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Changing times

Well, what a fortnight it has been. Two weeks ago, the All Blacks pulled off an unexpected nail-biting win against the unlucky Irish, and we had an interesting election.
 |  Ross Liggins  | 
This week we narrowly lost a controversial world cup rugby final and had to bear the brunt of ex-tropical cyclone Lola. The rugby was very close and could have gone either way. Not so the election.

The victory for the right was expected but the margin was surprising to many of us. Then there was the drama of Winstone’s possible inclusion in a governing majority, dependent upon special votes, the Greens and Te Pati Māori out-performing expectations, and a diverse group of young women in their twenties and early thirties who won electorate seats. How good is that. I must say though, that when it was all over, I breathed a sigh of relief. I had had enough of the months of politicians constantly telling us how bad the other parties’ policies were and how theirs would save the day – lots about division not much about agreement or unity. Only the rugby seems to bring the country together these days, if we win that is.

The motivation for change was no doubt inspired by many factors; Labour’s covid mandates, under-performing portfolios, ram raids and a perception that crime is increasing, broken commitments, shying away from a capital gains or wealth tax and so on. The last of these was possibly a factor in the Greens’ and Te Pati Māori’s surge in support. Both advocated lower taxes for most Kiwi earners and the imposition of a wealth tax on the already well-off, many of whom pay a way lower tax rate than the average Kiwi, some according to the IRD, paying less than half the average rate, made possible by exploiting loopholes, and employing smart professionals to manipulate the legal system to create all kinds of tax-avoiding instruments. In addition to this there is no denying a gross widening of the income gap over the last thirty or so years. We are now at a stage where according to Stats NZ “20 percent of the wealthiest households hold 69 percent of total household net worth, while the bottom 20 percent hold just 1 percent …which reflects an uneven distribution of wealth in this country.” Also, between 1997 and 2019 CEO remuneration increased 233 percent (from 11 times the average worker salary to 18 times) while the average worker enjoyed just a 97 percent increase. I have often wondered why, to suggest one example, the skills, care and empathy of an aged care employee is only worth one eighteenth of the financial and organisational abilities required of their CEO.

Poll results vary slightly, but all that I accessed suggested that introducing a wealth tax of some form is supported by a majority of New Zealanders from all across the political spectrum, one showing support from 50% of National party voters and 49% from Act. The more left leaning parties showed much higher support. So why doesn’t it happen?

The revenue gathered could be used to prevent many of the social problems we have here in Aotearoa. A recent survey carried out by Corrections in which 90percent of prison inmates were interviewed found that 63 percent were deemed to have below a basic standard of literacy, which means they can’t read material like school reports or employment contracts. Dyslexia is a major contributing characteristic to our prison population. Almost half of prisoners (49%) suffer from significant dyslexia compared to 10% in the general population. Kiwis are mostly a very caring bunch. We live in a wonderful country. We want to help. Imagine if we could spend millions of dollars of wealth taxes on preventative educational, economic and social strategies to alleviate the causes of the social problems which lead many of our mostly young men and women into crime and/or anti-social behaviour. Surely this would produce a better result than boot camps at the bottom of the cliff. We would all be better off if we got rid of the cliff.

Now that we are about to have a new lot ruling the Beehive roost, let’s get together and try to solve these destructive societal problems, not by stealing from the wealthy like Robin Hood did (although in those days of feudalism he probably had to in order to survive) but by sharing the wealth in a more equitable and unifying way. Looking forward to a business friendly, cyclone free summer.