Here's a new 'reality' TV that someone might like to pitch to Julie Christie. Or perhaps an idea for some good research for a keen statistician.
Time for a top-rating prime-time TV show to answer the question: “Who’s the country's biggest beneficiary? Who really is the biggest moocher on the taxpayer, the biggest sucker on the state tit, the biggest bludger, trough-snuffler and rent-seeking-rort-mongering-entitlement-bogan in the country.”
You can see the show now, can’t you.
“Our next guest is the new Minister of Housing 'Whack-it-on-Your-Bill Phil' Heatley – a man who takes the idea of “state houses” so seriously he’s tried to corner that market himself. A man with so many houses being paid for by so many taxpayers it would take a Cook Islands taw lawyer to work out.
“Could he be the country’s biggest beneficiary?
“Or is it the new Mistress of Police, Judith ‘Crusher’ Collins, whose arse isn’t so big that she can’t shoot up a taxpayer-funded housing loophole when she sees one, or a good old-fashioned taxpayer-funded limo ride when she can get one.
“Or the new Welfare Matron, Paula Benefit, who’s racked up a whole lifetime on the taxpayers’ tit – “a poster girl for National’s welfare policies” she called herself when she was appointed to head up NZ’s biggest spending department-- and doesn’t look like stopping any time now."
“Or is it our current Minister of Finance, Beneficiary Bill, who pulls down a bigger salary than any business would ever pay him, and claims still extra for having "a place of residence" he visits around twice every year? A man with so many children only a thousand-dollar-a-week taxpayer subsidy is apparently enough to keep the whole brood together.
“Champion effort that.
“Or could it be it’s the former Minister of Finance Dodger Rugless, who likes to take advantage of the taxpayers' largesse to swan around on foreign holidays, making sure it’s us who picks up his tab?
“Or is it one of EnZed’s former ministers or Prime Ministers, one of them who hasn’t been picked up the latest News From the Trough, but who got a taste for things taxpayerish early on and is unable to kick the habit? One of the former tit-suckers who can't take their mouth from the teat, and who's pulling down all the free travel and perks and the platinum-plated politicians' superannuation scheme that we're all paying for?
“What about the former Minister of Wine & Cheese Jonathan Hunt, or former PMs Shipley, Bolger, Palmer, Moore -- or the UN's new pin-up girl Helen Clark? Could one of them be our champion?”
"Stay tuned for another thrilling episode of Who’s the Biggest Beneficiary? Brought to you, naturally, by NZ on Air, so you can see more of who you’re paying for.”
Well, maybe not such great TV – although you would see plenty of red herrings and a lot of scuttling for cover. But high time surely for someone to answer the question.
And no fear those of you up in the gallery saying these people earn their money. We all know that's not true.
And no fear either saying they need to be paid the salary and perks commensurate with what private employers are paying. We all know no private employer would pay any of these pillocks for their putative skills and talents -- any employment offered them privately now is offered not because of their well-developed skills at hand-shaking and shucking off responsibility, but only on the basis of the political pull they might bring to a board-room table. (And if you doubt that, then just check out Cactus Kate's recent research on this very question.)
So come on someone, who's got some hard figures? Who shall we crown NZ's Biggest Beneficiary?
And do you think we might interest Julie Christie in the idea for a TV programme?
UPDATE 1: A couple of changes to your scheduled programme.
- John Key – for whom the only test of ethics is ‘will this make me look bad in the Herald’ – has decided just before this afternoon’s Question Time that Beneficiary Bill’s walletectomy of the taxpayer doesn’t quite pass the smell test, but it might do if Bill hands back around $12,000 of what he’s been pulling down. So that takes our early favourite down the ranks a little.
- But a late entrant has arrived on the set: Alan Bollocks from the Reserve Bank, who takes more than half-a-million dollars out of taxpayers’ pockets every year -- not to mention the damage he does in his day job. Could it be we could abolish the Reserve Bank, refit the building with ministerial cells, and just shove all the trough-snuffers in there? We could save all the salaries and subsidies (and on all that monetary harm) and if we filmed all their goings on in there we could call it Bludger Big Brother.
UPDATE 2: Bernard Hickey points out that the gap between “public sector” wages and those of the people who pay for them is now greater than ever. This is the only “income gap” we really do need to worry about, and the only one that needs to be reversed.
UPDATE 3: Cactus Kate suggests the $99-a—night Ibis Hotel for all out-of-Wellington MPs for the three nights they stay in the city every sitting week. Still sounds far too generous to me, when their salaries are so far above what any of them could earn elsewhere.