Finance Minister Bill English is presenting his Budget today. Are you excited yet?
TODAY IS THE DAY WHEN the Minister of Finance, Bill English, reads out his government's 2015 Budget. Later the parliamentary debate over its merits - or lack of - will begin. I'm predicting, a few hours before it is delivered , that Labour and the Green's will hammer the failure of the Government to record a surplus and the limited measures to tackle child poverty. This is not much of prediction because it has already been signalled in some of the pre-Budget skirmishes.
Elsewhere, the usual talking heads in the mainstream media will chew over the content of the Budget. Bank economists will talk about what it means for the banks, er, the economy. The CTU will evaluate what it means for their members and will announce a campaign of militant action immediately (not really).
The usual media commentators - who make a comfortable living out of stuff like this - will jostle with each to appear cleverer and more crucial. Rawdon Christie will just try to cover up that he's been getting his 'facts' from Whaleoil again. Mike Hosking will, fairly and objectively, pronounce the Budget to be 'perfect'.
The blog writers will be typing away over a hot keyboard. David Farrar will declare that it is the best Budget since the last one while Martyn Bradbury will condemn it as the worst Budget since the last one. Chris Trotter, befitting his status as 'New Zealand's leading left wing commentator' (Paul Henry), will try to sound vaguely left wing in a responsible 'I support Andrew Little' kind of way.
The Budget and the debate around it will, for me, underline again the severe narrowing of the economic and political horizons that have occurred in this country over the past three decades. It will emphasise, again, just what a grip that neoliberalism has on the national psyche, burying our capacity to imagine an economic and political future that isn't dominated by the demands of capitalism.
While the politicians, the economists, the commentators and the pundits might argue over the details of the Budget there is an underlying agreement that there is no alternative to neoliberalism and the capitalist economy. The argument is merely about the best way to tinker with the machine, rather than whether we should overthrow the machine itself and start again. Given that the machine threatens to destroy our planet it is certainly a 'relaxed' approach to take.
If we had a political party in parliament that was really opposed to the established order, that was really opposed to the old and cosy ways of doing things, then it would be using today to present A PEOPLE'S BUDGET, a budget that describes and details a clear economic alternative to neoliberalism and signposts an altogether different future. I'd be excited about that and I think a lot of other people would be too. Like the million or so people who don't bother to vote because nothing ever changes.
We won't, of course, be getting anything like that. Labour leader Andrew Little is too busy getting chummy with 'business leaders' while the Green Party are still in pursuit of a kinder and greener capitalism. It really is BUSINESS as usual.
While the Budget says that capitalism is 'the only game in town' the only relevant response is to say that we don't want to play that game anymore. I can confidently predict that very few people will be saying that today, especially within the convivial and backslapping arena of mainstream politics where the politicians, economists, commentators and pundits play.