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Lyndon Hood: Budget Crisis - Lack of Nickname

Budget Crisis: Lack of Nickname

Satire by Lyndon Hood

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Concern is mounting in political and media circles that Michael Cullen's latest budget may not receive a proper nickname. This puts media coverage of an important economic issue in jeopardy and raises the terrifying possibility that no part of the Government's spending programme for the next twelve months will be able to be summed up with throwaway catchphrases.

During the post-war period, New Zealand's understanding of its Government's economic plans has been expressed in, and limited to, phrases of not more than three words. Cullen's 'Chewing-Gum Budget' is a recent example, but the nation still remembers Labour's 'Black Budget' of 1958, or, from the 90s, Ruth Richardson's controversial 'Worst Excesses Budget'.

The horrible, screaming void where Budget 2007's nickname should be is already being felt. News presenters have been forced to open with lines like: "Well, the commentators are calling it 'Budget 2007'...". During the budget debate, members of the opposition had to leave the chamber after their leader's speech for want of anything catchy to repeatedly yell at the Government Benches.

There are a number of alternatives epithets on offer for what may go down in history as the 'No Nickname Budget'. Tags like 'Saving and Investing' and 'Sustainability', inspired by the official Government statements, are considered neither catchy enough nor inaccurate enough to stick.

We can expect National's initial description, the 'Money-Go-Round Budget', to be widely repeated by their front bench in coming weeks, despite it obviously having too many syllables. Unfortunately the same consideration also rules out calling it the 'Kiwisaver II: The Revenge Budget'.

The Media has not stood idly by. The Domion Posts' front page is a plea for Dr Who-related suggestions, although Scoop understands that copyright negotiations with the BBC have not been concluded. The Herald's 'Taking Back The Chewing Gum' angle shows even less potential.

The fact that Mr Cullen's budget is so resistant to glib, catchy description can only be described as criminally neglectful.

It's unfortunate that 'Jam Tomorrow' has already been widely used in reference to past budgets; the term may have outlived its political usefulness just as it becomes most relevant. The widespread use of this phrase to denote never-fulfilled promises may have originated with a joke about Latin grammar by Lewis Carroll (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jam_tomorrow) but the genesis of political catchphrases is, mercifully, insulated from such intellectualist nitpicking.

The matter remains of the utmost urgency, and the media in particular are having to resort to increasingly unfamiliar measures in their coverage. Deprived of a simplistic summary or single, overwhelming angle on Budget 2007, they are limited to discussing its actual content. One way or another, this state of affairs cannot continue.

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