Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Which national leader really hates the poor?

What would you call a government that intentionally promoted a policy that increased world hunger and gave subsidies to the better off at the expense of the poorer members of their own society?

If you’re thinking George Bush think again. It is the left-wing Labour government of New Zealand. Helen Clark’s Labour Party is a relatively nasty bunch and Ms. Clark is never one to shun getting in bed with the most disreputable members of parliament in order to form a government. That is why she happily signed on with a Religious Right Party along with one run by an outspoken xenophobic, homophobic authoritarian.

None of this worries Ms. Clark and her followers. All these groups are fairly similar in that that love two things. One is the hold power for themselves and bask in the perks of office. The other is to micromanage the lives of others. Which they love the most is open to debate.

The most recent proposal the government is making is to push the anti-poor biofuels that were promoted stupidly by certain special interest groups: mainly agribusiness, big energy, and their allies in the environmental movement. These biofuels take grains and other food stuffs and coverts them into fuel. There are several problems with this.

First, they cost more to produce than the alternative so they require subsidies to exist, which is why agribusiness and big energy corporations love it -- guaranteed income from the state. Next, the consumption of so much food for fuel is driving up world prices for food. The net result of this is increased starvation in the Third World -- so much for compassion for the world’s hungry! And finally much of the biofuel that is produced is actually more harmful to the environment than the petrol that it replaces.

New Zealand’s Labour Party was never one to allow facts to get in the way of policy. So they are pushing heavily on the biofuels program. Labour is intent on using state force against people to make them switch to the biofuels. Of course they will brag about the pittance they give in foreign aid neglecting to point out that their biofuel policy will kill poor people. But they are poor people who can’t vote for Labour in the next election so they don’t matter.

But the poor in New Zealand will also get screwed over. Of course Clark and her acolytes in Labour will blame that on capitalism and the reforms that took place 20 years ago. Those market reforms, by the way, are credited with taking a moribund economy and putting life back into it. But Clark has used them as the scapegoat for any problem that crops up. I think she evens blames her bad teeth on the reforms.

What Clark and Labour want to do is to lower the cost for the biofuels while adding extra taxes on regular petrol. Older cars can’t use the biofuels. Newer cars can use it. But people buy older cars because they can’t afford new cars. So Clark is lowering the taxes on the petrol purchased by the wealthier drivers in her country and raising the taxes on the poorer drivers who can’t afford new cars. This is about the dumbest tax idea she has come up with since she tried to tax cow farts.

The new biofuels can harm older cars and if people don’t understand that and use the fuel they may have to fork out money they don’t have for repairs. But Labour will spend lots of money on an ad campaign to tell everyone how wonderful biofuels are and that it may pose a risk in older cars. So the owners of the older cars will just have to buy more expensive petrol.

I am always surprised at how often Left parties around the world propose policies that redistribute wealth from the poor to the rich. They do it constantly. I remember when I used to take the train into work, in Chicago. I discovered that the average commuter on the train had an income considerably higher than people who drove to work. Yet what did the Democrats who ran the city do? They subsidized the train rides of the wealthy by putting extra taxes on the fuel of the poor. Oh, that makes lots of sense.

So come next year New Zealand’s Labour Party will point to the biofuel program as a great accomplishment. They will manage to starve some people in developing countries to do so. They will help hand billions in subsidies over to Big Energy and the Big Agriculture in the process. They will not help the environment one bit and most likely will actually increase the amount of green houses gases being emitted. They will lower taxes for the wealthier drivers in the country will imposing higher taxes on poor drivers. And they will do this because they care about the poor and they care about the environment.

Helen Clark just loves them to death.

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