We need the wealthy and the talented more than they need us. Their skills are international, their enterprise is universal. They can make more money, live better lifestyles and generally advance their family’s prospects better in countries more developed than our own. Australia, North America, the UK and even the new Asia. [Michael Laws, 23 May 2010]
What’s wrong with this statement? This wasn’t really going to be a post-budget post, but in a way it is. It has to be because this budget has been celebrated in some circles as somehow “fair” in terms of tax redistributions and certainly as being “good for business”. The implication there is that what’s good for business and business owners is good for all of us. In fact, that’s not the case. The budget favours the wealthy and as Michael Laws argues, so it should, because we must be grateful for any crumbs that drop from the top table.
But, how do the rich get that way? Is it really because of their talent? Am I, and are we, as Laws suggests, just envious of their elegant ways and clever business acumen? Or are these tall poppies actually gold-plated jerks in need of chopping down?
Do we really need wealthy people like Mark Bryers — a thief, liar and luxury rooter?
And, Rod Petricevic? Of course we need his wealth and talent. At least his Bridgcorp saps do, if they want to see any of their retirement savings again. Petricevic has thankfully been called to account for a missing $1.2 billion of investors money. Unfortunately most of it is gone into whatever offshore accounts and other black holes the talented con-artist can find.
The Serious Fraud Office has accused Bridgecorp director Rod Petricevic of making fraudulent payments totalling more than $1 million to a “sham” business run by a personal acquaintance.
The SFO yesterday filed seven criminal charges, two of which relate to $1.2 million in Bridgecorp funds that Petricevic allegedly paid to an enterprise run by Auckland woman Janita Wright. [Gregor, 20 May 2010]
Ah, he’s a bright spark and surely on Michael’s Xmas list.
But what tangible benefits has rich-lister, property developer and Moet guzzler Mark Hotchin brought to New Zealand, apart from a $50 million incomplete Taj Mahal in Parasite Drive, Orakei? In case you’ve forgotten, this is a recap of how Hotchin and his pals got to be so wealthy. Oh yeah, they took money off Kiwi mums and dads, pissed most of it up against the wall and then walked away laughing; it was, of course, Hanover Finance.
Hanover, co-founded by Mr Hotchin and Eric Watson, left more than 16,000 investors out of pocket when it froze $554 million worth of assets.
The two businessmen took $91 million in dividends in the years before it defaulted on payments to investors.
They have been criticised for continuing extravagant lifestyles while investors, many of them elderly, wait for their returns.
Hotchin’s useless, but glamorous wife, Amanda, suffers from what columnist Fran O’Sullivan describes as the Marie Antoinette complex (let them eat cake).
“We don’t have to justify where we get our money or what it’s spent on, to anyone,” was the brush-off Amanda Hotchin gave when Sunday Star-Times reporter Jonathan Marshall, who had the temerity to pursue the Hotchins to Hawaii, asked how they were funding their stay in a $43,000-a-month hideaway. [Mrs Hotchin shows the wrong attitude]
Then there’s Mr Eric Watson and Mrs Nicky (underwear model) Watson. A talented couple of high flyers and tall poppies who also make the rich list thanks to some less than transparent business dealings. I certainly don’t know how to sashay down the runway in my bra and nickers, so I guess Mrs Watson must have some talent. But Eric? I’m not so sure. I have been told by someone who knew him very well during his Warrior days that he is notoriously cheap and doesn’t like to pay his bills.
There’s a famous story about a birthday party (not the lavish 50th of his bro Hotchin) where invited guests were then sent an invoice for their champagne and pommes frittes. The talent on display here is that of being able to enjoy (in a callous way) stiffing your pals and peers.
Don’t even get me started on the Kiwi “Mr Trump”. He also knows how to party hearty while his creditors wait in the rain for cheques that don’t seem to materialise without some tough prompting. Poor old cash-strapped tycoon. Michael, send a donation quickly unless we lose the valuable Mr Serepisos to the Cayman Islands.
I’m also a little gob-smacked at Mr Laws’ definition of “wealthy” – an income of around $70,000 year. Fuck me with a spade if I’m wrong, but doesn’t $70K only seem like a lot because wages in New Zealand are so fucking low in the first place?
$70 grand is not wealth Mr Laws; it’s barely a survivable income (disclosure, I earn more than $70K). It’s enough to keep the bailiffs away and to pay a small mortgage. If you’ve got kids and you’re on one income it’s just about going to keep your family in cereal and shoes if you shop at Pack’n'Save and Payless. Bugger the overseas holidays (except maybe the Gold Coast or Raro). It isn’t going to get you to Paris, or to South Africa for the World Cup.
It is only the uber-rich (and I think Laws is in this category, even though he pleads a very useful “rags to riches” story) who show such disdain for the middle class and for the working poor.
The middle class are actually workers too you see. They are ‘grey collar’, slightly better off than their blue collar workmates, but by no means wealthy. Even the petit bourgeois in New Zealand – dairy owners, for example – are really dirt poor compared to Laws and his grandee classmates.
I prefer Matt McCarten‘s analysis.
Bill English’s Budget, which gives our rich another five-cent-in-the-dollar cut in their taxes and replaces it with more regressive income-tax scales that will proportionately hit the less well-off, largely completes the Rogernomics agenda.
The effective tax our wealthiest New Zealanders contribute to the common good is almost half of what they paid before the neo-liberal regime was imposed on us 25 years ago.
Our rich are treated extremely generously. We have no capital gains taxes or death duties, which every other civilised country expects from their richer citizens.
The rich certainly need us more than we need them.
As McCarten argues, the gap between rich and poor is growing in New Zealand (as it is in the rest of the world too).
New Zealand ranks near the top of the world list in terms of the speed at which the gap between the haves and have-nots is growing.
With the notable exception of the Greens, there is a consensus amongst the parliamentary parties that this is acceptable.
It’s accepted wisdom now that if we look after the rich then somehow enough of their wealth will trickle down to the rest of us.
If it weren’t for the fact that the system is set up to help the wealthy continuously bleed the working poor, they wouldn’t be rich. There’s more talent in the little finger of an average-waged salaryman and salarywoman than there is in all the gene pool of the celebrity whores and losers who Michael Laws so obviously and so enviously admires.
I want to leave the final words to Matt McCarten. I endorse them wholeheartedly:
I can sum up this Budget in one sentence.
Telecom CEO Paul Reynolds will get a mind-blowing $4800 more in his hand every week.
One of the hundreds of workers he sacked recently who now languishes on the dole will get $1.20.
Any questions as to which side Key and his Government are on?