Sunday, 28 August 2011

David Cunliffe vs Don Brash

This from Q&A...
Cunliffe kicks arse on asset sales
Written By: Eddie
”At the start of the year, John Key said that he wanted to have a mature debate on asset sales. Now, his Finance Minister and SOE Minister are refusing to front up to debate David Cunliffe on the issue. Instead, that was left to old man Brash on Q+A yesterday. Cunliffe made mincemeat of him. The Right still has no justification for flogging off profitable assets.
The video is here, and below is part of the transcript:

PAUL. H; The old bogey – asset sales – the sale of our state-owned enterprises.  It’s going to be one of the big issues probably of this election.  Prime Minister John Key says if National wins in November, they’ll put up for sale 49% of the shares in power companies Genesis, Meridian and Mighty River Power, coal miner Solid Energy and Air New Zealand.  This is proving to be a very difficult sell.  At the start of the year, the Prime Minister had this to say. “I think New Zealand’s ready for that grown-up debate about whether we can afford all the things that we’re doing and how we can best fund our future.

PAUL. H; Eight months on, sad to say, he’s not so keen to have that grown-up debate, because none of his people are coming on today.  We asked State-Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall to front.  He said no to an interview and no to a debate with David Cunliffe, and he has a rule against debating David Cunliffe, it seems.  Finance Minister Bill English says National has spelled out its policy and he doesn’t see the need to debate the issue on asset sales, so the government is mum.  They are, however, happy to come on if or when they figure out how to ensure Kiwi investors get first dibs on those shares.  We’ve said, well, we’ll hold them to that.  Today instead we’re delighted to have Dr Don Brash with us, the ACT leader, and the supporter of the asset sales.  He joins us in Wellington.  And Labour’s David Cunliffe, who doesn’t think they’re a good idea at all, with Guyon.

DAVID. C; “Well, there certainly is the emotional power it in.  New Zealanders are very clear in what they think, and I can tell you that polling that lines asset sales up against our fair tax package says three to one, people prefer to keep their assets and pay down their debt, while some of Don Brash’s rich white old men who are enjoying their tax cuts are made to pay a capital gains tax, like they should’ve been as he said when he was the governor of the Reserve Bank.

DAVID.C; “Look, I really will insist on finishing this, because Don Brash is in no place to lecture the New Zealand public about populism.  I did not give the Orewa speech; somebody else did.  Now, Mr Brash knows very very well that New Zealanders care about long-term solutions.  They know that selling off the family silver to pay for six months’ worth of government deficit and losing on the—

DON.B;   That’s nonsense, David. You know it.

DAVID.C; “It’s not rhetoric.  I know that there is $300 million in dividends from those assets.  I know that the government will pay around $350 million to the ticket-clippers who will be involved in the sale, and I know that New Zealanders want to see a real game plan that will feed the kids in South Auckland and grow our economy without flogging off the birthright that we are handing down to the next generation”. So judge for yourself…tax the rich or sell the silver? The choice is yours…

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

This from the Manawatu Standard: “Palmerston North foodbanks are only "just keeping their heads above water", with hundreds more, struggling families, needing the basics to survive.
Over the past six months, the city's foodbanks have seen a "huge" increase in the number of people requiring assistance, and foodbanks are fighting to keep their pantries stocked while fewer donations are being made.
The Methodist Social Services has seen an 18 per cent increase in people needing help this year. The Salvation Army has had a 10 per cent increase.
Methodist Social Services manager Nici Scott-Savage said "We now have 699 more mouths to feed," she said. "We're getting a significant increase in people who are working and not coping, so it's not just people on benefits anymore. She said foodbank supplies would only just "survive" until the annual food drive in November.
"Survival is the operative word. We will have to continue buying food though.
"I have just received a grant which will keep us going for a while longer."
Palmerston North's Salvation Army community ministries manager Kevin Richards said it was "frightfully" concerned about the lack of food being donated. "It is becoming increasingly difficult to find food," he said. "We are still able to give people the basics but it's definitely not easy. Things are pretty tight. Things are challenging, to say the least."
He said foodbanks used to rely on the goodwill of businesses and individuals, but as the economy has tightened, so has the stream of donated goods.
"It's getting tough out there, and we're now really looking at how we get through and how we make sure we have enough food to feed everyone. It's becoming increasingly difficult for us to do what we do."
It is ironic that while community services struggle to feed those below the breadline the government and local councils spend millions on a RWC which will bring no profit to communities but boost the international rugby body…it really does make one wonder where our social values lie.

The NZ Herald now supports my view about the hype around the RWC:
“The economic benefits of the Rugby World Cup may have been wildly overestimated by the tournament's backers, as the Reserve Bank hosed down expectations of a $700 million boost to the economy.
Some spending would have occurred anyway by tourists who would now be "crowded out" by cup visitors. And more of that spending would be offset by an increase in imported goods and services required to accommodate the extra visitors.
"Spending related to the tournament may just offset spending on other activities."
Mr Richardson said it was difficult to quantify any impact hosting the tournament would have on consumer confidence, "which could potentially increase general domestic spending".
He said the net impact of the tournament on both short and longer term economic measures remained to be seen.
Senior lecturer of law at AUT University Craig Dickson said the Reserve Bank's uncertainty over the tournament's economic returns was consistent with his view that while hosting the tournament here was a great idea for a number of reasons, "getting wealthy isn't one of them". "Clearly the downstream spend that is supposed to occur from all these tourists is very difficult to measure but overseas experience over a number of years would indicate that it is often wildly overestimated by the cheerleaders of these sorts of events."
Professor Dickson believed as few as 25,000 of the 95,000 visitors expected for the tournament were in addition to tourist numbers that would be expected in a non-tournament year. 95,000 visitors are expected during the Cup, but as few as...25,000 of these will be on top of normal visitor numbers.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Soldier Killed in Afghanistan

Another soldier killed in Afghanistan. That statement is true and it is sad both for his family and for his unit. But the public relations hype that has followed his death makes me sick. The headline ‘Key vows not to back down’ astounds, of course Key won’t back down, he is typical of those who send troops to the frontline but make sure that he steers well clear of any danger. Michelle Boag ex Nats party boss claims troops are fighting for freedom and more importantly they want to be there [In Afghanistan]. I’ve always thought that our forces obeyed the government’s wishes rather than selecting which wars to fight.
Afghanistan is yet again another Vietnam, an American war for economic profit that has back fired and failed in all respects. The Americans backed the Taleban who are now the enemy, in Afghanistan when they kicked out the Red Army in the eighties. The British wrote way back when Afghanistan was a part of the British Empire, “When contemplating an offensive [or invasion] of Afghanistan the first thing you must plan for is your inevitable retreat and defeat”. The US failed to do this in Vietnam and they are failing in yet another country Afghanistan. But the Americans are smart in a dumb kind of way; for they let others do the dieing. The so-call government in Afghanistan is corrupt and rotten to the core; it’s as bad as Gaddafi in Libya. Would we send our troops there to defend Gaddafi even if the SAS asked…no we would not. It is time to bring our troops home. The lives our troops were trying to save were mercenaries hired by British and US so called security companies for the purpose of making money out of death and destruction. We shouldn’t have a bar of it. Our troops are not mercenaries even if the government is. 

Friday, 19 August 2011

Behind every great futune lies a great crime...

"Criminals...Nous? How dare you!"
"CEOs “cashed out” prior to economic crisis
By Tom Eley 28 November 2008
"Balzac’s maxim that “behind every great fortune lies a great crime” may yet prove a fitting epitaph for American capitalism. A recent survey by the Wall Street Journal reveals that CEOs at major US financial and real estate firms converted tens of millions of dollars of overvalued stock into cash prior to the eruption of the current financial crisis, even as many of their corporations approached the precipice.
"The Journal analyzed the fortunes of CEOs from 2003 to 2007 based on executive compensation and stock sale data. Fifteen of these CEOs took home more than $100 million in cash during this period. At the high end was Charles Schwab, who made over $816 million from his self-named accounting firm, almost all of it from stock sales.
"Of the 120 publicly traded firms the Journal analyzed, CEOs cashed out a total of more than $21 billion. However, data was gathered only from publicly traded companies, and thus does not include similar fortunes that have been made by “hedge fund chiefs, Wall Street traders, and executives who sold their companies outright.” Nor did it include data related to exit packages, the multimillion-dollar “golden parachutes” awarded to retiring or fired executives.
"The Journal’s findings underscore the parasitism and criminality of the US financial elite. Defenders have long justified extravagant CEO pay by claiming that these were the talented “risk-takers” who generated enormous wealth for investors. But the Journal’s data shows that there is no correlation between compensation and a firm’s success. On the contrary, many CEOs rewarded themselves just as their corporations approached ruin."
What puzzles me is how Westpac, paying 100s of millions of dollars in a settlement over tax evasion with the IRD (along with the other big Aussie banks) can continue to be the Government's bank. Anyone else would be in goal... Cheers Richard. Thanks for that,
Wasn’t Key one of them? And it’s worth noting that none of the Westpac bosses ended up in court, or were changed, yet someone caught shoplifting can get jail…or community service. One law for all…’believe that, and you believe in the tooth fairy.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Stupid law making...

Is John Key stupid and Paula Bennett just plain dumb…they are introducing EFPOS type cards for youth aged 15 to 17 who are not working or in education or training…to stop them spending on booze or fags…
When announced at the Nats rah-rah conference in Wellington hundreds of elderly or middle aged rich types stood and cheered, no one in the crowd was unemployed and many paid no tax on their capital gains. But they still cheered and clapped their hands as instructed by the crowd controllers [they are the guys holding up the signs saying ‘clap now’]; some among the crowd even spilled their wine in their enthusiasm for the changes. But it’s still stupid! And no amount of clapping will change that fact.
The reason is simple…you see it is against the law to sell booze or smokes to youth aged 15 to 17…with or without a EFPOS card, and that’s a fact. Doesn’t the National Party know that simple fact? It would seem not. The Nats conference failed to address the real problem facing youth…jobs! The only thing relating to jobs that got a mention was lowing wages for youth. Did you know that a paper boy pays tax on his earnings while John Key pays no tax on his capital gains, and John Key gave himself 1000 dollars a week tax cut while paper boys got zero. How’s that for government subsidies for the rich. And the hand picked crowd cheered… What’s next? Cards instead of the pension for the elderly; it’s but a short step from Beanie bashing to pensioner bashing.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Riots in New Zealand, are they possible?

This short email was received from a friend; its sentiment represents for the most part my own views.
 “The Conservative PM of Britain is correct when he says "The Riots are caused by criminality":
·         The criminality of the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan
·         Crimes against humanity in the Horn of Africa where they and we are willingly let people die of starvation.
·         The criminal exploitation by the bankers, the wankers and the rich generally of the working and workless classes.
·         The stealing of people's jobs and livelihoods whenever the affluent need a bit more cash.
·         The criminality of cutting social services and income support under the rubric of balancing the budget.
·         The rampant ruthless criminality of coppers who feel they are entitled to maim and kill at will.
I could go on but risk boring you”. John

Now I don’t live in London but I’m human, I’m not a young man but I’m human, I’m not unemployed because I’m retired, but I’m still human. And I’ve lived long enough to know that thousands of youth male or female don’t suddenly become criminals overnight. And after living in various countries where riots were common and seeing them first hand in both Malaysia and PNG, I know what causes young people to express themselves via riots in the streets.
The dictator in Syria tells the world that those rioting on his streets are criminals as he murders them. When what they want is freedom, work, education and hope for the future.
The PM in Britain condemns that dictator plus the dictator of Libya…but when his own people in Britain riot he too calls them criminals and treats them accordingly. When what they want is work, education, fair treatment by the police and the government.
Events of a like nature have happened or are happening in Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and Greece why have all these countries seen riots on their streets?
The reasons listed by John above tell the true reasons and these reasons are just as valid here in NZ as well. We are lucky that all our unemployed youth don’t live in one area for example Auckland so the problem here is lessened because of our spread. But it is not removed. We actually have a larger group of unemployed youth between 15 and 25 than Britain does, so the reality is that we too are in danger of riots. You may know young people who are unemployed or searching for work are they criminals or even criminals in waiting? If you do then you and I have a duty to assist in preventing this from taking place.
The youth of Britain have for models, the Murdoch’s, the top London metro police bosses sacked for taking kickbacks, a whole heap of politicians charged or sacked over taking bribes or stealing public monies, a past PM who lied over the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and who flies around the world in a private plane speaking at 500 dollar per head dinners.
In NZ the youth have the model of a PM who made his money producing nothing of real value peddling Ponzi type schemes, of a government who gives 45 million to Mediaworks while cutting education for youth, where the selected few pay no tax while youth pay tax on every dollar they earn. Right now we have over one hundred and seventy thousand unemployed.
This from the Tumeke Blog; Canterbury University academic Bronwyn Hayward believes the tensions igniting the UK are simmering here in NZ and Winston Peters goes two steps further and really drives the point home that our staggering youth unemployment rate is a genuine danger and breeding the ground in which these riots erupt. The bennie bashing media this week attempted to convince NZers that most beneficiaries are frauds after Paula Bennett [pictured] released figures claiming viscous new restrictions had caught many out as ineligible. What Paula doesn't acknowledge is that these new eligibility criteria are actually designed not to help people find work, they are simply there to throw as many off the benefit as possible while making those who are cut off invisible to official stats.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Contradictions in politics are common but every now and then the contradiction is so blatant that it can’t be ignored. The Act and National Party say that Student Associations should be voluntary so they’re passing a law that orders Student Associations to be voluntary. This they claim is being done to give students choice. But on the other hand the Prime Minister’s suggested move to make contributions to Kiwi Saver compulsory is clearly the opposite to choice. They justify this by saying people can opt out later should they wish.
Yet Act and National both say that this is not OK for Student Associations now that is a huge contradiction in protecting so-called freedom of choice.
The government is fully aware that selling off our energy companies needs heaps of cash; the PM knows that his claim that mom and dad kiwis will buy the shares is incorrect; in fact it’s a lie. Why would Kiwi mom and dad investors buy shares in companies they already own? He knows that overseas corporations will end up owning the bulk of shares. To counter this truth he now claims that NZ mom and dad investors are represented by the Kiwi Saver fund. This implies that those who have paid into Kiwi Saver fund have some say in how and where the money is invested that is blatantly false and a lie. They do not!
How the government can justify this obvious and blatant contradiction is difficult to comprehend but no doubt they will employ all their PR spin zombies to convince us otherwise. Kiwis are not stupid and will see though this obvious double standard. The Act party of course would have no problem because it has always peddled this kind of double standard and it would seem that the Nats are being led by the nose down this same track. It’s a bit like the PM telling us that he was invited onto the David Letterman show, when in fact he paid ten thousand dollars of your money to buy his invite…so much for truth.

Richard Swainson has a column in the Manawatu Standard on the weekend and he makes a lot of good sense. This week he pointed out the stupidity of debating I Pads in schools at eight hundred dollars each [paid for by parents] and the fact that we have thousands of kids going to school without breakfast. He asks the question what would families have to cut back on so as to enable them to buy I pods’. This is a real question that many of our citizens have to make daily simply to pay school fees, buy uniforms, fund sports trips, pay the mortgage, powerbill and or buy food. Once upon a time these items were affordable but now each item needs to be balanced off against other factors. Richard poses the question at the end of his column, “Why not tax and redistribute the wealth fairly so that no child goes wanting for either food or knowledge”. This is a question we all need to answer over the next few months. It is a real question, one when stripped of all the hype and PR spin political parties need to answer. So far the Americans have failed to answer it, like wise the British…the first step is to rebalance the tax system so everyone pays their fair share. Even the socially aware wealthy agree…now it is up to us.  

Less than 1% separates potential coalitions

24 Jul 11
Less than 1% separates potential National and Labour-led coalitions
The two potential coalitions which could govern New Zealand after November's general election are less than 1% apart.
 The latest Horizon Poll of 1201 people on Friday (July 22) finds the current governing coalition (National, Act, Maori Party, United Future) would secure 44.4%.
A combination of ‘Labour, Green, New Zealand First, and Jim Anderton’s Progressives coalition’=, 44.3%, with 7.6% remaining undecided.
 The survey has a maximum margin of error of +/- 2.8%.
 Horizon Research says Labour's new capital gains tax policy appears to have consolidated traditional support for Labour, but is not triggering a significant support rise. Labour’s party vote support is up 0.9% on its May result. National is up 2.2%. National has 10.2% more support than Labour.
 However, among registered voters who will actually vote and have decided which party they would vote for if an election were held tomorrow, and those undecided who have a party preference, the current governing coalition (National, Act, Maori Party, United Future) would secure 44.4%.
 A combination of Labour, Green, New Zealand First, Jim Anderton’s Progressives coalition = 44.3%, with 7.6% remaining undecided.
 The Mana Party has 1.9%, down from 2.9% in May, the Maori Party 0.7% (1.2% in May).
 The results indicate undecided voters and those currently choosing not to vote or say how they will vote, will most likely determine the election outcome and the minor parties will determine which main party forms a government.
 The full Horizon Research Net Potential Vote results are here.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The Truth revealed...

Only a divided society sustains a myth about poverty as a lifestyle choice, writes Bryan Gould, former British Labour MP and vice-chancellor of the University of Waikato.

It is a measure of how subdued is the national mood and how modest are our current ambitions that we expect so little of our elected governments.

Nearly four years after our own home-grown recession began, we are expected to acclaim as a triumph of economic management the first signs of a patchy and fitful recovery that still leaves us well short of 2008 levels.

We might have expected much better. We were largely insulated from the direct effects of the global financial crisis.

Our two major export markets remained surprisingly buoyant. And we have enjoyed record high commodity prices.

Yet, to hear our leaders tell it, even our woes are a sign of success. The soaring kiwi dollar, we are assured, shows that foreign investors see us as a "safe haven" - a claim that sits oddly alongside the repeated warnings about the risk of a credit downgrade and of the need to wind back public spending so as to reduce a rampant government deficit.

The truth is that the soaring dollar reflects a conviction on the part of overseas speculators - based on 25 years of experience - that our governments will go on paying them a premium and that the short-term demand for our currency thereby engendered will produce a capital gain as well.

This is entirely consistent with the growing evidence that, as the recovery at last manifests itself, we will use the opportunity to repeat the recurrent mistakes of the past 25 years all over again.

We will continue to treat any prospect of growth as an inflationary threat, to be knocked on the head by a combination of high interest rates and an overvalued currency.

We will continue to express puzzlement as to why - in this policy framework - productivity languishes and our economic performance falls behind that of our competitors.

There are occasional flickers of interest in a change of policy. Geoff Simmons, for example, points to the prospect of using tighter rules for bank lending as a counter-inflationary tool and as an alternative to high interest rates. But he also warns that the Reserve Bank - with its single focus on inflation (and it is, after all, a bank) - is unlikely to change course.

And governments, particularly at this stage of the electoral cycle, may wring their hands at the high dollar but will secretly welcome the consequently cheaper imports - a short-term advantage that helps to holds down a soaring cost of living through to election day but that is bought at a huge cost to our long-term economic performance.

It could be said that these problems are like old friends; they may be a nuisance and somewhat boring but they are at least predictable, and it is true that there is a certain comfort to be drawn from getting what you expect.

A right-of-centre government could be expected to stick closely to monetarist theory, and to pin its hopes for an improvement in economic performance on tax cuts for the well-off, asset sales, cutting government spending, taking a tough line on benefits and seeking free-market solutions to most problems.

That is exactly what we have got and presumably what people voted for. In the past, after giving these measures a fair trial, they judged that they had not worked and then voted to get rid of them.

This time the policies look to be surviving for a little time yet. It is not that the policies are different - merely that the salesman is better.

But there is one consequence of current policy that even the most brilliant salesmanship cannot so easily sell to the public: The now unmistakable evidence of rising poverty, with children as the most vulnerable victims, is the inevitable result of widening inequality, higher unemployment, falling real incomes for the poor, less-effective public services and rapidly rising living costs.

The myth that families choose poverty as a lifestyle option can only be sustained in a society that is divided - where the well-off are comfortably shielded from the realities of life for the worse-off.

One of the advantages of being well-off is that it is possible to buy your way into a better neighbourhood, to go to better schools, to mix with better-off work colleagues and friends.

You do not then need to venture into the poorer neighbourhoods, to sit around the table to share inadequate and poor-quality food or to feel the cold and damp in overcrowded bedrooms. You do not feel the humiliation of being rejected for job after job or having to present yourself for close questioning as the condition for receiving a weekly benefit, which - in a well-off family - might be spent entirely on a single meal for family and friends at a good restaurant.

Individual instances of hungry children might be dismissed as cases of fecklessness and inadequate parenting. But a rising tide of such children, whose health, education and very lives are threatened by hunger, is a social phenomenon with widespread social and economic causes. It might be - indeed, is - a predictable consequence of current policies, but that surely does not make it acceptable.

Predictability in this case should not produce resignation but rather a clarion call for action. If things are so good, why, for so many of us, are things so bad?

By Bryan Gould