On priorities

Written By: - Date published: 9:00 am, May 21st, 2010 - 45 comments
Categories: budget 2010, public services - Tags:

I think the saddest part of this budget is that the government will spend $70 million building more prisons while cutting $120 million from early childhood education. It kind of sums up this Key Government’s priorities, don’t you think?

This is actually the real story of the Budget.

The tax cuts remain exactly the give away for the rich disguised by a whole lot of other changes, as predicted. Not a single dollar of the tax cuts appeared by magic or even came from cutting that mysteriously elusive ‘government waste’. It came from putting up other taxes and borrowing a billion dollars over the next four years.

If money was to be borrowed it should have been borrowed to invest in health and education. Those public services are the foundations of our future. Even the most cold-hearted neoliberal should have the sense to see that we want a healthy, educated ‘workforce’ or even a healthy, educated society.

The social and economic rewards from investing in health and education are enormous. It is a crime to cut them, particularly early childhood education. As a society and an economy we will serve the sentence long into the future.

The cruelest thing is that National has targeted the best early childhood centres for the cuts. Labour wanted to move to making all ECE teachers qualified. National has imposed a punishment on centres that have mostly qualified teachers.

Cutting spending on health and education doesn’t make the costs disappear. They’re just transferred – on to the poor and middle class, and into the future.

David Cunliffe has a good summary of other cuts, here’s a few that have struck me.

We’re paying a billion this year in greenhouse polluter subsidies. Two and a half billion over the next four years. We’re paying as a country either way, the question is whether the cost is on polluters or on taxpayers.

DoC will now have to pay for the John Key Memorial Cycleway out of its base funding (as well as giving up the land for it for free). That’s $17 million a year coming out of protecting our endangered species, controlling pests, and helping Kiwis enjoy our incredible conversation lands.

These are just a handful of examples of National undermining our social wage, the public services that underpin our wonderful society. We’ll see more uncovered over the days to come. But I predict that this attack on early childhood education while the rich get a pay-out will be its defining feature.

Are these cuts reflective of New Zealand’s priorities? Or do John Key and National not represent the interests of New Zealand, only those of a privileged, short-term focused elite?

45 comments on “On priorities”

  1. In terms of the PR I think the Government has done a fairly good job with the budget (gasp). But it is the cumulative effect of all of these parsimonious stupid idiotic cuts that will slowly change people’s perceptions about the budget.

    As NZIER has said the government focuses on the short term and totally misses the long term. Education of our youngest is a classic example of this. You will not see the effects for about 15 years or do.

    Why would the Government want to dumb down possibly the most important part of our education system?

    • frustrated 1.1

      How much was being spent on the young a decade ago ?

      How much is being spent now ?

    • Draco T Bastard 1.2

      Why would the Government want to dumb down possibly the most important part of our education system?

      Because they (National and their rich mates) want a bunch of dumb fucks who’ll do as they’re told because they don’t know any better.

      • frustrated 1.2.1

        Can someone answer the question, I’m genuinely interested to know rather than be subjected to a whole lot of ideological claptrap from the chap in blue above.

        • Rex Widerstrom

          You’d need to quantify your question a bit, frustrated. Plus, it’s not easy to answer. Obviosuly all the ECE budget is spent on “the young”, but while some health funding is dedicated to paediatrics a portion of the overall funding will also be spent on children dependent upon need, and so on.

          Plus successive governments keep renaming things and shifting expenditure around to claim false “savings” so it’s very hard to keep track.

          I find Brian Easton is good for the sort of overview you’re seeking, though whether he’s written on this precise topic I’m not sure.

  2. just saying 2

    I completely agree Eddie, this is a vivid illustration of NACTs vision for NZ in lots of different ways. Early childhood education is, without doubt the most iomportant part our education system.

    But I can’t help feeling (and maybe I’m being unfair) that to call this the cruellest target of national’s cutbacks, you’d have to be looking at the budget from a pretty confortable place in the world.

    If you’d even picked special eduction as the cruellest cut, I’d be be more inclined to agree.

    As for this issue getting traction, it proably will, but because of how the middle class will be affected. Those who are really struggling, often at the coalface of the breakdown of our essential public services, count for nothing.

  3. tc 3

    Well that pretty much sums of the ethos of the NACT…..more for the rich, screw the middle and lower and for those who can’t afford private health and education too bad.

    Listening to Blinglish explain this you could almost hear the smirk with statements like ‘increased reward for Overtime’ or ‘ incentive to start a business’…….the arrogance and out of touch nature of his reasons are breathtaking.

    Focus from labour should see this appalling wealth shuffle poke more holes in the already badly leaking NACT coalition.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      ‘ incentive to start a business’

      The workers are already in business – they’re just not allowed any of the benefits and they’re certainly not allowed a profit by which they could improve themselves and their business.

      • BevanJS 3.1.1

        I believe it’d be called taking on some of the risk or becoming a shareholder… Last I checked it was most certainly allowed.

        • Draco T Bastard

          They’re already in business, own the business and take the full risks. They are most definitely not allowed to claim tax deductions on the costs (mortgage payments/rent, electricity, food, communications, costs of going to and from work) of running that business.

  4. freedom 4

    i think these lines show up the intent of this Government…
    “It takes a village to raise a child and approximately $100,000 a year to imprison an adult. That’s all I have to say about the balance of our investments. Do the maths.”
    Karlo Mila – The Dominion Post

  5. prism 5

    Listening to Anne Tolley this morning on RadNz. She talked about a target of 80% qualified teachers for preschoolers. Then she talked about cuts to the facilities so that those who had the average of about 65% qualified could increase that level.
    It seemed that those who had achieved target would be forced by budget cuts to decrease the level, and those who had not reached the target would somehow benefit. Very unclear. Like talking out of both sides of the mouth with different messages. I am wary of these government targets. They are aspirational but enforced as if planned and funded policy.

    And Dominic someone economist from Westpac this a.m saying that WFF being reduced would be good as that would encourage more people to work longer hours? Where do these confident money men come from? An alien planet, the Matrix?

    Why is there no understanding that money serves society amongst economists? WFF is only paid to working families. Parents are away from their children and trying to do two jobs already paid work and child rearing, and we are lucky if they manage the childraising adequately. They can’t, and shouldn’t be encouraged to work longer hours. Parenting well is an art not involuntary action like breathing, and if the children don’t get the right guidance and stability needed when young, the result can be a sad adult with destructive traits personally and society-wide.

    NB How to Win an Election (or not Lose by much) – The Goons political masterpiece is good to listen to in these times of grand statements and petty policy.

    • nzfp 5.1

      Hey prism,
      What it means is that creches will hire baby sitters instead of trained educators. Parents are away from their families because we need two incomes to service the mortgage debt on a family home instead of the one income our parents had.

      Two incomes are required because of the neo-liberal monetarist policies introduced by labour in 1984 which has allowed banks to fuel land and property speculation creating an asset bubble in house prices. Great for the banks because the bigger the mortgages the bigger the interest debt.

      Listen to a lecture by American Economist Elizabeth Warren as she explains the changes in western economies that brought about this social shift “Elizabeth Warren — The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class: Higher Risks, Lower Rewards, and a Shrinking Safety Net”.

      • prism 5.1.1

        Good to see someone from Harvard doing economic work that looks at the real world for poorer people. Seems that every time I hear about Harvard as a rule, some dry neo-liberal has just been studying there and going into a high-paid government job here. But not easy for me to listen to Elizabeth Warren. I have to check with my ‘associate’ as to how to download onto my computer.

        True about house prices rising. Can’t blame the Labour or really any NZ government as all seem to have been like rabbits in the headlights of cheap credit and financial manipulation in the big economies. Ireland has same problem, Europe as well as the core economy, the United States.

        Going out to work as a parent used to be an aspirational move to better the household, provide for a better-off future. Now it has become a necessity just to pay the rent, possibly can’t afford a mortgage, and haven’t enough disposable income much less discretionary saving for a deposit. It appears we are reverting to the old system of the wealthy accepting the regime of poor workers grubbing for money, falling prey to drugs, and going to prison where they are warehoused and rotated.

        • nzfp

          Hi Prism,
          To download the MP3 Audio version of the lecture, right click here and choose save as (if using firefox).

          To download the MP4 Video version of the lecture right click here and choose save as (if using firefox).

          The audio version is much smaller.

        • Draco T Bastard

          Good to see someone from Harvard doing economic work that looks at the real world for poorer people.

          She’s a professor of law. In other words, not an economist fresh out of the standard Indoctrination into Neo-Liberalism that universities pass off as studies in economics.

  6. nzfp 6

    One of my most disappointing memories of the 2008 election campaign season was watching former All-Black “Ice Man” Michael Jones campaining on Nationals behalf in the typically impoverished Pacific Island communities of South Auckland. Jones would tell the mainly Samoan minimum wage workers that “you will never get change unless youvote for change”.

    Well Michael – I’m sure the cuts to health and education along with the raise of GST was not the “Hope and Change” that the lowest paid members of our society voted for. They would have trusted you and your devoutly faithful christian values to do right by them!

    I’m sorry guys, I don’t have a link to this as it was an unpaid advertisement for National mascarading as “News” on the New Zealand “Mainstream Media”. I saw the news segment on TV back when I usd to watch TV.

  7. Quoth the Raven 7

    I think the saddest part of this budget is that the government will spend $70 million building more prisons while cutting $120 million from early childhood education. It kind of sums up this Key Government’s priorities, don’t you think?

    I agree it shows up the messed up priorities of National however, if Labour hadn’t have absurdly increased sentences and created harsher bail and parole laws new prisons may not have been necessary. If National really wanted to cut government spending they’d relax bail and parole laws, reduce sentences, scrap their 3 strikes law, put a moratorium on new prisons, cut the size of the police force, and start decrinimalisng peaceful activity like drug use and sale.

    • frustrated 7.1

      Um I’d hardly call drug use and sale a peaceful activity .. sure some is but you just need to look at the use/abuse of alcohol in our society to see that a lot is not

      • Quoth the Raven 7.1.1

        If they do violence to another, if they harm anaother than that’s what it is and there should be consequences, but the act itself of consuming, selling or possessing a drug is peaceful. You’ve got to separate out the two.Locking people in prison, doing violence to them because they possess a drug that’s aggression and should be no more tolerated than any other act of aggression.

    • Which goes to show that while they are motivated to cut costs to boost profits, they also need to hang onto their ill gotten gains. They absolutely need to create a criminal class to divert our attention when we question their profit motive. So no contradiction – social insurance.

    • Rex Widerstrom 7.3

      Well said, QtR. And as I commented last night, not a peep from Labour on justice-related issues in its reply, yet this would be one area on which it could easily and clearly delineate a difference from National. Pathetic.

  8. Yesterday, the National Government delivered the English Patient.
    This patient, is sickly, and needs decent medical treatment, such which is unlikely to be affordable at future New Zealand’s public hospitals. The tax cuts delivered instead will mean that our patient will only get proper medical care at private hospitals, and then only if they can afford it.

  9. jcuknz 9

    I thought that two of the new prisons [or, the new prisons] were specifically to rehabilitate Maori, and others, in Auckland and East Coast from what Pita Sharples said. To act as a rehabilitation staging post between regular prison and ‘the street’. As such that is a good idea and really nothing to do with the ‘shameful’ cuts in early education. The government still pays for 80% rather than maybe up to 100%. I don’t see the need for all staff at childhood centres to be ‘qualified/ higher paid’ as the ‘vested interest’ woman told us on TV3 last night. A version of NIMBY.
    As the changes affect me they seem to be relatively neutral with a small benefit to me. [$12pw after allowance for GST increase] At this time I don’t expect anything from government as one of the drones in society, being paid for my past efforts to it, being a pensioner.
    On the other hand if the cuts to early childhood prompt couples to not have further children then that is a good thing since the world has enough people on it, too many really.

    • nzfp 9.1

      “the world has enough people on it, too many really” says who? Malthus was wrong and didn’t account for technology. Malthus was wrong on most things as Ricardo and Mills have shown.

      If we want to start with population reduction, lets start with Wall Street and work our way through Banksters and Financial institutions.

      • Bill 9.1.1

        That’s one trickle down theory; one ‘let’s focus on the top and everything will be okay for everyone’ idea I could happily live with.

      • Lanthanide 9.1.2

        Malthasism has seen a resurgence amongst the peak oil crowd. For good reason, too, I think.

        • nzfp

          “Malthasism has seen a resurgence”, in the philosophy of science, the validity of a theory is in it’s ability to make an accurate prediction – the current world population is far beyond Malthusian predictions. It is disingenuous to suggest over population is responsible for the famines in Ethiopia (for example). Professor Michel Chossudovsky and other economists criticle of the IMF have shown that during the worst of the famine, Ethopia was a net exporter of food (due to IMF recommendations and structural adjustments) – as was Ireland during the potato famines. The IMF policies were responsible for the famines, not the Ethiopian population. The same can said of anywhere the IMF goes. Mathus was dead wrong – an elite, the perfect candidate for Bill’s top down population reduction policy 😉

          • Draco T Bastard

            Our technology used to grow food is about to hit a brick wall called Peak Oil. Consider, one of the reasons for the collapse of the Roman Empire was because the farms could no longer support the population as the soils had lost all the nutrients that plants need. We’ve prolonged that how long fields can be used to grow food some by the use of oil based fertilisers but that resource is no longer expanding and human population still is.

            • nzfp

              Another reason for the collapse of Rome as pointed out by Stephen Zarlenga – the founder of the American Monetary Institute and author of “The Lost Science of Money”, was an economic collapse brought about by debt saturation. I tend towards this reason, as evidence of adherence to poor economic practice is found throughout human history, for eg, the Holodomor – starvation of an estimated 10,000,000 Ukranians due to Stalinist soviet economics to name one of many.

            • nzfp

              Another thing about Ethiopia – the IMF introduced “advanced farming practices – what you call technology” with their structural adjustments and shift to agri-business from local farming practices. After which the famines occured when the farmers were forced off their land. The population had nothing to do with the famines, neither did the technology, it was all economics.

      • Ari 9.1.3

        NZFP: If we want everyone alive to have the living standard of Canada, we’d have to cut the global population by 6 in order to stay within the carrying capacity of the planet’s natural resources.

        I’d say that’s a good indication of overpopulation.

        • nzfp

          Ari “If we want everyone alive to have the living standard of Canada” is a “Non Sequitur” as you assume that all the people in the world want to live in concrete boxes in huge cities without the capability to grow their own food while both parents work to service huge mortgage debts. Ethiopia did not have the living standard of Canada when the IMF moved in made structural adjustments to the economy and destroyed the local sustainable food production industries by replacing it with big Agri-business leading to the famines despite net food export. Read Chossudovsky’s book for yourself. The Ethipoian economy and society was stable until the World Bank and the IMF destoyed their nation. The famine was caused by poor economic theory and fraudulent financial practices – not overpopulation.

          • Draco T Bastard

            Why do you keep going on about the Ethiopian Famine? That’s got very little to do with the oncoming collapse of global farming which is based on an unsustainable use of a limited resource and delusional economics.

            • jcuknz

              Then without going off shore you have the New Zealand situation where our population is increasing and where do people live? On their quarter acre sections, probably mostly less from what I see of new subdivisions, which was once productive farmland, usually the best farmland too.
              I know that in many cultures without the benefits of a socialistic government providing care for the elderly the purpose of having children is to create people to look after you when you are old. Hence if superannuation was world wide there is a reasonable hope that the population increase would not be so great and family could concentrate of a higher standard of living. Other problems are a lack of knowledge of birth control measures and male domience stopping women having a say in the size of families.
              If mankind doesn’t have the intelligence and willpower to limit its growth it is inevitable that disease, famine and war will reduce the population. China showed the way decades ago with its one child policy, it is regretable that other countries have not the wit to follow suit.

            • nzfp

              Because the topic of the response was Malthusian population collapse predictions. Malthus is wrong and Ari’s comment is a non-sequiter.

              Show me the evidence of imminent population collapse.

  10. Bill 10

    Why state fund early childhood if your plan is to lock them up and make money out of some lip service to rehab in a privatised environment? That would be an utter waste of resources.

    Less flippantly.

    Isn’t it about time that we minimally demanded our fair share of the wealth generated in NZ in order that the income of an individual can easily support a family? Then having a parent bringing up a child in anything other than poverty and struggle becomes a real option. And with all those parents bringing up children, we might start to interact with each other ( both the parents and the respective children) and voila! – we have the basis of that strange and wonderful thing called a community; that thing we traded under duress for the ability to provide for our families material wants and needs under this wonderful system of ours that is apparently predicated on wealth creation.

  11. Buster 11

    “He who opens a school door, closes a prison”
    – Victor Hugo

    Or vice versa.

  12. George D 12

    Jeez, most of you have short memories. Here’s a quiz – prize for the first correct answer – who was the Minister of Justice under which the NZ prison population had its largest increase?

  13. George D 13

    Sadly, yes. The New Zealand Labour Party has taken billions of dollars away from spending in education and health and put it into locking up more of the population than almost any country except the USA.


    • jcuknz 13.1

      Well that is what the left is all about …. locking people up either in prisons or in welfare straight jackets because of course ‘they know best’ what people need.

      • prism 13.1.1

        Very funny jcuknz. Great iron-y. Steel bars do not a prison make or welfare turn into a straight or gay jacket unless it becomes excessive. Any excessive policy from left or right becomes counter-productive.

        • jcuknz

          Oh you are so correct there … every time we have a change the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater of ideological pureness.

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