Beware derangement syndrome

April 27, 2020

When Winston Peters put Labour in power I was determined that I wasn’t going to get Ardern Derangement Syndrome.

I’d seen far too much stupidity from people who suffered from Key Derangement Syndrome and was determined not to follow their silly example of making politics personal in this way.

It hasn’t always been easy, but so far I have been able to resist developing ADS.

I accept the PM is a warm and intelligent woman and I’d probably enjoy her company.

However, retaining resistance to ADS doesn’t extend to echoing the adulation that has been heaped on her from many quarters.

That is, as Andrea Vance points out, unhealthy:

Politicians should not have fans. By placing our leaders on a pedestal, it creates an unhealthy and polarising dynamic. 

There is evidence of it already in our online political discourse. Any criticism of the Government’s policies and measures is met with a wave of venom.

Even gentle questioning – by opponents, interest groups or the media – is seen as a personal attack on Ardern. 

It’s also often seen as sexism which is tiresome.

That’s because when people blindly align themselves to one party and their leader, they tend to overlook the negative effects of their decisions.

Those who seek to hold Ardern to account over flu vaccines, personal protective equipment in the health system, or confusion about restrictions, are villainised or strafed with ‘whataboutism.’ . . 

When Ardern is fronting the government that has imposed unprecedented and draconian restrictions on what we can do, at a huge personal, social and economic cost, she must be questioned and questioned hard.

That doesn’t mean personal criticism of her but nor does it  mean uncritically repeating her lines such as going early, going hard.

The initial response to Covid-19 was neither.

Then there are legitimate questions over the arbitrary decisions over what businesses and which goods and services have been considered essential under level four lockdown and the economic and social costs of all that.

Candidates will always be judged on their likeability. But infusing politics with an over-the-top “stan culture” turns elections to a sports game, where we are invested in only who wins, not policy or ideology.

And it upends what the political system should be. Prime Ministers are our civil servants, beholden and accountable to us. It should not be a one-sided relationship.

Hero worship eventually reduces our complex, and occasionally flawed, political figures to one-dimensional icons.

Just because Ardern is remarkable, does not mean she is always right.

Over at Croaking Cassandra, Ian Harrison explains six times she has been factually wrong.

He’s found factual errors in what she’s said on transmission rates, the number of cases per 10,000, the number of deaths, containing the pandemic, mortality rates and testing rate.

Steve Elers also says the PM must be held to account over her claims:

During the Covid-19 daily briefings I’ve found myself yelling at the TV screen and sometimes even throwing things at it. Why? Because our journalists seem far too chummy with the prime minister instead of fulfilling their role as the watchdog for society.

A healthy democracy requires the news media to hold power to account, regardless of who is in power, and to question government decisions, just like when the prime minister says: “Elimination doesn’t mean zero cases, it means zero tolerance for cases.” . . 

For the health and wellbeing of my TV, I hope the news media will start holding power to account. If journalists can’t find the motivation within themselves to ask critical questions of the prime minister, perhaps they should imagine she is Simon Bridges.

Or perhaps not.

At least some seem to have Bridges Derangement Syndrome where it’s not what he says but that it’s he who says it or the way he says it that becomes the focus of criticism.

Just as putting a politician on a pedestal is wrong, so too is unfairly pulling one back and the media does us a disservice if it lets derangement syndrome get in the way of reasoned reporting and analysis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Poor pay less and more

June 29, 2018

Transport Minister Phil Twyford says the poor will pay less fuel tax than wealthier people.

He’s right in dollar terms but if he’s worried about the impact that’s not what matters, it’s the proportion of income that counts:

“Transport Minister Phil Twyford is either very brave or very stupid in arguing that fuel taxes are easiest on the poor,” says Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke.
 
“He is doggedly focusing on the dollar impact of the fuel tax, and ignoring the cost as a proportion of total income.”
 
“It’s no surprise that rich people buy more fuel – they buy more of everything. But people on low incomes spend a far larger proportion of their income on fuel, meaning a tax hike will have a far bigger effect on their real quality of life.”
 
“It only takes five minutes to graph Twyford’s figures and see the real impact of fuel tax.”

“The verdict is clear: fuel taxes whack the poorest almost four times as hard as they whack the richest.”
 
“It’s stunning to see such selective ignorance from a centre-left Minister who is meant to understand issues of fairness and equality. Isn’t this stuff Labour Party 101?”

As David Farrar points out, the poor consume less of almost everything (except tobacco) but spend a higher proportion of their income on it

The cost of the fuel tax will be greater for higher income people but the poor will pay more of what they earn on it:

Now let’s look at the average incomes for each decile

  • Decile 1 – under $23,900
  • Decile 5 – $64,400 to $80,199
  • Decile 10 – over $188,900

So the extra fuel tax as a percentage of income is:

  • Decile 1: 0.52%
  • Decile 5: 0.27%
  • Decile 10: 0.14%

Let’s not forget it’s not just the direct cost that will hit the poorest hardest.

Every service and all goods with a transport component (and can you think of anything that doesn’t have one?) will be impacted by the tax and that will, sooner or later, lead to price increases, inflationary pressure and interest rate rises.

The Ardern/Peters/Shaw/Davidson coalition government, all parties in which purport to represent and work for the poor, is adding to the cost of living and making life harder for them.

And adding to that is yesterday’s announcement we’ll all be paying an extra 10.5 cents a litre over the next two years in excise tax.

P.S.

Michael Redell writes on regressivity, petrol taxes, and ministerial PR at Croaking Cassandra.

Thomas Lumley examines the issue at Stats Chat.

Sam Warburton tweets on it here.

 


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