Tuesday, 13 May 2008

How not to get women's votes #1

What on earth is Act New Zealand smoking? I don't think they want women to vote for them at all.

Sir Roger Douglas has just suggested that under an Act government, the first $10,000 income would be tax free. Currently, the headline tax rate on the first $10,000 of income is 19.5%, but the impact of the low income earners rebate means that in effect, the first $9,500 of income is taxed at 15%, and the next $28,500 is taxed at effectively 21.5%, so that by the time income reaches $38,000, the overall tax rate on that $38,000 is 19.5%. Ka pai? Got that? It's not all that complicated, really, but if you don't want to do the maths, just remember that at present, if you earn $10,000, you would pay about $1,500 tax. Under Act's policy, you would pay nothing on that first $10,000. So there you have it - what looks like a generous tax break from Act.

But there's a catch. Only full-time earners would get the tax break.

And who is most likely to work part time? Why, that would be women, and some men, and in particular, women (and some men) who are primary care givers for children. Under Act's policy (according to Sir Roger), these part-time workers would be subject to a higher tax rate on their limited income than higher earning full time workers. Act is sending a loud, clear message to women (and some men) that caring for children is not valued, because if you reduce your work hours so that you can be the one who picks up the children after school, can spend some of each day with your baby, can do the parenting yourself, instead of contracting it out to childcare centres and nannies, then you will be taxed harder on your reduced income. It's a disincentive to try to juggle work and the needs of children.

Does Act actually want to get any women's votes? If it does, then maybe it needs to think a bit harder about the gendered division of full-time and part-time work. I know, there are some men who work part-time, or work from home, but by and large, it's women who fit work into the interstices of their days. And no doubt there are many men who would like to be able to reduce their work hours so that they can spend more time with their families, but Act is telling them that they will suffer a tax penalty if they do.

There are other people who will be affected by this sort of policy too - seasonal workers, people who suffer from some sickness or other disability so that they can't work full time, older people who have reduced their work hours rather than retiring completely. I guess Act doesn't want their votes either.

Of course, it's highly unlikely that Act will get to be the government, and at most, it might be a very junior party in a coalition government. However, I suggest that if they want to have some influence on government policy, then they need to think through their own policies a little more carefully first.


Julie said...

Crazy! I'd really like to know their rationale for this - One Law for All perhaps? or maybe Tax is Theft?

Anonymous said...

A little bit of column A, a little bit of column B, I suspect.

Has Act ever done anything that demonstrates concern for female voters? I mean sure, I don't doubt that they believe their extreme low-tax policies are good for everyone, but you can't just coast by on that as far as gender politics goes.

Anonymous said...

Ah, if you think advertising that offends a wide range of people is primarily offending women why can't policy that favours a wide range of people be primarily aimed at women?

In this case it might be badly aimed, but consider that ACT targets rich people and believes that screwing the poor will win them votes. So in this case they're not hurting any of "their voters but they are sending a clear message - work full time or get screwed. Which should appeal just as much to the Christine Rankin types as it does to the SAHM's who live on the rich side of town.


Julie said...

Funny you should mention Act's policy appealing to the Christine Rankin's of the world Moz, I saw her having lunch with Roger Douglas a couple of weeks ago...

I'm not sure where any of us have written that the ALAC advert is "primarily offending women". My problem with the ad is not that it is offensive, but that it is perpetuating rape myths (which is why I find it offensive). Anyway it may be better to debate that matter on one of the many threads about it, rather than here, on Deborah's excellent post about Act's tax policy.

Anna said...

ACT often don't consider or care about gender in their policies (they call their women MPs 'spokesmen' in a blow against political correctness!), except for when they're hassling mums on the DPB. But this policy seems quite premeditated and deliberately aimed at women, which is pretty bizarre.

Yet ACT have been the first to complain about badly raised delinquent children. Mums need to be at home raising well-behaved children and working full time all at once!