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?