It seems to have eluded Federated Farmers economic spokesperson Philip York at least – just as it eluded Ruth Richardson – that spending on welfare is one of the engines of the domestic economy. Beneficiaries spend the money that they get from the state in local shops – not on overseas trips or on luxury imports.
So if we want a strong and growing economy, what we need is more spending on welfare. If that were so than during the rapid growth period of welfare (last 40 years) NZ's per capita income would have climbed relative to the rest of the developed world. It hasn't.
Or perhaps he means we just need to maintain current levels of spending, at the very least, to prop up the economy.
But the money being redistributed to beneficiaries is money that cannot be spent in investment and job creation.
It is no good talking up a group's collective consuming power if, eventually, there isn't a commensurate producer. This isn't chicken and egg stuff. The production has to come first. And production requires labour.
Same story with the low paid. It has been estimated for instance, that 2/3 of this year’s wage rise to staff at Progressive’s supermarkets will be spent back at Progressive, on groceries. The money circulates back through retailers, and government gets some of it back in tax.
No. It is not the same story with the working low paid. They add value to the economy with their labour. Their earnings are not taken away from the productive sector with no return. Wealth redistribution through voluntary means - paid employment - is entirely different from redistribution through government coercion.
I do not, and never have, advocated cutting benefit payment levels. However, and I am sorry to repeat myself, a stop to the ongoing inflow of new beneficiairies is urgent. That, and a progressive raising of the qualifying age for Super would see a steady decline in welfare spending. That would drop the proportion of government spending as a percentage of GDP. That will make NZ a wealthier country.
It is impossible to estimate the social cost in crime, marital breakdown and mental health problems that have resulted from this ongoing pressure on benefit levels and entitlements.
Almost as impossible as trying to estimate the cost in crime, marital breakdown and mental health problems that have resulted from benefit dependency itself. Again all of those aspects of life have become more commonplace on the back of the growth in the welfare state. They may have worsened in the early nineties but they were already well-entrenched compared to life before the culture of entitlement and hand-outs arrived.
I am not an economist but this claim is as nutty to me as the one that goes, I may be a beneficiary but I still pay tax. I make my contribution.