For a week or two, as I drive out of the Anglican Centre/Theology House precinct based at St Peter'sm Church Corner, Upper Riccarton, I have noticed the following sign:
If you cannot read the statement it is, 'Average CEO salary 200 times lowest wage ... OOPS!'
To be honest, I thought the flagged background meant this was a billboard erected by the NZ First Party (which can have a leftwards lurch to some of its economic policy). It turns out the sign is erected by some group in the church(es) (Methodists?) and, obviously, it has received permission to be on Anglican land.
David Farrer at Kiwiblog has posted about the sign and churches campaigning during the run up to the election. He concludes with a confrontational comment:
"That reminds me that I must find time after the election to work on a members’ bill to remove tax free legal status from churches in New Zealand. They should have no special status beyond that of any other NGO."
Given that David Farrer is a responsible and influential blogger and media pundit with strong links to the National Party, this is not necessarily an idle, inconsequential threat. His threat does not fall on deaf ears as you can read in the comments, many of which object to the church having any role in 'politics' though charitable works to help those who suffer because of 'politics' is fine!
One response that I have to the statement - now that I recognise its provenance is not that of a political party - is that it is a confused and confusing message. Confused because it falls into a trap of taking a selective statistical statement and using that to highlight a message without offering clarity as to what the message is. That CEOs should be paid less? That CEOs being paid up to 199x the lowest wage is okay but a line is crossed at 200x? That we are an unequal society? But we are an unequal society when a CEO is paid 5x the lowest wage. That we are a grossly unequal society?
The message is confusing because, as already noted above, it has more capacity to imply a political party is making the statement than that a church or coalition of churches is making the statement. That is, the billboard does not convey any particular message about a church or churches caring for the state of our society.
My final critique of the statement is that it does not convey much sense of what we are to do in response. Avoid voting for ACT (the party most blatantly supportive of economic inequality)? Vote generally leftwards because ... well, which party on the left has any policy to control CEOs salaries or salary packages? Vote for a better society? Why not actually say that? E.g. 'This election vote for the best NZ ever' or 'Vote this election for a NZ which cares for the poor'.
Of course, I could be wrong ...