|Grant Robertson: A compliant servant of business interests.|
In September last year Jacinda Ardern said that neoliberalism had failed - but Labour's obsession with debt reduction is a symptom of its loyalty to that same failed neoliberal orthodoxy.
U.K. LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly said that austerity policies are a political decision and not an economic one. Putting his money where is mouth is, he's committed to overturning the failed ideology of neoliberalism and is committed to leading a Labour government that will borrow to fund a much needed boost to the country's infrastructure and other areas of the economy such as a large scale public housing program. It will also increase taxes on the wealthy and renationalise the commanding heights of the economy, such as the energy sector.
Corbyn has that if a Labour government is to truly fight poverty and inequality which has reached 'unacceptable levels', it must overturn an economic model that has only enriched the wealthy and impoverished the poor.
He told the media recently : " "The public are more with us than they have been for a very long time because they are determined to see an end to austerity in this country".
He's right. While the political establishment and its allies in the corporate media continue to attack Corbyn, the national polls have consistently shown Jeremy Corbyn and Labour out in front. Jeremy Corbyn is Britain's next Prime Minister.
Jeremy Corbyn's message is politically liberating. That's not something you can say for the grim message coming out of the Labour-New Zealand coalition.
I suspect that even Jacinda Ardern's most ardent of supporters weren't thinking that 'just doing it' really meant 'business as usual'. But this government is as ideologically fixated with the 'need' for austerity as the previous National-led governments of the past nine years.
Thanks to its Budget Responsibity Rules, conceived by finance minister Grant Robertson when Andrew Little was leader, the Labour-New Zealand First coalition want to reduce core government expenditure to below 30 per cent of GDP, and to reduce government debt to 20 per cent of GDP by 2022.
It is a familiar story. The wealthy won't have to carry any of the economic burden. Instead ordinary folk will, again, pay the price with little or no money to spend in such areas as housing and welfare. Ardern is claiming that the cupboard is bare- we've come a long way in just a few short months when she was declaring her commitment to really tackling poverty.
Right wing commentator Mathew Hooton has suggested that Grant Robertson is not prepared to okay further borrowing because he fears a backlash from business interests.
Hooton gives Robertson too much credit. He is not a hostage to business interests but a complaint servant. Robertson is on record as saying the 'left wing' policies of Jeremy Corbyn would not 'necessarily' work in New Zealand. He certainly has shown no enthusiasm for such policies.
At best Robertson is a technocratic liberal, interested only in managing the market economy but not overturning it. There is nothing in Labour's agenda suggests it wants to swing the swing the levers of economic and political power back toward ordinary people.
People like Hooton or business commentator Bernard Hickey or CTU president Richard Wagstaff might disagree with Labour's ideological dogmatism over debt reduction but that's a long way from having aspirations for a society and economy that isn't presided over by the one percent. That would be the agenda of a truly progressive political party - the party that New Zealand continues to lack.