|James Shaw and Marama Davidson: Could they live on $325 a week?|
The Green Party's new welfare and tax policies will do little to address the problem of growing inequality. They won't eradicate the economic conditions that create poverty in the first place.
WHILE FORMER GREEN MP Sue Bradford thinks that the Green's new welfare policy represents a 'major step' out of the 'neoliberal box', I think she's being far too optimistic. Maybe she's just trying to be encouraging. In reality the Green Party is still firmly ensconced within its neoliberal paradigm. In its entirety, the Green's economic loyalties still remain with neoliberalism to the extent that even its climate changes polices have been determined by market considerations. The Green's fantasy of a 'green capitalism' means it thinks that a target of supposed carbon neutrality by 2050 is acceptable - even when the scientific community has repeatedly warned we have less than a dozen years to get our act together or it'll be too late.
The Green's might say that its new welfare and tax policy is a 'poverty action plan' (according to Green MP Golriz Ghahraman) but its merely treating the symptoms of the disease itself. I don't have any problems with a wealth tax, its a good idea, but it should be part of an economic manifesto to overhaul the entire New Zealand economy. It should be part of a Green New Deal. A GND recognises that the crises we face -of climate change, inequality, poverty, housing - are not isolated issues. They are the product of a broken economic system that invariably and necessarily prioritises profit over people and planet. But there is no recognition of this in the Green's new welfare and tax policies. When major economic surgery is required the Green's are offering an economic band aid
A GND requires us to imagine a more public, community-led form of ownership, which prioritises wellbeing, shared rather than private wealth, and the stewardship of public resources and commons. But, as it stands, the proposed wealth tax offers little in the way of an alternative economic vision and is confined to 'improving' the welfare system. It certainly won't eradicate the economic conditions that create poverty in the first place and its got nothing to say about new forms of economic ownership.
Co-leader Marama Davidson might claim that the Green's policy 'is about creating a society where we can all move forward - not just the wealthiest few', but simply paying the victims of our economic system a little bit more in the way of a welfare benefit does nothing to address New Zealand's growing level of inequality. It doesn't even hint of a more just society. To do that the Green's would be have to be prepared to truly take on corporate power and it won't do that - not under its present conservative leadership.
In the end the proposed tax changes will lead to welfare beneficiaries getting little more than $325 week, which still isn't enough to live on. Its worth remembering that the Labour-led Government decided that workers who lost their jobs as a consequence of the lock down should get $490 a week.
The Green Party are unlikely to get these policy proposals past the Labour Party anyway, assuming it is voted back into office and it doesn't obtain a majority. Given the Green Party's complete failure to challenge the Labour-led Government during the past three years, its unlikely to start shaking the boat during a Labour second term.