Monday, June 22, 2015

Exclude Gareth Morgan From Political Process And End His War On The Elderly

One thing I really, really hate in this world ... is the certain sort of economist or business-person who blithely assumes that just because they've demonstrated an alleged competency in *one* field of human endeavour, that this means we are all axiomatically beholden to listen to them in their parsimonious if not pugnacious opinions on just about everything else.

Fresh from his resounding successes at abolishing housecatsincome taxunhealthy eating habits, and the economically progressive wing of the Green Party (otherwise known as "The Green Party"), Gareth Morgan's at it again.

This time, apparently declaring war on some of our most vulnerable citizens (and perhaps not coincidentally, the mainstay of the stereotypical NZ First voterbase), The Elderly.

Now let's get one thing straight. I'm biased. I *like* many of our older citizens - and not just because they're often appreciative of the work my Chief has done for them.

When it comes to my political values, I've often found myself absolutely bowled over and surprised by how much there is in common between people of my generation and our illustrious forebears. I still remember the first time I addressed an NZF meeting, I went on a bit of a rant about how we were going to Unmake Neoliberalism in New Zealand and restore some sort of Social Democratic Sanity to both our economy and our society. A "fair go" kind of ethos wherein we didn't just close our eyes and blindly trust in the market and hope that things would get better. Where The State was an active, interventionist and CARING one that stepped in both to curb the market's excesses - and, more importantly, to protect its citizens and boost up and bolster their prospects.

Now, this met with resounding applause. Not because I'm any great orator (at least, I wasn't, then) ... but because to these people I wasn't describing some mythical Camelot or City on a Hill.

I was describing exactly the sort of New Zealand they felt they'd grown up in - and then watched cruelly ripped asunder from them during the Rogernomics and Ruthanasia economic reforms of the 1980s and early 1990s.

So this is why many of that generation GO OUT AND VOTE at EVERY ELECTION. Not because of some high-minded idealist rhetoric about how they were also literally the same generation who not infrequently put life and limb on the line to fight for YOUR right to vote here and now in the future. They did that too - and to the veterans who've fought for this country, rest assured you have my eternal and enduring gratitude for what you have done for me and my people.

But instead, because they KNOW that a better society - a fairer society ... hell, one where you can even swim in the rivers like they used to do - is possible. And they're generally hella, hella pissed at the fact that a rogue generation of economists like Gareth Morgan have seen fit to fundamentally distort this in favour of "market equilibriums" and "the state should not interfere".

That rhetoric's evil. And these elderly voters ... they're not afraid to call it out for what it is.

Now into this fray rides our very own Man from La Mancha on a motorbike, Gareth Morgan.

Morgan has some very, very funny ideas. One of those is his cat-astrophic campaign to eliminate the main predator of rats and mice within New Zealand (you'll note those are devourers of Kiwi bird-life at a rate that outstrips cats), apparently heedless of the ecological consequences of same. Another is his ongoing quixotic crusade to destroy the Green Party by vainly shouting from the sidelines about how it ought to coalesce with National, and ditch most of its values in the process.

A third, is his continual effort to overhaul the pension system.

Now let's be clear about this. Contra to Morgan's assertions, the New Zealand state pension is not "Fat".

It is, in fact, between $295.41 and $431.10 a week. A minimum wage job, by contrast, is $590 a week. And we already, as a society, acknowledge that the latter figure is not exactly enough to live on.

So when Morgan breathlessly claims that our senior citizens don't "deserve" to be looked after in their old age because they're effectively, in his view, creaming a "fat" income off all of the rest of our common backs ... I find this absolutely repugnant.

Hard-working New Zealanders who've hit retirement in the last few years and decades have spent the best years of their lives paying taxes - in the case of income generated before Neoliberalism, often quite HIGH taxes - in order to provide the infrastructure, services and support systems which subsequent generations have been lucky enough to enjoy. They've also done this on the implicit - if not outright explicit in some cases - promise that we would ALSO look after THEM when the time came that they were no longer up to earning their own income in the work-force.

That's the social compact (or contract) in action, pure plain and simple.

Now to be fair, the state COULD have been a bit smarter about moving to provide for the needs of its citizens in their retirement - and Morgan is quite right when he points out the lamentable folly of Key's government suspending contributions to the Cullen Fund while also negligently divesting itself of an income-earning state-asset base which might have helped to pay for future state services and social spending.

But his dual, forked-tongue proposed alternative solutions are abominable.

Quite apart from placing the welfare and income-streams of our elderly under threat ... he wants to ensure a lack of opposition to his dastardly scheme by straight-up disenfranchising the elderly! I'm not going to stoop to the depths of rhetoric entailed by his luridly phrased metaphor about "financial genocide" - but it's not particularly hard to think of other instances wherein entire classes of people have been robbed of their democratic rights in order to mete out a discriminatory injustice against them.

The logic for this is, apparently, that only by removing the voices and the votes of our senior citizens from our democracy can the country prosper. This is in spite of the fact that the fiercest resistors of neoliberalism - and ultimately, the generations that gave us MMP in the first place - are still some of the most active and engaged contributors to the protection of same. I fully agree that more needs to be done to encourage and engage young potential-voters by giving them a stake in our democracy (it's one of the reasons why I'm in politics) ... but getting rid of the elderly so that young people have more of a relative say seems highly sketchy if not outright spurious reasoning at best. You might like to phrase it as "excluding one of the most politically active and experienced generations in order to engage the one that often can't be bothered voting".

But I have more faith in the social conscience of young voters than Gareth Morgan himself seems to possess or appears to think we have. The obvious testament to this is the number of people my age I met who've said they were voting New Zealand First not just because of their nationalistic streak, or our kick-arse policies for youth ... but because they respected and admired the job we did of looking after their grand-parents, too.

We recognize that a stable, sane and fair society is not one in which - Logan's Run style - you wind up being excluded and marginalized just because of your age. But rather, one in which both the previous contributions and the present needs of our citizenry are acknowledged, respected, and engaged with appropriately.

Not least because, as in the case of our older New Zealanders, they've often lived through the mistakes of the past and come through them with the wisdom which we can learn from if we wish to repeat them.

Having said that, there's one older New Zealander who, through their ongoing fruitcake contributions to our public sphere (and I *don't* mean Alison Holst), has potentially demonstrated they're no longer worthy of a say.

I think it's high time we let Gareth Morgan take his own advice and disregard his self-appointed political role in our society.

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