By Bernard Hickey
Does John Key really want to go down this path?
His announcement over the weekend of plans to use payment cards to stop teen beneficiaries spending their benefits on drugs, alcohol and gambling seems like a good idea if you want to stop taxpayers' money being spent on 'bads'.
But it's only fair and sensible if it is extended to all beneficiaries, including those receiving Working For Families, Interest Free Student Loans and pensions.
Would John Key have been quite so confident standing up in front of all the grey hairs at the weekend National Party conference and announcing this policy?
If it is not extended to all beneficiaries then it smacks of an attempt by the haves to stop the have nots from having what the haves already have.
John Armstrong writes this morning at the NZ Herald how the announcement of this policy was the one thing that got the National Party conference excited.
It was greeted with "loud cheers, piercing whistles, stamping feet and wild applause."
Would they have been so keen if Key had announced they wouldn't be allowed to spend their pensions at the local pokies or on their favourite dram of whiskey or on a holiday to see the grandkids in Australia?
That is the irony here. Key was preaching to an audience of beneficiaries. Mostly quite rich beneficiaries. They certainly outnumbered the out of work teenagers in the audience.
Pensioners are New Zealand's biggest beneficiaries. There are over 580,000 people aged over 65 who received over NZ$8.8 billion worth benefits in the financial year just completed. See more here at Jonathan Barron's detailing of the Social Welfare budget here.
Just imagine how much of that is spent on 'bads'?
Yet John Key is going to spend millions designing a bureaucracy and a payment card system targeting the 'bad' spending of around 1,600 16-17 year olds. See more in Alex Tarrant's article, including Key's speech.
It only makes sense if it is extended more widely.
In fact, it's only fair and sustainable if it is extended more widely.
The young in New Zealand aren't stupid.
They can see what the old have done in the last decade or two. They have consumed the future and loaded many kinds of debt on those who will ultimately have to pay the bill.
Firstly, let's look at those pensioners who cheered and clapped John Key's comments on the weekend.
Most will be property owners sitting on large (tax free) capital gains and are expecting to be paid pensions and receive 'free' health care from the taxes that will be paid by tommorrow's taxpayers.
Even more painful for the youth of today, they won't be able to afford to buy a family home because the previous generation loaded up these houses with so much debt.
The young can choose to take on those punishing debts and remain wage slaves for the rest of their lives. But they'll do so knowing they'll have to pay more taxes in future to pay for the pensions and healthcare of those stopping them from buying cigarettes and alcohol now.
Is John Key trying to alienate our youth?
He could show he is being fair by applying the same rules to the old and the young.