Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: My Budget would do the trick

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Finance Minister Bill English viewing a copy of the 2013 Budget.  Photo / Mark Mitchell
Finance Minister Bill English viewing a copy of the 2013 Budget. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Despite all the political and media posturing over Thursday's Budget, nothing much really happened - again.

For 14 years, five under Bill English and nine with Sir Michael Cullen, our Budgets have made most of us yawn (even though we nod sagely).

Deep down I suspect you don't believe our national Budget matters a great deal. And you'd be right. The system was fixed a generation ago.

Sir Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson, when they were finance ministers, succeeded beyond their wildest dreams by abolishing the tools a government could use to control the economy. Strong-arm state socialism was replaced by the invisible hand of the free market. A new economic order was born.

It didn't take long for job security and living wages to be sacrificed for massive profits to a new elite class.

Massive cuts to the taxes on wealth led to privatisation of public assets, the dismantling of the welfare state and the transfer of the costs of public education and public health to the individual user. Egalitarianism was replaced by a new rich and a new poor.

The result of these realities is that nowadays, any Budget debate isn't about the big left- or right-wing visions and ideas. It's descended to nuanced bickering about what table crumbs go to this chook or that.

It's a bookeeper's report. Even then, the figures spouted are baloney.

For example, Mighty River sale profits going to worthy Christchurch causes such as a new hospital. Would the hospital not have been built if the sale hadn't gone through? Of course.

If we wanted a real left-wing Budget that would get everyone's attention, what about these 10 game changers?

1. Abolish 15 per cent GST. Replace with 1 per cent financial transaction tax as recommended by the New Zealand Bankers Association. Same money.

2. Abolish PAYE on wages and salaries. Replace it with a wealth tax and a capital gains tax when shares, businesses, land and property are sold. People are taxed when they're cashing up, not when they are making it.

3. 90 per cent Death Tax. You can't take it with you. Grown-up kids should earn their own money anyway.

4. Rent-to-buy homes underwritten by the state. Limiting homes to two a family and having a capital gains tax will keep prices affordable.

5. State-created work schemes for all long-term jobless.

6. A living wage set at $20 an hour minimum. It would be a stimulus package.

7. No tax on profits kept in a business.

8. Free public transport in major cities. That would get people out of their cars.

9. Victims get 100 per cent state compensation for loss or injury. Offenders work it off if necessary.

10. Make KiwiSaver a state-owned fund and buy all the Government's non-core commercial assets.

I reckon my alternative budget would be supported much more by New Zealanders than anything dished up in recent years.

While I'm on a roll, we may as well nationalise SkyCity casino. After all, it's a monopoly cash cow.

We could rename it The People's Stock Exchange.

Or am I getting ahead of myself?

Debate on this article is now closed.

- Herald on Sunday

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