Thursday, June 30, 2016

I hope she has plenty more where that came from

Just what this country needs. A bleeding-heart pop star with more money than sense.

I recently wrote about the Upper Hutt man who had failed to sell his idea of the private sector funding school lunches to local businesses.

Seems he has since started up a give-a-little-page to fund his Fuel the Need sheme. And Lorde has donated $20,000 with a message that she is "passionate about all kids having access to food at school".

I'm passionate about parents taking responsibility for their children. Every time something like this happens we chip away at the societal expectation of 'responsibility' being the flip side of  'right'.

It is each person's right to have children but it is increasingly everybody else's responsibility to look after them. And this super role model has just given that attitude the stamp of approval.

If she wants to give away her money it'd be better spent funding a local community group that goes into the homes of these 'hungry' kids and finds out what's going wrong; what needs to change and shows the family how. And stays involved until the situation is resolved.

I applaud her generosity but she needs to think very hard about what comes next.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Household wealth inequality and family structure

On the back of statistics released yesterday there has been some grizzling about the top 10% increasing their share of household wealth. I am not about to argue with the data. My position is that the inequality is being substantially driven by change in family structure. Look at the data from the tables:

The median household wealth at June 2015 was $289,000.

One parent households with dependent child(ren) have a median household wealth of just $26,000 - less than a tenth of the median.

The wealthiest households are empty-nest couples or those with adult children living at home.

In the tiny cohort of my children's friends, more than half of their parents split at some point after their birth. It's a fairly middle-class sample. About half of the separated mothers have stayed single.

We live in world characterised by relationship instability yet expect or want the division of wealth to remain what it was when marriage was almost universal and divorce unusual.

The following graphs depict household incomes as opposed to wealth but they illustrate the point I am making. I compared household incomes from the 1966 census to those in the 2013 census and adjusted to $2013:

In 1966 far more families were clustered in the two middle income bands. There were fewer families at the extremes.

(While the 1966 data only comprised  married families, just 4.3% of all families were excluded. They were predominantly widows. Even if those families were added to the lowest income bands, the bands' content would still be below 10%. In contrast, by 2013, 25 percent of families appeared in the lowest income bands.)

Yet the constant refrain is that growing inequality is the fault of factors beyond the individual's control.

I believe it's more a facet of personal choice. Don't get me wrong. I am all for personal choice. But there remains a distinction between good and bad choices, notwithstanding a 'bad' choice may be 'good' choice if you don't mind being poor. But don't then complain about it - personally or on somebody else's behalf - and blame a host of other factors like capitalism, unemployment, low wages etc.

The current  levels of income inequality and wealth will continue to grow if people continue to choose to raise children alone or have children by multiple partners. Not all, but most, will end up at the wrong end of the income scale.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Lawyer blames Moko's death on "extreme poverty"

Ron Mansfield, the defence lawyer for one of  Moko's killers, Tania Shailer, blames "extreme poverty" for her actions.

You can listen here.

Not twice but three times he said that 'we' need to deal with poverty or more of this will happen.

What an insult to the many thousands of parents who would be financially in the same boat as the killers were, but who still manage to make their children's safety and well-being paramount.

Resorting to the poverty excuse is just facile.

( I can agree however with Mansfield's assertions about mental ill health. But even that has many of its roots in the welfarism - not poverty.)

Update: RNZ has written up some of his statement to media:

"As a country we need to stand back and we need to look at how we're dealing with poverty. There's extreme poverty out there and where there's poverty there's stress. And all of the reports on child abuse show us that where there's stress there's going to be higher rates of child abuse."

Garth McVicar's open letter to the Solicitor General

23rd May 2016 By e-mail and post

Dear Ms Jagose,
Re: Moko Rangitoheriri – Decision to downgrade charges

I am the founder the Sensible Sentencing Trust (SST), an organization set up in 2001 to provide support to victims of crime, and to lobby for changes to the law. Our organization now has some thousands of members and many more supporters.

Along with many, I am both appalled and bewildered by the decision to replace the charges of murder originally laid against Tania Shailer and David Haerewa for the killing of Moko Rangitoheriri (Moko) with charges of manslaughter, to which the accused then pleaded guilty. Clearly this came about by what is popularly known as a “plea bargain”. It is unclear whether the prosecution or defence initiated the discussions which led to that deal. No one is talking.

SST has a number of qualified lawyers as legal advisors. All of those lawyers find the decision inexplicable, assuming the facts are as they have been widely reported. One criminal defence barrister with 25 years experience has said that if the facts are as reported, he would not even have bothered trying to get the charges against Moko’s killers downgraded. At no time since this story broke has there been any statement from your office which clarifies or contradicts the facts as reported in the media.

The Crown Solicitor in Rotorua has referred all queries to you. We understand that you – or one of your delegates – approved the plea bargain under which the murder charges were replaced with charges of manslaughter as required by law.

As I have said, we have sought advice from qualified and experienced lawyers both within and outside our ranks. No-one can explain – or even speculate on – the reasons for this deal being done. Most of our advisers say “there must be something more”.

On behalf of the members of SST, I would like to know if there is in fact anything more, and why exactly this decision was made and if indeed you or your office made it.

SST is organizing a number of rallies to be held at various Courts on the day of the sentencing for Tania Shailer and David Haerewa. While there will be a number of marches and rallies around New Zealand as a build up to the Court House rallies on the 27th. The purpose of the rallies on 27th June will be primarily to address the plea bargain issue.

We would like to read out a statement from you to hopefully allay the publics’ worst fears and I invite you to submit such a statement for me to action.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Garth McVicar 
Founder Sensible Sentencing Trust

Friday, June 24, 2016

Crowded house

The headline reads, "Baby gets sick in crowded house".

It is now an established trend for young people to stay longer in the family home. It's happening in our family and I am fine with it. It makes sense due to various circumstances.

But if the young person then adds a partner, followed by children, it is inevitable that overcrowding is going to happen.

What I would like the media to decide is which is worse? Poverty - higher when housing costs consume a greater part of income - or overcrowding, which allows people to pool their resources.

Overcrowding actually alleviates poverty. So then the story has to be about how overcrowding makes people sick.

I have a suspicion that state houses are the cause of the problem - not the solution. Because they are cheap compared to private rentals families tend to congregate in them as well as on the grounds.

It may be that the son can't find a rental in Tauranga or that, compared to living with his mother in a cheap state house, he can't find anything 'affordable'.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

No free lunches in Upper Hutt

A social entrepreneur has contacted 300 Upper Hutt businesses to pay for school lunches for children who turn up without. He's had no takers.

Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce CE says,

"I'm genuinely surprised to be perfectly honest . . . the feedback that's been given to me is that there's been a genuine lack of interest and in most cases a non-reply which absolutely astounds me for a business community that we have in the valley that do like to normally support community projects."

The social entrepreneur says,

"I'm not trying to sound harsh but if there are businesses that are making money off our community then I'm sort of garnering towards making them socially responsible to give back to the community that it makes money from."
But they do give back. As the first comment records. And they give back in taxes that run the welfare system that distributes income for the very purposes of feeding children.

So I am not surprised that there is little interest in this project. Businesses will also have figured out that once 'free lunches' are on offer the need will mysteriously grow.

These schools need to talk to the parents. Or send them a letter saying that if their children continue to come to school with no food CYF or Work and Income will be contacted. That will result in the parent either having to do budgeting course or have their income managed by a third party.

A couple of slices of bread, apple, and biscuit. How hard can it be for god's sake? And if the school can prepare and freeze sandwiches in advance why can't the parents?

All this guy is doing is encouraging absolutely slack parenting (if indeed children are genuinely without lunch. I bet some are given money to buy food but spend it on whatever it is kids buy these days.)

It is disgraceful that he is trying to shame businesses when it is the parents who should be shamed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Welfare fraud versus tax evasion

Various coverage occurred yesterday about Victoria University research into the lack of even-handedness in dealing with welfare fraudsters versus tax evaders. There is even a very large billboard mounted just to the left of the motorway heading into Wellington highlighting the issue (thank you taxpayers.)

The following is, I believe a misunderstanding on the part of the lead researcher:

Ms Marriott said despite the higher cost of tax evasion, people who committed welfare fraud were judged more harshly because society had little sympathy for people on welfare.

People have plenty of sympathy for those on welfare; for those who have suffered a redundancy, the loss of a spouse, an accident, a disability, care for disabled children etc. But fraud is an abuse of their sympathy and causes anger.

More importantly, what people have little sympathy for is the idea that the state controls all the money and it decides how much of it you can keep. Whether you personally helped create the money is immaterial.

So when an individual attempts to keep more of what he has created there is less anger than when someone tries to take what he hasn't. That is why society has greater tolerance (and exhibits it through the courts) for tax evasion than welfare fraud.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Latest abortion statistics

The latest abortion statistics were released yesterday:

(Left click to enlarge image)

The big news is the massive drops among the youngest groups 20-24 and 15-19 year-olds.

This is coinciding with a substantial drop in the teenage birth rate.

Fewer conceptions can only mean

1/Less heterosexual sex or
2/Better contraception - more use and increased efficacy

Whatever is happening it is fantastic to see these developments. The numbers are dropping across ethnicities (with slight rises on 2014 for Maori and Asian).

"Where have all the good men gone?"

My answer (a guess) to this lady's question is, man shy-off activities where there are loads of women.

Just because they aren't into pilates, the theatre and tai chi it doesn't mean they aren't creative.

Maybe they are into their cars, woodworking, fishing, golf or lycra-cycling.

You can't turn people into the mirror image of yourself. You take them as you find them. They might get interested in what you like doing and vice versa.

But I doubt men over 60 are quite as "unadventurous" and uninteresting as the writer believes. They may simply have a tendency to be more solitary and less into socialising. Therefore less visible.

The male readers of this blog, many of whom I suspect are in the group complained about, may have something to add.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Make benefit system open slather

That's what barrister Catrionna MacLennan is essentially recommending in today's NZ Herald referencing the social security legislation rewrite currently underway. My comments are interspersed below in orange:

Here is how we could improve our social welfare law;

1. Delete the purposes and principles sections from the bill and replace them with the statement "The purpose of this act is to ensure all New Zealanders in hardship receive the help they need and it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Development to do this."

Define hardship.

2. Make the reduction of poverty the aim of social welfare, rather than the current focus on reducing the number of beneficiaries.

Even Labour believes (or used to believe under Clark and Cullen) that paid employment is the best way out of poverty which is why they created the In Work Tax Credit. The current focus is getting people into work to reduce poverty.

3. Write into the bill a recognition of the value of parenting. At present, our welfare system is preoccupied with ensuring as many people as possible enter the paid workforce. This is a short-term approach and fails to take account of the long-term value to the community of parents spending time with their children. In addition, casual, very badly-paid work means that paid work is no longer a guaranteed route out of poverty.

Parents on welfare are far more likely to abuse or neglect their children. Children in a cohort who had contact with the benefit system before age two accounted for 83% of all children  for whom findings of substantiated maltreatment were recorded by age 5. More welfare will not equal better parenting. 

4. Delete section 70A from the bill. This sanctions women who cannot name the fathers of their children by docking their benefits - initially by $22 a week and later by $28. The main people this punishes are actually the women's children. They are already growing up in a financially-deprived household and further reducing the family's meagre income exacerbates that hardship.

Abolishing this disincentive would  increase the single parent benefit bill in two ways. By paying existing mothers who dot not name fathers more, and going forward, recouping  less money from the unnamed fathers of whom there would be far more. There are already  exemptions made from the Section 70A rule in unusual circumstances.

5. Require the Ministry of Social Development to provide all beneficiaries with all the assistance to which they are entitled. Currently, people seeking help face major difficulties in obtaining their legal entitlements. Research demonstrates that those accompanied by an advocate have a better chance of receiving assistance. Hundreds of people have queued in recent years to receive help from Auckland Action Against Poverty at "Impacts" in Mangere and elsewhere. Voluntary groups should not have to do the job a government agency is funded to carry out.

See 7 below

6. Delete the phrase "long-term welfare dependency" from the bill. This makes welfare a burden, rather than the responsibility of the community and an investment in the future wellbeing of New Zealanders.

In other words  stop differentiating between those people who use welfare as a temporary support (for which they paid taxes)  and those who remain on welfare for years, if not their entire working-age lives, as a matter of choice.

7. Write into law a provision that grants, advances on benefits and other additional assistance are not recoverable by MSD from beneficiaries. If people were not in desperate need, they would not be receiving such help. Requiring them to repay these amounts - as in the case of people staying in Auckland motels at the moment - merely pushes them further into hardship.

This is exceptionally foolish. Here the writer says that people would not be receiving grants etc if they "were not in desperate need." Earlier however she says MSD are not providing "all the assistance to which they are entitled." Which is it? No requirement to repay grants and advances would be open slather.

8. Stop sending mothers convicted of benefit fraud on the basis of a confusing and inconsistently-applied legal test to jail. As these women are already single parents, sending them to jail has disastrous consequences for their children, who end up deprived of both parents. In addition, if the debt established against them cannot be repaid within two years, it should be written off. That is what happens in other parts of our legal system. Pursuing them for the rest of their lives for debts they cannot repay means they can never improve their families' financial position.

So no repayments for grants and advances, no repayments for fraudulently acquired benefits, and now, no jail terms. Why not just issue every beneficiary with unlimited credit, and throw the rule book out the window?

9. Abolish Benefits Review Committees and establish an independent process for reviewing the ministry's decisions.

10. Make benefit rates liveable, rather than keeping them very low to punish those who cannot - for many reasons - either find or perform paid work.

How many times does it need to be demonstrated that a single parent receiving a basic benefit, family tax credits and accommodation supplement has an all-up income above the minimum wage. The average sole parent with two children living in South Auckland is receiving around $670 weekly. If she takes in a lodger or shares with another sole parent the household income will be even more "liveable".

Even the Greens wouldn't adopt this policy prescription. It's quite insane.