Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Abbott Disappointment Syndrome: the banality of conservatism

We were promised a lot of things by Tony Abbott. Specifically, on the eve of the 2013 election (via the Herald-Sun, HT Catallaxy):
Whether it’s a stealth tax (like) the emissions trading scheme, whether it’s an upfront and straight forward tax like a carbon tax, there will not be any new taxes as part of the Coalition’s policies.
A trial balloon is being floated, as is customary in pre-Budget times. This time, it's a "debt levy" which would only apply during times of budget deficit - which according to all credible forward estimates means it would be ostensibly permanent. (NOTE: the payment figures are wrong, see below.)
Taxpayers in the 37c tax bracket — on incomes of $80,000 to $180,000 — are likely to pay an extra 1 per cent.
Those earning above $180,000 are likely to pay an extra 2 per cent.
Like the Gillard government’s flood levy, the debt tax will also be temporary, applying only while the Budget is in deficit.
Under the new levy:
* A taxpayer on $80,000 will pay an extra $800 a year — around $15 a week.
* Someone earning $150,000 will pay an extra $1500 a year ($29 a week).
* A worker on $200,000 will be slugged an extra $4000 a year or $77 a week.
* A taxpayer earning $400,000 will pay a thumping $8000 extra tax, or $154 more a week.
As I was saying flippantly before the election, Abbott is going to be an excellent Labor Prime Minister. His strategy is to run all of Labor's policies - including Gonski, NDIS and the NBN - because the people like them, as per pretty much every poll on these issues. He only thinks he can get a mandate to actually change anything in the subsequent election when he enjoys the benefits of incumbency.

The debt levy is a classic progressive leftist tax, and is only being floated up to save face from the confected "budget emergency" hoo-hah. If the Canberra press gallery had been paying attention to Cabinet factionalism, they might be telling is whether this balloon had the name of Joe Hockey on it, or whether it was a sly Sinodinos idea in a brown paper bag, or whether it had the sticky fingers of the heavily medicated Andrew "Skippy" Robb all over it. But no, internal political intrigue is only for Labor governments it seems, and all we have are grumblings from unsourced backbenchers.

Abbott is not a new broom to usher in a renaissance of unfettered liberty, as the right had been hoping. His major selling point was that he was not going to sell papers with bad news like Gillard and Rudd, whom the rightwing media did a slap-up job of portraying as incompetent. As part of the statification of federal politics, Abbott's core promise was to keep himself out of the news as much as possible, like a good state Premier. No gnus is good gnus, as Gary Gnu put it so eloquently. As the flip side of this lowering of expectations, though, evidence to date shows that Abbott is nothing more than a state-level conservative in his competencies, no more skilled than the recently departed Barry O'Farrell.

From a policy standpoint, all Abbott has changed is some irrelevant culture war window-dressing like knighthoods. His attempts at hollowing out Gonski, the NBN and the ABC without actually lowering their funding levels appreciably is the definition of his incompetence - he annoys the left by dismantling the structures built by Labor to carry out the productive processes of government, but he also annoys the right by failing to do anything meaningful about spending. Witness the massively humongous spending on F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. This is pure Abbott: a complete waste of time and money for no clear reason whatsoever. This is why he is being called Labor Lite. He spends like Labor, but his active sabotage of delivery of government services through the ideological actions of his underlings means everyone goes home unhappy. His credo is that government is failure, and he intends to make it fail as a measure of his own success.

All of this was utterly predictable before the election. Many voters may roll their eyes but be glad that their TV news can be devoted to MKR cross promotions and royal visits, instead of whinging about change. Disengaged and oblivious is how many voters would prefer to stay during this Great Interregnum. That can only benefit the right.

UPDATE: Greg Jericho in the Guardian points out that the Herald-Sun got the figures wrong in the above quote, as the 1% would not apply to income below $80,000 and the 2% would not apply to income below $180,000. Thus, the real figures should be:
Under the new levy:* A taxpayer on $80,000 will pay an extra zero dollars a year — $0 a week.* Someone earning $150,000 will pay an extra $700 a year ($13 a week).* A worker on $200,000 will be slugged an extra $1400 a year or $27 a week.* A taxpayer earning $400,000 will pay a thumping $5400 extra tax, or $104 more a week.
I note there's some joker called Dan bleating over at Catallaxy about his tax bill of $140,000 going up, leading him to defect from the LNP to the LDP. This implies his taxable earnings are $370,000 and he takes home $230,000 per annum now, and would have to cough up an extra $4800 a year, or less than a hundred a week from his pay packet every Friday of $4423. Poor diddums, he might have to knock off one less bottle of Grange per week. How selfish can one man be?

1 comment:

  1. I have given you some publicity both today and on Friday!