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Mike's Minute: This Budget won't save the Government

Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Wed, 17 May 2023, 9:57am

Mike's Minute: This Budget won't save the Government

Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Wed, 17 May 2023, 9:57am

I am somewhat bemused at all the Budget commentary.

A lot of it is written up as some sort of Last Chance Saloon.

The Government know they are in trouble come the election, so this is their last chance to rectify matters, turn the tide and to right the ship.

Do those who write this stuff honestly believe we are that stupid?

Their logic is that a Government gets almost six years to run their agenda. And when that agenda hits a massive wall, somehow the power and magic of a single fiscal document on a Thursday afternoon can be enough to save them?

Just what can possibly be in this document of such extraordinary and gargantuan proportions, that vast swathes of the doubtful can be swung in the matter of, perhaps, an hour's worth of delivery from the chambers of power?

If, per chance, the document has the fairy dust to wake us from a six-year slumber, where we had been tossing and turning and dreaming about our kids not going to school, and recession sweeping the land, and our current account deficit being the worst in the world, and the access to health care being farcical - and we all woke up to realise none of it was true and we did in fact live in Utopia, then maybe some of this far-fetched forecasting might carry some weight.

But we all know differently.

You can't have a last-gasp Budget able to turn night to day when you have the polls telling you the majority of the people think this country is going in the wrong direction.

Budgets, as single documents on winter afternoons in May, don’t take a country going in the wrong direction and fix that. Or indeed anywhere close.

Even on the best of days, a budget has limited impact.

Even when a Government is rolling in surplus and they hand out tax cuts and forecast full employment and plenty of future growth, that single document does not an election victory guarantee. Far less a Government that is drowning in debt, having spent a fortune to no obvious material benefit.

Sure, if Grant Robertson stands up this week and literally goes "look, we are stuffed" that will be received fairly poorly, so he won't do that. He will do his usual thing where he says it's everyone else's fault, the war, the price of oil, everyone is in the same boat, we are well placed blah, blah, blah. And he will hope that most voters aren't paying enough attention to call him out.

But the reason all the pre-budget rhetoric is wrong, is Governments lose elections. And they lose elections because the die is cast and once it’s cast, it's over.

And for this lot, it's over. The reason it's over is because of the economic mess we are in.

And it's from that very mess that Grant is looking to pull a rabbit.

Quick clue - there is no rabbit.

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