The front page of my Herald presents me this morning with a very special pig. They have deployed a ‘Porkometer’ to tally up the spending pledges of the two big political parties. Fair enough. Information is the fertiliser of democracy.
But are we to take it that any spending of any stripe is to qualify as ‘pork’? You might call extra funding for elective services or more money for cervical cancer screening 'overdue' but come on: pork? The story expressly recognises the American provenance of the expression, where it is used to describe the pledging of public funds for purposes that may not be in the greater good, but will nevertheless win favour with certain voters. The Herald appears to take the view that it is the act of ingratiation alone that counts, which somewhat misses the point.
The story duly lists every piece of new spending that has been announced by the government and the National party. Result: four odd billion by Labour and one and a half by National. The story doesn't ask which, if any, of the items proposed by Labour have been expressly ruled out by National. David Farrar, in retelling the story, seems in no hurry to shed light on this either, and certainly Bill English made it clear on Agenda that everyone will have to wait and see what the National party will and won’t be spending. We know that the bureaucrats will be getting theirs, but what aside from that will be different? English and co are perfectly entitled to take as much time as they like to work out what they’ll be offering, but in the absence of any actual detail from them, it seems a little heroic to assume - as the Porkometer seems to imply - that they will be making none of the same commitments.
Even Blind Freddy can see that John Key will probably be in government by Christmas, but if you make out that his spending will look dramatically different from the present lot once he has his feet under the desk (leaving aside the borrowing for tax cuts), you might be telling a porky.