Thursday, May 22, 2014

My top 10 #nzpol Tweets of this week

Interestingly, the US Military often goes and helps in natural disaster zones so they're probably one of the few orgs who have seen the effects of climate change first hand all around the world.
Dotcom has dominated the news because of the Banks trial and Key has tried very hard to gloss over the facts. But the facts are certainly very interesting!
Child Poverty Action Group have gone to the Court of Appeal in the past regarding the arguably discriminatory policy that is Working for Families. Always remember, children are non-voters.
I love these above two tweets on Budget 2014 - because the surplus is basically an accounting exercise. It has very little real meaning. In the last 5 years so much essential services have been cut or reduced in the name of "tightening our belts" post financial crisis and they will never be restored. The "surplus" is meant to hide the transfer of large amounts of public wealth to the private.
The last two - ha ha!

10 Rules of Top 10
1. Tweets must be funny or thoughtful or informative or display critical analysis 
2. What is funny or thoughtful or informative or display critical analysis is subjective and determined by me.
3. I may provide commentary on the tweet if it particularly strikes my fancy
4. They are not ranked from 1-10
5. Disclosure: I *am* particularly looking to highlight gender and racial minority voices
6. If you want to point me to the direction of a good tweet, please do it!
7. Using the #nzpol/#nzqt/#nzvotes is helpful but not required
8. I hope to get better about this as the weeks progress
9. I am a big fan of correct spelling and grammar (but I know mistakes happen too!)
10. Let's try to use social media for good and raise the level of debate!  

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Prime Minister and Drones

The Prime Minister says that he is comfortable with the GCSB aiding the US in its drone strikes program.

There’s just a few problems with that:
  1. The Prime Minister’s “level of comfort” has no constitutional or legal mandate. 
  2. The UN has repeatedly asked for explanations re many drone strikes and they are basically are not satisfied with them, let's remember they have been made ‘legal’ by secret legal memo that nobody has seen. (Unless the PM has seen in it?)
  3. If we are aiding the US in its drone strikes problem, we are potentially breaking international law and the PM has to be accountable for that. 
  4. He says that people are “putting themselves in harm’s way”. No they are not, they may be doing something illegal in which case they deserve a trial and due process not extra-judicial deaths. There are some (many?) drone deaths that are non-combatant deaths – what about them?
  5. We don’t know how many because an amendment to require the President (of the United States) to disclose combatant and non-combatant deaths was removed even though it was approved in committee.
  6. The Prime Minister also said that "drone strikes are an effective way of prosecuting people". I don't know what world he is living in but that is NOT how you prosecute people. Someone needs to talk to him about trials and due process. Definition of prosecute: institute legal proceedings against a person/organization.  
  7. Another extraordinary comment the PM made was that he did not know what the GCSB information was being used for by the United States and he seemed to think the use of such intelligence to aid in the Afghan war and the Drone strikes are the same thing. Just because the US was attacked by a terrorist group in 2001 does not give western nations the right to carte blanche kill people forever and ever for the rest of time and eternity. 
  8. The PM has repeatedly said that GCSB acts within the law. This is completely false. If they had, then we would not have to retrospectively pass legislation making acts of theirs legal, which were illegal. (We did the same for the Police after the Tuhoe trials) 
  9. By taking a blasé approach to drone strikes and the killing of potentially innocent people overseas, there is now more of a target on NZ’s back than ever before. Remember that chilling bin Laden quote: "Free people do not relinquish their security. This is contrary to Bush's claim that we hate freedom. Let him tell us why we did not strike Sweden, for example". New Zealand will be seen as the UK is seen by terrorists group. Why would we Kiwis want that kind of a reputation with people who kill innocent civilians without a second thought? 
  10. It is the government’s job to keep us safe – yes. But they should do so by ensuring our privacy, by ensuring our right to not be subject to illegal search and seizures, by not breaking international law, by being subject to the rule of law, and above all by being accountable and transparent to the public. If they are having a hard time figuring out how to do that they need to hire more intelligent humans because they are not trying hard enough.

I would like to see the families of drone strikes victims in front of the New Zealand Intelligence and Security Select Committee. If we as a nation are so comfortable with it (via our PM), I want us to look into the eyes of the children whose innocent family members were killed without trial or reason just for being at the wrong place at the wrong time in their own country for the sake of our security (apparently) and tell them we are comfortable killing their families for our security. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Just wondering....

Update: Documents from OIA show that trip was planned. h/t POLITY. The stated purpose of the trip was:
"To increase the profile of a successful importer and distributor of New Zealand products into China". 
Well I don't think any of my questions really matter now do they? But I guess this answers why a BORDER OFFICIAL was at the dinner. I think we can add two and two.

1. Cabinet Office: Why wont the Cabinet Office advice be released? John Key said there was no conflict of interest and no endorsement back in March (in response to visit to Oravida HQ) but now today he says that Collins was not careful enough for there to be a perception of conflict of interest (in response to new info about dinners).

2. Close Personal Friends: Minister Collins said she met with close personal friends who are the managing director and chairman of Oravida and that's why we can't know anything about it. Fine. But was the border official a close personal friend of hers too? Or was the border official their friend? Why was the border official there? We also know she asked the NZ Ambassador to China to attend who refused. Why would you ask the ambassador to attend a private dinner? Is the ambassador a close personal friend too? Why would you feel the need to update the ambassador after a private dinner?

3. Official Business: Her office requested a briefing from MFAT which was later cancelled. What made her office think that a private dinner was official? Do Ministers put their private lives on official calendars? We know the $30+K trip to China was part of official business in her capacity as Minister of Justice. How much can you extend taxpayer funded trips for non-official trips that result in 30K donations for the party?

4. High Ethical Standards: The Cabinet Manual says that Ministers have to be seen to be upholding the highest ethical standards. If there is perception of conflict of interest as Key himself said today, is that still holding the highest ethical standards? What is his definition of highest ethical standards? And does that include making threats to the press?

All these questions just make me wonder one thing. What does Collins have on Key that's stopping him from firing her? 'Cause I bet Ministers have resigned for much less. Remember Phil Heatley and a few bottles of wine? This seems much much much much much much worse!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Marriage equality did not end heterosexual privilege

This week is the first anniversary of the passing of Marriage Equality in New Zealand. Despite the fact that we have had civil unions for gay couples since 2004, this was an important step for our nation not only domestically but in our reputation in the international community. We showed ourselves to be a country that stood up for the civil rights of all people regardless of their sexual orientation. This is a big step because protection of equal rights under the law is important in changing society's perception and attitudes. Let me explain that further. I was at the Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library last week celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. One of the great leaders in the movement Representative John Lewis quoted Martin Luther King  who said "It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important."  Let me re-iterate it. The law is important. Government's role in protecting people is important. But how can you make a man love someone they hate?

We live in a world of heterosexual privilege.  I'm on the steering committee for the Harvey Milk Society at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and being part of this organization has made me realize the privileged position I am in every single day. My family has asked me why I would want to be part of a LGBTQA organization and have even gone as far as to say that people will assume I am gay. If that's the worst thing that could happen to me, I think I am pretty lucky. I will never have to 'come out' to anyone. In every conversation that I ever have about love, everyone will always assume I am talking about loving a man. I never have to awkwardly explain my sexual preference to anyone or be ashamed of who I love. Gay people have been beaten, made homeless, ostracized to their mental detriment, kept out of jobs, kept from participating in society, and killed for sole reason of being gay. Their civil rights have been denied to them because of an innate characteristic over which they have no control. (And before you scream 'lifestyle choice' to me, I also happen to believe that people have the right to choose their lifestyle. Why should another person tell me how I should live my life to the fullest? But that's another post.) Law is one way to correct that wrong, but there's more that needs to be done. 

If you think there is a gay agenda out there working to ensure equality, you better believe that it is going to keep doing that. Why? Because the only way to have equal rights is to not be the 'other'. The law is absolutely essential to that, but a change of attitude requires more than the law. It requires that media articles cover gay issues as life issues and TV shows/movies/magazines have to work hard to make sure that gay couples are represented. Their stories have to be told and shared. Gay rights have been accepted in the mainstream only in the last 10 years or so. Even when I was in high school, the conversation was at a very different place. The marginalization that they have faced leading up to this day has to be addressed. Gays are not underrepresented because they do not exist, they are underrepresented because we heterosexuals make sure of it. We created the culture of man-woman marriage, a concept that is actually relatively new in terms of human history. The narrative within which we live is a straight narrative. If you are a woman or a person of color, you know what that means. It means that you constantly have to fit your story into the white male story. Your story is in context of something that has already been there for thousands of years. Marriage equality did not end heterosexual privilege overnight just like the Civil Rights Act did not end white male privilege. We have to keep working towards inclusion and work against the heterosexual narrative if we want to live in an inclusive society where everyone is free to be who they are.  

A (slightly unrelated) recommended reading: 
-How the US President came to supporting marriage equality: This article details all the behind the scenes wrangling including the role that Vice President Biden played and the role of the First Lady Michelle Obama in getting the President to say it.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Rounding to the nearest $30 Billion.

Labour has hit back at Key's speech yesterday with some hard numbers. Take a look at the revenue vs. expenses numbers under Labour and National. This should not be news to any journos out there especially those who have been around for a while. But it might be news to some voters who have decided that National are better 'economic managers'. They view Labour as 'spenders' all the while forgetting that under National the economy hasn't really grown and life hasn't really improved. I wonder where they get those ideas from?

How has our 'future' been brighter in the last 6 years? A few months ago I blogged about whether Labour was focusing on the 'wrong issue'. I didn't think they are before and I don't think they are now. I think the polling on Labour policies are generally very positive but John Key is a better messenger (read: politician). Politics is not as much about policy as it is about politics. (You thought I was going to say 'personality' didn't you?) No, I don't think it is about personality. Yes, John Key has the right personality that resonates with Kiwis so the National Party uses it to its advantage. I'd say that Helen Clark was as far apart from John Key as you can get but she was the Prime Minister for 9 years. Political parties need to identify their strengths and leverage it with the public. That's good politics. Harping on and on about John Key's personality or trying to mimic it futile. That's his strength, find your own.

As Mr. Parker points out, spending might have increased under Labour (but revenue was also high under Labour) and

"In the last five years of Labour we introduced Working for Families, interest free Student loans and Kiwi Saver – all paid for out of growth. None of which National has repealed."

This is the key point. National has not repealed any of the 'progressive' policies that require government funding. What they have done instead is curb down on our civil rights and our rights as employees. They have removed regulations to make it easier for large corporations and harder for the average working person. They have given Kiwis reasons to move overseas and oil industries to move in to our pristine country. They have done so with a 1 vote majority in Parliament. A 1 vote majority does not a mandate make. That's the actual poll of actual voters from the last election. I'm so tired of hearing about National shepherding us through the recession and earthquakes. In responses to these tough situations, I wanted some bold policies. I've spent most of my twenties waiting for the 'brighter future'. My generation wants a government that actually responds, creates, innovates, motivates - not just one that shepherds us through softly softly.

(Ain't nobody got time for that.)

DC has made some key mistakes in the media in recent months and Key has managed stay above the mistakes of Judith Collins and Amy Adams. The polls reflect that. Labour has some really hard working, interesting MPs. They need to stop reading from the 2005 script and start engaging in 2014 politics. They need to harness the strengths of the caucus - charisma of some, intelligence of others, communication capabilities of some, the ability to talk about bad news of others, the caring side of some, the tough-love side of others. Those 800k people are still looking for a party to vote for. Labour has interesting policies on housing, power prices, and child poverty that would be relevant to those 800k people.

While Key laughs it up, Labour should be talking numbers. The numbers are actually on their side.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Wealth and Citizenship Part II

Last week I blogged about the relationship between wealth and your ability to participate in governance. We all think that it is our vote that is getting people elected but in fact it is powerful business interests driven by the wealthiest of our society. This week we have the story of John Banks and Maurice Williamson (both with heavy interest in the sustainability of the National Party) advocating for citizenship of a person who then later donated quite a substantial amount to the National Party. I find this extremely repulsive. The House of Representatives is suppose to represent the people of New Zealand. By giving people citizenship which enables funding of the party, National has the appearance of trading citizenship for campaign funds. Now, I am positive that of course National Minister didn't explicitly ask Liu to make the donation - that's Ministerial Conduct 101 (although not sure Judith Collins took that class) - but it makes it look like if you are wealthy you can have special treatment from the government and that is repulsive.

We, the people, no longer really affect decision making. You can submit at select committee all you want but let's look at the Mixed Ownership Model Bill and the Paid Parental Leave Bill for example - overwhelming opposition or support really made no difference to the final vote. I bet you, maybe if we donated heavily to the National Party we could make some headway on that. Maybe that's an unfair assessment but I can't help feeling like voting is just a symbolic exercise of citizenship and unless we change some rules around political influence by the wealthy and the non-people entities like corporations - we face a very depressing state of affairs. Now I know someone will say what about Unions?? They are non-people entities with a lot of influence but my response to that is they represent people. Corporations represent profits and could care less about human welfare. There is a difference. Unions themselves don't get anything out of changes to worker's rights - workers do.

I have digressed... BUT... Once again to reiterate last week's post, it isn't just income inequality that is crippling us, it is inequality of access to decision-making.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Wealth and Citizenship

Over at No Right Turn, the price of honour has been revealed. It is $165,000. Tony Astle, ONZM donated heavily to the National Party and then received the honours - Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services as a chef.  When we go to vote, all of us Kiwis have the same power. We get two votes. Two ticks and in that we are all equal. We can all sleep easy that our votes are the same as the rich and the famous. But votes do not equal influence. Sometimes I wonder if our votes are just a rubber stamp on a decision that has already been made. 

Much is made of campaign donations in the United States where the elections spending is higher than what’s budgeted for many public programmes. Top fundraisers even get to be Ambassadors in comfortable countries (the U.S. amabassador to New Zealand and Samoa raised $1.2 million for Obama and has NO Foreign Service experience) by-passing those who have dedicated their lives to public service. What an insult to those people. 

Income inequality is the issue of our time both in upcoming NZ elections and in the dialogue here in the US. But as many people have pointed out, it is not just income inequality. It is inequality of access – access to prime education, health services, and perhaps more importantly - the decision makers. Money buys you relationships with those who govern. What good are those two ticks when there are some who can have an actual conversation with the Prime Minister? Yesterday there was this tweet: 
On New Zealand Herald, about a week ago, Liam Dann wrote about the importance getting the stamp of approval from the business community. Labour shouldn't do anything (public policy-wise) to scare off those pesky business leaders he says. What an astounding article. He says "Drop that economic experiment and convince the business community that your election wouldn't be an absolute disaster for the country". Because only business can innovate and solve problems. Government should do as they are told by businesses.

Let’s remind ourselves of one thing. Democracy is supposed to guarantee equal participation FOR CITIZENS. Elected representatives represent the votes of the people, the humans not the business entity. Corporate and individual campaign donations’ only aim is to by-pass the democratic “rule of the people”. Businesses cannot approve of public policy because business aims are to make profit and public policy aims are to serve the public. They are inherently at odds with each other. Governments cannot be run like a business. Governments make law and they regulate businesses to protect citizens. We have come to accept businesses at the superior beings of our society because they have the money and they create the jobs. But we continuously forget that they exploit and manipulate public resources and human capital to get there. The minimum wage and workplace safety standards would not be necessary if markets didn't fail people. The need for these public policies are because of markets’ failure to provide those protections for citizens.

By saying that certain professions (let’s say business owners) deserve more government attention, we are creating a new caste system in the western world where your career position determines your level of citizenship. Currently, if you are wealthy you can apply for a special residency like Kim Dotcom did. You can get have easier visa processing to come gamble your millions in New Zealand casinos. You can be appointed to the board of an agency because of close ties to a political party. You can even get special treatment and get laws changed for your business like the SkyCity deal. 

As I have heard so many times on the radio now – 'we’ll never be royals'. But that does not mean that we don’t deserve the same rights. I suppose I should be glad that Tony Astle wasn’t named ambassador. Yet.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Mathers doing her job - not ok. Royal visit - all good.

I think all that needs to be said about the Mojo Mathers travel expense has probably been said in the “twitterstorm” yesterday that saw Jordan Williams and David Farrar dig even bigger holes later in the day. Mojo Mathers is not above other MPs because she is deaf. She is neither better or above criticism. If she was raiding the minibar on taxpayer expense I don’t think she would deserve to be let off. But as a deaf MP, I do believe she represents more than the Green constituents. NZers really need to get out of the ‘electorate’ mindset where electorate MPs are seen as superior to others. I don’t want to denegrade the work they do; electorate work is extremely hard and time consuming but an MP like Mojo serves more than just area she is from. She is the first deaf MP we have ever had. It speaks volumes about our nation that you can serve in political office in our country as a person who is deaf but with that she carries the responsibility of highlighting all disability issues. As has been reiterated, if she has to travel to a community radio to give an interview on disability issues not only should she be able to do so but if she didn’t, I’d expect the political fallout to be worse.

Let’s juxtapose what happened this weekend with this little gem of a story on ZB this morning about the royal visit. No doubt that’s going to cause an arm and a leg but do we care about that? Evidently not. This quote from the chair of Monarch New Zealand really struck me about Prince George:

"I think a precedent was set with Prince William himself when he came to New Zealand at almost exactly the same age 37 years ago"

My response? Who cares? No really? Who gives a damn. I am no monarchist and I have very little respect for the institution. Actually I am lying. I have no respect for the institution. But there is no precedent. The Royals are on a PR campaign and if they bring George it will be for PR reasons. The Queen cares a lot about New Zealand? Well if she had any respect for the country she would push for Republicanism. The fact that our head of state is an unelected state dependent beneficiary is disrespectful to us as people.

Let’s go over what happened yesterday:
-Mojo Mathers was doing her job – representing and communicating with her constituents – it’s called DEMOCRACY
-This country is in dire need of education and awareness of disability issues starting perhaps with the folks over at Taxpayer ‘Union’ 
-Young, privileged, able bodied, white men don’t get to pick and choose issues when they don’t serve their corporate subsidization/welfare needs
 -We got a headline “Green MP's 800km taxpayer-funded trip questioned” and no idea who actually posed the initial question and more importantly why?

The reason why I put that Royal story in this article is because remember when John Key went to visit the Queen? How much did that cost? What was the point? Whose interests was he representing? Oh right the Queen invited him and he couldn’t say no because protocol. Well you know what? Screw protocol. More kids are in poverty, more elderly are in poverty, people with disability don’t have the same rights, and we are a low wage economy and who really cares about the Royal visit? I guess that 51% who are obsessed with John Key do... I guess we have to represent their needs.

Jordan Williams said that it’s not worth it for him for Mojo Mathers to "travel to a community radio that probably has as many listeners as you can count on your hand," and that “the only silver lining is that the time spent travelling to go on the station in the middle of nowhere is less time spent dreaming up new ways to spend tax payers money." I’d rather the 5 people get represented by their elected representatives, the 5 people who are unheard, unseen, and unrepresented than the zero people this so called ‘royal visit’ is going to materially help. 

[Update] Little Prince George will be coming. I'm sure it'll be great. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Is Labour targeting the wrong issue?

John Key said today - "The big issues are the economy, law and order and health and education and our programme's working and the results are good." and he also said asset sales and Kim Dotcom weren't the big issues - what Labour was focusing on - explaining poll results.

Opposing asset sales was important. It was passed with a 1 vote majority and most people who submitted during the select committee hearings were against it. It has so far cost the country $440 million. This is a great policy for investors in the share market. Investors cycle their money in the capital markets and the housing market and all the foreign markets but never in the supermarkets. So Labour opposed asset sales – as they should have (so did the Greens). Some would say it’s why they were elected. I’m not as convinced about the referendum. And I wasn’t really convinced about the results either. I would have preferred to see it in the 80s. But I also think that the combination of the low election turnout and this shows that many many voters are not really engaged in NZ politics and somehow we need to get them engaged (We = left & right). New Zealand is one of those countries which is starting to get cited in academic articles about the privatization of public administration. Whether or not this is a good policy, there can be no doubt that this equates to transfer of wealth from the public to the select private. I do not believe this is good public policy and Governments are elected to administer PUBLIC policy not advance the interests of a select (but powerful) minority’s economic interests. These issues do matter. 

Labour has come up with a comprehensive 'baby bonus' policy to deal with the costs of having kids (benefiting society in general – we need kids to be born!). People might not like it but it addresses systematic inequalities in society that is preventing many families from moving ahead in life. Why do we need this? Because I don’t see businesses picking up the slack. They are happy to use the labour and brains of people, take in profits, pay them as less as possible by holding employment as hostage, enjoying many tax benefits and effective subsidization of their profits and the whole time bemoaning that people should take individual responsibility. I 100 percent believe that I think it is businesses’ job to make profits. Of course they should make (and keep) profits and I certainly am not going to dictate how much that profit should be but if the profit was at the cost of workplace safety, for example – we would think that was a pretty rubbish business model and would not endorse it. So, why is keeping workers in perpetual poverty any different? (2 in 5 children in poverty come from families where parents are working). Let’s also not forget successive reports that have shown Working For Families has kept us away from even worsening child poverty – a policy introduced by Labour. What has National done – a Ministerial committee on poverty that seems to make no policy changes, an expert advisory group’s recommendations that are cherry picked, employee rights slowly whittled away for business interests. Oh but wait! We do have oil and gas exploration that will create jobs and bring wealth (but of course without meeting any of the environmental security concerns).

The Kim Dotcom issue is a weird one for me. It’s an on-going legal issue which has already demonstrated some major failures by our law enforcement agencies, agencies who haven’t really been held accountable under this Government. If there is a brewing civil rights issue (KDC is a NZ resident) or breach of due process, the opposition should absolutely look into that. Maybe people don’t care. Maybe people don’t see this as affecting them but I think to a certain degree, we expect in a democracy that the Opposition will act as a check on the government and its actions.

Gay marriage, euthanasia, abortion affect people and National isn’t going to touch them with a 10 feet pole. Over and over again it’s Labour that has taken on the responsibility of dealing with these issues. It will never be right time for National. Even during a rock star economic boom, National focused on the flag and not the constitutional changes that the country desperately needs and not any of these issues that actually affect people’s lives. Why? Because it doesn't sound sexy. Someone has to take this responsibility of governance on behalf of the people and I don't think it will be National. So they may not seem like meaty issues but they are relevant. National doesn’t have any problems getting on the gay marriage, Mondayisation, PPL and drunk driving limit bandwagon because they know it’s something that has to be addressed, but they won’t introduce it themselves. National didn't like WFF - still here, interest free student loans - still here, kiwisaver - still here, anti-smacking - still here. All notable policies. All policies passed under the previous Government

I don't think Labour was in government for 9 years by focusing on the wrong issues. I think fundamentally they, like other parties in Parliament, want to govern in order to improve the lives of Kiwis. I do think they have the best interests at heart in all their policies. Yes, they tend to focus on the less glamorous parts of society. So instead of Peter Jackson its forestry workers. Instead of oil and gas, it's apprenticeships for the disaffected youths. Instead of the rights of the Motion Pictures Association of America, it's the civil rights of gay and lesbians. 

What will John Key's National government be remembered for? I’d like someone to do a poll where they ask New Zealanders what their favourite flagship policy of the last five years is without giving any prompting examples. May be Wallace Chapman will ask this question on the streets. I’ll be surprised if people can answer anything definite. But hey 51% of the country loves National so maybe I am completely wrong. Maybe Labour is focusing on the wrong issues.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Who needs a break?

So we have two very interesting articles in the papers today. Colin Espiner at Fairfax thinks our minimum wage should be $16 and Damien Grant at NZ Herald we should cut tax cheats some slack because they contribute to society. This divide created between the job creators and the job doers suggests that one is more superior to the others. When Elizabeth Warren in her famous quote said that the so-called job creators didn’t just do it on their own, she was telling the truth that those at the top and their advocates do not want to hear. From the day labourer to the PHD, everyone contributes to society. It’s off the backs of their hard work, their education, their brain, their hands, their words that we as society get to develop, we get to progress, we invent new things, we mass produce those inventions, we come up with new ideas, we get interesting novels, movies, tv shows and songs. Sure the marketplace has decided that laptops are more valuable than chocolate cake and maybe they are, but the marketplace has failed spectacularly when it comes to compensating for ‘hard work’ fairly. Maybe the 85 people who have the wealth of half the world’s population really work as hard as half the world’s population and had exactly the same opportunities as half the world’s population but somehow I really doubt it.

Last night I started reading Ayn Rand’s “The Virtue of Selfishness” where she suggests that society sees industrialists who make a fortune and bank robbers as equally immoral because they both seek wealth for “their own selfish benefit”. This is factually incorrect. We put bank robbers in jail and we give tax cuts to industrialists. The minimum wages is not designed to vilify business owners, it is designed to make sure that the power imbalance created by using wealth as the yardstick does not lead to exploitation of the wealth-vulnerable. When I graduated from University and made the choice to work in the public sector I had to take whatever that was offered to me. Otherwise I would be destitute and on the benefit. In fact, if I turned down a job because the pay wasn’t good enough in my opinion, I would be kicked off the benefit. But when it came to getting the Chief Executive for the Ministry of Education, we had to pay top dollar to someone from the UK to mess up their job on epic proportions and still get an amazing severance pay. This is something that would never happen to a lowly analyst working the same hours. Sure the responsibilities maybe ‘less’ but they actually do the grunt work that makes the CEs look good but when they get fired, they get nothing.

In our society, we have minimum wages but we do not have maximum wages. Profit margins are morally more important than paying someone a decent wage to feed their kids. Some of us are against raising the minimum wage because our muffins will go up by 10 cents (Remember the 2011 election?). We also live in a society where workers' breaks are actually being curbed away. You know who needs a break? Someone who is on their feet 12 hours a day not tax cheats. I personally do think that the state has a responsibility in protecting its citizens – not from just terrorists attacks and health scares and natural disasters but from poverty as well. But I do not believe that the state should be subsidizing employers to do so. A representative democracy represents its citizens not corporations. I do think business owners should construct their business plans according to market factors and one of those factors should be wages. If they cannot afford to pay their workers, they should re-think their business model. If they can afford to pay their workers they should re-think their profit margins. And maybe I have those beliefs precisely because I am selfish. I don’t want to live in a society where there is widespread poverty. I don’t want kids growing up in poverty that increases their chances of being part of the justice system. I do believe that most people who are on the benefit are there because of circumstances beyond their control. And please don’t lecture me about the one person who has been on the DPB for 20 years because that doesn’t really mean anything in the grand scheme. How astounding to say that beneficiary cheats contribute nothing to start with – assuming that everyone on the benefit is always on the benefit and always was!

The GFC was brought on by people at the top who made very deliberate bad decisions to game the system for their gain. It was not brought on by people on the minimum wage. Yet they are feeling the brunt of it. I don’t remember people in the lowest rungs losing their jobs getting government bailouts. No, what they got was austerity measures, benefit cuts, and services cuts. I remember CEOs going to spas and playing golf on their government bailout money – taxpayer subsidized party for causing one of the largest financial crises of our generation. The lost generation of people who tried to enter the work force between 2007 and now will pay the cost of this failure for the rest of their lives.

So no, I don’t think tax cheats should get a break. If you believe you deserve a greater pay for greater responsibilities, you have to take that responsibility when you mess up.