I don't know about you, but in the week since the Budget I've barely had time to take a breath before someone or other - usually the Prime Minister - is proclaiming the document a stellar example of "compassionate conservatism".
To me those two words don't fit in the same galaxy, let alone the same sentence or phrase, since one seeks to apply empathy to make the world better, while the other seeks to maintain the status quo with an unprincipled defence of entrenched wealth.
Nevertheless, the phrase warrants more attention given how often it's thrown around at the moment. Curiously, our National Party, along with the UK's triumphant Conservative Party, have chosen the year 2015 to finally hammer home the fact that they do, in fact, possess a skerrick of empathy, a smidgen of heart and an infinitesimal measure of genuine concern for those at the bottom end of the wealth triangle.
In the UK that task has become a little harder as the Conservatives push through 12 billion ($25.5 billion) in benefit cuts and privatisation of parts of the National Health Service. And yet David Cameron, with the help of Crosby Textor - who are also helping private companies understand how to benefit from the sell-off of state assets - is undaunted in his efforts to paint himself and his party as "not the party of nasty".
This marketing ploy has reached our shores as a way to sell Budget 2015. In fact, two amazing ploys are at play: one, to portray the National Party as genuinely caring; the other, to "inoculate" against turning off swing voters by taking the best left-wing ideas unexpectedly and presenting them as their own.
An increase in benefits would not only have been planned to leave the opposition in tatters, but also to provoke an outcry from the usual National Party cheerleaders, which would convince everyone else that it's a sensible idea.
The move has stunned the opposition, so it can be seen to have worked, but only as a cynical ploy and not an expression of "compassion".
Not only will the benefit boost do little to alleviate poverty, but it is accompanied by cuts to other associated benefits and payments. For example, the accommodation and hardship assistance and the emergency benefit all have less funding in 2015.
Combine that with the closure or scaling back of things like Relationships Aotearoa and mental health services, and the inability or unwillingness of the Government to step in with legislation to ensure basic food and shelter is within reach of everyone, and it all starts to look as flinty-hearted as ever.
Perhaps our Government adheres to the compassionate conservatism of George W. Bush, who liked to bandy the phrase about as a way to distance himself from Republicans like Ronald Reagan. As his former speechwriter Michael Gerson said, "Compassionate conservatism is the theory that government should encourage the effective provision of social services without providing the service itself".
That sounds like the compassionate conservatism practised by those in the 19th century, who were driven by the idea that original sin had made humans lazy, always wanting something for nothing, and that the "right" sorts in society should aid the "deserving" poor to get off their emaciated backsides and get to work.
In a way, this Budget adheres to that notion. It will reward you with a slightly higher benefit, but you have to prove yourself workfit two years earlier (and childcare will swallow any increase in benefit you receive). It will give the poor a little more money in exchange for cutting the funding or selling off services that support everyone.
In the UK there is a movement called the "Good Right" project, which wants non-conservatives to "appreciate the right's moral strengths, and for conservatives to deepen their belief in social justice".
The movement - criticised by the likes of Lynton Crosby - looks to build a conservatism that is more compassionate and visionary.
But to be visionary you'd have to concede there are problems that need fixing, and an even better country that could be built. By that measure, our lot would fall at the first hurdle.
Debate on this article is now closed.