The Green Party’s major new election policy for a wealth tax has, not unexpectedly, had a mixed reception, not least from politicians of other parties.
The policy to tax the wealthy to fund a payment of at least $325 a week for anyone not in full-time work, predictably brought cheers from trade unions and child poverty lobby groups. But it provoked scorn from the other side of the fence, where the idea undermines the core principle of capitalism as the driver of economic growth.
Interestingly, one sample of public opinion on the issue showed 85% against—and only 15% in favour.
But that lopsided result has its upside for the Greens and brings a glow to those within the Green Party who worked up the policy. It could guarantee the Green Party is not overwhelmed by the halo effect at present enveloping Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, which could result in the kind of election landslide delivering an outright majority in Parliament for Labour.
If it lifted the Green Party’s current ratings of around 6-7% to double-digit levels it would be a major victory.
The Greens say their policy will only hit the wealthiest 6% of New Zealanders, but contend it will raise $8bn a year (are they dreaming?).
Ardern was quick to distance Labour from its junior partner’s idea, saying that it included some “fairly heroic assumptions”.
She insists Labour’s policy will “look very different”.
As for NZ First, Winston Peters blasted it as “nuts”. And he quoted his patron saint:
“As Churchill once said ‘for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle’”.
Tim Murphy, on Newsroom, reads more into the Greens’ policy move. He interprets it as a “cunning plan” aimed at securing the Greens sufficient party votes from this policy plank to give them room to prod Labour towards a welfare-tax-income support policy that might emulate the circuit-breaking First Labour Government of the 1930s.
Newstalk ZB political editor Barry Soper has a different view.
“It’s too easy to dismiss the Greens’ Poverty Action Plan as a flight of fantasy – pie in the sky stuff that’ll never happen. But think again. Making policy like they’re planning takes power. And while the Greens may not have it at the moment, it could be a very different story after September 19.
“The power in this government lies with the Winston Peters’ handbrake party, NZ First, the only party in the formal coalition. The Greens’ opinion poll rating has been pretty consistent – above the 5% – whereas Labour’s coalition cobbers are struggling at 2 to 3%.”
Soper concludes the chances are that after September 19, the Greens could well be where NZ First was after the last election and able to make demands – such as moving tax rates for those earning over a hundred grand to 37%, and those on $150,000 having 42% of their income going into the government’s pocket.
“Does anyone think Labour would fight against tax increases?”.
And then there is this possibility: many voters, besides those who already qualify to be “wealthy” in the Greens definition, might be so worried at the prospect of the new tax kicking in as their income prospects flourish, that they regard Winston Peters’ opposition to it as the key to how they should cast their ballots.
He’s the man who needs to be back in Parliament to kill it off. The wealthy, and those who hope to be wealthy, might decide NZ First has to be back in Parliament to ensure the tax never reaches the statute book.
The Greens – in effect – have thrown NZ First a political lifeline if a significant slice of would-be National voters decide the safest play in the current electoral circumstances is to put “handbrake Harry” (Winston Peters) back into Parliament.