Is this country losing its marbles?

RICHARD LONG
Last updated 05:00 31/07/2012
ROMNEY
Mitt the Twit? US presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

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Richard Long

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OPINION: The London Sun's “Mitt the Twit” takes gold for the week's political headline. The blundering Republican candidate for the American presidency, in London for the opening of the Olympics, managed to simultaneously insult his hosts while uniting Poms behind the Games organisation after his gaffe questioning preparations.

It was not as if Mr Romney was doing any better at home. While President Barack Obama made a ritual call for gun control (at least of automatic weapons) following the Colorado cinema slaying of 12 people, Mr Romney, with an eye on his Republican base and the National Rifle Association, declared that tougher new gun laws were not the answer.

The corollary of that was that gun sales in Denver increased by 50 per cent over normal. Presumably the citizens of Colorado are getting tooled up. If some other lunatic gunman with a grudge has a go at a cinema audience, then others will draw and fire back. It brings back a nostalgia for the Wild West.

Mind you, a visitor here last week could have taken the view we are also losing our marbles. Our economy is going to hell in a handcart, with Government policies not nearly strong enough to halt the precipitous decline, but the big political issues of the moment, pushed by Opposition parties, seem to be the legalisation of gay marriage, Mondayised public holidays, an increase in paid parental leave and an increase in the minimum wage.

I liked the young enthusiast MP who proclaimed on a television current affairs show that an increased minimum wage would give the economy a boost. That's the trouble with quantitative easing: this international money-printing splurge to try to stave off economic collapse tells the young that money can be invented.

Under the system as most of us understand it, if businesses have to pay their staff more, and for extra public holidays, it generally means fewer staff, fewer recruits being hired, and, if the market will not tolerate higher prices, company collapse. But that was under the old order.

The other twist was the correspondent in a letter to the editor who suggested that as young working mums did not have the time or energy to breed, that task should be assigned to unemployed beneficiaries, as the country would need a pool of workers and we would not get them otherwise. Could someone send this person the documentation to show the dangers of the welfare trap. Unfortunately many children raised in these circumstances tend to have a good prospect of remaining in welfare.

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Former Reserve Bank governor Don Brash delivered an alarming analysis to Canterbury University last week showing our net international indebtedness, which at 70 per cent of GDP is up there with Ireland, Spain and Greece.

We can imagine the reaction to us from international bankers if there is a further collapse in Europe. Yet most Kiwis imagine we will continue to be able to borrow to fund our lifestyles while Opposition MPs continue to invent endless “worthy” causes for state sponsorship.

The final irony for my bad week was the message from a troublemaker, passing on an invitation to a Fabian Society event this week, to be addressed by Dr Peter Davis, husband of former prime minister Helen Clark, on how we can return New Zealand to our once proud tradition of social and economic independence.

The preamble by Fabian Society chairman Mike Smith laments our demoralised public service, United States-style poverty underclass and social and economic decline. One of the wonders of the Clark government, Working for Families, was cited as an example of “landmark” initiatives that could be replicated.

Working for Families is a middle-class welfare device which gives assistance, at vast cost, to families earning as much as $100,000. For fear of an electorate backlash National chose to tinker with it and that other biggest bribe of all, interest-free student loans, rather than abolish them.

Even Mitt the Twit could spot the faults in this envisaged Fabian utopia.

- Wellington

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