In the old days to win a mayoral election a candidate had to promise bribes and monuments costing in the millions. Now, that wouldn’t even get you into the debates. Now, to head Auckland’s super-sized council bureaucracy, you have to make promises costing ratepayers billions – Victoria Crone to build bridges, Phil Goff for new train sets, John Palino for satelite cities somewhere.
Promises costing billions at a time when the city’s debt, $7.6 billion and rising, has never been higher!
The debt is unprecedented. And not one of them has a plan or any intention to bring it down.
Rates are at an all-time high, and rising – and the council is borrowing hand over fist to keep spending rising even faster! – and yet not one of these pricks has made any pledge* or has any intention of slashing spending or bringing rates down.
Oh yes, they all talk vaguely about reducing “waste.” Of making “savings through efficiencies.” About “reducing non-core and wasteful spending.” But this is all just hand waving to suggest they’re concerned about spending while concealing they have no intention to make the savage substantial cuts necessary to begin making the city affordable again.
Instead, they all talk as if there’s a bag full of cash under your couch that they get to spend on monuments.
You might think all the monuments are worth it. You might think they will make the city more liveable.. You might think it will add to the city’s prestige. But whatever you think, for or against, you’re going to be paying for them anyway. And the “prestige” of the projects will fall like manna from heaven on the heads and shoulders of your autocratic leaders.
So it has always been.
One may see in certain biblical movies [writes Ayn Rand] a graphic image of the meaning of public monument building: the building of the pyramids. Hordes of starved, ragged, emaciated men straining the last effort of their inadequate muscles at the inhuman task of pulling the ropes that drag large chunks of stone, straining like tortured beasts of burden under the whips of overseers, collapsing on the job and dying in the desert sands—that a dead Pharaoh might lie in an imposingly senseless structure and thus gain eternal "prestige" in the eyes of the unborn of future generations.
Temples and palaces are the only monuments left of mankind's early civilisations. They were created by the same means and at the same price—a price not justified by the fact that primitive peoples undoubtedly believed, while dying of starvation and exhaustion, that the "prestige" of their tribe, their rulers or their gods was of value to them somehow.
Rome fell, bankrupted by statist controls and taxation, while its emperors were building coliseums [ to deliver bread and circuses]. Louis XIV of France taxed his people into a state of indigence, while he built the palace of Versailles for his contemporary monarchs to envy and for modern tourists to visit. [Meanwhile, as the bread in the kingdom dwindled, his queen Antoinette was advising her subjects’ rulers to “Let them eat cake.”]
And now, in a New Zealand already mired in debt, our mayoral candidates are going to rate us further into penury to make us believe they’'’re making our cities liveable.
Do any of these political leaders really believe anything they say about making the city affordable?
* Yes, to be fair, Palino’s website talks about a “wasteful council” and has a policy of reducing rates by 10% over 3 years. But he has no serious plan to make the savage spending cuts commensurate with that, and since that was set up he’s been talking instead abour “capping” rates to the Reserve Bank’s rate of inflation. In other words, no rate cuts.