Wednesday, December 07, 2016

No wonder the PM has had enough

While the internet is a wonderful tool for increasing knowledge it is equally powerful for spreading lies. The World Socialist Website writes:

For working people, the legacy of the Key government has been eight years of austerity. Key has overseen thousands of job cuts and a decline in median incomes, almost destroyed the coal mining industry, increased the goods and services tax, cut taxes for the rich and slashed spending on healthcare and welfare services. An estimated one in four children is living in poverty and 41,000 people are homeless due to the soaring cost of housing. Large parts of the country have been de-industrialised and economically shattered. Suicides have reached record levels two years in a row.
Thousands of job cuts and thousands of jobs created. In 2008 2.188 million people were employed. In September 2016 there were 2.493. The unemployment rate is 4.9 percent. Prior to the GFC - not of Mr Key's personal making - unemployment was under 4%.  New Zealand ranks 10th in the OECD ahead of 24 other countries.

As for a "decline in median incomes", the Household Incomes Report says,

"....median household income continued the rising trend shown in the post-GFC recovery phase – on average this has been at 3% pa in real terms (ie 3% pa above CPI inflation)."

Spending on healthcare and welfare services has not been slashed. See 2016 Core Crown Expenses.

There are not one in four children living in poverty. Even using the highest threshold,

"....the AHC 60% anchored line measure, the poverty rate for children fell from its pre-recession rate of 24% to an average of 22% in 2014 and 2015"


"....there is no evidence of any rising child poverty trend in recent years using the anchored line AHC or BHC measures.....the rate for more severe hardship in 2014 and 2015 (8%) is close to what it was before and during the GFC with those in deeper hardship not greatly impacted by either the downturn or the recovery."
The 41,000 people homeless comes from the broadened definition. RNZ reports more accurately:

"...more than 41,000 people were staying in severely crowded houses with family or friends, or in boarding houses, camping grounds, in cars or on the street."
If 41,000 people were strictly homeless why are only 4,600 currently on the housing register?

And finally, the number of suicides  is reasonably steady.

Neither were the last two years record levels:

It's all lies. But I've heard plenty of ignorant people venting this sort of rubbish over the past two days. No wonder the PM has had enough.

Monday, December 05, 2016

The correlation between welfare dependence and child abuse

"For those children whose caregiver had spent ‘more than 80%’ of their time on a benefit in the last five years, 11.3% would have a finding of abuse. Those who had ‘no time’ on benefit had an abuse finding of just 0.3%. The likelihood of abuse for the first group was almost 38 times greater than for those with no benefit history."

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Child abuse and family structure

Of those children born in 2010 who'd been abused or neglected by age two, 76 percent were born into a single-parent setting. This startling fact comes from government research which received little or no publicity. Why?

Bureaucratic discomfort over the increasing evidence of poorer outcomes for children of single parent, welfare-dependent parents is one reason. A 2006 Ministry of Social Development paper claimed, for example, "It would be inappropriate ... to suggest the risk of fatal child maltreatment is higher on the basis of being a child of a sole parent or a child having a low birth weight."

Yet further government data shows  'step-fathers' - or partners of single parents - are strongly over-represented in child deaths from maltreatment.

Only relatively recently has cross-departmental data been used to analyse which children are at highest risk of maltreatment. Other countries have been cross-analysing their care and protection data for many years revealing the same relationship between the increased risk of child abuse and single/non-biological cohabiting families.

In New Zealand, the over-representation of Maori and Pacific children in maltreatment statistics dates back to the first nationwide survey conducted in 1967. Common reasons given for this over-representation are poverty, unemployment and, in the case of Maori, the effects of colonisation.

Evidence suggests however that the greater occurrence of single parent families - stressed mothers and serial changes of non-related male caregivers - is behind these elevated child abuse statistics. Conversely, Asian children have the lowest rate of abuse and the lowest rate of one parent families.

Of the 2010 cohort referred to earlier, the children whose parent or caregiver had spent more than 80% of the last five years on welfare were 38 times more likely to be abused or neglected by age two than those whose parent(s) had spent no time on welfare. The children born into a single parent setting (based on birth registration or benefit data) were 9 times more likely to suffer maltreatment than those children born into two parent families. Maori children with two parents who did not rely on welfare had very low rates of abuse similar to those of non-Maori children in the same circumstances.

In 1967, when marriage was almost universal among parents and sole-parent welfare dependence virtually non-existent, the rate of physical child abuse was 2.5 substantiated cases per 10,000 children. By 2014 that rate had risen to 29 cases per 10,000. This more than ten-fold increase has been accompanied by a decline in marriage and committed two parent families.

It is likely to be argued that ‘correlation does not equal causation’. While true to a certain extent, the correlations between child abuse and family structure, and child abuse and benefit-dependence, are stronger than the most commonly advanced correlative factor - poverty.  When over three quarters of substantiated abuse findings by age two are from single-parent, benefit-dependent families, the coincidence is too large to dismiss.

It might also be argued the increase resulted from a lower tolerance to child abuse due to changed societal values, public awareness campaigns, and subsequently, more reporting. But using a more objective measure - assault-related hospitalisations of children - the rate is still  four-fold that of the 1960s.

Another important factor ignored for too long: biological fathers generally provide a protective factor against child maltreatment. Furthermore, the chances of the father - and his extended family - remaining in the child's life are significantly increased when the parents are married.

In discussions about the unacceptable level of child abuse and neglect in New Zealand, the breakdown of the nuclear family is the elephant in the room that many would prefer to ignore. Yet to do so is an abrogation of our collective responsibility to children. The committed two parent family provides the safest environment for children. The traditional family model is still fit for purpose. It is just unfashionable, and in some minds, unforgivable to say so.

Child Abuse and Family Structure: What is the evidence telling us? follows on from Child Poverty and Family Structure: What is the evidence telling us? published in May 2016. It is the second report written for Family First by social researcher and commentator Lindsay Mitchell.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Recommended reading

George Smith is a great writer because he makes philosophical ideas accessible. Here he quotes Ayn Rand (who often did go over my head) extensively in her predictions about where collectivism would take America. Even with my short attention span I got through through it and relished some of the passages.

The placement of socialism and fascism at opposite ends of a political spectrum serves a nefarious purpose, according to Rand. It serves to buttress the case that we must avoid “extremism” and choose the sensible middle course of a “mixed economy.” Quoting from “‘Extremism,’ Or The Art of Smearing” (CUI, Chapter 17):

"If it were true that dictatorship is inevitable and that fascism and communism are the two “extremes” at the opposite ends of our course, then what is the safest place to choose? Why, the middle of the road. The safely undefined, indeterminate, mixed-economy, “moderate” middle—with a “moderate” amount of government favors and special privileges to the rich and a “moderate” amount of government handouts to the poor—with a “moderate” respect for rights and a “moderate” degree of brute force—with a “moderate” amount of freedom and a “moderate” amount of slavery—with a “moderate” degree of justice and a “moderate” degree of injustice—with a “moderate” amount of security and a “moderate” amount of terror—and with a moderate degree of tolerance for all, except those “extremists” who uphold principles, consistency, objectivity, morality and who refuse to compromise."

Friday, November 25, 2016


Trump has appointed a charter school advocate as Secretary of Education. She says the status quo in the US education system is "unacceptable." Teacher's unions are apparently not pleased.

Jolly good.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Those dirty filthy one-percenters

Here's an arresting snippet sent to me from the Economist:

Global wealth distribution: Where you fit in
If you had only $2,220 to your name, you might not think yourself terribly fortunate. But you would be wealthier than half the world’s population. With $71,560 or more, you’d be in the top tenth. If you were lucky enough to own over $744,400, as 18m Americans do, you are a member of the global 1% that voters everywhere are rebelling against. Some of those railing against the global elite probably do not know they belong to it

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Nanny State marching on

I've blogged about this relentless regression only recently.

In this morning's DomPost, opposite the daily editorial, Mark Reason describes his response to the heavy police presence at Toast Martinborough:

The trouble began in Vynfields. The punters didn't cause the trouble, not a flicker of it, we were just smiling at a world that smiled back.
But then a policeman and two policewomen came in. They inserted themselves into the small dancing crowd in front of the stage. They were literally looking for trouble. It was so sinister, I decided to keep an eye on them.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The arbitrary nature of state calls

According to MSD, regarding quake affected areas:
The employment subsidy will be available for businesses in Kaikoura, Cheviot, Waiau, Rotherham, Mt Lyford and Ward who face a dramatic drop in their turnover as a direct result of the earthquakes and the closure of State Highway One.
It will be paid to businesses with fewer than 20 employees where closure of the state highway and damage to the coastal environment means they cannot operate and they cannot pay staff wages.
Naturally outsiders sympathize with those economically affected by the quake.

But the collective and compulsory way we organise and protect ourselves means that arbitrary lines will be drawn by bureaucrats who are necessarily disconnected. Kaikoura business Whale Watch, for example, won't qualify. The assumption that they are bigger, stronger and more resilient  ignores that they have greater outgoings.

I don't know if there is a better way.

But  if people had voluntary and enhanced choice about protecting themselves and their businesses, outcomes may be less fickle and  jarring.