Chris Trotter says the left can detail the many privations of too-many of our citizens. But they can't figure out why poverty, inequality, homelessness and environmental despoliation are happening, so their political message doesn't connect

Chris Trotter says the left can detail the many privations of too-many of our citizens. But they can't figure out why poverty, inequality, homelessness and environmental despoliation are happening, so their political message doesn't connect

By Chris Trotter*

Bryan Bruce, rather cheekily, calls his operation New Zealand Public Television (NZPTV). That is, of course, a not-so-subtle dig at what he (and a great many others) regard as the serious derelictions of this country’s actual public broadcaster, Television New Zealand. Bruce is of an age which encompasses the golden era of New Zealand television, which began in the mid-1970s and came to an abrupt halt with the corporatisation of public television in the late 1980s.

Bruce, whose NZ on Air-funded documentaries on child poverty, education, rising inequality and the triumph of neoliberalism in New Zealand (among more than 30 other productions) have earned him mixed reviews at home, and multiple medals at the New York Festival, takes an unashamedly left-wing view of the world. Or, perhaps, it is fairer to say that he is one of those who sees reality as having a left-wing bias.

It’s a view that boasts far fewer subscribers nowadays than it used to – way back in that golden era, when conservative New Zealanders gnashed their teeth at what they regarded as “state television’s” left-wing prejudices. (Those same conservatives continue to rail against the alleged biases of state-owned “Red Radio”.)

Undaunted, Bruce gathered together his own production-team and, on a rain-swept Friday night at the start of Queen’s Birthday Weekend, assembled a panel of critical thinkers, activists, politicians and journalists in the Otahuhu Town Hall in South Auckland. Their mission was to contrast and compare Grant Robertson’s “Wellbeing Budget” with the “People’s Budget” a genuinely transformational left-wing government would, presumably, have presented to the electorate the day before.

It was an impressive line-up. Representing the “right” of the panel was the business commentator, Rod Oram, while anchoring its “left” were veteran activists Professor Jane Kelsey and Dr Sue Bradford. In between sat Greenpeace’s Russel Norman, Auckland City Councillor, Efeso Collins, and Julia Whaipooti, spokesperson and board member of the justice reform organisation, Just Speak.

Unsurprisingly, there were very few among this group who rated Robertson’s Budget at anything higher than 2 or 3 out of 10. Commentators from the floor, most of them representing trade union and community support organisations, were even less enthusiastic. With Bruce in the chair, and in charge of the questioning, it was more-or-less a given that the Coalition Government’s refusal to abandon “neoliberal” economics and, particularly, Robertson’s unwavering adherence to its self-imposed “Budget Responsibility Rules”, could not possibly have produced anything even vaguely resembling a transformational “People’s Budget”.

The brave souls who had ventured out to hear the speakers (a surprising number given the weather!) were pretty clearly in sympathy with the speakers and commentators. The event had been heavily promoted on Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury’s proudly left-wing site, The Daily Blog, and Martyn, himself, strode the floor, microphone in hand, ready to elicit commentary and responses to the opinions being voiced onstage.

As a regular contributor to The Daily Blog, I had been asked to have a political commentator’s response ready for Bradbury’s microphone and Bruce’s cameras. Accordingly, I sat and watched and listened to the NZPTV “Town Hall Debate”, and waited for my turn to speak.

What struck me most forcefully, throughout the evening, was the raw power of the speakers’ reportage from the front lines of the social struggle. Community support groups like the E Tu Union’s “Living Wage” initiative, and the even more up-close-and-personal battlers from Auckland Action Against Poverty, made absolute nonsense of all the Coalition’s Pollyanna-style “glad-games” about taking bold steps towards enhancing the wellbeing of those living at the sharp end of inequality, poverty and homelessness.

I found myself wishing that Jacinda Ardern, Winston Peters and James Shaw were also seated up there on the stage, so that they could hear the searing criticisms of those for whom poverty and homelessness are something more than a mere rhetorical opportunity. That forlorn wish spawned others: most particularly the wish that our publicly-owned television network contained, within its administrative and creative ranks, broadcasters who burn with the same fiery passion to let the voters know what is really happening in their country that consumes Bryan Bruce.

Passion, however, is not enough – not when the game you are playing is politics. It is a perennial failing of the Left that they allow themselves to become consumed with outrage at WHAT is happening on the meanest streets of their nation; paying far too little (if any) heed to WHY it is happening.

Challenged on this, they will glibly attach the ‘why’ of poverty, inequality, homelessness and environmental despoliation to “Neoliberalism”. In much the same way did the religious scholars of the Middle Ages explain the ills of the world by pointing triumphantly in the direction of the Devil. But, of course, that does not answer the question: it merely pushes it back one step. WHY are people tempted by the Devil? WHY do politicians continue to put their faith in neoliberalism – and not socialism?

The great American “muckraking” journalist, Upton Sinclair, famously observed that: “It is difficult to make a man understand something, when his salary depends upon him not understanding it.” In exactly the same way, it is very difficult to make those sectors of society which are benefitting handsomely from the consequences of neoliberalism, come out in support of economic and social policies that run directly counter to their interests.

The truth which emerged most clearly from the testimony put before the Otahuhu Town Hall meeting is that the unavailability and inordinate cost of decent housing lies at the very heart of the economic and social crises afflicting New Zealand’s poorest communities. An all-out effort on the housing front is, therefore, urgently required if even a tiny fraction of the Coalition’s “wellbeing” promises are to be fulfilled. And yet, Robertson’s Wellbeing Budget is almost silent on the issue of housing. Almost, but not quite. As Bernard Hickey pointed out on Newshub Nation on Saturday morning, an easily-overlooked line in the 2019 Budget predicts a 21 percent rise in house prices over the next four years.

Older New Zealanders; the Baby Boom Generation; the people who not only own their own homes, but have also paid them off; the citizens who vote: will be absolutely delighted when they hear this news. It means they are about to be made even more affluent and secure than they are already. What interest do they have in supporting policies which will increase the supply – and hence lower the price – of houses? What interest do their children and grandchildren have in supporting the reintroduction of an Inheritance Tax?

It is in the vexed terrain of conflicting social and economic interests that the Left’s analytical weakness is most starkly on display. The evidence from polling and focus-group interviews will be telling Labour that a clear majority of the New Zealand electorate, while sympathetic to the plight of the poor, will not countenance a policy framework that involves dramatically raising their taxes, or, significantly lowering the value of their assets. If this government is to be re-elected, then it simply cannot afford to alienate the roughly two-thirds of New Zealanders who are on the credit side of Neoliberalism’s ledger.

This was the WHY that I attempted to explain to the meeting when Bomber Bradbury thrust his microphone in front of me in search of a comment. Needless to say, it was not well received.


*Chris Trotter has been writing and commenting professionally about New Zealand politics for more than 30 years. His work may be found at http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com. He writes a fortnightly column for interest.co.nz.

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You get what you vote for. Poor people as a whole clearly aren't good electors - which is unfortunate for the minority of the poor who are civic minded.

How often do we hear the tired old lines:
- 'They are all corrupt'
- 'I don't vote'
- 'I don't follow politics'
- 'I'm too busy working to care'
- etc

What a bunch of thickos. They'll just have to take whatever crumbs fall in their laps and should be grateful their appalling attitude towards civics doesn't result in the contraction of a communicable, 3rd world disease.

Back to your Facebook news feeds now ..

"What a bunch of thickos."

I would rather be a thicko the someone who is rude and obnoxious, who thinks their view is the only view, isn't that how wars start, and despots rule.

Spoken like a true non-voter.

The "thickos" time will come, it's all a numbers game in the end:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-N9nVLXMhPc

Do you use the word "thicko" in order to not to look to your own conscience? I am a voter, however, there is no-one who truly represents what I would like to see, Greens being the closest.

Great piece.
Politics is math. And this sums it up:

'If this government is to be re-elected, then it simply cannot afford to alienate the roughly two-thirds of New Zealanders who are on the credit side of Neoliberalism’s ledger.'

While this is the case, it will be hard to increase the taxes that are required to fund the services and infrastructure the country needs. Although increased borrowing could go some way.

I suspect if we keep going down the track we are going, those on the wrong side of 'Neo-liberalism's Ledger' will grow. But it probably needs to grow to more than half of the population to enact real change, given that many of the poorest don't vote. And barring a major economic collapse, we probably won't get to that point in the next 10 years.

So we'll keep drifting along, things will continue to get steadily tougher for younger low-middle and middle income kiwis, and the more profound changes needed won't happen.

Was MMT mentioned? That right now we don't need to tax pensioners to help the poor. There is capacity to deficit spend and train the workers to build the houses we need.

MMT = Money printing and that doesnt work.

Isn't that how our state housing was funded in the 1930-1940s?

Was any of what HNZC is doing discussed?

https://www.hnzc.co.nz/housing-developments-and-programmes/auckland-hous...

My understanding is that the new capital/borrowing there is off balance sheet - hence not a Budget 2019 matter.

""The truth which emerged most clearly from the testimony put before the Otahuhu Town Hall meeting is that the unavailability and inordinate cost of decent housing lies at the very heart of the economic and social crises afflicting New Zealand’s poorest communities.""
To a taxpayer it does make a difference if the poor are poor because of adversity (ill-health of children etc) or if they are poor because they are too lazy to work / addicted to drugs and alcohol. Now we have two classes of single mother: those who get money from the father and those who don't - how many young couples happily married with kids wish there was only one parent's name on th birth certificate?
Housing is a disaster for the poor. True but it shows the Auckland centric nature of left-wing politics. There are poor people in the remote rural areas of NZ where houses are dirt cheap. Accommodation allowance is based on location showing the city based bias of benefits.

I saw this comparison on line and it's quite true in this climate
National: F** the poor
Labour: F** the rich
NZF: F** everyone
Greens: F** the system

I disagree with this. The first three drive their attitudes by populism and the fourth by idealism.

I would have liked to have seen this on youtube. Bryan Bruce is one of my heroes. He always seems to get it right! Whether it’s cold cases or the economy. I found myself disagreeing with him on ethical investment, but that probably just means that he’s a better person than I.

.

Very interesting having a look again at this one he did in 2011;
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AnC8yMph78

Hmm, I looked at that again Kate. It did not change my opinion about Mr Bruce or neoliberalism. Sobering docco, but it's reassuring to see that some progress has been made on healthy homes in the last few years.

Yes, it's a very good one - I was surprised/pleased at just how many of the recommendations he made had been progressed - in addition to the insulation changes you mentioned, there were free doctor visits for all children and nurses in schools. Plus the extension of paid parental leave, but still not at the level of Sweden.

Kate - Sweden has a population of 9.995M against our near 5 million. What is relevant is that their tax is 61.85. Record low was in 2000 at 51.50. It appears that the poverty in Sweden is not considered "real" poverty but then an add on to that being that those most in poverty are immigrants from Turkish countries and Muslim countries. Could be wrong with this comment but does that not indicate an issue with our own people when we see immigrants getting into business, working their butts off to make a living, buy a house etc. A lot of years ago, there was a program in the USA called from memory the Philadelphia experiment which meant you were supported for one child only. The birth rate dropped rapidly and employment of these women went up. I struggle with what I see as a lack of personal responsibility for many of our poorest and yes - it is the children who pay in so many ways.

a bunch of lefties struggling to get a grasp of reality ... who would have thought ???

Says the person who works an eight hour day with breaks, gets weekends and annual leave, gets a pension when s/he's old and get's socially-funded medical care.

I'm pretty centrist in policy but there's no reason for us to ignore history. Plenty of our politicians on both sides of the spectrum are adept enough at ignoring history for us.

I think you and your ilk are the ones ignoring history - that of Soviet Union , repeating itself as we speak in Venezuela etc.etc. - but of course that is somehow not relevant / unmentionable.

No one is advocating for Communism in NZ, but is rather suggesting that we do not ignore history that has actually occurred in NZ. Hope that helps clear it up for you. It's an absurd resort to shout "We can't use those leftist policies that have used in NZ's past because look what completely different policies were used in this other country!" Illogical.

What did once occur in NZ has very little resemblance to what you are advocating. The land tax that did exist exempted over 90% of landowners- the aim of it was to break up large holdings , not to tax the ordinary homeowner in order to finance handouts.

To suggest that NZ is somehow so "different" that lessons that can be learned from events elsewhere are irrelevant is simply silly - just as the suggestion that everything that ever occurred in NZ would be worth repeating just because it did .

Hope that helps clear it up for you.
I note that is absurd to shout "am a centrist" while consistently advocating extreme left-wing views . I understand that you are trying to re-define "center" to suit yourself but is not in the least credible.

Land tax was gradually weakened over time, and yes, it was used very successfully to break up NZ's land banks and get land accessible to more Kiwis. And by the 1990s it was done away with, as were most of the countries efforts to increase housing supply and access to home ownership. Learn from history since then too and what's happened till now. Seeing people who have benefited from NZ's historic policies then railing against them as if they never have, that's the funny part...Though that philosophical consistency always seems to fall down when it comes to their entitlement to welfare benefits in their old age.

Creating a strawman of "tax land to finance handouts" for any subsequent discussion of learning from NZ's history of land tax use is a poor resort. Trying to shoehorn every reference to history in NZ into completely different policies in completely different countries simply doesn't make sense. It would be just as absurd to say that right-leaning policies don't work because "ooh, but look, Nazi Germany".

It appears you are missing what people are actually advocating for because it's easier to argue against strawmen, communism etc?
It's also missing a trick to assume land value tax is exclusively a left wing policy.

However, feel free to cite an example of a society that's economically collapsed, or descended into communism due to land tax. Shouldn't be too hard if such things are always part and parcel of extreme leftism / communism / reds under the bed, bogeymen etc.

“WHY do politicians continue to put their faith in neoliberalism – and not socialism?”
Are those the only two alternatives? I know Thatcher infamously trumpeted “There is no alternative (TINA)” to neoliberalism back in the 80s, but for the left, is socialism really the only other alternative now? For instance, take a look at what Joseph Stiglitz is calling Progressive Capitalism:
After Neoliberalism
https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/after-neoliberalism-progres...

Excellent piece thanks Voiceofreason.

Do you think the Coalition are a third of the way between centre-left and progressive capitalism?

If you like this Stiglitz piece, you will probably enjoy Professor Ha-Joon Chang's book '23 Things They Don't Tell you about Capitalism'

In my view theres two factors that contribute to apathy in regards to pushing back against the entrenched economic dogma in this country. Our schools do not teach Civics. As a consequence our children grow up ignorant of their duty to participate in our democracy which is only too convenient for opportunistic businesses to exploit. Secondly, easy credit. Dissasatisfaction with the status quo would have exploded years ago but access to easy debt means you can just sustain yourself off debt if you can't get a job that offers a high enough income to live suitably. .

If the choice is between "neo-liberalism" or "socialism" then I will pick neo-liberalism every single time and it's not even a close call. But of course it's not the actual choice. The left's hatred for anything that's not socialism has meant they have dreamed up an all encompassing term "neo-liberalism" to mean anything they dislike and to blame.

The housing crises in NZ is not that hard to comprehend really - it is a supply and demand issue. Successive governments, left/right and local/central, have restricted land use, drove up compliance costs, and induced demand with things like the accommodation supplement. Combined with favorable tax regime and low interest rates we are going to get this class of assets appreciating. I surprised that people are surprised that high house prices is the result. What else did you expect to happen?

The latest budget was hardly "transformational"; Bill English could have delivered that budget. It is the status quo with a bit more money. In health it is barely keeping with inflation. I too want a transformation of the way we are doing things but socialism is not the answer.

The left have at their foundations have at least two inherent flaws in their understanding of reality and that's why their predictions and policies fail consistently. The first inherent flaw is that history is progressive and it has an end goal. And the second, is that human nature is not fixed and can be shaped and is shaped by society. Even a cursory look of history would see these are not true. Any political agenda based on these flaws will never succeed. Again I surprised that people are still attracted to socialism given it's deadly history. I note that today is 30 years since the CCP massacred a huge number of people in Tienanmen Square.

One can also look at the rental accommodation issue: costs loaded onto landlords, a general demonisation of the sector, ring-fencing and other taxation-related imposts, and regulation up the wazoo (e.g. Rental WOF and other bureaucratic make-work).

Then, the Gubmint gapes in wonderment as landlords:

  • sell up to FHB's and other suckers worthy buyers
  • raise rents to cover compliance and new capex (e.g. insulation and extraction)
  • become ultra-picky about the class of tenant they will suffer

.

There is a general lack of appreciation of Cause and Effect - both economically and socially - and this explains much of what CT is seeing.

I have to agree and there is probably a lot more blocks to supply caused by over-regulation and government meddling. In regards to demonizing landlords this is reminiscent of the persecution of the Kulaks; blame people that are slightly better than average to avoid scrutinizing failed government policies.

That's one side but it's completely missing:

1. 300,000 rental properties (last count I saw) receive welfare subsidies, distorting by raising the rent floor for the market and subsidising property investment.
2. Investors have well benefited from earlier socially-funded housing supply initiatives, and the value that has flowed to them since these were discontinued from the 1990s on. Got them cheap, surfed the value up as the state stepped away from supply. Cause and effect, eh.

If we're going to lament being asked to provide medically safer products to the market (rather than socialising the cost of poor housing being offered to the market), it's at least necessary to recognise the way the state has and still does support poor old property investors.

I think we are in complete agreement RickStrauss, successive governments have driven up demand with market distorting policies such as the accommodation supplement. The accommodation supplement is of course a subsidy to landlords and lifts the prices rather dramatically. We spend $3b a year on this terrible policy and I don't see it going anytime soon unfortunately.

Agreed, and both parties are likely to perpetuate it, if for slightly different reasons.

At some point the values become compromised and the personal ambition takes precedence. E.g. National with school zones - they used to work to get rid of them because of "freedom of choice", but now not whisper about them because school zones impact their personal property portfolios.

Good piece CT. People are invariably extremist. They are either left or right and much of this article reflects that. But I feel he tries to just 'flip off' the criticism of Neoliberalism when he correctly states they do no not ask WHY. I believe that a part of Neoliberalism is where the problem lies - the 'free market' economic policies introduced from the US in the 60s. Fundamentally these demonstrate a basic misunderstanding of both the role of Government and human psychology.

As has been discussed many times on this site before, the 'Free Market' has never been free. it is always being manipulated by the players, hence the role of Government, to regulate and stop the manipulation to enable the markets to benefit everyone, not just the wealthy. In this CT is correct in saying that the Government has not put policies in place to genuinely help the poor, but then they cannot just turn the economy on it's head in one foul swoop. Instead they have to move carefully and slowly. Many Socialists would just have more benefits paid to the poor, but the question must be asked where does this money come from, and what will be the consequences of just throwing money around? There are other ways they can be helped, that is less damaging, and further out, the Government must work to create an environment that will create jobs that pay well and are secure. In the competition for resources these goals are conflicting.

Fixing the mess will not be easy because now as a result of neoliberal policies and generations of development, the planet is now facing significant issues in many area that all require resources to fix, but those resources come from a severely finite pot.

I heard Hickey mention the 2019 Budget predicts a 21 percent rise in house prices over the next four years.
Really? How??

What the hell is neoliberalism anyway? It just seems to get used as a label for everything that the left doesn't like. Anyway, house prices are rising because of low interest rates, which are justified by central bankers on the grounds that they put more people in work. Perhaps even some of the unfortunates trotted out at these meetings. Personally, I would prefer not to have them as they seem to do a lot of damage (eg inequality) without fixing anything. I'm in a minority though and I'm pretty sure the angry left advocates for them.

Neoliberalism is described as a combination of laissez-faire economic liberalism and free market capitalism. The reality is that most people (including yourself) have a subjective understanding of what that is regardless of the ridiculous ideas of "left" and "right" in developed democratic society. Both are slaves to populism and cronyism. I'm sure middle NZ and The Hosk would love to think that NZ is somehow some perfect meritocracy where "only the strong survive."

Arguably, the Nordic countries are "socialist", but economically they're every bit as strong as NZ.

He's right. They haven't quite got the solution figured out. It's in Henry George's "Progress and Poverty". They're close but it's probably a hard sell to the boomers if they do know the answer.

Being poor or rich is generally a personal choice!
If you make wrong decisions and aren’t prepared to alter things, then you will struggle financially.
Having children when you can not afford to have them, seems to be the thing to do nowadays, and then it is everyone else’s problem.
If you can not afford to live somewhere like Auckland, then move south.
There is no need to be poor in Nz, it is the choices that are made that puts people into the predicament they are in.
I know many will give me heaps, however just telling it the way it is.
Too many just expect everything to be given to them and it is getting worse!

B bloody S, that applies to some, however, for many it is NOT a matter of choice, at all. People, on the whole do not want everything given to them, the majority of people want to be able to live off what they can earn, but they cannot. There are a number of absolutely essential things need doing in this world that we do not reward people well enough for, but they still need doing. Do not expect people to fall at the feet of those who opt out of doing something real and instead become leeches off those who do, (yes, I mean landlords). The difference to a large extent, from what I see, is conscience.

There is room at the to they are telling you still.
In maths terms, there must be a bottom 30% for rest to be above.
Cause is another question

Disagree that it would be a hard sell to the Boomers. Luck of timing of birth led to their fortune, and taxing assets that do not produce an income will not solve the problem. Taxing those assets and forcing them on the market will only make the problems worse. The problem is being able to roll back an economic system that has planted too much power in private corporations, through a lack of Government regulation. Banks are a classic case - they are essentially a private business as in not owned by the tax payer, but in the event that they get into trouble, the tax payer is expected to bail them out. Why? Our Government is reluctant to to put legislation in place that protects the general public from the bank excesses, and what they are doing now, the banks are pushing back against it, to protect their profits. International businesses doing business in NZ without paying tax here is another one of the issues that Governments have struggled to deal with. The consequences, large organisations have made easy profits by pushing costs up and wages down. An increase in poverty is a logical consequence. It's not this Governments fault, it is the fault of every Government since Rogernomics, because none were smart enough to see the harm being done, or wilfully ignored the warnings. But never fear they still get their Honours.

In fairness, taxing land (and inheritance) is exactly part of how societies resolved the situation NZ is heading back towards and ended up creating a much wider middle class instead. What's interesting is seeing the reversal of history, moving from that wide middle class to now almost entirely taxing the product of labour while exempting capital and land (thanks to lobbying from those with both) and seeing the dwindling back of the middle classes again as they bear the load but don't get the land. You're right that many have benefited from the luck of the timing of their birth in this.

Problem is, much of the Left also put these historical solutions in the too hard basket (or as they've themselves benefited from the reversal, are just plain uninterested).

Taxing something that doesn't produce a real income is not a solution to the issue. The argument of a land tax is based on a perception of wealth. Owning property results in taking on liability, and it is already taxed by way of rates. This problem is caused by the imposition of a flawed economic model that allows a few to become rich at the expense of the rest. the real solution is Government regulation. The issue here is that successive Governments since the introduction of the 'free market' economic model, have systematically refused to act to protect the interests of the majority of the population, favouring instead the few with the means and ability to exploit the situation. This has benefited big business, and many investors. But note that not all investors have won, as for some the gamble has not paid off. governments argue that the law is too hard to enact, but that is a cop out. The problem for them is that any benefit to them is indirect, thus the motivation just isn't there. Plus they are being pressured by the lobbyists. Recent articles about the banks pushing back against the RBNZ's capital requirements is a case in point.

Boomers in fact would like it that everyone has a opportunity. There are many Boomers who are not benefiting from the current situation. Everyone is much better off when property is very much cheaper. But the Auckland disease is spreading across the rest of the country as investors continue to look for their capital gains, making property and renting unaffordable for people who live in the regions where employment opportunities are much less.

The argument of a land tax is based on a perception of wealth.

A perception of wealth is not the foundation of Milton Friedman's argument for land tax.

He states that a tax on the unimproved value of land is the least bad tax, what else is the foundation for his argument?

"Value" is an emotive term. Who defines "value"? The market is clearly failing, so the current system is not working, what then?

It's probably a waste of time to post links to his or others arguments for land value tax. They're easily found.

However, to help with the value question, price is one way in which land is valued. And price is driven by location and the value that others around the land add to it, hence land value tax recaptures some of that value received surrounds.

The Polarization Trap

Over the past decade I’ve watched with alarm the widening polarization of the body politic across Western societies (and to some extent globally). As commonly recognized, the public is split into irreconcilable political factions who disagree not only on the interpretation of events, but on what events even took place. They have seemingly separated into two disjoint realities, each with its own facts, authorities, histories, and narratives. Link

Political parties - I'm talking about Labour, really - need to get a grip on what transformational policies the public will actually go along with. As Chris says, taxes that drive down home prices will always be a hard sell because there is such a large pool of regular voters who will lose out from it. It doesn't matter if it's a good policy or not. I think there would be less resistance to a massive program of actively building state houses (not middle-class Kiwibuild), for example, even if the overall economic effect was similar. But that's scary and expensive and more difficult than a tax.
it's also true that our ridiculous housing costs are a cause of poverty. Wages and benefits would be much closer to adequate if housing was at a level comparable to similar countries. The housing bubble has caused a truly extraordinary upward funneling of wealth. I shudder to think how many black Mercedes SUVs have been purchased via the Housing Supplement...

Housing costs are not a cause of poverty at all.
Poverty is caused by decisions that are made.
If you can not afford to live where you are, then shift!
If you can not afford kids, the. Don’t have them.
If you haven’t got the money then do not spend what you haven’t got!
Don’t like your financial position? Then change things so you do get ahead!
Most people can do it!

Bull crap

MOST
Systemic disadvantage not in your lexicon then

Dear editor, I really enjoy seeing more cerebral journalism like this as opposed to drier market commentary. The conversation it sparked in the comments below is fuel I think for several more articles in this vein. It will keep me coming back, thats for sure!

"the 2/3rds" I agree and that is the crux of the problem. Until enough of that group start to seriously lose there can be no mood for change I suspect and by that time it will probably be moot ie we will be heading full tilt into a 2nd Great Depression.

That will happen. 50% or more of that echelon carry debt, most rely on their house(s) as permanent ATM's. That won't continue.

Chris:

The truth which emerged most clearly from the testimony put before the Otahuhu Town Hall meeting is that the unavailability and inordinate cost of decent housing lies at the very heart of the economic and social crises afflicting New Zealand’s poorest communities.

Quite true. And you know what won't be well received by Chris? It was the true right who has been saying that all along. The reason for high house prices is not your house, but the land. And who pushed up the land price? The left! They got the urban boundary in place. That made the prices in Auckland skyrocket, and this is now overflowing to the rest of NZ.

Recently a book was dedicated to Dick Quax, well-known for high-lighting this exact issue when he ran for mayor and year after year as councillor. Always ridiculed. Some of us still remember, as did this recent book:

The book is dedicated to former Auckland councillor Dick Quax, a fierce opponent of the compact city model

What side always mentioned the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey? It wasn't the people on the left Chris. They wanted none of it. They wanted urban limits, compact cities, no land, and tiny houses.

So now we are at the state with ridiculous house prices. And there's no way out as Chris correctly has identified. Maybe next time listen more to people who use phrases like "unintended consequences".

I say partly correct. Urban planning policy is a contributing factor, but the main driver of house prices has been easy of access to credit. The same problem that has caused every property bubble in modern history.

Easy credit only causes housing bubbles in those jurisdictions that have the zoning restrictions that lead to the very conditions as Berend de Boer describes.

Otherwise easy credit, because it lowers the cost of ownership, only makes housing cheaper.

Hi Chris,

yes, well said.
Fact is that Ardern government got in thanks to NZ First support (a Right of centre group with un-PC tendencies!) and also because of an approximate 8% surge to her by those who would not recognise a "policy" if it was read out to them. Ie floaters (nice term....) or those who are "nonpolitical" - that is, uncommitted to anything apart form baby stories and niceness in their chosen Party or person. The Left problem is essentially what it has always been - the respectable working class who do vote are unfortunately not PC and not inclined to like it when their elected person or Party chose to give pressies to those in bottom 30% whom the middle 30% do not think worthy of such pressies. This tendency to be unsympathetic is ably assisted by those on news who, when doing "stories" on poverty or housing poverty ALWAYS select a Maori family or Pasifika with (inevitably and predictably) 5+ children. This plays straight into the amygdala of the Right leaners whose reaction will be visceral and not quoted on news. This, indeed, is why Labour was not in fact elected at all but got in on 37% of the vote thanks to Winston.

While I am here, 21% house price increase??? Total delusion. falling in Aus and in Auckland already and world recession just getting started. Where does Treasury get this garbage.....

The crux of the problem is that people who own a single house think they are getting rich when it goes up in value. If these home owners realised their house values were irrelevant they wouldn’t mind voting for policies that lowered the cost of housing.