax cuts, and have a great big party. Sure, most of the dosh would go to the rich but we would all get some to play with.
It didn’t work out like that and National had no plan, nor the ideological framework to even create a workable plan to get us out of recession or at least make sure that the hurt wasn’t borne by the most vulnerable. Sure, they created the illusion of having a plan with set-pieces like the Jobs Summit and the 2025 Taskforce, but nothing ever came of that play acting.
No wonder a new Horizon poll shows people have lost faith in this government’s economic management:
|Confidence in Nats …||Not confident||Confident|
|… reducing unemployment||75.7%||18.6%|
|… achieving economic growth||62.4%||28.9%|
|… reducing Government debt||68.3%||24.3%|
|… reducing private debt||74.6%||15.5%|
|… increasing household incomes||81.6%||12.5%|
|Household finances since last year||52.2%||12.6%|
|Nats handling of the economy||39.4%||25.5%|
I think this is why Key’s clowning around has suddenly started to wear so thin. While most people were still doing OK and hadn’t been touched by the recession, he was funny and people cheered him on. Now, everyone is feeling the pain whether it’s from a lost job, a real wage cut, the effects of the earthquakes, higher petrol prices, or higher food prices.
Well, nearly everyone. Key and his buddies like Mark Weldon don’t experience or understand our world, as was revealed when Key’s clown mask slipped twice – first, with his foodbanks comment and, second, with during the limo scandal.
So, quite suddenly, a tipping point was reached where Key simply isn’t relating for a large and growing portion of the population. That occurred only in the last couple of months; in November there was 34.2% approval of the government’s handling of the economy and 32.4% disapproval.
Key’s clowning now looks out of touch and artifical. But, as Zetetic pointed out so cuttingly yesterday, Key’s got nothing else. He will keep on clowning because he’s the party time PM.
For Labour and the Greens, these numbers tell me that the economic argument is won. They don’t have to go out there and try to convince people they are worse off under National. They know it’s true without seeing Cunliffe and English argue in increasing arcane fashion over which statistics to use and how.
What Labour and the Greens have to do is translate dissatisfaction into votes. That means making the economy the big election issue by hammering home the message ‘are you better off under National?’ and presenting a plan of their own that is attention-grabbing.
Labour and the Greens can and must do this. Not just for their own electoral success but for the hundreds of thousands of Kiwi families hurting under Key’s neglectful leadership.