Socks for Christmas Budget – better than nothing, but not much

Like getting socks for Christmas, you'll take gifts from this year's budget, but they weren't on your list, writes Josie Pagani.

123rf/Stuff

Like getting socks for Christmas, you’ll take gifts from this year’s budget, but they weren’t on your list, writes Josie Pagani.

Josie Pagani has worked in politics, aid and development.

OPINION: Saturday, and you’re bored with the Budget. It’s that “two days after Christmas” feeling. Expectations were high. Now your little pile of presents looks decidedly average.

Take the cost of living announcement of a bonus of $27 per person per week over a three month period. If you earn $70,000, you already have $50 less a week after tax than you did a year ago, thanks to inflation.

Anyway, you will only have it for a few months.

Every bit helps I guess. Like getting socks for Christmas, you will take budget documents. It’s just not what you had on your Christmas list.

READ MORE:
* National’s Christopher Luxon says the budget was a “missed opportunity”
* ‘More symbolic than anything’: Public reacts to $350 cost of living payment
* Budget 2022: Backwards or better than nothing?
* Budget 2022: Symbolic gesture or real help? How $27 a week compares to actual price increases

Here’s what I like: More money for Pharmac. Our drug procurement agency is doing a great job for New Zealand, and they are always under pressure to make tough choices. It’s not enough to buy all the drugs on his list, but it helps.

I like more money for dental care. The cost of consulting a dentist is an outrage and an inexplicable gap in our healthcare system. But increasing the emergency grant from $300 to $1,000 won’t get you much more than a few fillings.

“Finance Minister Grant Robertson will be delighted.  His challenge was to help people buy an expensive package of ground meat without further stimulating the economy.  He succeeded.

Ross Giblin / Stuff

“Finance Minister Grant Robertson will be delighted. His challenge was to help people buy an expensive package of ground meat without further stimulating the economy. He succeeded.

The government is continuing a study on the transfer of the port of Auckland to Manukau. A brilliant idea. It’s a chance to build a better Auckland for the next 100 years.

There’s decent cash for new hospitals, extra help for air ambulance services, and more for GPs and community care. Schools and housing receive extra money.

There’s enough to please most people a little, but no one a lot.

This is also a problem for the National Party. He cannot accuse the government of a ”hustle”. It’s more of a pacifier for each person. And once eaten, it’s gone. But neither can the party accuse the government of doing nothing for the “restricted milieu”. A lollipop is a lollipop.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson will be delighted. His challenge was to help people buy an expensive package of ground meat without further stimulating the economy. He succeeded.

Labor did not need an election budget this year, but they needed to reverse their decline in the polls. Voters will not reward the party for this budget.

THING

Post-budget interview: Julie Ann Genter

Trying to be everything to everyone is like avoiding tough decisions. Was it a climate change budget, a health budget or a cost of living budget?

A bit of all of the above seems inconsistent. Money to get people out of dirty gas cars into clean electric vehicles. But an extension of cheaper gasoline to make it easier to drive said dirty gasoline car.

These are unique moments. A pandemic. Highest inflation in three decades. A war. Social impacts require more creative solutions.

Here’s what I would do.

A tax change. I would have an income tax exempt strip downstairs, paid for by a wealth tax. Most people would have more cash, but it would be tax neutral, so no further inflation and interest rate hikes.

This Labor government was never going to do that, so it could have done a carbon tax dividend instead. Proceeds from the emissions trading system (or a carbon tax) could be returned to households in the form of cash, worth more than $27 a week.

In the budget, there was money to switch people from dirty gasoline cars to clean electric vehicles.  But also a cheaper gasoline extension to make it easier to drive said dirty gasoline car.

Robert Steven / Stuff

In the budget, there was money to switch people from dirty gasoline cars to clean electric vehicles. But also a cheaper gasoline extension to make it easier to drive said dirty gasoline car.

The money in our pockets contributes to the cost of living and builds support for reducing carbon emissions. We would complain about the cost of gasoline, but know that we benefit from it in the long run.

Compare that to what the government is actually trying to do:

He’s spending $10 million to remove coal boilers schools to save approximately $2.4 million in emissions. In other words, he could have saved four times the emissions by doing something else for the same cost.

The government could have funded virtually free dental care for every New Zealander by raising the retirement age by just one year. This would reduce one universal right by replacing it with another. I know there are downsides to raising the retirement age, but there are dire consequences to not including dental care in our health care system. Most people would work an extra year to pay for their family’s free dental care for life.

National Party leader Christopher Luxon called it an “upside-down budget”. That’s not really the case. But it is not a provisional budget either. It’s just stalling.

Josie Pagani: “Giving more takes courage and tough choices.  Simply doling out cash to the creakiest wheels is easy.

Jericho Rock-Archer / Stuff

Josie Pagani: “Giving more takes courage and tough choices. Simply doling out cash to the creakiest wheels is easy.

The Prime Minister’s promise that she was in politics to end child poverty will have to wait. Next year, maybe.

Housing has become so unaffordable for poor families, basic foodstuffs so expensive and the economy so close to recession that by the end of next year child poverty will be back to 1990s levels.

The children of the 1990s are today’s new parents and intergenerational difficulties are disappearing from the political agenda. Doing more takes courage and tough choices. Simply doling out cash to the creakiest wheels is easy.

We want more than socks for Christmas.

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