Friday, December 07, 2012

What's $300,000?

How much compo should we pay Susan Couch?

Dunno. What's 11 years on the DPB living in Auckland worth?



Home schooling - a right we take for granted

I'm shocked. Germany hates home-schooling apparently.  The Welfare State We're In has linked to a New American article about the persecution parents face in Germany and Sweden if they want to home school their children - THEIR children.

Earlier this year I made comment about how rules-bound and obedient Germans are in my experience. Perhaps the insistence on 'state education only' is part of the picture.

In October of 2005, the Neubronner family (pictured) decided to homeschool. In America, that would have been the end of the story. The Neubronners, however, lived in Germany, where government has taken an extreme hardline stance with the aim of eradicating home education altogether. The loving German parents applied for permission to educate their two young sons, Morris and Thomas, at home. Unsurprisingly, their application was rejected.

Over the next few months, the battle seemed interminable. They sued for permission to homeschool and lost. Then they appealed. Again, they lost. Finally, in the summer of 2006, the Neubronners struck a deal with school authorities: The boys could be homeschooled provided they were tested regularly. Like the vast majority of homeschoolers, the kids did great on the government’s tests.

Despite the high marks, or perhaps because of them, eventually, authorities decided to put an end to the successful home education scheme. The Neubronner parents were threatened with massive fines, and like many other homeschoolers in Germany, even a potential jail sentence was put on the table if they refused to comply. During that time, the family appealed all the way up to the German constitutional court.

As the fight was unfolding, the family’s story became national news, with mother Dagmar, a biologist and publisher, becoming the face of the secular homeschooling movement in Germany. The media coverage ranged from friendly to neutral because the family seemed — aside from the homeschooling, at least — like a rather “normal,” well-integrated, intellectual family without any particular ax to grind against government schools; they simply wanted to exercise their right not to use that particular government “service.”

When the family refused to pay the exorbitant fines, officials burst into their home and ransacked it, searching for something, anything, to take with them. They found nothing worthwhile, but the horror was just getting started. Finally, officials froze the family’s bank accounts. They even threatened to arrest both parents and auction their home to pay the fines.


Tuesday, December 04, 2012

"Stay on the dole"

"Stay on the dole"  WINZ tells beneficiaries

WINZ refuses to put up a few hundred dollars to save thousands

These are the headlines we'd be reading if Work and Income was innocent of the charges Jacinda Ardern is levelling at them

An illogical sentiment abounds about keeping the unemployed domiciled here, as if they are worth more as potential employers than as an unemployed cost. Beyond the silliness of that, if someone can find work in Australia and be productive and satisfied, why hold them down on an unemployment benefit here? It makes no sense.

Another storm in a teacup manufactured by airhead Ardern.

Student allowances - almost 100,000

The statistics for 2011 have just been released and student allowance recipients for 2011 reached 97,308. That's an increase of 41,757 since 2005 or 75 percent. I think of student allowances as benefits even though they come out of the Ministry of Education budget. After all, if they weren't on a student allowance many would be on  the dole.

Looking at the allowances in the context of unemployment, in 1991 unemployment peaked at 11 percent. In that year 72,479 students received an allowance. The population  was smaller then but not by much with respect to the relevant demographic.

In 1991 the 15-24 population was 556,000.
In 2011 it was 644,000.

(Of course not all student allowance recipients fall into that age group but most do.)

On the face of it the ratio of young people receiving a student allowance to the unemployment rate is higher today.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Truth column November 22

My November 22 Truth column is now on-line:

Delegates at last weekend’s Labour Party conference decided electorate committees should have a 50% female quota.

Electorate committees are the muscle behind the candidate. I chaired one for ACT. Had anyone instructed me to turn away a willing and capable male member because I didn’t have a female counterpart, I would have resigned. It’s loony. But these days, Labour is loony.


Other Truth columns here

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Talking up poverty

Earlier in the week Bob  Stephens and Charles Waldegrave two long-time anti-poverty campaigners wrote a piece for the NZ Herald which  looked at the cost of housing rental, the largest weekly outlay people have. They compared two and three-bedroom properties in the lowest income areas. Then made this statement:

If the children are of different genders and one is adolescent they would normally require separate bedrooms, so a three-bedroom house would be needed.

When I was very young my Mum and dad bought their first home and it had three bedrooms. Lucky me got one to myself because the three brothers had to share. When we moved here it was considered the height of luxury to build a four bedroom house with two toilets no less. Two brothers still shared.

Many - if not most - of the families discussed here are sole parent. If I was the sole parent with a low income I'd been opting for the smallest home in the best neighbourhood - maybe even one bedroom if the children were very young. The idea that a single parent with one boy and one girl automatically requires a three bedroom home is silly. But it does help the case of those who want to push up costs as high as they can.

I am not denying that low income families struggle. But the inevitable conclusion that government has to direct more money into these homes is not a given. You can argue the moral case, the economic case, the political case.... But perhaps the worst aspect of this type of thinking and analysis is it takes away from the poor the expectation that they can be smart, adaptive and innovative; that they can work out for themselves how to make their lives better tomorrow by making some sacrifices today. It's thoroughly patronising and paternalistic and will not deliver some sort of socialist nirvana. It will result in a helpless, dependent population who one day wake up and realise that the all-giving state is now their worst enemy.

Strike that.  It's already happened.