29 Dec 2013

Welcome to 2014- An Election Year

Who is the stupid who refuses to be fixed?

As 2014 dawns we should all recollect that it is an election year and the chance for New Zealanders to exercise their right to vote and to decide the future for their children and for future generations.
As the 2013 local body elections demonstrated the big problem facing the nation is voter apathy ( an issue that is evident in Cameron's Tory governed UK)  as voters come to believe that even if they vote against the incumbent the conservatives will get back in.

One only has to scan the headlines of the NZ newspapers to see how this message is reiterated until it has sunk into the subconscious thinking of voters. From opinionista pieces advocating further tax cuts, arguing that there are too many divides in the opposition to be credible governments compared to the over-whelming arrogance of the neo-liberal, asset selling Key led National-Act Government, that asset sales are of great economic benefit to NZ voters,  to puff pieces promising greater futures based on the "aspirational" purchasing power of the privileged 1% we are being "stroked" into accepting the belief that since the advent of the Key-English New Zealand has never had it so good and that Key, a creation of the PR company, Crosby-Textor,  can walk on water.

However, these opinionista pieces don't always stand up to detailed scrutiny. John Armstrong's call for Key to continue his tax cuts for the wealthy policies is demonstrably irresponsible , the argument that Key is the font of all accurate knowledge of economics, world affairs and ethics and is, therefore, able to walk, with his entire family and security guards in tow, all the way to his home in Hawaii ignores his constant inability to accurately recall much of his past or demonstrate knowledge of his or his cabinet's portfolios and should cause New Zealand voters pause to reflect on consequences of either not voting because "the opinionistas tell me that Key will win so why bother?" or carefully examining the policy directions being offered by Labour, by the Greens, by NZ First and, as a last resort, by the National-Act parties and then heading for the polling booths and voting for a return to responsible economic management, a return to ethical and responsible government and a return to
The NZ voter under a Key led and owned National-Act govt.
government for and by the people which means a NO vote for those who would asset strip the country, introduce failed education policies in order to pander to a soliltary, discredited political party and generally mismanage the economy to such an extent that poverty, food bank queues and inequality have increased along with public debt.

The answer to the intial question posed.
I, for one, agree with the young woman in this photograph for it answers the question posed in the initial photograph of this blog.

21 Dec 2013

Christmas Greetings to all Tade Unionists from........ the Pope.

A note that Simon Bridges and Jammy-Lea Ross should take note of.
It's a pity that many in this present NZ Government cannot realise the sanity of this statement.

18 Dec 2013

More on being apoplectic over the Len Brown affair.

The witch hunt demand for Len to resign, that has been orchestrated by the malcontents on the right wing of the Auckland City Council and building on the Slater - Wewege mud raking attempt to blackmail the Mayor into resigning in favour of their favoured candidate, should be lanced before it, like the boil on the body politic it is, bursts leaving none of those involved uncontaminated.

Ex Deputy Mayor of Manukau, Sua Willie Sio. MP states the motivations of those involved very pertinently in a facebook post and on the Daily Blog the hypocrisy of those feeding the hysteria is demonstrated in the article "David Farrar calls for John Key to resign"

In the aftermath of the Council Debate  more has been revealed about the "Auckland Five" and their agenda - leaving Auckland contemplating the old Biblical adage "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." It would appear that Quax has never been a cooperative council member and has failed to file his returns for at least two years (2011-2012)and when he has questions have been raised. that Brewer has failed to declare a four day free be trip to Australia (22.12.13. Brewer attempts to cover his tracks - uses the "blame the employees" strategy to divert attention from his own indescretion and hypocrisy) , that Linda Cooper campaigned on supporting the introduction of  the Living Wage for Auckland Council employees and has reneged on support at least twice... Hypocrisy reigns supreme amid these five conspirators.
Instead of getting on with the job they were elected to do these five Councillors have declared themselves witch-hunters.

Auckland and its Councillors need to  pull up their "morally outraged knickers" and  get on with the job of governing the city, ensuring that the Auckland Plan, efficient public transport and the assets of the city are protected and retained for the benefit of those who come after.

16 Dec 2013

Inequality and the Left- From Social Europe Journal. A view that resonates in New Zealand.

Inequality And The Left

Simon Wren-Lewis, inequality
Simon Wren-Lewis
In the debate over inequality and priorities set off by Ezra Klein’s article, Kathleen Geier writes (HT MT) “the policy fixes for economic inequality are fairly clear: in no particular order, they include a higher minimum wage, stronger labor unions, a more progressive tax system, a more generous social welfare state, macroeconomic policies that promote a full employment economy, and much more powerful government regulations, particularly in the banking and finance sector.” And part of me thought, do we really want to go back to the 1970s?
Maybe this is being unfair for two reasons. First, in terms of the strength of unions, or the progressivity of taxes, the 1970s in the UK was rather different from the 1970s in the US. Second, perhaps all we are talking about here is swinging the pendulum back a little way, and not all the way to where it was before Reagan and Thatcher. Yet perhaps my reaction explains why inequality is hardly discussed in public by the mainstream political parties – at least in the UK.
The 1997-2010 Labour government was very active in attempting to reduce poverty (with some success), but was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich as long as they pay their taxes.” This was not a whim but a strategy. It wanted to distance itself from what it called ‘Old Labour’, which was associated in particular with the trade unions.  Policies that were explicitly aimed at greater equality were too close to Old Labour [1], but policies that tackled poverty commanded more widespread support. Another way of saying the same thing was that Thatcherism was defined by its hostility to the unions, and its reduction of the top rates of income tax, rather than its hostility to the welfare state.
I think these points are important if we want to address an apparent paradox.

As this video illustrates (here is the equivalent for the US), growing inequality is not popular. Fairness is up there with liberty as a universally agreed goal, and most people do not regard the current distribution of income as fair. In addition, evidence that inequality is associated with many other ills is becoming stronger by the day. Yet the UK opposition today retains the previous government’s reluctance to campaign on the subject.
This paradox appears all the more perplexing after the financial crisis, for two reasons. First the financial crisis exploded the idea that high pay was always justified in terms of the contribution those being paid were making to society. High paid bankers are one of the most unpopular groups in society right now, and it would be quite easy to argue that these bankers have encouraged other business leaders to pay themselves more than they deserve. Second, while Thatcherism did not attempt to roll back the welfare state, austerity has meant that the political right has chosen to paint poverty as laziness. As a result, reducing poverty is no longer an uncontroversial goal.[2]
What is the answer to this paradox? Why is tackling inequality not seen as a vote winner on the mainstream left? I can think of two possible answers, but I’m not confident about either. One, picking up from the historical experience I discussed above, is that reducing inequality is still connected in many minds with increasing the power of trade unions, and this is a turn-off for voters. A second is that it is not popular opinion that matters directly, but instead the opinion of sections of the media and business community that are not forever bound to the political right. Politicians on the left may believe that they need some support from both sectors if they are to win elections. Policies that reduce poverty, or reduce unemployment, do not directly threaten these groups, while policies that might reduce the incomes of the top 10% do.
This leads me to one last argument, which extends a point made by Paul Krugman. I agree with him that “we know how to fight unemployment — not perfectly, but good old basic macroeconomics has worked very well since 2008…. The causes of soaring inequality, on the other hand, are more mysterious; so are the channels through which we might reverse this trend. We know some things, but there is much more room for new knowledge here than in business cycle macro.” My extension would be as follows. The main reason why governments have failed to deal with unemployment are accidental rather than intrinsic: the best instrument available in a liquidity trap (additional government spending) conflicts with the desire of those on the right to see a smaller state. (Those who oppose all forms of stimulus are still a minority.) In contrast, reversing inequality directly threatens the interests of most of those who wield political influence, so it is much less clear how you overcome this political hurdle to reverse the growth in inequality.
[1] This association is of course encouraged by the political right, which is quick to brand any attempt at redistribution as ‘class war’.
[2] The financial crisis did allow the Labour government to create a new top rate of income tax equal to 50%, but this was justified on the basis that the rich were more able to shoulder the burden of reducing the budget deficit, rather than that they were earning too much in the first place.
This post was first published on Mainly Macro

On asset Sales and arrogance

"When faced with a vote of no confidence the best idea is to insult the voters." John PinoKeyo Key.
The Anti-Asset Sales Referendum results poured in with a resounding message to the Key government... STOP!! we don't want you to continue selling off the country's assets to your asset stripping mates.
The country learnt its lesson from the resounding failure that earlier asset stripping left us with. The research into the "benefits" of asset sales has demonstrated the risk and poor returns to the country as a result so back off and admit the "mandate" Key trumpets was conditional on you actually listening to the will of the people.
Unfortunately for New Zealand the Prime Minister and his corporate cronies clustered around the Cabinet table and closeted in secret dealing board rooms in Tamaki and Epsom are deaf to the sum of the electorates and simply declare that those who didn't vote are in total agreement with the policy and thus the "mandate" remains...to drive NZ into a client state status to any foreign asset stripping corporates who recognise a fire sale when they see one.

15 Dec 2013

On being apoplectic, angry and Browned off- the Auckland Mayoralty affair

I suppose I should be apoplectic. I suppose I should be angry. I suppose I should be offended. I suppose  I should be outraged. I suppose I should be livid. I suppose I should be incensed. I suppose I should be baying for Len Brown’s blood.

At least that is what the prurient, the righteously outraged of the C&R, National, ACT and associated hangers on would want me to be.

But I’m not, at least not with Len Brown.

I am, though, apoplectic, angry, offended,outraged, incensed and baying for the blood of the holier than thou prurient and salaciously salivating opinionistas and right-wing councillors like Dick Quax and company. For these people are the people who have demonstrated a desire to ignore the manifold infrastructural problems, left behind after generations of inadequate governance by the Citizens & Ratepayers (National Party in drag) Councils,  that besiege Auckland and to concentrate their pusillanimous minds on the minutiae of the Mayor’s sexual dalliance.

I voted for the Mayor to be a responsible governor of the city based on his performance in Manukau and as Mayor of Auckland. I voted for the Mayor on the basis of his vision for the city. I voted for the Mayor on the basis of his record as a Mayor. I did not cast my vote  on the basis of the Mayor’s private life for if I did allow my vote to be persuaded by the private lives of those who would represent us on the Council I would probably be very limited indeed as to who I could cast a vote for.

I simply do not believe that what a person does in their private life should affect the person’s ability, as a Councillor or Mayor, to act in the greater interest of the city. There is a caveat to that. If the Councillor or Mayor was known to be a swindler, a scam artist or involved in self serving business manipulation then there is a legitimate argument to question their involvement in public administration.

However, this caveat does not apply in the Len Brown affair. Len Brown has a clean business record as a Councillor and as a Mayor. What is of concern is the readiness of those who are apoplectic, angry, offended, outraged, livid, incensed and baying for blood to accept and act upon the proposition presented by John Palino’s aide de camp Luige Wewege and the obnoxiously offensive Cameron Slater that blackmail is an acceptable tool in local body and national politics, especially if their candidate or group are to be defeated at the ballot box.

I would and will find it incredibly easy to decide not vote for or side with the group or any of the councillors who have allowed themselves to be persuaded that the revelations and subsequent enquiries into Len Brown’s private life and his affair with Bevan Chaung are the basis for undermining the progress being made to build Auckland’s infra structure and develop its services to the rate payers under Mayor Brown’s leadership.

Len Brown need not resign for to do so would be to give credibility to those who would prefer blackmail over policy, would prefer blackmail over performance and prefer to live in the dark, black underbelly of politics rather than developing and presenting programmes that ensure Auckland becomes and remains a liveable city that one can be proud to live in. Unfortunately, those who would discredit the office of the Mayor, those who would work to destroy Len Brown’s political credibility and record remain as embarrassments to the citizens and ratepayers of the city and region.
Surprise, surprise the councillors proposing to move no confidence in the Mayor have revealed themselves. They are  Dick Quax, Linda Cooper, Cameron Brewer, Sharon Stewart and Denise Krum.Their record speaks for themselves.

PS: Sua William Sio has put the case to support Len well on Facebook.

6 Dec 2013

These political cartoons are worth sharing and using whenever the PinoKeyo Cabinet open their mouths to annouince new policy initiatives based on neo-liberal fallacies,

Great arguments for the minimum wage or living wage- how the Nats attempt to counter them.

The Treasury's advice to Key to remove unemployment statistics from the list of embarrassing policy failures.

The fallacy of comparing the country's budget tpo family house keeping exposed.
What Hekia Parata dreams of...

Simon Bridges' nightmares

Nelson Mandela's Death- an obituary for a great and inspiring man. (Social Europe Journal)

This obituary for Nelson Mandela says it all as we reconcile ourselves to the passing of a great, inspirational and respected man. 
I was struck by the sincerity and relevance of Helen Clark's reflections on the death of Nelson Mandela on Radio New Zealand yesterday.  Her intimate knowledge of his life, his actions and philosophy spoke for us all as we reflect on

Nelson Mandela’s Political Legacy

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela
This evening has brought very sad news. The former South African President – and one of the most respected and inspirational political leaders of recent times – Nelson Mandela has passed away aged 95 after battling ill health for some time. There will be no shortage of tributes for a truly great man who has shaped modern South Africa but I would like to use this post to put some of my own thoughts about the great man in order.
So what was so special about Nelson Mandela? I think what has impressed me most about him and the live he has lived is his deep commitment to a cause – the cause of abolishing Apartheid and creating a new South Africa in which citizens can live together regardless of background. I have been to South Africa a few years ago and of course there is much more work to be done before the country can fulfil its true potential. But what was achieved by Nelson Mandela and his followers is a true revolution.
The second aspect that has deeply impressed me is the way in which this revolution was achieved. After leaving prison following decades of imprisonment, Nelson Mandela was not bitter or out for revenge but showed great strength of character by setting in motion a process of reconciliation – leading it by example. This combination of dedication to a just cause and the great strength of character shown pursuing it in my eyes is the foundation of the legend that he is. It is also the reason why he was such a dignified leader.

Nelson Mandela’s Political Legacy

How will people judge the live of Nelson Mandela? What will his political legacy be? Nobody knows yet but I hope that the qualities I mentioned above – dedication to a just cause and great strength of character – will become more of a political model in a world in which these characteristics are all too often absent. “Pragmatic” day-to-day management of the status quo – the dominant political model of today – can never replace the dedication and character shown by people like Nelson Mandela.
There surely are enough things in today’s world that need to be changed but a leader of Nelson Mandela’s calibre is nowhere to be seen. For many of our contemporary politicians even accepting the task of fundamental change seems too daunting. That’s why too many of them don’t even try. This needs to change and leads me to my favourite Mandela quote, meant to encourage people not to discard their ambitions but to try realising them: “It is always impossible until it is done”.
Today, the world has lost an inspirational leader and a true role model. He will leave a void that will be very difficult – if not impossible – to fill.

Addendum by Irascible Curmudegeon:
It is, I think, a pity that New Zealand will be represented at Mandela's funeral by a man who has no recollection of the anti-apartheid movement, the protests against apartheid in 1981 or has any real knowledge or appreciation of the real contribution Mandela made to South Africa, to New Zealand's race relations and the world.
Mind you the UK will be represented by another Tory, in David Cameron, whose experience of the anti-apartheid movement and the influence of Nelson Mandela is as questionable as John Key's and the New Zealand National Party's.

Neo-Liberal Economics a faulty concept based on corrupted statistics. (Social Europe Journal)

Flexicurity: The Model That Never Was

Ronald Janssen, flexicurity
Ronald Janssen
This article is highly pertinent when read against the neo-liberal employment law reforms being propounded by the National-Act government's Simon Bridges and his side-kick Jami Lea Ross. It demonstrates the fallacies that their anti-Union, anti-worker logic is based on.

Flexicurity – Remember the flexicurity model that was launched by the European Commission in the mid 2000’s? Claiming that there existed such a thing as a ‘golden triangle of flexicurity’ (see illustration below), the Commission urged member states and trade unions to give up on job protection in exchange for adequate unemployment benefits and active labour market policies.
The inspiration for this was clearly found in Denmark with the country being hailed as the perfect illustration of how a flexible labour market with low restrictions on employers to fire workers could still offer high security of employment.
p1, flexicurity
Source: OECD Employment Outlook 2004
In this context, the latest OECD Employment Outlook from the summer of 2013 is extremely interesting. In this publication, the OECD thoroughly reviewed its database on job protection indicators. In particular, job protection arrangements resulting from collective bargaining practice and case law have now been included more systematically than was the case before. This implies that these new OECD indicators should provide an improved picture of reality, in particular when weak job protection in labour law is corrected by collective bargaining agreements and/or case law imposing additional and more stringent job protection.

Flexicurity, what flexicurity?

This review of the OECD database leads to surprising conclusions, in particular regarding the system of flexicurity in Denmark. The graph below shows the newly estimated employment protection indicators for regular (open ended) contracts, thereby also adding job protection in case of collective dismissals. The value of the employment protection legislation (EPL) indicator in the graph is obtained by applying weights to these two sub indicators, with regular contract protection counting for 70%, and collective dismissal protection for 30%. Indicator values close to zero indicate a very low level of job protection, whereas scores going up to an indicator value of 5 or 6 point to employers experiencing extreme difficulties in firing workers.
Protection of regular workers against individual and collective dismissals, 2013
p2, flexicurity
The graph shows that Denmark does not have a labour market that is particularly flexible. With an indicator value of 2.3, the level of job protection in Denmark is not below but exactly at the OECD average. It can also be seen that regular contracts and collective dismissals in Denmark are protected at a level that is similar to Germany, Spain and Greece. Also, Danish job protection is not very much below the levels of job protection registered in France and Italy. Meanwhile, the gap in job protection between Denmark and the flexible Anglosaxon labour markets is significant, with the UK and the US at values as low as 1.5 and 1. In practical terms, the 2.3 score for EPL in Denmark translates into 4 (2)  months of advance notification for a white collar (blue collar) worker having 4 years of tenure in the job, with additional notification periods, procedures and delays in case it concerns a collective dismissal.
Delving deeper into the history of the statistics allows us to further back up the conclusion that the OECD has been widely off the mark on this all these years. In the final graph we see the values for the sub-indicators on job protection of regular contracts for the year 2004 as estimated by the OECD back in 2004, (source: the OECD  2004 Employment Outlook). These are then compared with the EPL values for the same year 2004 which are now to be found in today’s 2013 OECD database. From this comparison, it is clear what has happened. Back in 2004 the OECD (the blue bars in the graph) estimated that regular jobs in Denmark were poorly protected with an indicator value of just 1.5. Based on the estimates done in 2004, Denmark could indeed be characterised as having a flexible labour market, with the degree of job protection as low as in the UK and Ireland and substantially below continental countries such Germany or France. (Look at the poor protection NZ has for individual regular jobs compared to Denmark on which this article is based. Note there are no protections for collective employment protections recorded for NZ either.)
Now look at the red bars, registering the current OECD estimate from 2013 of the level of regular job protection back in 2004. This turns the picture completely around. For Denmark, the new estimate for 2004 now comes out substantially higher, at a value of 2.1. This actually means that, in contrast to the estimates from the earlier database, Danish workers in 2004 were benefiting from a level of job protection that is twice as high as in the UK and is not far removed from the job protection levels of France and Germany.
A similar comparison (not shown here) can be done on the other sub-indicator, the protection of jobs in case of collective dismissals. Its conclusion is that, in case of collective dismissals, Danish workers were as strongly protected as German workers and even more protected than their French or Italian colleagues.
p3, flexicurity
All of this actually means that the whole policy of flexicurity, as it has been promoted all these years by the European Commission, has been based on a statistical illusion. The argument according to which the success of labour market performance in Denmark can be put down to the fact that workers and not their jobs are being protected is simply not correct. Through its system of collective bargaining, Danish workers are being offered robust levels of job protection. The true peculiarity and advantage of the Danish system lies in the fact that Denmark invests heavily in both passive and active labour market policies. (Note the conclusion... it is certainly damning for New Zealand's employment and productivity statistics.) It does not lie with employers having the possibility of easy firing.

2 Dec 2013

The nett result of Privatisation of the State Assets - expressed as a graphic

This cartoon displays the results of privatisation of the State assets, especially public utilities. The mistake of wholesale sell down of State assets is being recognised, painfully, in the UK and across Europe as the realisation that private ownership of what were once public utilities, developed and provided for the common good, has meant asset stripping for greater private profit.
Where the money will go as the country's assets get sold off to foreign asset stripping corporates.
All the more reason to vote NO in the citizen's initiated referendum oposed to the sale of New Zealand's state assets.