Word of the day


Camarilla –  a  small group of people, esp. a group of advisers to a ruler or politician, with a shared, typically nefarious, purpose; a usually secret group of confidential, often scheming advisers; a cabal.

Popular politics poor policy


Good politics can be bad policy.

Damien Grant makes this point in commenting on Labour’s imprudent policy to raise the top marginal tax rate from 33 cents to 39 in 1999.

This was politically popular with people who earned less than $60,000 and the army of indolent people who thrived under the fifth Labour Government. The idea was to raise more money from the wealthy. It failed.

Government revenue did rise, from 31 per cent of GDP in 1999 to a high water mark of 34.5 per cent in 2006 but this extra tax was not paid by the rich, it was paid by the middle class, workers in PAYE jobs who lacked the ability or creativity of the wealthy and self-employed to do what any self-respecting plumber does – evade tax. . .

Avoid maybe, evade no – that’s illegal.

. . . The share of tax paid by top income earners did not increase once the top rate of marginal tax was raised. More importantly, the cost to the economy of each dollar raised at the rate of 39c was more than the tax collected. Total tax revenue rose as middle-income earners moved into the top tax bracket because of inflation.

When the top tax rate decreased to 33 per cent, the level of tax paid by the top 10 per cent remained the same. . .

The policy might have been good politics, dog whistling to the sock-the-rich constituency. But it didn’t cost the rich as it was intended to and did cost middle-income earners, some of whom then became eligible for welfare through Working for Families.

It would have been far better for those individuals to leave more money in their pockets than churn it though the tax and welfare systems.

And it would have been far better for the country to have people concentrate on maximising their income rather than welfare receipts nor  minimising their tax liabilities.

If good politics can be bad policy the reverse is also the case. Good policy can be bad politics.

That is why we don’t subject all policy to referenda.

Sometimes the majority isn’t right and it needs a government strong enough to stand up for the minority to enact good policy in spite of the politics.

It is possible to get good policy which is also good politics. A government which manages that by taking people with it is a government which is better placed to last more than a term or two.

That might be more likely in these tough times because fewer people are likely to be swayed by vote-buying election platforms when they no there’s no latitude for belt loosening.

But it takes an educated and willing public to buy good policy that’s bad politics which is why bad policy that’s good politics still sells.

MMP review – what will change?


The Electoral Commission’s report on the review into MMP is due to be released today. Anyone with hopes for radical change will be disappointed. There isn’t scope for much to change without turning it into another system altogether.

The most likely recommendation is lowering the threshold to 4%.

If that’s done  I’d like it to be balanced by lifting the threshold for registering as a party to well above the  200  500 members currently required. I can hope, but I’m not holding my breath.

Winning takes team effort


Election campaigns have become a lot more presidential.

With MMP it’s the party vote that counts and its the party leader who becomes the focus.

Between elections the party leader still gets the focus but winning, between or at an election, is still a team effort.

National is still maintaining reasonable levels of support for several reasons. One is the popularity of leader John Key, another is that its caucus is working well and equally importantly working together. Another is that the volunteers are motivated and because of that they too are working well and together.

Winning takes a team effort and that’s what National is giving.

Contrast that with Labour.

Its leader is invisible and when he stands up he’s sabotaged from within – as happened last week when his speech launching a campaign to win the regions was overshadowed by attacks on David Cunliffe.

Its caucus is divided – the attack on Cunliffe shows that as does Mangare MP Su’a William Sio’s call for Louisa Wall to withdraw her gay marriage bill.

The caucus isn’t working together and Matt McCaretn reckons it’s not working at all:

Labour’s problem is not its leader, it’s the caucus. The Green Party in Parliament is less than half Labour’s size yet day after day they prove how lacklustre our main opposition party is. . .

And the volunteers? The party doesn’t have many any more and who can blame those who remain for losing heart?

I’ve reached the point where I really can’t be bothered fighting for a Labour government any more. I don’t really know what the party stands for, and there is an immense amount of crap going on behind the scenes. It’s coming to the fore and it looks ugly. . .

If the parliamentary wing of the party can’t motivate itself it won’t be motivating its volunteers and if its committed members are giving up it won’t make any traction with less committed supporters and swinging voters.

August 13 in history


1516  The Treaty of Noyon between France and Spain was signed. Francis recognised Charles’s claim to Naples, and Charles recognises Francis’s claim to Milan.

1521 Tenochtitlán (present day Mexico City) fell to conquistador Hernán Cortés.

1536  Buddhist monks from Kyōto’s Enryaku Temple set fire to 21 Nichiren temples throughout Kyoto in the Tenbun Hokke Disturbance.

1553  Michael Servetus was arrested by John Calvin in Geneva as a heretic.

1704  War of the Spanish Succession: Battle of Blenheim – English and Austrians wona gainst French and Bavarians.

1790 William Wentworth, Australian explorer and politician, was born (d. 1872).

1792   Louis XVI of France was formally arrested by the National Tribunal, and declared an enemy of the people.

1814  The Convention of London, a treaty between the United Kingdom and the United Provinces, was signed in London.

1818 Lucy Stone, American suffragette, was born  (d. 1893).

1831 Nat Turner saw a solar eclipse, which he believed was a sign from God.

1860 Annie Oakley, American sharpshooter (d. 1926), was born.

1888 John Logie Baird, Scottish television pioneer, was born (d. 1946).

1889  German Ferdinand von Zeppelin patented his “Navigable Balloon“.

1899 Alfred Hitchcock, English film director, was born (d. 1980).

1907 Sir Basil Spence, Scottish architect, was born (d. 1976).

1913  Otto Witte, an acrobat, was purportedly crowned King of Albania.

1913  First production in the UK of stainless steel by Harry Brearley.

1918  Opha Mae Johnson became the first woman to enlist in the United States Marine Corps.

1918 Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) established as a public company.

1920 Polish-Soviet War: Battle of Warsaw began.

1926 Fidel Castro, Cuban revolutionary and politician, was born.

1937 Battle of Shanghai began.

1940  Battle of Britain began.

1951 Dan Fogelberg, American singer/songwriter, was born (d. 2007).

1960 The Central African Republic declared independence from France.

1961 The German Democratic Republic closed the border between the eastern and western sectors of Berlin, to thwart its inhabitants’ attempts to escape to the West.

1968 Alexandros Panagoulis attempted to assassinate the Greek dictator Colonel G. Papadopoulos.

1969 The Apollo 11 astronauts were released from a three-week quarantine to enjoy a ticker-tape parade in New York. That evening, at a state dinner in Los Angeles, they were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Richard Nixon.

1978  150 Palestinians in Beirut were killed in a terrorist attack.

1979  The roof of the uncompleted Rosemont Horizon near Chicago, Illinois collapsed, killing 5 workers and injuring 16.

2004   Hurricane Charley, a Category 4 storm, struck Punta Gorda, Florida.

2004  156 Congolese Tutsi refugees massacred at the Gatumba refugee camp in Burundi.

2005 Former NZ Prime Minister David Lange died.

Death of David Lange

2008 Michael Phelps set the Olympic record for most the gold medals won by an individual in Olympic history with his win in the men’s 200m butterfly.

2011 – The main stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fair during a hurricane-force wind gust ahead of an approaching severe thunderstorm, killing 7 and injuring 45.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia

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