New Politics “Neoliberalism… has not made life better for ordinary Kiwis. It has made it worse. ” Tuan Nguyen

Leftwin is hosting a discussion on building a new politics in Aotearoa. Here is a contribution from Tuan Nguyen.

Tuan is a Kiwi baby-boomer born in Viet Nam. “I was lucky enough to be gifted a free tertiary education in Physics, and post-graduate qualification in Business Management by the New Zealand tax payers during the heady days of the late 60s and early 80s. I grieved with the nation at the untimely death of Big Norm – Norman Kirk – in August 1974. I remember paying 4 cents for a pint of milk, 2 dollars for 4 gallons of petrol to fill up the tank of a Mini, being paid $4,500 a year for a full time job at the University of Otago. When Roger Douglas introduced Rogernomics to the adoring electorate in 1984, I was too busy raising a family with my wife from Manchester to think about the future consequences of such a shift in economic policy. And here I am 32 years later, trying to make amend for all that time I have gone awol on my fellow 99% of Kiwis who have been denied economic justice because of the callous greed of the 1%.”

“Necessitous men are not free men. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.”

Those powerful words were from Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in his State of the Union address to Congress on January 11, 1944.

They deeply resonate with the words of Bryan Bruce, award winning Investigative Journalist and Documentary Maker, on three ways to keep the Tangata Whenua and Pakeha in Aotearoa under the yoke of poverty.

1.Make people pay more for housing.

Since 1988 the proportion of New Zealanders spending more than 30% of their disposable income on housing has risen from a little over 10% in 1988 to about 27% in 2014.

2. Give the rich and corporations tax breaks.

Since the 1980’s the top tax rate has dropped from 66% to 33%, and the corporate tax rate from 48% to 28%.

So the rich are now paying half the tax they once did, as well as the corporations who enjoy the benefits of the infrastructure services paid for by the wage and salary earners, and not made to pay their fair share of the tax burden.

To add insult to injury, the corporations skimmed all the productivity gains during the last 30 years to the financial benefits of their managers and shareholders, and kept a tight lid on all wages and salaries paid to their workers. With declining incomes, the only way to meet the rising cost of living for the new poor is to burden yourself with debts.

Then when GST was introduced ( initially at 10% and now 15%) exemptions were granted for things that rich people enjoy – like international travel and a wide range of financial services (including stocks and shares) but NO exemptions were granted on the necessities of life – such as food and electricity.

As lower income families spend proportionately more of their income on essential items than upper income families ,GST is a greater burden to the poor than it is on the rich.

3.Charge for Higher Education

When we began to charge young people for their higher education in the 1990’s instead of giving it to them for free as a public good ( as we once did) it ensured that young people would be burdened with huge loans to keep them in their place.

Neoliberalism introduced by Labour and put on steroids by National has not made life better for ordinary Kiwis. It has made it worse.

In his State of the Union address, Roosevelt went on to say:

“We cannot be content, no matter how high that (our) standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights – among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.

They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident.

We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

1. The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

2. The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

3. The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will  give him and his family a decent living;

4. The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

5. The right of every family to a decent home;

6. The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

7. The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

8. The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security.” 

It is high time for the citizens of Aotearoa to assert and reclaim these rights for themselves and future generations to come.

Comments welcome below. 

Leftwin seeks to host a discussion on building a new left politics in Aotearoa/New Zealand.
Be part of that discussion.

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