Why aren't we building back better? We've been in the worst economic and health crisis in living memory and the result is this: the biggest-ever wealth gains for the already wealthy, while the poorest among us have been pushed deeper into poverty.
Meanwhile, our housing programmes are stuck in a quagmire of slow progress and our climate action targets are weaker than they should be. And National has chosen this moment to try to ignite a culture war.
What the hell? Remember the days of "a crisis is an opportunity"? What happened to that?
The economy is strong, we're told, with GDP bouncing back and unemployment lower than expected. These things help everyone, we're told.
But demand for food bank services is now double what it was before Covid.
CoreLogic reports the value of the housing market rose by $278 billion. That helped people who own property, shares or other "assets" become on average $92,000 wealthier in the last year. But renters are paying on average $50 more per week.
In January, Oxfam revealed that Graeme Hart, our richest person, had made almost $3.5 billion since the start of the pandemic. The Child Poverty Action Group says 18,000 more children were pitched into poverty: a 10 per cent increase.
Was it inevitable? The Government printed $60 billion to keep businesses afloat, wages subsidised and the economy from collapsing. All good aims.
But that policy also allowed people with means to make windfall profits, especially from property, and none of it was taxed.
Is it relevant that our 120 MPs own $356 million worth of property among them? I think so. That's an average of almost $3 million each. Maybe they shouldn't be the ones to decide if we're going to tax all income equitably.
The Government will argue that benefits have risen and it's true. But researcher Max Rashbrooke has shown that "clawbacks" mean many beneficiaries don't get all the benefit of that and some are even worse off.
Rashbrooke reports ''some improvement across all of the key measures of poverty", but says there is still a long way to go.
And what is happening in housing is making that distance longer by the day.
Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, rose 3.3 per cent in the year to June: that hits us all. But as the Real Estate Institute reports, median house prices rose 28 per cent in the same period. That harms everyone who does not own a house.
Meanwhile, every climate action proposal is met, in town and country alike, with a chorus of too much, too soon and too inconvenient for me. Often, from people who claim to understand the need for climate-related change.
Why is it like this?
Is the Government moving so hesitantly because there are no votes in doing anything different? I hope they don't think that. A government that makes serious inroads on poverty and housing and sets out a plan for a high-functioning green economy could be in power forever.
None of those goals is easy. But all of them are essential, so why don't they get on with it?
Despite what some say, I don't think it's incompetence. It seems to me there are as many highly skilled ministers now, and as many dull-witted ones, as we've always had.
What about the ministries and other government agencies: those charged with giving Cabinet good expert advice and turning policy into practice? This is surely part of it.
Insufficient administrative skill, or communications know-how, or the right kind of leaders? Or is it, after decades of "restraint", a lack of funding? Or the reverse: an inability to spend money well?
The public service, in so many areas, is now charged with delivering policies that differ from what they're used to. A compassionate rather than gatekeeper approach to welfare, a do-it-right command system for public health, an intention to build rather than sell state houses and to build them quickly, a focus on public transport, integrated urban planning and environmentally sound rural planning. Big new expectations of cultural competency and climate awareness.
You don't have to believe we have a radical reforming government – we don't – to recognise this is no longer the age of business as usual.
Do the public service bosses accept that? Perhaps they lack the structural mechanisms to deliver change? Perhaps too many mandarins are simply unwilling to do what they are asked. Perhaps, after decades of "no surprises" and a fear of mistakes, they're too risk-averse to do anything new.
Perhaps it's all these things. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that in some important respects the administration of Government, especially at senior levels, is not fit for purpose.
It's a tragedy we've got to this. The silver lining of Covid was the chance it offered for enlightened reform. We were going to meet the future, which we all know is going to be tough, with resilience built into our economic and environmental policies, with care for the vulnerable highly prized and an empowering sense that the team of five million just might include all five million.
Even before 2020, there was a moment when it seemed great things might happen. In the 2017 election campaign, poverty was such a big issue the two main parties outbid each other with promises of how many people they would lift out of it. Where's that gone as a vote winner?
If National wanted to, it could develop economic and social policies that allowed it to own the debate on poverty. And on housing. Instead, it's demanding a different kind of debate, and you don't have to scratch it very deeply to discover some unpleasant race-based themes.
There's an absurd irony to this.
National fears "separate development", but modelling by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) suggests that since the March 2020 lockdown, tamariki Māori and Pasifika children have been around 2.5 to 3 times more likely than Pākehā children to be pushed into poverty.
Their whanau were much less likely than Pākehā to be awarded Covid-19 Income Relief Payments and, says CPAG, that's partly because of how the programme was designed. The racism was baked in.
And yet, during the pandemic, as CPAG has shown, Māori health providers, marae, schools and other groups "stepped up to help alleviate distress and meet physical, social, mental and spiritual needs".
Why rail against the "separatism" of He Puapua when our own experience in the pandemic has been that Māori agencies play a vital, leading role in attending to Māori needs? Why on earth not empower them more?
There's something else behind all this. We have a financial system that's stuck. All that extra debt, without it being used to eliminate poverty or even to try.
All that debt, used to warm the property market.
Arthur Grimes, formerly the chief economist and later chair of the Reserve Bank, calls it "the worst wellbeing disaster we've probably had in the last two decades".
We had a pandemic, and this is what we used it for. To turn the housing market into an engine for untaxed and apparently unstoppable wealth creation, for those lucky enough to be already part of it.
And to lock young people and poor people out.
For heaven's sake, enough with Labour's "good news is on its way" campaigning, National's "demand the debate" and the plodding obstructionism of public sector mandarins. We need to fix this now.