Saturday, May 30, 2015

Bill English says an astonishing thing

"The reason people hand over their PAYE at the end of the week or fortnight... is because they think we are making a difference to someone else's life." Bill English
Except nobody hands over their PAYE. One doesn't stand in a queue patiently waiting to make their contribution to government thinking how much better off someone is going to be because of it.

There is no choice. Paying tax is compulsory. If it weren't, many would have long since concluded that an institution wasting or misspending so much isn't worthy of support. If there was a queue, it'd be a very short one.

As well as a fib, it's an incredibly conceited statement. It reveals the disconnect politicians have with common people.

Tax is unseen. There is no opportunity for the payer to consider whether he or she is happy with what it buys. That is the way government wants it to be. PAYE perfectly suits their purposes; gone before the person who earned it has any ability to value it.

A government  truly convinced it was the best supplier of services - social, health and education -  would allow an opt-out choice. For example, it would provide a tax exemption for people would bought private healthcare. Or a tax exemption for those who sent their children to private schools or home-schooled them.

That's never going to happen because the revenue collected from people who pay twice is crucial to the continuation of the deceit.

The reason people "hand over their PAYE" is because they have  no choice. Unfortunately, most have become quite passive or apathetic about this reality. If no choice exists then what's the point of considering whether the outcomes are desirable?

From there, it is an impossible stretch to expect people to consider whether taxation is even morally sound.

Yes, agents of the state have us right where they want us.

And to add insult,  the Finance Minister then has the audacity to tell us what we think. Un-bloody-believable.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Breaking News: Benefit increase welcomed by racing industry

The "first benefit increase since the 1970s" is welcomed by the racing industry, currently struggling to survive.
Offcourse turnover dropped steeply after the 1990's benefit cuts, but the National government has rejected a return to the halcyon days of ex Racing Minister, Winston Peters, refusing to fund a cash injection into stakes - the lifeblood of the industry.
Described as "heartless" in its attitude to the racing industry, the government stands accused of turning its back on jockeys, trainers, breeders, livestock agents, and the 30,000 people relying on the industry for their livelihood.
The 2015 budget took the industry by complete surprise.
In a masterstroke, John Key and Bill English, raised benefits and side-lined not only the Greens and Labour, but NZ First, whose support base relies on racing enthusiasts.
Child poverty advocates raised their glasses alongside racing industry lobbyists. Both agreed that this National government budget exceeded all expectations. Both expect that increased benefits will reduce child and race industry poverty.

 Source: Two over three on Goodtime Sugar, The New Zealand TAB turns 50, David Grant, p112

More welfare to create more jobs?

Muriel Newman has critiqued the budget, in particular the measures to reduce child poverty by increasing core benefits to parents:

There are risks, as in general, the more generous benefits become relative to wages the harder it is to move people off welfare. But the government knows that. They also know the extra benefit money will not only help families in need, but it will provide a stimulus for small businesses in their communities, leading to new employment opportunities.
The writer and I agree on many things but this isn't a view I would advance. Taken to its natural extension benefits should continue to rise to keep creating jobs!  Economics In One Lesson, The Broken Window (Henry Hazlitt) explains how, in the matter of superficially creating employment,  the unseen party is overlooked. The baker's window is broken, the glazier profits. He has extra employment. But the baker had intended buying a new suit from the tailor. Now he cannot and the tailor's employment decreases. There is no "new" employment. 

Here, the business owner coughing up the tax for benefits is unseen. He's prevented from creating "new employment opportunities" so the business in a heavily benefit-dependent community can. It's the redistribution of jobs by compulsion.

If the goal was for small business owners to create more jobs the correct approach would be to simultaneously cut their tax and cut benefits. But that's not the goal. The goal is to keep voters satisfied enough to vote National back in.

Or perhaps  the government has bought into the Michael Cullen approach. They believe they can do a little of what they know is theoretically unsound. Cullen knew the evidence about raising the minimum wage was incontrovertible but insisted it could be done in small steps without creating unemployment.

Is  there an equivalent rule in economics to healthy living - everything in moderation?

Then again, NZ is way beyond a healthy serving of welfare already. My gut tells me more is not the answer.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Having a baby takes less time

18 September 2014 to May 26, 2015

9 months and 8 days. That's the amount of time it took to produce my second child.

I first wrote to the Ombudsman on September 18, 2014 to complain about the non-release of information by a certain government department. It's not a frivolous complaint as the author of the paper also believes it should be released.

I was told around December it still hadn't been assigned to an investigator.

A couple of weeks back I gave them another prod. A couple of days ago, another.

Yesterday I received an e-mail to tell me it has now been assigned.

9 months and 8 days just to reach this stage.

And that has probably only happened because I queried their progress. 

Who can I complain...oh, that's right...the Ombudsman.

Duncan Garner recently talked with the editor of the Christchurch Press on his show. One area they were both aggrieved about is the slow or non-release of information by government departments.  She thought the stalling started under the Clark administration.

A TV journalist told me he was actually considering doing a story about how poorly the OIA process was performing.

This reluctance to release information must be causing a significant workload for the Ombudsman. Not only are time and money being wasted, the backlog must take its toll on staff morale.

Most importantly, the distinct impression is created that rather than open and transparent government, we have the very opposite.

Super gaining traction as election issue

If Labour was my party of preference, I'd be very frustrated with their lack of clarity on major issues. Andrew Little dumped the policy of raising the Super qualifying age, and he also quickly put to bed any idea that a Labour government would means-test Super.

The NZ Herald sensibly advises Andrew Little to keep his options open.

It is patently clear that human life expectancy has lengthened considerably, even in the short time since the age of entitlement was raised from 60 to 65 in the 1990s. We do not need the Census to tell us that, or the fact that a rapidly increasing proportion of today's superannuitants are continuing to work in jobs they enjoy. Mr Little cited their double-dipping as an issue of fairness when asked after a post-Budget speech whether Labour would consider means testing superannuation. He said Labour would be looking at it.
Within hours his office issued a disclaimer, insisting Labour would most certainly not be looking at it...

 Labour went to the last election with a policy to increase the age of entitlement, which Mr Little blames for its loss, alongside its intention to impose a capital gains tax on rented housing. Since taking over the leadership he has backtracked on both policies, leaving him in an awkward position now that National has activated just such a tax on rental housing resale gains. That announcement, five days before Mr Little's difficulties on superannuation last Friday, ought to have been a lesson to keep his options open. Otherwise he will be often overtaken by events.
The issue of Super has unusually been off the hot topics list for some time. But it's back. And it divides people. Even households. It has the potential to affect the outcome of the next election considerably.

I don't know why it has come to this. Australia (70 by 2035), the UK (67 by 2028)  the US (67 by 2027) Canada (67 by 2023) are lifting their entitlement ages with seemingly little political fall-out.  It was a mistake by Key to draw a line in the sand that any government he leads cannot step over. But by the same token, it's a gift for Labour.

The arguments for raising the age, and even for means-testing (which has many fish-hooks but generally aligns with Labour's view of 'fairness'), are compelling and it looks gutless not to make them.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

"Maoris and Law"

Just an interesting tidbit from the NZ Herald - 80 years ago.



 The interesting mental attitude of the Maori in regard to penalties inflicted by the law was remarked upon by Bishop Williams, of Waiapu, when speaking before the Wellington Philosophical Society.

"He apparently regards each transaction as complete in itself," said the speaker. "He does something which, by the laws of the game, incurs a penalty; he pays the penalty and considers the account closed. This philosophic attitude makes him a good prisoner, and the chief gaoler in Napier remarked a few years ago that if all the prisoners were Maori his post would be a sinecure.

"A most important result springs from this. A Maori who has broken the law does not become a criminal; he may have been in gaol, but there is nothing of the gaol-bird about him. He may, and frequently does, become a most respectable member of society. Of course, the mental process is not confined to the delinquent; his friends look at it in the same light. If the pakeha could only adopt a similar attitude crime would be greatly reduced. "

There is still something in this. From my observation Maori have a stronger inclination towards redemption. The rangatahi courts possibly reflect this. Our prisons today may be half full with Maori but I doubt that'd be the case under a Maori justice system. Pakeha clearly didn't take Bishop Williams advice.

Monday, May 25, 2015

ACT can be very uncharitable

From ACT's Free Press newsletter today:

ACT’s Board has unanimously rejected an approach by the hapless Don Brash (no joking, this is too good for us to have made up) for Williamson to join ACT’s caucus. “My own party don’t want me no more” is not an attractive pitch.

Predictably (as was the author's aim)  the NZ Herald has picked this up.

You know, ACT is a hard party to stay loyal too.

To describe Don Brash as "hapless" is insulting and belittling.

It didn't work out in 2011 despite many ACT members welcoming Brash as leader - even those who had residual royalty to Rodney.

ACT had coined Brash, when he was National's leader, ACT's 9th MP. The party was still quite happy to use his services (probably free of charge) in 2014, when David Seymour was campaigning to win Epsom.

So ACT doesn't want Williamson. OK. I get that. But I don't understand the need to mockingly publicise the approach.

Just smacks of fickle politics. An undeserved 'hero to zero' treatment.

Electronic monitoring of criminals a sham

Sean Plunket conducted an interview with Corrections Association president Bevan Hanlon who was scathing about the monitoring process in general (obviously unable to be specific but the Blessie Gotingco case was the spur for the interview - see photo used at link). Hanlon claims that Corrections simply does not have the resources to carry out the required monitoring. Monitoring is a "fiscal" measure to keep the prison population down apparently.

If you think electronic surveillance of known and potentially dangerous criminals keeps you safe, better listen to this interview:

(Now I know the background of the convicted murderer I am utterly gobsmacked. The link in yesterday's comments, revealing the name, has been removed as the legal implications are unknown to me and I blog under my own name. Sorry.)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Odd inconstistency

The man convicted of murdering Blessie Gotingo has name supression. I recalled a very similar case in Hastings wondering if it could possibly be the same guy (as media commentators have hinted there will be an uproar when the supression is lifted.) On appeal the Hastings guy had his sentence reduced to 10 years (in 2001) but the ages don't match up. Neither do the images.

But something about the two photos below of the name-unkown convicted murderer caught my attention.

Photo 1

Photo 2

When did he get the nose job? Or perhaps someone had temporarily 'rearranged' his face in the top one.

The photos are also dissimilar because of the set of the mouth, but all the features match bar the nose.


As a portrait artist these details intrigue me. The top photo looks like a middle eastern man whereas the bottom photo looks distinctly polynesian.