Red Alert

A Big Ask

Posted by on February 12th, 2012

I knew it was a big ask.

Simon Collins’ provocative Herald series on inequality was closing with “Bridging the Wealth Gap“.  Would it rail against the changes to our tax and workplace laws that have driven the widening gap?  Would cry from the heart like “Ill Fares The Land”?

Would it call for a fundamental change of direction? Would it unpick the platitudes around “equality of opportunity”?

Ah, no.

Instead it levers off the new Auckland Council’s Spatial Plan, including targets to reduce inequality.  Worthy, sure.  Right track? Undoubtedly.   Sufficient condition for change?   No way.

Collins explains ” how we got there” by condensing modern economic history into one sentence:

“The driving forces have been both technological changes, which have strengthened the power of the skilled at the expense of the unskilled; and policy changes, which have weakened unions, opened markets to free trade, cut taxes on the rich and imposed new taxes on spending that bear most heavily on the poor.”

Although the outcome is “not immutable”, neoliberalism dodges the bullet.

The genial Michael Barnett and the earnest Allan Johnston represent the “competitiveness” vs “compassion” debate.

But has Collins not read The Spirit Level?  There is a strong case that more equal societies do better. Including economically.  If so, fairness ain’t just compassion, it’s common sense.

The bottom line is that rampant inequality is driven by the combination of unfettered capitalism and neoliberal government policy.

So if Kiwis want a change they will need to vote for it at national as well as council levels.

Yet voter turnout was the lowest in decades this last election, despite inequality being at its worst.

We have more to do to make a reasoned case for a clear alternative.

We have made a good start: capital gains tax, tax free zone at the bottom (which could be abated over a certain income level like Working for Families), raising the top tax rate, decile weighted education  investment, and public health and housing programmes to promote healthy families and kids.  There will be more to come.

We have to balance this with a clear narrative, based on sound strategy, for growing the pie for all.  That means encouraging Kiwi businesses.  Helping markets when they work well.  And sorting out the mess when they don’t.  I will be blogging more about economic growth, as it must partner efforts to reducing inequality by raising income levels for all.

And we need to expose the tricks this Government uses to lull hard working Kiwis into apathy or submission; the smile and wave routine; their dog whistles that turn Kiwis against their neighbours; their sly deals and cronyism to maintain control.

So reversing inequality will take more than a newspaper series, it will take winning the country for a new direction for us all.


91 Responses to “A Big Ask”

  1. Cactus Kate says:

    Why don’t you review the series in full DC?
    Deciled education already means far more funding to decile 1 schools than 10. Welfare spend as high as ever, state housing still there with more spending than ever. Why do you need to help markets when they are working well? And if voter turnout was so low can you ever accept that those who didn’t make the effort to get off their couches were actually happy with the status quo?
    Can you ever see a solution other than higher taxes and more government intervention and spending?

  2. Whaleoil says:

    You talk about a good start:

    “We have made a good start: capital gains tax, tax free zone at the bottom (which could be abated over a certain income level like Working for Families), raising the top tax rate, decile weighted education investment, and public health and housing programmes to promote healthy families and kids. There will be more to come.”

    Here’s hoping, since the voters panned those ideas pretty comprehensively at the election. If they are more like that then John Key is going to be sleeping very soundly indeed.

  3. Thomas says:

    Have you read the criticism of the Spirit Level? Or do you just accept anything that justifies taxing and spending as gospel?

  4. al1ens says:

    Kate and whaleoik first to reply = DC on to something.

  5. Tigger says:

    So what would the right do to tackle inequality? CK and WO? Oh that’s right, you guys don’t tackle it, you create it. In fact it’s how you operate…

    And you are right, A. They’re bizarrely obsessed with DC…must be scared of him.

    Great post. Inequality will be our downfall. Either we fix it or we’re doomed.

  6. mickysavage says:

    Agreed Tigger. For some poverty is just too difficult and complex to do anything about and if you do then some (their mates) will become upset. Best to do nothing at all. This is so similar to the climate change debate …

  7. Colonial Viper says:

    Why do you need to help markets when they are working well? And if voter turnout was so low can you ever accept that those who didn’t make the effort to get off their couches were actually happy with the status quo?
    Can you ever see a solution other than higher taxes and more government intervention and spending?

    1) Which markets are working well? Apparently not the market for milk, Auckland housing nor for international banking credit. Perhaps at you’ve not noticed the era of crony capitalism and manipulated markets western economies have been maneuvered into?

    2) So it seems the fewer people who participate in our democratic processes the “happier” society must be? Sounds like hogwash to me. It seems clear to me that many voters feel disconnected from not just politicians and policy, but also the entire process of making decisions for our society. And that’s not happiness, is it?

    3) Government is here to tax and spend. Taxes stop the very wealthy and the very profitable from hoarding financial capital in small corners of the economy which suit them. The public sector addresses the longstanding slackness and inability of the private sector to add long term jobs, productivity and R&D to the NZ economy in a way which keeps value and financial capital onshore.

  8. Colonial Viper says:

    If they are more like that then John Key is going to be sleeping very soundly indeed.

    Agreed – John Key will be able to sell off the country to his foreign banker mates who will earn huge fees off us – and still sleep like a baby as he does it. It’s just the way he rolls.

  9. Carol says:

    Yes, New Zealand needs to be reducing inequalities, and to work towards a liveable wage for all. And neoliberalism and related government policies is the problem.

    But I’m not sure about the “economic growth” and “growing the pie” idea. Certainly NZ needs more productive enterprises that will produce in NZ more of the stuff needed for a sustainable future, and to provide jobs for people living here. And it needs less of the siphoning of profits overseas via foreign-based multinationals.

    Overall the endless growth meme is now dysfunctional. In a world of overpopulation, relative dwindling of easily accessible resources, especially that of cheap oil, and climate change it’s sustainability that needs to be the focus.

  10. Dc says:

    Markets working well. Ha
    That would be why we have had a housing bubble, GFC, pike river, leaky builings, finance company colapses, may be the rena.

    And a 49% vote, with the lowest turn out ever is hardly a stunning result.

  11. Whaleoil says:

    I fail to see what the problem is with inequality.

    Does David Cunliffe get paid the same as David Shearer? No…why aren’t they lobbying for all MPs no matter the job they do be paid the same in the interests of equality.

  12. arandar says:

    +1, Carol.
    And a deal fewer managerial capitalists and hobby ‘businesses’ unable/unwilling to pay their workers a living wage having to be subsidized by the taxpayer.
    As the NY Times today implies – it’s not the increased size of the safety net that’s caused the financial crisis afflicting the US and the world; it’s a crooked and incompetent financial sector, tax cuts for the wealthy, (in the US, two wars not financed by tax rises for the first time,) and the workers’ falling/static wages that have combined to force people into needing the safety net in the first place.
    The Right might like to call the non-vote ‘happy’. I’d call it confused, defeated, cynical, anything but ‘happy’.

  13. (here are some visual-aids-inspiration for the cause…why don’t you knock up a local version..?)

    http://whoar.co.nz/2012/mind-blowing-charts-from-the-senates-income-inequality-hearing/

    “…In another sign that Democrats have embraced income inequality as a cause célèbre – the Senate Budget Committee held a hearing on the subject today.

    The committee’s ranking Republican, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, managed to look concerned during two hours of testimony about the kneecapping of the Middle Class —

    - not that it should have been all that difficult.

    Here are some of the hearing’s most striking charts:..”

    phil@whoar.

  14. Olwyn says:

    To the right wingers who have leaped forward to challenge this post: Your “pragmatic” arguments may have carried some weight when a sizable number of people were still able to believe that there was a pot of gold at the end of the neoliberal rainbow, and that they too would be among the beneficiaries when we arrived there. When it was possible to chant “no gain without pain” and have people assume that their sacrifices would result in a pay off that was for the good of all. And when the idea that “a rising tide lifts all boats” was still to be tested.

    But that dream is over I’m afraid. What you are now defending is a morally degraded status quo, offering nothing to hope for but more of the same, that is quite unable to address the problems it creates – see Dc’s list for starters.

    Spirit level or no Spirit Level, the neoliberal arrangement has had plenty of time to deliver on its promises, and has failed. It is time to consider alternatives. Thank you, David Cunliffe, for openly recognising this.

  15. Hilary says:

    Don’t underestimate Simon Collins. After all he was one of the few who publicly challenged the TINA philosophy in the 1990s via his free Wellington newspaper, City Voice. He is now employed by the arch-conservative Herald, but has still managed to further the issues raised by the Occupy movement, the Spirit Level and others, to compile this very interesting and unusual series (for NZH) on inequality in Auckland. These articles have probably sparked many discussions among the NZH readership and others who have read the re-posted articles in various blogs. Including here.

  16. Nick K says:

    Poverty is an issue, inequality isn’t. Start solving the former, rather than writing diatribe on the latter.

  17. Vivienne says:

    Finally the flubbery blubbery one has revealed ‘he does not understand’ inequality.

    Why is it that with continued and continuos reference to “The Spirit Level” that he has no read it?

    Also as it is written by academics he probably has not the skills to read it let alone comprehend it?

  18. marsman says:

    @ Nick K. Inequality is an issue, start solving it and poverty will be less of an issue.

  19. Ianmac says:

    “We have made a good start: capital gains tax, tax free zone at the bottom (which could be abated over a certain income level like Working for Families), raising the top tax rate, decile weighted education investment, and public health and housing programmes to promote healthy families and kids. There will be more to come.”
    Hear! Hear! It takes a while for important ideas to take root and flourish. Sadly the Key Government has rubbished these ideas so they are condemned to re-cycle more of their same, lacking courage and imagination. Sad really.
    But come 2014…..

  20. Lee says:

    Whaleoil, telling us that you fail doesn’t seem helpful, unless it’s a ‘cry for help’.

  21. Pete George says:

    Inequality is a fact of life. It is not something that can be solved.

    Poverty is a very general, vague and much overused term. It isn’t a single problem that can be fixed. There are many problems associated with poverty that need to be identified and addressed.

    I’m surprised to see an attempted continuation of last year’s failed campaign here.

    “Sadly the Key Government has rubbished these ideas”.

    The voters didn’t seem to exactly embrace them with enthusiasm either.

  22. Whaleoil says:

    I have read The Spirit Level, I found it wanting….as have many others….the selective data sets are the most telling failure of their cool little graphs.

  23. KJT says:

    The Neo-Liberals brighter future. 40% less pay for twice the work.

    What happened to all the promises in the 80′s that if we just bit on the pill offered, even though it tasted nasty, things would get better for everyone.

    Unfortunately everyone just included a few dodgy businessmen and overseas shareholders of our assets.

  24. KJT says:

    Talking about growing the cake and out exporting other countries to prosperity is a mirage.

    Natural resources are finite.

    We are never going to win the exporting game against much more powerful countries who have the same idea.

    What we need to do is stop a few people from running off with both the cake we made, and the cake factory.

    Increase our self sufficiency so that NZ can survive massively increasing energy costs. Including our own capital and financing setup which keeps wealth here for re-investment.

    Allow for everyone to participate in a decent functioning society.

    This means reversing almost all the policy settings we have followed since Muldoon.

    If Labour seriously did that they may became a credible alternative to National.

  25. Nick K says:

    Inequalit is *not* an issue. I am unequal to John Key in terms of wealth. What is David Cunliffe’s plan to solve that?

  26. Carol says:

    Of course there will always be some inequality. Tlking about this is just a distraction from the main idea, and this is that the wealth and income gap (the LEVEL of inequality) has got too large, and is destructive.

    As for Key’s wealth, he got it by participating in the speculative finance system, that has been a major contributor to the fiancial bubble that resulted in the crash of the global financial system – it’s extreme wealth gained from destructive, parasitic practices that contributed little that is productive. And all the while, people at the bottom of the income hierarchy were given less and less for the same amount of work.

  27. mickysavage says:

    It is fascinating that the right refuse to accept the Spirit Level’s findings in the slightest and yet they are more than happy to accept trickle down as reality, even though the amount of evidence suggesting trickle down works is weak in the extreme …

  28. Spud says:

    I’m too tired to read all the comments. Agreed :-D :-D :-D !!!!

  29. KJT says:

    The Spirit Level wraps up and explains the effects of excessive inequality in a readable format.

    There are many other studies that show the same thing.

    Whaleoil is using the same misdirection as AGW deniers.
    Pretending that a couple of small mistakes invalidates decades of research.

  30. Lee says:

    Inequality became a threat to Wilson Ramos last year.
    Ramos earns US$415,000 salary catching baseballs for the Washington DC Nationals baseball team.
    Even though US$415,000 is the ‘minimum seasonal wage’ for major league baseball players, it became a risk when Ramos went home to Venezuela, where he was kidnapped.
    I could ‘see a problem’ with being kidnapped.
    Others, obviously, could ‘fail to see a problem’.

  31. SJW says:

    +1 Carol

    I think its very important to emphasis what Carol relayed: it is the EXTENT of the wealth and income gap; not that people are earning varying amounts, the EXTENT of the disparity.

    Perhaps opposition parties need to start undoing the results of the cheap tricks for gaining votes that have been applied over the years. It needs to be worked out how to get voters making the connection between the policies they vote for and the consequences of them. How sometimes a policy may sound desirable, yet the consequences of it aren’t.

    In the thread by Clare Curran on the increasing gap in wealth and income, not one person can come up with an argument for why this increasing gap between rich and poor specifically is desirable? Yet we just voted in a party with policies that will widen the gap?

    How easy it is to incite people’s base prejudice re beneficiaries and win votes by stating “we are taking a tough line on welfare”, or work on people’s base instinct by giving hand outs to the wealthier-more-likely-to-vote-types to ensure they support your party, than it is to come up with and successfully promote political approaches that would actually serve us well! I hope a way is found through this difficulty.

    To get the majority of voters less prone to spin doctors and to understand simple realities such as is stated so succinctly in the article whose link I supply, requires an ‘undoing’ of some serious misinformation we have been subjected to over the years.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/02/09/1063329/-MILLIONAIRE-INVESTOR-If-the-Rich-Were-Job-Creators-We-d-be-Drowning-in-Jobs-Today

  32. former Labour supporter says:

    Some short essays addressing on the nature of neoliberalism for those interested:
    - Alvaro Garcia Linera (Vice-President of the Republic of Bolivia), “Neo-liberalism and the New Socialism” http://21stcenturysocialism.com/article/neo-liberalism_and_the_new_socialism_01389.html
    - Pierre Bourdieu, “The Essence of Neoliberalism,” (December 1998) http://mondediplo.com/1998/12/08bourdieu
    - Emir Sader, “The Weakest Link: Neoliberalism in Latin America,” New Left Review no. 52 (2008): 5-32 http://www.newleftreview.org/?view=2730

    Obviously doing something right, David, to see all the trolls so quick to intercede. Quite why anyone would accept the economic dogmatism and ostensible personal integrity of a contract character assassin or an enabler of tax avoidance working in the unskilled protectionist racket that is the contemporary legal profession is beyond me. On their own logic, National should be outsource its trolling to India—it could save itself a bomb, and these bigoted semi-literates add nothing to the debate that someone half a world away with an exceedingly rudimentary knowledge of Bernays’ “Propaganda,” Social Darwinism and early liberal economic theory couldn’t.

  33. well, well, well says:

    Perhaps this quote which I have just found over at Homepaddocks blog will help people understand where the solution will come from:

    `“But economic recovery must be earned. And it will be earned by entrepreneurs and it will be earned by small businesses.” Jon Huntsman, Jr.’

    More taxes and more borrowing are clearly not the answer.

  34. Joel says:

    What do you propose? Continuing to take more from the rich, to give more to the poor? You’ve admitted that you want to give the in-work tax credit, designed to help employed people with costs like childcare and travel (that are inherently only needed by people who are IN WORK) to those who are not in work. This is nonsensical. If you want to raise benefits, just come out and say it. See how people who go to work each day feel about it.

    You want to give a tax cut by creating a tax free zone at the bottom, then even admitted you might only make it available to people under a certain income. At least the merit in that idea, as it was proposed at the election, was that it was still a tax cut for everyone.

    I don’t agree that anyone who works hard should have to struggle, but we have equality of opportunity – anyone can finish school, and anyone can get a student loan (in fact many can get an allowance too), so I ask you, how will your government compensate for all the people who don’t want to study, don’t take advantage of the opportunities available?

    People who have finished their studies, or taken business risk, or basically anyone who’s made themselves wealthy, has made short term sacrifices for the long term gain. They have student loans, and have probably lived off budget tinned beans for a time. They shouldn’t be punished for it.

  35. IMpact says:

    David, are you saying that Labour is committed to retaining the $5000 tax free threshhold?

  36. charlie says:

    Hell yeah,saying economic recovery must be earned. And it will be earned by entrepreneurs and it will be earned by small businesses is easy when dad sets you up with a corporate job. But WTF, Huntsman’s version of entrepreneurship amounts to ponzi schemes.

  37. Ianmac says:

    Ianmac”“Sadly the Key Government has rubbished these ideas”.

    Pete:”The voters didn’t seem to exactly embrace them with enthusiasm either.”

    So good ideas are only good if the voters embrace them? (Tell that to the Greeks!) Could be that the Key lot rubbish good ideas because the other side suggested them and the short time that was given to the exposure of said ideas needs time to nurture, and they will. Meanwhile the Government’s plan is ummm. What is the Government’s plan? Damned if I know apart from cuts.

  38. Olwyn says:

    The Spirit Level shares in common with climate change an inability to speak directly to people’s intuitions. It might be true that everyone is better off in s situation where there is rough equality, but no one feels it so long as they can look down their nose at someone else. Equality, they intuit, may deprive them of nose-looking-down rights, without giving them anything substantial in return.

    I think an appeal needs to come from the idea of security: that land value backed by a productive economy, with a decently paid and committed workforce, is considerably more reliable than land value that is backed by an international property market. It is here that people find themselves in a contradiction: they do not want NZ to be wholly foreign owned, but they do want their property to be of high value. Yet their property can only be of high value if foreigners want to buy it. Since we do not manage to generate high incomes here, (either through jobs or small businesses) everything quickly becomes too expensive to fix, too expensive to maintain, too expensive to adequately insure.

    People I think will be more open to the idea that a robust, engaged society offers greater security than property + get-rich-quick schemes can. And a robust, engaged society depends on a greater degree of equality than is now the case.

  39. Colonial Viper says:

    `“But economic recovery must be earned. And it will be earned by entrepreneurs and it will be earned by small businesses.” Jon Huntsman, Jr.’

    More taxes and more borrowing are clearly not the answer.

    Disagree. You came up with a clever quote which is false today because it does not recognise the financialised crony capitalist system now in play.

    Then you came up with the standard neoliberal answer of ‘tax less, borrow less’ which actually equals the destruction of government spending in the economy. (After all if a government can’t tax and can’t borrow the only thing it can do is slash – which is exactly the neoliberal agenda).

  40. Colonial Viper says:

    One thing which doesn’t seem to be understood by some is the hoarding and extraction of financial capital away from communities and away from productive businesses.

    The banks expatriating a $3B profit out of NZ communities is merely the tip of the iceberg. Then there is the money (including debt created money) poured into property in the hope of leveraging up into another asset price bubble and a few quick dollars.

    No one is as keen to pour money into a tech start up, new factory, or R&D. Buy a cheap house, do it up with a few modern fixtures and a lick of paint, then flip it on for a quick profit. At the same time increasing the size of the country’s mortgage books. That’s where we’re at.

  41. i would issue a note of caution about yr policy-change plans..

    ..i am presuming you will be trying to reconnect with those ignored/excluded last time..the underclass..

    ..as a card-holding member of that class..for those long/ignored years of the last labour got..

    ..i hafta tell you that what you offered us at the last election..

    ..as far as being any sort of circuit-breaker to relieve our miseries…it didn’t rate..eh..?

    shall we look at it..?..trying from the perspective of that underclass..

    gst off fruit and veges..(as a vegan this wd have benefitted me more than most..but in financial terms..it didn’t really mean much..(a good social-engineering/health-promotion idea tho’..)

    first five grand tax-free..(to be phased in over three years..three dollars something each year…once again..in real financial terms..it didn’t mean much…

    ..the third leg of your attempt to woo us back..

    ..was to do what you should have done in the first place…namely including all families in ‘working for families’..

    ..this one cheered me..momentarily..but the devil was in the detail..eh..?..

    ..in that this would be enacted ‘by 2018′…

    ..for us out here..it was kinda like a sick joke’..eh..?..on us..

    so..when you add that all up..it really amounts to diddly-squat..as far as any attempt at a circuit-breaker..eh..?

    ..so..my warning is that if you just plan to sell that same package a bit better..without the wholesale-change that is required..

    ..that underclass will continue to see that you really have nothing for them..

    ..therefor no reason to vote..again..

    ..i hope you were aware of all this..

    ..if not..glad to have been of help..

    phil@whoar.

  42. Stuart Munro says:

    Good to see you’re moving in the right direction DC.

    The ideological process of reform, and a faith-based belief in the infallibility of markets, has made a bit of a mess I’m afraid. Growing inequality is symptomatic of the malaise, which includes significant systemic economic dysfunction. 70-80 years ago, many kiwi households created value. Now they are a cost centre.

    The kind of reevaluation that usually only happens in time of war would discover that as nation we still have the means to feed, clothe, and house ourselves, and generate a moderate level of prosperity for all. That we no longer do so is a national disgrace. Chiefly an ACT and National disgrace, but Labour too has slumbered at the helm.

    Awake, for morning in the bowl of night
    has flung the stone that puts the stars to flight…

  43. K1W1 says:

    @ CV re #1&3 from your first post.

    1) What is wrong with the milk market – the crux of the issue with fresh milk, along with other goodies, is the supermarket duopoly. I thought the Labour Govt allowed for this? And if you happen to suggest Fonterra is an issue, well Labour allowed it to form.

    3) The Govt is about ‘creating environments that benefit society’ – a tax and spend Govt may as well be a Robin Hood guise. You are taking the piss when you suggest Govt’s fill in for the private sector in creating long-term jobs and productivity – the Govt creates an environment that caters for this (or should do). Long term careers in the public service are for the few.

    I do agree with the R&D notion though, Govt does drive a lot of this.

    It would seem many here think all corporate/private sector enterprises are bad, and all Govt activity/intervention is great. One question, where do you suggest the balance should be struck, to incentivise people to “own their own future” through the decisions they make throughout their lifetime?

    I gather the lefties think everyone should be supported, even if they make poor decisions. If so, the same should apply to all forms of life, even the corporates.

  44. Colonial Viper says:

    <blockquote.I gather the lefties think everyone should be supported, even if they make poor decisions. If so, the same should apply to all forms of life, even the corporates.

    yep. Enough of the crony capitalism.

    I do agree with the R&D notion though, Govt does drive a lot of this.

    It can’t be surprising that you agree with this; the private sector always prefers government to take the risk first and they can swoop in to garner the rewards of commercialisation later.

    What is wrong with the milk market – the crux of the issue with fresh milk, along with other goodies, is the supermarket duopoly.

    The supermarkets are a key part of the issue, yes. And that is the market that NZers buy milk from.

    You are taking the piss when you suggest Govt’s fill in for the private sector in creating long-term jobs and productivity – the Govt creates an environment that caters for this (or should do). Long term careers in the public service are for the few.

    You’re the one taking the piss if you don’t see that corporates increase their profitability by cutting jobs not creating them.

    As for your comment that long term careers in public service are for the few…I guess that means hundreds of thousands of nurses, doctors, teachers, parliamentary, council and other public sector staff don’t count in your mind.

    We need more people serving the public good mate, experienced expertise, not just recent grads with no sense of history or context there to round out a resume.

  45. K1W1 says:

    CV – most people are not nurses, docs, teachers etc. Local Govt, well, is a joke.

    You think the only way private sector creates profit is to cut jobs? Thats not an enduring and sustainable strategy.

    Does profit = bad to you CV?

    A better focus would be on what is done with profit.

  46. Bea says:

    “We have made a good start: capital gains tax, tax free zone at the bottom (which could be abated over a certain income level like Working for Families), raising the top tax rate, decile weighted education investment, and public health and housing programmes to promote healthy families and kids. There will be more to come.”

    WFFTC already creates a tax free zone at the bottom – so I think the tax-free zone policy is irrelevant. I think the biggest argument for reducing inequality (but certainly not for elimating it) is because of kids. Adults have choices about their circumstances. Kids don’t. A kid from a poor family in the provinces is at a real disadvantage when it comes to going to university when accommodation costs are more than the living allowance component of the student loan. It seems to me that they are far more likely to end up in an occupation below their potential.

    There’s also a real disadvantage when it comes to “free” school education. I’m sure no one expects it to be completely free, however surely it must be a breach of the Education Act when costs to parents are not even required to be taken into account when schools are making up uniform codes and stationery/equipment requirements.

  47. Dion_makes_a_good_point says:

    Do you think there is an inequality that exists between factory workers and MPs david? I would hope that since you feel very strongly about this issue you would be willing to sacrifice future salary increases and campaign against MPs earning as much as they currently do.

    I look forward to an argument as to why civil servants and politicians should earn more than an individual working picking up street rubbish.

  48. Carol says:

    Huh, Bea? I will never get WFF as I am single, getting on in age, and live alone, and have never had children. What about all the young single people living in shared flates etc? A tax free zone would include all such people, and they would never qualify for WFF.

  49. Nick K says:

    If the poorest person in NZ had $10million in the bank, but the wealthiest had $1billion, ceteris paribus, would Labour be concerned about this?