Tagged: white middle class bastards

A bit of nitpicking/clarification on KiwiBuild

I’ve been working over in my head just what it is about Labour’s KiwiBuild policy that bugs me so much.  As many of its defenders and supporters say, Labour does have time to iron out any issues of costing, it’s not meant to be the panacea to all housing ills, there is more they can do to focus on the needs of non-middle-class families.

Of course, all that requires you to believe that David Shearer and his team didn’t think it was important to get all that stuff sorted before  the Speech That Will Prove Shearer Is Our New Left God Emperor, but that’s not something that would really surprise me.

My lightbulb moment struck while listening to The Egonomist, wherein rather nice things were said about me.  It’s about this bit in the information sheet put out to explain KiwiBuild:

No household type will receive preference over any other household type. Nor will there be any income restrictions. On the whole, people will ‘self-select’, with those who can afford to move up the property ladder excluding themselves

I’ve already had a wee rant about how obnoxious it is for a supposedly left-wing party to talk big about “affordable” housing and “hardworking Kiwis” and then not actually bother to ensure that hardworking Kiwis who are on, say, the median wage will actually be able to afford those homes.

But that’s not actually the biggest problem.

The biggest problem is that KiwiBuild supporters are sitting there saying “we have time to tie off the loose ends, this isn’t the complete policy” … but it’s complete enough that senior people in the Labour Party have already had the conversation about income levels.  They’ve already designed a key message to explain why there are no barriers to very, very well-off people getting into these houses.

They’ve happily left a gigantic hole in the policy about how long you’ll have to own the house before you can flip it – because I guess it was too hard to pluck a number out of the air – but they’ve explicitly decided, and tried to excuse, not excluding the wealthy from KiwiBuild.

That’s a fucking worry.

If there were just no mention of income levels, you could say “hey, they haven’t said how they’ll make sure this doesn’t get exploited by wealthy people!  Silly Labour, work that shit out before pinning your leader’s career to it!”

But in a policy where the numbers are clearly wonky (because no one could even be bothered figuring out how much land costs in Auckland) and important conditions haven’t be determined (5 years?  10?) and right after trying to sell the whole thing as a return to the great public building projects of old, Shearer’s had to explain that actually the whole thing is dependent on the private sector … they still had the time to spell out that wealthy people can just be trusted not to rort the system.  They still prioritised that as something that needed to be explained in their literature.  

So it’s not just that the policy is open to exploitation by the wealthy.  It’s that this has already been signed off as not being a problem.  Not being something that needs to be addressed.

So who the fuck are these houses being built for again?

Shearer’s conference speech: was that all?

Events have obviously overtaken this post, but I’m keeping it anyway because it’s nice to be able to come back to these things five years down the track and remind myself that I was right all along. /hubris

Disclaimer:  Yes, I’m a Shearer-hater.  Yes, I was probably never going to be completely impressed by what he said, because it would have required a complete personality transplant and 180-degree turnaround of the entire party’s approach since Clark left.

So if that discredits my opinion, by all means go read other posts on the subject.  Plenty of other people think Shearer’s speech was the second coming of “I have a dream to fight them on the beaches”.

This is an Ideologically-Impure only post because after the weekend I’m well out of energy to have pointless circular arguments against people who oppose actually arguing with what I actually say.  Bitchy but true.

Here’s the first three-quarters or so of David Shearer’s speech in bullet points:

  • National bad
  • Labour != National
  • New direction needed

It’s thrilling stuff, really.  And a few faux-policy announcements:

  • Manufacturers good, controlling exchange rates good (unspecific)
  • R&D good (unspecific)
  • Capital gains tax (dear God, an actual concrete policy!  But details unspecified)
  • Compulsory KiwiSaver good, primarily for stock market (concrete policy to support the stock market!  Yay!)
  • Productivity good, minimum wage going up good (unspecified)
  • Local procurement good (where it’s good)
  • New approach to education (unspecified)
  • Helping Christchurch good (unspecified)

So, yeah.  Nice headlines (except for compulsory KiwiSaver, but that’s something for another post) but very little concrete policy.  Which is probably OK, because all of that was building to

~KIWIBUILD~

A policy apparently largely designed around someone coming up with a cool name.

The bullet points here are superficially awesome:

  • Put 100,000 families into their first home!
  • Building programme to grow economy!
  • Kiwi dream!

(Oh, and a Healthy Homes policy copy-pasted from the previous Green Party election manifesto.)

Unfortunately, KIWIBUILD looks a hell of  a lot less impressive when you examine the details.

Cost

From the much-vaunted factsheet:  “Estimates of the cost of a modest entry-level home suggest they can be built for less than $300,000, especially when building is undertaken on a large scale”

The price of the homes will be set at a rate sufficient to fully cover the Crown’s costs, including land, construction and finance costs.

A small 1% margin on top of the Crown’s cost of borrowing is sufficient to ensure the programme is self-funding over the long term, while still keeping the homes as affordable as possible.

So, that’s $300,000 just in construction, plus the cost of land, plus cost of financing, plus 1%.  Let’s call it around $350,000 all up for the 1/3 of the houses which aren’t being built in Auckland, and you’re looking at a 10% deposit of $35,000, 5% deposit of $17,500.

That looks totally affordable for someone on the median wage of $29k.  Why, in a double-income household on the median wage, that 5% deposit is only 30% of your pay before tax!

Eligibility

This is the big one for me, especially since you would think Labour had learnt something from the lack of top-end limits on Working for Families.

Factsheet again:

No household type will receive preference over any other household type. Nor will there be any income restrictions. On the whole, people will ‘self-select’, with those who can afford to move up the property ladder excluding themselves

Yep, you read that right.  There is no income limitation on this scheme.  This programme to change our nation’s direction and help hard-working, struggling Kiwis realise the dream of home ownership … and there’s nothing to stop those houses going to rich pricks.  Nothing to stop the 1% subsidising their kids into first homes care of the taxpayer.

I’ve been told that this isn’t a problem because rich people only want to live in mansions.  Which I can only assume means there are no problems with rich people using public healthcare when they can afford private, no problems with rich people sending their kids to public schools when they can afford private, and no problems at all with rich people hiding their income in trusts because hey, why would they when they can afford to pay higher taxes?

Oh, and there’s a currently-undefined (because why would you nail down the details of your cornerstone policy before announcing it at the biggest event your party has all year?) time limit for people to stay in those houses or suffer some currently-undefined penalty.  That’ll weed out the people looking for a government-subsidised investment for sure!

Language

There’s also the problem of rhetoric:  as much as this is about ~the Kiwi dream~ it’s satured with phrases like “entry-level home” and “housing ladder”.  What’s wrong with just owning a house?  Why is it automatically a stepping-stone to Robert Kiyosaki fantasies of massive wealth?  Isn’t that approach to property kind of a big part of the problem?

Finding a consistent message amongst the soundbites

Someone find me the speechwriter responsible for this, please, I’d just like five minutes alone with them in a room.  And maybe a pin.

We’ve always been a creative, innovative people with a ‘can do’ attitude.

Respected and admired across the globe.

Down to earth. Willing to give it a go.

We need that new direction now more than ever.

So … the “new direction” is the same as the “old direction”?  We need a new direction which is the same as the direction we used to go in but now don’t even though our reputation has remained relatively constant?

The upshot

Labour’s big sexy policy which has apparently instantly rejuvenated Shearer’s leadership is  full of rightwing rhetoric about property.  It’s not going to help people who are actually on low incomes and it’s hugely vulnerable to exploitation by the people who don’t need it.  Meanwhile, we’re meant to just take it on Shearer’s word that there’s some exciting policies about education, research and development, manufacturing, fiscal policy, coming any day now (drink!)

Sure, he managed to speak well, by all accounts.  But am I on fire for Labour – am I inspired by this speech?  Compared to other things coming out of conference, like an increased voice for the membership, some strong policy remits on schools and civics and marriage equality (though that one could get a little problematic)?  Nup.

Because come on, people.  The biggest policy smackdown they could come up with involves wealthy people excluding themselves from a handout.  Awesome.

Related reading:  Danyl’s view of the speech, with this fantastically brilliant point:

Although it occurs to me that developing left-wing policies is pretty easy in 21st century New Zealand. You just look about for the top dozen-or-so catastrophic market failures, pick one, think of the most blindingly obvious solution, and there’s your policy.

New record set in ironic racism

This article was referred to me by my partner, who enjoys watching me pace around our house occasionally crying out “I MEAN, SERIOUSLY?”

Furious Devonport residents are threatening to occupy a naval base in a move usually used by Maori to draw attention to disputed land.

What’s wonderful about that opening line is the way it signals ever so subtly that “Devonport residents” and “Maori” are mutually-exclusive groups of people.

What’s simultaneously tragic and hilarious is how our media are taking this all very seriously.  I mean, these people have occupied this land, sometimes for generations!  They have a bond to it!  And now the Crown, damn them, is just trampling all over their rights by conducting a commercial transaction over a piece of non-residential, no-longer-required-by-the-Navy, doesn’t-affect-access-to-any-beaches-but-might-mean-there-are-brown-people-on-them land.

Land which, just incidentally, the buyers originally owned/occupied.

But there’s no room for any analysis or questioning of this narrative, no room to acknowledge “oh hai, one of the reasons y’all have such mighty property values might have something to do with us fucking over the indigenous people of the area”.  Nope, it’s all straight-faced “this is our land, why aren’t you consulting the community!” right up to the point of threatening to occupy the land.

Why people’s heads aren’t imploding from sheer irony is baffling to me.  Why the same demographic of people [warning: generalisations inbound] who elect National MPs, who buy into rhetoric about how The RMA Just Stifles Development and We Need To Deregulate The Building Industry, now have the sheer gall to say “but they [read: brown people with ideas above their station] might just build a lot of infill housing and threaten our infrastructure, honest that’s my concern!” is a testament to the massive privilege they enjoy.

You’re not the righteous little guy standing up to the big mean [brown] Goliath, residents of Devonport.  (I mean come on, it’s fucking Devonport.)  You are the Goliaths.  I can tell, you see, by the way your whinging about “community” and “consultation” and “access to the beaches” are getting taken seriously.

‘Cause let’s be honest, if you were Ngati Whatua and you wanted to cross some failed finance company CEO’s beachfront backyard to get to ancestral shellfish grounds to provide food to your marae as you’ve done for hundreds of years?  You’d probably be shit out of luck.  I’m guessing.

Family Fist: Poor brown people are obviously just more evil

Well, that’s my take on this piece of dogwhistling, anyway.

Oh, sure, it sounds nice and reasonable.  We don’t want to waste Mah Taxpayer Dollars monitoring obviously good parents, right?

Until you think about how exactly you personally are defining “obviously good parents”, and perhaps figuring out that it might be the teensiest bit subjective.  And also really mostly based on stereotypes about poor brown people bashing their kids to death because they’re inherently primitive.

Really, let’s just consider this supposedly-eminently-sensible list of criteria from one-man-lobby-group Bob McCoskrie:

“How many times in abuse cases have we heard ‘the family was known to CYF’? It is families where there is family breakdown and instability, drug and alcohol abuse, low maternal age, mental illness, previous family violence – all the risk factors highlighted in reports over the past decade on child abuse – who we should be closely monitoring.”

Totally sensible.  But … you know what?  Every single item on that list applies to my family.  Divorces galore, alcoholism in spades, teenage pregnancies left right and centre, depression, anxiety, history of generational physical abuse …

All the risk factors.

But were we “known to CYFS”?  Did anyone think shit, here’s a family we need to keep an eye on, because there’s clearly some big issues which could result in severe harm?

Nup.

The family home being located in one of the richer streets of Epsom, and the family complexion ranging from “pasty” to “lightly tanned”, maaaaaaaay just have something to do with that.

But I guess as soon as we start listing other “risk factors” like lack of access to education and housing and healthcare and jobs, we might have to start wondering if maybe we as part of the wider society have a tiny weensy hand in this whole deprivation/poverty thing.

And then we wouldn’t be able to create a police state around the specific groups of people who we don’t like.

Minor breakouts of major gripes

I’d long ago realised that part of the reason I post cussy rants about things that seem like just small issues, not a huge deal, isn’t there something more important to worry about – is because those “small issues” just tap into much bigger problems.

Today, two such small issues reared their annoying heads.

The continuing saga of Oh Noes The Brown Man Said A Mean Word broke out on Red Alert, with Hon Trevor insert-duck-to-water-metaphor-here Mallard chipping in to the debate:

If a Pakeha used the term brown mofos it would be racist.  That standard should apply both ways.

Which actually hits several big Pisses Me Right The Fuck Off buttons.  But to summarise:  using the argument of “the same standard” is so close to “one law for all” they couldn’t legally marry in all 50 states of the US.  It’s “special rights”, it’s “level playing field”, and it’s bullshit.

There isn’t a fucking level playing field when one group of people has been historically shat on by another from orbit.  There isn’t a tabula rasa of race relations where such lovely “can’t we all just be equals and ignore skin colour and historical disenfranchisement and oh we tried to destroy your language and culture” ideas can be writ large.

There is a basic reason why a person of Maori descent can refer to “white motherfuckers stealing our land” which does not hold true for a person of European descent saying “brown motherfuckers stealing our car”.  That reason is privilege.  Learn you some.

Second small issue:  in the continuing if-they-wrote-this-for-TV-no-one-would-believe-it tale of Doug Schmuck and some possibly-dodgy legislative drafting, one quote nicely put its thumb directly on my White Middle Class Bastards Who Just Love Law And Order Until It Applies To Them button.

The 15-year fight for the Opua boat ramp had taken “a hell of a lot of time” and cost Mr Schmuck close to $200,000. “A few objectors can run the costs up so high that it makes things like the Resource Management Act untenable,” he said.

Ah, yes.  You can always spot a WMCBWJLL&OUIATT, by the way they seem completely oblivious of the fact that the law still counts even when it might stop them from doing something they want to do.

The classic example is provided every time there’s a Police crackdown on speeding, possibly by, oh the horrors, using hidden speed cameras.  Now, you might think “well if people don’t want to get speeding tickets they could try not speeding”, but such thoughts do not pass through the brains of White Middle-Class Bastards. No no no, this is just a revenue gathering exercise.

It’s not like their own speeding could cause accidents or cost people their lives or anything.  We all know that speed only kills when it’s those bloody Asian homestay students whose rich daddies send them thirty grand a month to buy Ferraris and meth with, obviously.  The laws of physics are very specific on this.

The other classic, of course, is the killing of Pihema Cameron – where the Your Sensible Is Not Like Our Earth Sensible Sentencing Trust decided that actually, that whole “tough punishment for violent crims is the way to save society” line didn’t so much count when the stabber was a rich white guy and the victim was [insert stereotype about Maori teenage boys here].

And so we have (oh Gods it makes me giggle every time) Doug Schmuck.  Who has been nearly bankrupted, dear readers, by busybodies and that bane of the WMCB, the Resource Management Act.  All because he built a private fucking boat ramp on a fucking public reserve.

It’s almost like some people expect Good Hardworking [White Male] Businessmen to obey the law or something.  Don’t they understand the law is for the little people?