So, former Prime Minister Sir John Key sold his house for $20 million. To a Chinese buyer.
And kept his tennis court, worth $5 million, so he can build another house on it. I couldn't care less about this really, but it did seem like a who-just-farted blooper for the National government, given the timing and how his administration has tried to downplay the housing crisis and foreign buyers.
Is Sir John embarrassed it was made public I wonder? Because I get the feeling it is increasingly awkward being seen to be rich these days. Stinky.
To ameliorate this anxiety, apparently wealthy people are engaged in trying harder to downplay their privilege. One wealthy woman confessed she takes the price tags off her clothes so that her nanny will not see them. "I take the label off our six-dollar bread," she said. That was in the New York Times, but I think there's a stigma to being rich here too. Good luck getting anyone to admit paying thousands to their lawn therapist or Crimson Consulting for their child's tutor; whereas buying recycled clothes or saving on hairdressing bills by going grey is actually something to skite about.
You know why this is? Most rich people know they have got there partly on dumb luck and the kindness of others.
A friend went out with their book club in Herne Bay and reported there was a consensus around the table they were all going to vote for Jacinda. (I say Jacinda rather than Labour, as well, that seems to be how people think about the election). But maybe it would have seemed too Marie Antoinette-ish to say otherwise over soft shell crab tacos?
There seems to be an increasing sense that very wealthy people must engage in showing they are morally good to justify their good fortune; I'm taking this as a tacit acknowledgement that they realise some of their affluence is not because of their own efforts. They need to compensate by being super duper saccharinely nice or perhaps buying a lot of consoling art.
Philanthropy among the prosperous is nothing new of course, nor is guilt over one's privilege, but I bring it up because I do think something has shifted. And if National loses the book club vote this election, it may have only itself to blame, for not cottoning on to this change sooner.
As Kathryn Ryan noted on Nine to Noon this week a lot of the research which informs the policy debate around poverty feels really dated.
The idea that anyone can just get ahead by working a bit harder is starting to look rather threadbare, if not totally fanciful.
When you look at how people get an income, the rise of contract work and technology, the usually-peddled notion that work - as we have known it in the past - is the solution to poverty seems simplistic.
In 1987, the cleaner of a top company, Kodak, was an employee, got full benefits, a bonus, four weeks holiday and support to go to college part-time. When the facility she cleaned was shut down the company found her another better job.
Whereas the cleaner of Apple in 2017 is an employee of a contractor. She hasn't taken a holiday in years because she can't afford the lost wages, she can't go back to school, there are certainly no bonuses and no possibility of moving to another role in Apple. The cleaner at Kodak went on to become a chief technology officer. But the only advancement possibility for the Apple cleaner is becoming a team leader which pays an extra 50 cents an hour.
"They both spent a lot of time cleaning floors. The difference is, for [the Apple cleaner], that work is also a ceiling," the New York Times noted dryly, in highlighting this case study.
Paid labour as a share of the economy has stagnated, while much affluence comes from investment and speculation. Maybe the Book Club milieu sense, quite rightly, this schism isn't breached by telling people to just work harder.
Professor Darrin Hodgetts of Massey University who studies the "precariat" (a new name which describes the social class who have little predictability or security) points out increases in flexibility in labour have brought an increase in insecurity. How do you survive or plan when you don't know whether you're working this week or next? Many people juggle multiple jobs and still have to rely on welfare.
I am not sure how we fix this; since it seems paying out more in benefits doesn't fix the fundamental inequality. I'm with Professor Hodgetts who suggests we need to look at other ways in which we support each other.
Maybe we could look at the notion of interdependence and how human beings are all connected with each other. When some of us are doing it really hard it really does affect us all.
If we can agree it was partly dumb luck that someone sold their house for $20 million, maybe it is also dumb luck that someone else lost their job again, got sick and couldn't make the rent? I don't have any answers, but here is one small thing we can do. At least let's take the stigma out of being poor.