Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Another Universe?

Politics in that other universe, the United States, has some interesting lessons for New Zealand and it appears John Key is doing his homework well.

President Obama was elected on an almost unprecedented wave of emotional popularity, defeating a president and his party which had lost their way. 'Independents' carried the day (and between them and the Democrats they elected a symbol when they needed a president) and swept the Republicans aside on a catchy slogan, 'hope and change.'

The Democrats and their president embarked on an ideological and extreme legislative programme which introduced socialism on an unprecedented scale, starting with the nationalisation of the auto industry and culminating in the takeover of the hitherto private health care and insurance industries.

They succeeded in alienating many of those independent voters and more importantly, they (a) galvanised the aimlessly drifting conservative side of politics into a cohesive and noisy anti-Democrat movement called the Tea Party and (b) shocked the Republican Party into putting aside some of its divisions and going back to its roots - which largely coincide with the ethos of the Tea Party. Since the enactment of Obama's health care putch, his ratings have been languishing between 16% and 21% negative - the lowest ever. It is an unprecedented reversal of political fortunes in so short a time.

Americans got more change than they bargained for, no change where they wanted it and no hope for any improvement in their daily lives.

Translate this scenario to New Zealand and you begin to see why our current administration is in no big hurry to strip away the follies of Labour's nine years.

To do as the IMF suggests and as many of the people Adolf called 'shouters of the right' suggest will simply hand to Labour the wherewithal to recreate itself on a wave of media induced public outcry and hysteria aimed at our very own 'independents' otherwise known as swing voters. Labour will have its very own Tea Party - with some damn fool name like 'Fair Go' or 'Down with Rich Pricks.' These are the people who deserted Labour and NZ First in droves and put NACTionalMP into power.

You have only to cast an eye over The Herald's and the left's beat up on the Mining discussion paper to get a sneak preview of the media onslaught which would follow slashing of the public service, removal of interest free student loans and free doctors visits and the winding back of WFF.

The IMF needs to understand that New Zealanders have been brainwashed into becoming a nation of welfare dependents. The unpicking of this disastrous mindset requires much care, cunning and patience. It seems to me John Key, Rodney Hide and Tariana Turia have enough of these qualities to carry the day but they will need another term to complete the job.

15 comments:

alex masterley said...

I said somewhere else that i thought John Key and his colleagues are playing the long game(for keeps).

PC said...

Adolf, you said: "The unpicking of this disastrous mindset requires much care, cunning and patience. It seems to me John Key, Rodney Hide and Tariana Turia have enough of these qualities to carry the day but they will need another term to complete the job."

They'd actually need another term to even begin the job--and at least some indication that they thought it was a job worth doing.

But there's no evidence of that mindset at all, I'm afraid. Just your endless wishful thinking.

Anonymous said...

Another term----more like 4 at least.....its a bit like turning a super tanker you turn the rudder and you have to wait 4 hours and about 20 miles to notice and change

Jimmie

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

PC, if you must talk such nonsense please find an alternative venue.

Eric Crampton said...

You know, exactly the same thing (long game, etc) was said when Stephen Harper started off as Canadian Prime Minister. Masters in Economics, former head of the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation. We had high hopes. He was elected 2006, won an increased majority in 2008. What's he done with it? Bugger all.
Andrew Coyne comments usefully.

Look, I'd be with you if Key were spending a lot of time talking about the various tax/productivity reports and building the case for changes to take to the voters for next time round. Instead, he even vetoes allowing the youth minimum wage to diverge from the adult rate - even though National opposed Labour's changes in '08.

Count me as pretty disappointed. The 2010 budget is make or break here. I hope he can start getting spending down and implement at least some of the recommended tax reforms...

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Eric, what is it you do not seem to understand about timing?

Why on earth would you want to start the 2011 election campaign BEFORE you deliver the 2010 budget?

You are right about the budget though. It will be the THE most important event for this administration. First time I can remember for a long long time that a budget will actually be important.

Anonymous said...

ideological and extreme legislative programme which introduced socialism on an unprecedented scale

Please remember that Obama is far to the right of ACT - and also far to the right of the Libz

The US as it is today, or as it will be in 5 years time, is also far to the right of NZ or any other so-called "Western Democracy".

they will need another term to complete the job.

RIght. we must realise two things - first that JohnKey and co squandered the best approval ratings in the last 30 years, and the best opportunity to act decisively since 1984

We are currently borrowing - every week - $500 Million dollars. $20 BILLION over the year.

If we abolished all welfare we wouldn't be able to pay off any debt - but we wouldn't need to borrow any more.

If we abolished welfare, AND stopped flushing billions down the drain on health AND education for people who don't deserve it, won't benefit from it, and will never ever pay for it -then we could start paying back the massive debt that goes right back to the 1960s.


The IMF needs to understand that New Zealanders have been brainwashed into becoming a nation of welfare dependents

Oh I'm sure the IMF understand this all too well.
Which is why they also recommend taking these crucial economic decisions out of the ambit of parliament and giving it to another body that can make those decisions without fear or favour.

The 2025 commission is a shallow shadow of this: if the commission had the power to set all tax rates, approve all government spending, and dispose of all government assets and SOEs then we would be living up to the IMF's recommendation. Ideally the commission would also vet parties and electoral candidates.

Another proposal is we should schedule the next election in say 2020. But even then, there is a huge risk the necessary reforms would all be undone if Labour were able to be re-elected.

Frankly I'd do the lot. no election til 2020. From then on elections every 5 years, all candidates & MPs subject to vetting by the governance commission. The Governance commission also
in full control of government spending, assets,
and taxation. Members of the commission appointed only by the commission (not
parliament).

Suggest initial commission: Sir Don Brash (Chair),
Dame Ruth Richardson, Lindsay Mitchell,
David Caygill, Whaleoil :-)

Eric Crampton said...

@Adolf: I get timing. Heck, I could even be with you if Key had said in response to Brash, IMF, etc "Hey, that's not what we campaigned on, it sounds potentially interesting, we'll start thinking about it for next time". The dismissals have seemed a fair bit harder than that though, and shooting down Douglas's minimum wage bill before even letting it get to first reading was gratuitous.

I'm very skeptical about long game arguments though. Too often they turn out to be sops to keep the base in line while pushing hard for the median. Didn't they make "long game" arguments about Bush's massive expansion of domestic spending?

We'll see how things pan out in the budget. I'm keeping my expectations sufficiently low that I can be pleasantly surprised; always better than having things go the other way.

sagenz said...

I understand your logic but the point of having power is not simply keeping power. It is enacting positive change. There is no logic for delay. That will simply be another wasted three years. There is certainly a need for democratic consultation as they seem to be doing on mining. Effectively ask New Zealanders whether they want more mines and more money or pristine relative poverty. PC and Eric Crampton make fair points about pace and genuine reform.

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Eric and Sagey

It seems to me that if you worry less about the words and look more to the actions which are unfolding that the message which is coming through very much IS in fact

"Hey, that's not what we campaigned on, it sounds potentially interesting, we'll start thinking about it for next time".

Anonymous said...

I think Key did hamstring himself heading into the 2008 election by not promising to change much----simply because he didn't want Mike Williams & Clark trying to repeat 2005 and sneak past at the last minute.

I don't really mind if he just does the tax/GST changes this year and reduce a few taxes next year and then head into 2011 election with a more cohesive strategy.

Also I think he wants to keep the Maori/Act coalition together so that he can't be painted as either far right or wishy washy left - also it helps limit Labour's options so that they are only left with the Green and Jim Anderton nutters to support them. (or NZ first arghhhhh)

It's good politics but I'm not sure that it is as good for the economy

Jimmie

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Jimmie, far worse for the economy would be letting the left get even a sniff at victory in 2011. Even a much reduced majority would be an economic disaster.

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Does anyone remember the redoubtable premier of Victoria, the late Sir Henry Bolte?

Long after his retirement he was 'down' for the Melbourne Royal Show and ABC TV sent one of their young pups to interview him. For openers, the young pup asked "And how are things in the bush, Sir Henry?"

'Well Son, were having the worst drought in fifty years, the web worm has eaten out the wheat crop, wool prices are in the doldrums, nobody's got any lambs to sell, interest rates have gone through the roof but we can put up with all these difficulties just so long as we DON'T HAVE A LABOR GOVERNMENT IN CANBERRA!'.

Yeah yeah yeah. I know I've told that one before but it never gets stale.

Flashman said...

Like butterflies in Summer "Long term arguments" in politics are etherial things that exist only for so long as poll-driven approval ratings hold up.

Everyone knows that simple fact.

Surely?

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Flashman, you're almost there. Just try a little harder and you'll get it.

If the opinion polls go belly up, you're thrown out. You can't do ANYTHING when you're thrown out.

Get it?

If you don't get it yet, go and have a chat with Phil Goff. He'll tell you AAALLLLL about it.