You don't need a university degree in economics to know that the New Zealand economy is a cot case.

You might be a victim of the failed free market. You might have been laid off. You might have had the bank foreclose on your home. You might have the debt collectors chasing you. You might be wondering just how you are going to pay for that grocery bill. Maybe you've been forced to go to a food bank like hundreds of other New Zealanders.

If your situation isn't so precarious then you will have seen the growing number of empty shops with the large 'for lease' signs on their windows. You might have been tempted by the hugely discounted consumer products available in the stores that are still in business.

After thirty years of neoliberal policies implemented and promoted by both National and Labour, this is the state of the nation. It ain't Nirvana but it's looking a helluva like a Wasteland.

But we don't have to reply purely on anecdotal evidence. The hard data confirms that all the desperate talk about an 'economic recovery' has been a Big Lie.

Last week it was revealed that the deficit had blown out by $2.2 billion since the May Budget forecasts. The corporate media, seemingly unable to concede that there is no economic recovery, referred to their recovery as 'sluggish'. In the past two years or so the 'economic recovery' has been variously described as 'tentative', 'patchy', 'slow', 'uneven' and 'fragile'. These are some of the platitudes that immediately spring to mind but I'm sure there have been more.

Oh and someone said that the economic recovery was going to be 'aggressive'. That was Prime Minister John Key in September last year, He predicted a big economic upswing for early this year.

Last week Key had another crack at economic prediction. He claimed the economy was 'on track to grow' but added '... a number of countries are going through significant austerity packages ... it's a difficult international environment." Key certainly sounds a less sure of himself doesn't he?

That might because the Minister of Finance's response to the blowout is even more spending cuts. According to Bill English we need more 'ongoing fiscal discipline'. And he ominously added '.. in many ways, restraint in the public sector is only just starting.'

This is will only lead to more economic contraction and more job losses. And we can only shudder at what 'restraint' will mean for the welfare system.

English has continually berated the last Labour government for stoking the economy via government spending and an overheated property market. Labour, argues English, postponed the basic economic adjustments needed to end the recession and renew economic growth, employment, and income.

So English is now 'rebalancing' (his words) the economy. He is desperately trying to revive a neoliberal economic model that has just about collapsed. Under the present economic paradigm Treasury is optimistically forecasting a growth rate of 1.9% a year up until 2014. This would not even provide enough new jobs for the new job seekers entering the market each year.

We've ended up with a low growth, low wage economy along with mass unemployment and underemployment.

A traditional social democratic Labour Party might be expected to offer a Keynesian-strategy of running bigger deficits - pumping the economy- in order to provide a fiscal boost. But this is a Labour Party that has so thoroughly embraced neoliberalism that even Keynesianism is alien to it these days.

While Phil Goff evoked Labour's 'old values' at its recent annual conference there is no evidence that Labour is planning to offer anything more than an argument that it can better manage the capitalist economy. This will be the view that will be promoted by the usual suspects in the media, including the blogosphere.

Missing entirely from this debate is any recognition that capitalism itself is the problem and the solution is an alternative system that isn't beholden to the demands of capitalism.

We seem trapped in an economic paradigm where the level of debate has been reduced to the banal level of arguing that National is 'worse' than Labour.

It's time to move on from the failed orthodoxy and start talking about a real people-centred economic alternative.


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