Way back in the olden days, when David Lange was prime minister and Roger Douglas his whizz-kid finance minister, I bought my first house. Mortgage interest rates were approaching an eye-watering 20 per cent and I was sweating. The cost of living was appallingly high and wages dismally low. It was tough.
A decade or more passed, the economy was torn apart and painfully rebuilt and the interest-rate burden eventually eased. Like many others, I survived. Just.
Four decades on, I'm getting the feeling, in the words of US baseball player Yogi Berra, that "it's déjà vu all over again".
The Reserve Bank has lifted the official cash rate 50 basis points to 1.5 per cent, the first double rate hike in 20 years. Our mortgages are on the way up again, with analysts warning bank interest rates will hit 6 per cent in the coming months. From there, they could go even higher.
Food prices are up an annual 7.6 per cent, the biggest escalation in more than a decade. The cost of fruit and veges has risen an astonishing 18 per cent. Why?
To the best of my knowledge, we don't get our pumpkins and carrots from Ukraine, which makes the Government's attempts to blame the war over there and supply-chain issues in China a little far-fetched.
We are entering what, in the 1980s, they called a wage-price spiral. The Government has amassed billions of dollars of extra tax revenue over the past 12 months, partly because of high inflation. People get a wage rise to compensate, but that could push them into a higher tax bracket, and they may not necessarily be any better off. Essentially, we all start chasing our tails.
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One thing the Government can do to help end the tail-chasing is stop wasteful spending. I was sorting through my email inbox when I noticed one from the Taxpayers' Union. I've always found it a little overzealous in its pursuit of a low-government-spending nirvana, but its email highlighted an instance of the state's handling of taxpayer money that is probably replicated throughout the public service.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is running a series of advertisements aimed at lowering the road toll – known as the Road To Zero strategy. The ads have cost $4.7 million.
Zero? It thinks it can lower the road toll to zero? Seriously?
More likely, Waka Kotahi is trying to create a climate of public opinion that will allow speed limits to be reduced. Another recent television ad features a Waka Kotahi official with a clipboard yelling through deafening traffic at a couple of kids on the other side of the road that speed limits are too high. That one cost $2.4m.
Of course, it could have spent the money on improving the quality of our roads. But it must be easier and cheaper to convince us to put up with dangerous roads and drive at a snail's pace.
I won't go on about the millions spent on ads designed to sell us on the Three Waters policy. They basically tried to convince us our local bodies were doing a bad job and that the Government's new system would do it better. Yeah, right.
I would more readily put up with having my income eroded by the rising cost of living if I didn't see tax dollars being squandered on propaganda designed to convince me of the Government's point of view.