Hooton nails it

Matthew Hooton writes:

Simon Bridges has set aside one of the standard rules of opposition politics.
Conventional wisdom says an opposition should hold back policy until just a few weeks before an election. The idea is to avoid scrutiny by interest groups, adoption by the government or boredom among voters.
Instead, with the next election as many as 94 weeks away, Bridges confirmed in his State of the Nation speech on Wednesday that National would repeal the Auckland petrol tax, freeze other petrol taxes, repeal any new capital gains tax (CGT) and not introduce any other new taxes.

Yeah good to see National actually coming up with policy early on. I hope it continues. I understand there will be a number of policy discussion drafts in major areas out in the first half of this year.

As a move to protect the real value of family incomes, the promise is almost impossible to oppose, although Finance Minister Grant Robertson tried valiantly, saying it was “reckless”, “empty” and would create a “fiscal hole” requiring cuts to social services.
Aside from making Robertson defend automatically increasing families’ real tax burden, the political value of Bridges’ very specific promise is that it contrasts with a Government certain to get on the wrong side of the tax debate and already trying to hide its lack of policy clarity with bureaucratic waffle.

There is a difference between a tax cut, and preventing stealth tax increases. Labour will look very bad if they campaign on continuing to increase tax takes by stealth. Why should hard working wage earners get taxed more just because of inflation?

The Prime Minister will soon regret declaring 2019 “the year of delivery”. …

Ardern’s problem is that on anything measurable, “delivery” is going backwards.
There will not be 30,000 new houses by the next election, nor 300 million trees, nor even $3 billion of handouts under Shane Jones’ Provincial Growth Fund.
Student numbers have fallen despite the $325m Education Minister Chris Hipkins calculated his fees-free tertiary education policy would cost in 2018/19.
The method by which inequality statistics are calculated means Ardern is unlikely to be able to report any material progress over the next 94 weeks.

I agree that labelling this the year of delivery will backfire. They will deliver change but not results or better outcomes.

Just as waffly is Ardern and Robertson’s promise to base this and future Budgets around “wellbeing” — a term doomed to be for this current regime what “innovation” and “sustainability” were for the previous two.
If Ardern and Robertson’s use of “wellbeing” is meant to imply previous governments were entirely preoccupied with headline economic growth over such things as social cohesion, strong families and individuals achieving their potential, then they are wrong.
Of the nearly $100b Parliament appropriates each year, almost all is spent on programmes originally intended to promote wellbeing rather than growth.

It is almost Orwellian nonsense. As Hooton says, almost all Government spending is already targeted at wellbeing, rather than economic growth. That is partly because it is business not government that creates economic growth. The Government can slow growth down, but generally not create it.

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