- Date published:
8:00 am, March 31st, 2016 - 116 comments
Categories: benefits, grant robertson, john key, labour, making shit up, national, national/act government, paula bennett, same old national, slippery, spin, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: jordan williams, ubi, universal basic income
I wrote about this issue a couple of days ago and set out my reasons why I thought the idea deserved if not demanded debate and why the existing spin on the issue was unwarranted and counterproductive.
There have been two further contributions to the debate of note, one a column by Vern Small in the Dominion Post and one a contribution, in the loosest possible sense of the word, by that famed National Party sock puppet organization the Taxpayers Union.
Small’s post is mostly good but has some criticisms which if they are valid mean that our democracy is in bad shape.
He talks positively about Labour’s Future of Work preject but then talks about the focus on the UBI and the attack of notional schemes, not proposed by Labour, and how they were “shot down in a hail of spreadsheets”.
He then said this:
Labour can’t escape all the blame. It was entirely predictable that putting up an idea for discussion that would, in its most extreme form, radically change the wage, benefit and tax system would attract the lion’s share of attention.
But there wasn’t nearly enough pre-conference preparation from Labour on that score.
It should have laboured to the point of exhaustion that the ideas about to be discussed were blue-sky not Labour red. It wasn’t the only example of Labour flat-footedness – or shoot-itself-in-the-footedness – this week … but more of that later.
Meanwhile Prime Minister John Key gave them a lesson in soundbite-ology, merely saying the idea was “barking mad” before quickly moving on.
I am not sure what else Labour could do. The paper was an “issues paper” and invited feedback. Clearly it was to raise discussion, not set out policy. Maybe if Grant Robertson had tattooed on his forehead “this is not policy and is only for discussion” it might have made a difference although I am pretty sure the taxpayers union would still have come up with their rather strange analysis. But the need to constanly repeat that this is a discussion document and is not Labour policy is difficult to understand.
And it is weird that Labour not labouring to exhaustion the point that this proposal is not party policy should be thought of as a mistake but the deliberate misrepresentation of the situation by National is somehow praiseworthy. Shouting loudly Nah Boo Hiss should never be a basis for the discerning media to think that the Nah Boo Hiss party is outperforming the We Need To Talk About This party.
You see it is so utterly predictable. Progressive parties standing up and saying that there is a future problem that we need to talk about can always be brought down by conservatives screaming against change but only if the media let this happen.
Small described the right wing counter analysis as a “nonsense”. He is right there. He suggests that in terms of costing the starting point should be to use the number of adults currently not in work instead of all adults. Good point. The mathematical geniuses who did not do this are neither mathematical nor geniuses.
Instead however of extolling the political genius of the right in its creative soundbite-ology Small should have been shredding them for their utterly predictable superficial disingenuous response. Why is it that the right is more interested in slowing down the uptake of progressive ideas instead of supporting change that is actually really important?
Small then suggests that the attacks have worked.
How,” some of Labour’s chin-strokers mused this week, “can you ever have a long-term debate about policy options when that happens?”
And they have a point. The off-piste attacks Labour suffered this week impoverish the public policy debate.
But the issue is also one of political management and you can’t blame National for launching a pre-emptive strike on Labour’s key policy programme.
Well what you can do is hope the media will say that the right wing criticisms and slogans show a significant level of dishonesty. And Nah Boo Hiss should not be part of any debate involving an important issue that the country faces.
Small then quotes a silly tweet by Sue Moroney (it is not that bad but I am sure she regrets it) and marvels at the political genius of Paula Bennett who manages to convert a possible failing to stop and ascertain injury incident into someone is being mean to her on the Internet by talking about it and shouting “look over here”. Give me any day the Australian media where they attack both sides indiscriminately and do not suffer fools.
And now for the second “contribution”, this one from the sockpuppets at the Taxpayers Union. I think a few lefties should sit down and design a similar sock puppet organization and see if it can attract similar media atteniton. I suspect that North Korea is looking our way to see how it is done properly, such is the TU’s ability to get media coverage.
The TU came out this week with this paper which makes some extraordinary presumptions, like everyone will get the UBI whether they are working or not. And it will be put in place immediately. The TU paper then concludes that a UBI in the form that the TU says will happen will have all sorts of terrible repercussions and therefore all thoughts of a UBI should be stopped immediately because this particular imagined form of a UBI is a bad thing.
The level of hypocrisy here is really high. Remember how a short while ago the Taxpayers Union was fine about foreign multinational corporations not paying their fair share of tax because it was all too complex and they were paying too much tax as it was? Even though this means that local taxpayers pay more tax? Yet the thought of ordinary New Zealanders getting a universal basic income is a terrible thing.
Why the media even tolerate these clowns is beyond me.
— Grant Robertson (@grantrobertson1) March 30, 2016