Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Of pork and men

The unveiling by the NZ Herald of its porkometer must have caused concern among some male readers; surely they are not going to measure that? But no, as Mr Slack explains, the porkometer is not a device for determining shortages in the trouser department, but a tally of spending commitments by the Government and of promises by the National Party. The Herald presents the information as if Government expenditure and National's promises were equivalent, thus giving the impression that National is thrifty and Labour is spendthrift.

One could, if one were not the NZ Herald, look at the sums in a different way: policies = spending. The Government (which the Herald reminds its readers is Labour-led, just in case anyone had forgotten) responds to problems by creating initiatives which require expenditure. Meanwhile, the National Party has ideas which will require expenditure if ever they are realised. Idiot/Savant makes this point better than I could.

According to the Herald's sums, the Government has twenty initiatives, while National has three ideas. Government expenditure plans amount to $3.999 billion, while National's ideas would cost $1.635 billion. Looking at the components of the expenditure plans, one notices that National has one big idea, Fibre, (which Mr Brown analyses better than I could). According to Mr Key, other ideas will be rolled out in due course - he has made promises about his promises. Of course, Mr Key also has an even bigger idea - tax cuts - which will cost lots of money but which are strangely absent from the Herald's sums, perhaps because Mr Key has not yet said how much he would cut.

Meanwhile the Government is trying to buy votes with such obvious pork-barrel measures as a revamp of Mount Eden Prison and the development and maintenance of an electronic medicines reference book. No wonder they are behind in the polls.

Of course, cynics will say that the Herald is trying to persuade its readers to vote National. You may well think that but I couldn't possibly comment, other than to notice the Herald's eulogy to National's candidate for Auckland Central and the correspondingly sniffy piece about Judith.

Meanwhile, pedants might take issue with the Herald's claim to have invented the porkometer, given that another Herald, the Sydney Morning one, had its own porkometer for last year's Australian elections. One might also take note of the somewhat NSFW blog of one Mr Pinsky, who was using an entirely different porkometer way back in 2006.

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