In what can only be described as an egregious piece of bloody cheek, the $50 million man, our Prime Minister John Key, has told those who can expect to be better off by between 85c and $5 a week after Thursday’s budget, that they should not be envious of the rich because the rich are crucial to the economy. ‘We can be envious about these things but without those people in our economy all the rest of us will either have less people paying tax or fundamentally less services that they provide… But those who pay the top personal rate fit into some core and critical categories for our economy. They include doctors, entrepreneurs often, scientists, engineers, lawyers, accountants, school principals, nurses…’
This will come as distressing news to the nation’s wage and salary earners, whose median annual income is $30,200 but who may nonetheless have considered themselves as fitting into ’some core and critical category for our economy’. They now know better. Nor are they likely to be impressed by Mr Key’s rationale that a tax package favouring the rich is justified because the rich consume more and therefore pay more GST. Who knows, those on low and middle incomes might also like to consume more, perhaps by buying a new washing machine or a car that doesn’t cost them a fortune in repairs or a decent holiday for themselves and the kids. They will have trouble accepting the idea that someone on a hundred grand a year is going to be between five and 30 times better off than them after Thursday.
They may think that consumption is not an equitable standard by which to judge social, or for that matter, economic worth. But then social equity does not appear to be a concern for Mr Key or his government. The budget will simply extend the gap between rich and poor in this country, a significant cause of so many of our social ills, not least violent offending, ironically a vote winner for politicians at election time. So is it reasonable for anyone on a parliamentary salary, let alone Ministers of the Crown or a Prime Minister who made millions as a foreign exchange trader, to counsel those on low and middle incomes not to be envious of the rich who are about to be handsomely rewarded for their wealth, while they are to receive a pittance? I would have thought not. Such advice not only requires a degree of selflessness enjoyed only by saints but a willingness to approach and accept social and economic injustice with equanimity. It is both unreasonable and offensive.