“Don’t get sick, losers”

Paul Little seems to have bee on some bitter pills when he wrote his latest column, Can’t afford meds? Don’t get sick. 

Maybe some twisted pills as well.

So now you’re interested in the Trans Pacific Partnership. After years of warnings about the free trade agreement’s potentially disastrous effects on lapdog countries such as ours, which have been straining at the leash in our enthusiasm to see the deal signed off, the public has been given a hip-pocket reason to give a toss.

There have been a number of quite successful free agreements that have enabled New Zealand to become a relatively  independent trading nation.

“Lapdog countries such as ours” is an appalling description. Would Little prefer we were a poor, isolated backwater country?

Hitherto, objections have centred on far-fetched scenarios involving large corporations gaining control of nations’ intellectual property, suing foreign Governments for not doing their bidding and other nightmares.

Yes, there has been a lot of scary claims about what will happen, alongside claims that they don’t know what is being negotiated so don’t know what will happen. Paranoia promoted by a vacuum of knowledge.

Then John Key, in an uncharacteristically gauche move, admitted the cost of some medicines would go up under the TPP. This is hardly surprising. When the aim of a deal is to end protection, things tend to be left unprotected.

That’s contradictory and incorrect, the aim is not to “end protection”. The cost of some medicines could go up if greater protections are given to original drugs over generic drugs.

The PM has been such an enthusiastic supporter of the TPP that when he has no choice but to admit it has a tiny downside, you know it’s serious and almost certainly not the worst of it. He might have thought no one would notice – after all, health is almost proverbially something we take for granted.

We don’t know how serious nor do we know “the worst of it” because no agreement has been reached. The talks have stalled.

Any trade agreement has potential downsides, the aim is to negotiate more upsides than downsides. If you don’t get that you don’t make the agreement, as turned out in Hawaii yesterday. I wonder if Little wrote his column before he knew that?

But meddling doctors’ groups, not yet discredited in the way teachers, beneficiaries and unionists have been after decades of neoliberal governments, led the charge in deploring this possibility.

A few bitter pills there.

Our tough love Government must find this galling. Medicine, in its mind, is probably an extravagance indulged in by people who don’t have the mental fortitude to deal with illness and chronic conditions with positive thinking and a can-do attitude. Can’t afford medicine? Don’t get sick, losers.

And there’s some twisted pills.

So the Government has said that when – not if – costs go up, it will find the money to cover the difference. Governments, you’ll remember, usually get their money in one of two ways – from fabulously wealthy benefactors who dip into their own pockets to keep the country running; or from taxpayers.

Little seems to be getting his concoctions mixed up here. He seems to be taking a swipe at party donors “fabulously wealthy benefactors” which has nothing to do with Government revenue.

And as we have long known the tax burden falls disproportionately on those of limited means, who are also likelier to be poor, as the gap between richest and poorest widens, partly due to measures such as the TPP.

“The tax burden falls disproportionately on those of limited means” is an an often repeated nonsense. Those of the most limited means are provided for by wealthier people who pay the bulk of the tax.

Measures such as TPP type trade agreements stop New Zealand from going broke. Sure “the gap between richest and poorest” would be much narrower if we dind’t have trade agreements, we’d all be much poorer.

The final TPP talks are taking place at the Westin Maui Resort & Spa Ka’anapali in Hawaii, where every guest room has a Heavenly Bed, equipped with “a custom-designed Simmons Beautyrest pillow-top mattress set, cozy down blanket, three crisp sheets, a comforter, duvet and five fluffy pillows”. Heavenly Dog Beds are available on request.

It’s a good choice of location when it comes to selling the TPP. It shows us the standard of living we can all expect when the agreement goes through.

Perhaps Little would prefer trade negotiators stayed at Couchsurfing in Maui – the standard of living we could all expect without trade deals.

And for those of us worried about paying for medicine, just imagining what it’s like to sleep on a Heavenly Bed, or in some cases, just under a roof, will take our minds off our woes and stop us feeling sorry for ourselves.

Little seems to see himself as one of the poor who have to pay $5 for prescriptions in New Zealand. He certainly seems to be feeling very sorry for himself.

Some readers may have been lured into viewing a Seven Sharp item, widely re-posted online, in which Professor Jane Kelsey demolished some of the propaganda being used to sell the TPP and explained what it will really do.

Who is peddling propaganda? Kelsey has been campaigning against the TPP for a long time, warning “what it will really do” – when she is not complaining about not being told what it might do.

This is the Jane Kelsey who “is a key member of the Action Resource Education Network of Aotearoa (Arena), and is actively involved in researching and speaking out against the World Trade Organisation, the International Monetary Fund, free trade and corporate-led globalisation.” – Wikipedia.

Kelsey “is an outspoken critic of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks.”

Unfortunately, she did not do it in terms simple enough to be understood by Mike Hosking, who continued to frame his encounter with Kelsey in terms of winning, losing and point-scoring.

It’s not as if Kelsey or Little would resort to point scoring.

Please do not adjust your set – I am reliably informed this was an aberration and not an indication that Seven Sharp has taken to giving air space to intelligent commentary.

That’s Little’s concluding paragraph. After all the bitterness expressed about the TPP, trade, John key and the Government all he has to end with is a petty diss of another media outlet.

This column is not an indication that Little has taken to giving air space to intelligent commentary.

Paul Little sounds like a bitter loser. A sick column.