Duncan Garner: What are you waiting for Jacinda Ardern? Put benefit levels up

OPINION: On The AM Show on Wednesday, we will speak to American economist Jeffrey Sachs.

He's regarded as one of the most influential economists in the world and twice in Time's top 100 world leaders.

But his appearance on Wednesday comes with a warning.

He says reducing the gaps between rich and poor in all countries - including New Zealand = is about having a "moral sense that society should be for everybody and we should not encourage or think it's ok if the gaps between the haves and have nots grow willy nilly".

Sure, but I'm looking in the paddock and I can't see the horse anymore on that one.

Capitalism is simply where the rich get richer. But get this wrong and you get a fraying society.

He points to his own country, where people are living through not just this pandemic but an inequality crisis with the country's social life coming unstuck in a lot of ways.

Have we all abandoned the poor? I think we did years ago. We pay lip service.

This warning is applicable to New Zealand and lands at the feet of the so-called kind Prime Minister.

This is her challenge and despite all the slogans and words and kindness, what has Labour achieved on poverty and incomes at the bottom? Zip.

We have these social inequalities already. Reports show they may be getting even bigger

Fifteen thousand people living in cramped motel rooms because as a country we have failed to plan and build enough social or state housing

Under National, people slept in cars. Under Labour they jumped out and moved into the very motels they bagged National for.

Labour needs to tackle poverty head-on, so put benefit levels up.

Dozens of charity groups have written to the PM urging her to do so before Christmas but she says sadly this can't be fixed in one day, one week, or even one term.

What are you waiting for Prime Minister? You have a mandate.

I know a bloke who gets paid the dole, has his child half the week, and lives on little more than $215 a week.

But lose your job due to COVID and those beneficiaries get $490 a week. But you can't live on $200 a week

Prime Minister, words mean nothing. Action and real progress is everything.

When's it coming? Or is it too hard?

Duncan Garner hosts The AM Show.