Archives for July 2023 | Josie Pagani



Hoon: Free dental care

Josie joined the Hoon podcast on Bernard Hickey's Kaka to free dental care and the week in politics.

Listen here.

One more year for dental care

Labour's law and order week ended with, first, a shooting from a character on home detention who plainly should not have been on home detention. And then, well. Then the justice minister was arrested. Let’s hope they don’t do an economy week next week. Chris Hipkins has looked like the adult son in a suit enduring his mother's third wedding.

In her Post/Stuff column this week, Josie argues Labour should turn its fortunes around with a promise of free dental care paid for by increasing the retirement age by a year.

They have ruled out anything big on tax. There have been kittenish evasions about removing the GST from fruit and vegetables. That would help families, but they need to say what would be cut to pay for it, or else it just looks like an election bribe. How about free or cheap dental care?The obstacle in the way of free or cheap dental care is paying for it. No policy is credible unless you say how to pay for it. Apply this rule to all new policies until the election. The point of politics is to make tough choices. If we want free dental care, then we have to identify something lower priority that we can go without to pay for it.Labour could fund free or heavily subsidised dental care for everyone by increasing the age of eligibility for NZ Super by one year. That would replace one universal entitlement with another.

The case for devolution

In a column for Local Government magazine, Josie makes the case for devolving responsibility for more public services.

In a cosy basement bar in Copenhagen, my Danish friend and I were entertaining ourselves after a couple of beers, listing things that are ‘right wing’, and things that are ‘left wing.’

In the ‘right’ column: roads, pick-up trucks, mullet haircuts (I had to explain that), white bread, reality TV, meat, talk-back radio, fireplaces, the regions, and anything big. In the ‘left’ column: public transport, central government, public servants, beards, brown bread, all vegetables except potatoes (definitely right wing), publicly-funded radio, solar panels, cities and most small things.

Of course, in nearly all these cases, there is, nothing intrinsically left or right about them. They are cultural symbols.

Somehow, we have added devolution of service delivery to this list, perhaps because criticism of centralisation has often been promoted by advocates of user pays and privatisation, and for a long time the Big State delivered social progress like the welfare state.

Read the whole thing here.

How to make tax fairer

"If I could vote for the tax switch Labour ruled out, I would. It would give about 99% of us a $20 a week tax cut. People who have $5 million of assets, as well as the family home, car and boat, would pay nothing. If you had $5,001,050 invested in the Michael Wood portfolio of airports, banks and telcos, you would be about 20 cents a week worse off. Tough, but if you scrimped and budgeted, grew your own veges, cut out smashed avocado cafe breakfasts, you could just get by."

In her Post column this week, Josie argues tit's astonishing how much money can be raised from a wealth tax.

Enough to fund tax cuts for the rest of us, because wealth in this country is so concentrated.

The hard truth for supporters of capital tax, like me, is that Labour have done enough polling to understand that voters are unlikely to vote for a new tax. So where to now?

Labour's tax switch has died in the service of its spending follies. Two projects, a vanity railway across central Auckland and a wild plan to flood Lake Onslow have a combined cost of $50 billion or a sixth of our GDP. No one wants a new tax to fund these bloopers. New Zealand Labour’s tax switch was killed because they made light rail and EV subsidies higher political priorities.

"UK Labour leader Keir Starmer says it's “a big mistake” for the left to equate spending money with radicalism he said this week. “We can’t commit to things without saying how we will pay for them.”

If we want people to accept fairer taxes, we probably need to be less ambitious and introduce them incrementally. The most important unfairness today is the price of land, which is locking over a third of us out of home ownership. So I would start by paying for a tax switch with a land tax that recovers some of the unearned capital gains.

Labour drops to polling low

A new poll shows Labour has dropped to it's lowest result in four years to 31 percent.

Josie discussed it on the radio

- with Corin Dann on RNZ"s Morning Report.

- and with MIKE HOSKING on Newstalk ZB

How science makes the world better

After seeing Neil de Grasse Tyson, Josie wrote this Stuff column:

Some of the draft science curriculum, Te Mātaiaho The Refreshed Curriculum, is welcome. It references “Iearning how to think like a scientist or historian”. As Neil de Grasse Tyson says, "knowing how to think empowers you far beyond those who know only what to think”.

But critics argue the draft curriculum makes no mention of fundamental concepts like gravity, electromagnetism, compounds or molecular bonding.

Maybe those concepts will still be taught, but the balance feels wrong. “Climate” gets 11 mentions, “electricity” and “atoms” three, the periodic table and molecules are mentioned once.

Meanwhile, the draft sneaks in terms like “Western science”. What is that?

Our schools are slipping down the global PISA tables measuring science education. We are creating gated communities of rich kids at private schools expecting to be astrophysicists while the rest, in public schools, get a second class education.

Weakening science education is not fair. It distributes opportunity unevenly, making inequality worse.

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