Make Aotearoa egalitarian and great again
His timing is impeccable, and his mission merciful.
Immediately mocked by the mainstream media, Gareth Morgan’s launch of a party dedicated to eliminating poverty and closing the inequality gap is a cause worthy of wholehearted support, even by the mean-minded.
Because, as Morgan matter-of-factly states, the proof has long since been in: Developed countries with less-egregious levels of inequality are wealthier. Yet the practice of lavishing obscenely large remuneration packages, wrapped in golden parachutes, on a few individuals continues. Even in a such patently non-commercial organisation such as Auckland Council, the salary of the chief executive officer, $0.7 million, is 141% that of the prime minister. Meantime, an unemployed person receives a benefit a 56th of what the most richly rewarding council-controlled organisation was paying its boss, until two years ago.
With the United States narrowly poised to avoid the potentially cataclysmic election of a media demagogue, it is a good time to examine Morgan’s assertion that mainstream political parties are far more interested in their own welfare than that of the people they represent or that of the country, and are unprepared, for example, to eliminate poverty despite the availability of policies that could achieve this overnight. Again, the mean-minded might want to reflect that eliminating poverty slashes most of the costs that fetch up in the country’s hospitals, jails and police cells—health and jails alone currently swallow $17 billion each year.
When Barack Obama began his audacious bid for the United States presidency, he began by writing his second book, which extolled the ideals of an earlier age when bipartisan behaviour by politicians, once elected, was a proud tradition. He was rewarded, of course, by the most vindictively partisan response that the Republican Party has ever mustered, determined to prevent a person they saw as ineligible to be president from achieving any policy success. Never mind that the interests of the United States, much less the needs of the 99%. After two terms of his presidency, the bipartisanship that Obama had hoped to herald in seems to be buried alive, under an avalanche of hatred, regardless of which party is victorious after Tuesday.
As of today, Nate Silver’s polls-only forecast has Hilary Clinton leading by 2.9 percentage points in the popular vote, and nearly 46 electoral college votes. If the Democrats do carry the day, and the senate—both of which seems likely—it is to be hoped the Washington wastes no time in putting the people ahead of its own interests, lest somebody even more dangerous even than Donald Trump comes close to becoming commander-in-chief of an $0.6 trillion per year war machine.
Given its almost-proportional representation, New Zealand’s Parliament should be a million miles away from the terminally partisan, dysfunctional two-party United States congress. And while its 5% threshold is both anti-democratic and unnecessary, nor has the presence of an average of seven parties every termactually, an average of a shade more than seven since the introduction of mixed member proportional, seen Parliament function, with a few rare exceptions, as other-than a two-party Labour- or National-led dictatorship.
Gareth Morgan seeks to change this with The Opportunities Party, which would sit on the cross benches and force whichever party formed a government, to consider evidence-based policies that neither Labour nor National have had the courage to implement. Policies, for example, that would eradicate child poverty and the downstream misery and lost opportunity that it guarantees. Little wonder New Zealand’s beltway is apoplectic at the thought that Morgan will likely pull off this audacious move, which has come after seven years of foot dragging since he published the first of eight booksone of two co-written with John McCrystal, Poles Apart, in a vain attempt to get New Zealanders and their governments interested in evidence-based policy-making.
In an earlier age when the mainstream media held a monopoly on the political discourse, New Zealand’s beltway could readily have kept a lid on Morgan’s determination to appeal directly to people who care more about Aotearoa and its people than they do about themselves. With more than 770 already signed up with the new party, that ship has sailed, and by March, when Morgan has committed to go full steam ahead or scuttle the project, it is probable that he will have many more members than the Green Party has accumulated in its 44 yearssince its inception in 1972, as the Values Party, and clearing the 5% threshold for a list-only party all but a certainty.
Although it can be argued that, even in happier days, Aotearoa was not so equal and not so free for all its citizens, New Zealanders do have a proud 118-year-old history of social welfare, dating from the introduction of the Old-Aged Pension. With the by-stealth neoliberalism unleashed by the Fourth Labour Government, in 1984, inequality was ushered in and doubled down on by the subsequent, Fourth National Government. The whole unfortunate experiment was ill-founded testimony to evidence-free policy-making, and has left Aotearoa in a state of low resilience at just the time it needs to be investing heavily in zero-carbon infrastructure, and facing overdue discussions as to how, for example, communities such as that of East Beach, Waitara, are going to escape the sea-level rise that they had no particular hand in causing.
As much as the mainstream media and the beltway will continue to paint Gareth Morgan as a tiresome upstart who has no business in their domain, the Mahurangi Magazine predicts:
New Zealanders will vote for a fairer Aotearoa, in droves.
Mainstream-Media Marvel Chris Trotter: Gareth Morgan an ‘Open-Minded Intellectual Pilgrim’
Disclosure Cimino Cole has been a financial member of The Opportunities Party since 4 November 2016.