Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Labour's cynical election bribe just more legalised theft

The New Zealand Labour Party has announced that if it becomes the government later this year it will introduce a new welfare payment of $60 for babies born to families earning under $150,000 per year for the first year and continuing payments for families with lower incomes. This is on top of the Working for Families scheme that Labour introduced when last in power, which extended welfare to families on incomes of well over $100,000 per year, and other existing welfare benefits. 

As welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell points out on her blog here, this means that a first time mother in Auckland on welfare will receive $672 per week and a further $124 for every child after that. The median New Zealand full-time wage (June 2013) is $844 per week. An individual taxpayer will pay about 15% tax on their income so will receive about $720 in the hand. Beneficiaries get additional entitlements such as lower cost government services and discounts from many private sector organisations, so you would have to conclude that most young, single women would be better off having babies than working for a living.

The inequity of this situation, and even the fact that all the evidence says that encouraging welfare dependency produces poor social outcomes, are not my primary objections to this policy. It is the cynical opportunism of it that gets to me. No one can seriously argue that New Zealanders incomes of up to $150,000 need welfare, so this policy is not about need. As with Working for Families, it is about making more and more New Zealand families dependent on, and grateful for, the largesse of a Labour Government. Elections are won and lost on the votes of the middle class and these policies bring almost all of the middle class into the welfare system. 

All taxation is, by definition, legalised theft (OED defines theft as to 'take another person’s property without permission'). Most people justify the taxation and welfare system because it enables government to provide for the needy in society. Labour's new policy doesn't even have that merit. As Lindsay Mitchell points out again here, the most commonly used measurement which counts children in households below 60 percent of the median household after-housing-costs income, has fallen from 37 percent in 2001 to 21 percent in 2012. No one needs this policy, least of all higher income earners. Where is the morality in taxing a young school leaver earning the minimum wage ($13.75 per hour) so the government can give money to someone earning say $145,000 per year?

Fortunately I think most New Zealanders will see this policy for what it is - a cynical election year bribe. However, between Labour and its fellow-traveller Green Party, they may muster enough votes to out poll the governing National Party and implement their dishonest policies.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Taking up the cudgels again in 2014 in defence of individual rights

I have had a very relaxing start to the year, partaking of some great weather, wonderful sights, delicious food and fine wines in some of New Zealand's most beautiful holiday spots. The relaxation was undoubtedly enhanced by confining my holiday reading to some excellent books (Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch and Bill Bryson's One Summer stand out) and consuming as little of the execrable mainstream media as possible. But it is time to return to the challenges that will face us in 2014.

In New Zealand, the Government led by John Key seems to be determined to pursue a political agenda that is as secretive, and frankly as corrupt, as ever. Key and his coalition of right-of-centre hypocrites and and racial determinists will continue to expand the power of the state and debase the rights of some New Zealanders in order to retain power.

Late in 2013 it the Key Government introduced a bill to enable the nefarious US FATCA regime, which I have blogged on before. FATCA treats any New Zealander with the misfortune of being born in the United States, or even born here to American parents, as "United States taxpayers that are resident in New Zealand." The Government acknowledges that the proposed law explicitly overrides the Privacy Act, Human Rights Act and New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. To what purpose does it treat some New Zealanders as non-citizens? It is to enforce a US taxation regime that is one-sided, unique in the world and inconsistent with OECD model taxation agreements. This analysis on the New Zealand legislation from the Isaac Brock Society sets out the issues in more detail.

Another nefarious piece of legislation the Key Government introduced in late 2013 is the Treaty of Waitangi settlement bill that gives redress to the Ngati Toa tribe for alleged wrongs committed against the tribe by the Crown in the early 19th Century. These Maori grievance settlements have become more and more outrageous over time, establishing two classes of citizenship in New Zealand - a privileged Maori tribal citizenship and lesser rights for the rest of us - but this one really takes the cake. Ngati Toa was the tribe of chief Te Rauparaha who committed what can only be described as genocide against other Maori tribes in his violent rampage through the North Island and top of the South Island in the 1820s and 1830s. British forces intervened against Te Rauparaha and his nephew Te Rangihaeata in the late 1830s and 1840s, stopping their horrific attacks against other Maori tribes and European settlers. Giving compensation to Ngati Toa today for the actions of British forces is like giving compensation to Bosnian Serbs for what happened at Srebrenica in the 1990s. Former Maori Treaty claim researcher John Robinson provides background and opinion on this claim in this article.

In the United States the Obamacare legislation is being shown up for the disaster some people always knew it would be, with even former supporters shocked to discover the huge cost increases that it is imposing and President Obama being exposed as having lied through his teeth when he said Americans would be able to keep their existing healthcare plan. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said the legislation would "change the relationship between the government and the individual in a profound way." He meant that socialised medicine makes citizens dependent on the state in a way that Americans have traditionally not been, and he is being proved right.

On the positive side in America, President Obama has said he will rein back the extent of spying on citizens and foreign leaders that were exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Many commentators have said the president's pledge does not go far enough and have expressed scepticism about whether there will be any meaningful change. Obama has pursued more prosecutions under the Espionage Act than all other presidents combined, so people are right to be cynical about his intentions.

So as much as I enjoyed my holiday and have been slow to take up the cudgels again in defence of freedom, I am mindful of Thomas Jefferson's (or Edmund Burke's similar) saying, "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."

As Shakespeare said, "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more..."