Dirty Politics may have obscured issues of policy in the campaign to date, but given all politicians present sweetened or poisoned views on their or others' planks, it's debatable how much of value we've missed.

And the bigger the issue, the bigger the distortions.

Besides, surely the morality and ethics of those in power is the biggest issue of all, because everything else flows from an MP's perspective on governance and how to use (or abuse) it.

However, let's pretend to set that aside, and look at what gets most folks' panties bunched: The economy.


Back when Labour was in power we had constant carping about Clarke's "nanny state" and how welfare and social reforms were running up debt like there was no tomorrow.

Still we hear that mantra repeated - and surprisingly, most of the time it goes unchallenged.

But it's pure myth. New Zealand's national debt was less after nine years of Labour than when they were elected. The Clarke government was fiscally ultra-conservative, because the books really did balance.

Contrast that with debt under Key's government. Starting at around $18 billion, it has blossomed to a staggering $86 billion today. That's a five-fold increase, in just six years.

Yes, we've had the global financial crisis and Canterbury earthquakes and tax cuts for the wealthy that have to be paid for somehow. We've also had record commodity prices, significant departmental cost-cutting, and the sell-off of major state-owned assets. Plus very little new spending.

Yet we're running up debt at more than $13 billion per year - to merely tread water.

It doesn't add up. These guys are supposedly the whizz-bang flash moneymen. So how come we're so indebted it now costs over $4 billion per year just to service the interest?

Truth is, the economic recovery is itself a myth.


Take away the Christchurch rebuild and growth is nominally zero.

Add back the ostracised poor who no longer qualify for benefits and unemployment is static. Remove the $13 plus billion per year extra government (not to mention personal) debt and in reality we're still in recession.

Ordinary families know you can't live on credit forever; sooner or later the collector comes calling. The Nats don't care because it'll most likely be a Labour/Greens combination that has to try to pay up.

Fortunately, those two parties have some clear policies to attempt to do that.

The rich might not like extra top-bracket taxes, or a capital gains tax, but both are part of a necessary re-balancing to create a more equitable economy.

Then there's the minimum wage debate, which self-obsessed business leaders wail will cost jobs and break companies. Try telling that to 13 US states that have this year introduced higher minimum wages; their economies are growing faster because both retail spend and taxes naturally increase.

Moreover, employment in those states has also increased, because more spending creates jobs. This backs up 20 years of academic research which unfailingly says higher minimum wages are positive for the economy.

The flipside of the moneyman myths is the left can't manage the economy.

The Greens have gone to the extent of having their policies independently peer-reviewed to back their claims they can not only meet all their commitments but pay back debt faster too.

There's no rational basis for thinking National have us on the road to recovery - when we're running up debt not only like there's no tomorrow, but such that soon there won't be. That's the right of it.

Bruce Bisset is a freelance writer and poet.