Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Beyond the mindset

The 2008 Budget delivered by Finance Minister Michael
Cullen on May 22, and the media coverage since, have
both been remarkable for the striking absence of the
burning issues of our time: global warming and the
exhaustion of the fossil fuels upon which modern society
has relied so heavily. Cullen made only glancing reference
to these issues and their enormous impact on every aspect
of the economy, and then only to say that householders
needed and deserved "relief"—in the form of tax cuts—from
such pressures. It was further evidence, as if we needed
any, of the mindset that pigeonholes "environmental"
issues separately from "economic" ones. They are of course
one and the same, but unless our politicians can get their
heads around that, we're stuck in the same old rut. John Key
is no better: he spoke the other day of balancing economic
and environmental needs, as if the latter were just trees and
water and stuff inimical to the real business of making
money. Only the Green Party stands outside that mindset:
as co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons told Kathryn Ryan on
Radio New Zealand National this morning, the proposed
Emissions Trading Scheme—in all its glorious inadequacy—
is actually a far more significant piece of legislation than
any of the Budgetary measures announced last Thursday.
To deliver a Budget of which the post-oil age is not the
centrepiece is like having a party without the host being
present. And running out of food and drink very fast.

1 comment:

Truth Seeker said...

Labour is constrained on climate change and peak oil and similar issues because the broad public still aren't seeing these as vote changing issues.

National is in an even tougher spot as many (if not most) of it's supporters actively deny there is anything to worry about never mind do anything.

The recent efforts by Owen McShane and others to muddy the waters and create hesitation, even confusion, among voters has has some success and helped push climate change off the agenda.

The media have been banging on about tax cuts without paying much, if any attention to what that tax actually pays for. There is a lot of talk about "waste" and bureaucracy, but few concrete examples that add up to millions of dollars, never mind billions.

Having been through many electoral cycles now, perhaps I can be forgiven for concluding the usual set of election time media "narratives" are nothing other than distractions from the important issues. The same formulas are trotted out election after election without apparent regard for what is actually important in the world NOW.

I won't bore you with a long list of things that are very important, but rarely mentioned in the media.

I'll just give one example: How the Bush tax cuts of 2001, conceived during the tech boom, lead to the housing bubble, monster deficits, higher interest rates and the credit crunch....and all very predictable. Economist and NY Times columnist, Paul Krugman, was forecasting what we're seeing now back in 2001 in his columns and his book "The great Unravelling" of several years ago. These events are why we - the world - are where we are today.

None of this is acknowledged or referred to in the election campaign so far. We, the public, have been poorly served and there is much that most of us do not know. To learn these things, you had to go looking for it.

It's partly our own fault, too. Too many of us don't lift a finger to find out what we need to know. It's all out there. But it's safer to know nothing. Then you can't be held responsible for anything.

The buck needs to stop with the voter. It's out democracy and we need to pay attention to what's important. We could use a little help there. Real help. Not party hack help. We've had too much of that already.