Friday, April 19, 2019

Ardern's no Lange

Currently reading David Lange's memoirs, I am reflecting on how different the two Prime Ministers
are. When Roger Douglas had almost unanimous caucus support for a flat tax (Lange: When it came to the crunch only Cullen and I opposed - "Dear God! What a terrible lot of people they were!") he unilaterally scuppered it by announcing an unscheduled press conference and telling the country there would be no flat tax. He'd said nothing beforehand to Douglas who was out of the country, or the rest of the caucus. He put his Prime Minister-ship on the line for his convictions.

If Ardern was as convinced about the CGT (another ideological economic device) she'd take it to the next election and set about right now trying to convince New Zealanders of its merits.

Friday, April 12, 2019

"Jacinda Ardern's economics of blindness": David Seymour

ACT MP David Seymour writes at Magic Talk:

Would you live in a country in which the average age at death is 45, few children attend secondary school, and most people don’t have access to a telephone or electricity?
Sounds awful, right? That was New Zealand in 1913. The difference between then and now is productivity.
Paul Krugman – a Nobel Prize-winning, left-wing economist – once wrote that “Productivity isn't everything, but, in the long run, it is almost everything. A country's ability to improve its standard of living over time depends almost entirely on its ability to raise its output per worker.”
Most serious economists would agree. 
More 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Media Release: Widespread benefit fraud identified by Auckland University

Widespread benefit fraud identified by Auckland University

April 11, 2019

Lindsay Mitchell, Welfare commentator and researcher

Widespread benefit fraud has been identified by the Auckland University of Technology in research published yesterday by the Ministry of Social Development.

For a number of years, and on a number of occasions, I have questioned the longitudinal Growing Up in New Zealand (GUiNZ) data because the level of reported sole parenthood does not match the reported national level. In new research by AUT the authors have made similar observations:

"A weakness of the GUiNZ data is that it may not be population representative and is not linked to administrative data.... Overall, 95% of GUiNZ children are born to mothers who are partnered. The GUiNZ sample seems to have low sole-parent status compared to a 2009 study that found one-third of families with dependent children were headed by sole-parents (Ministry of Social
Development, 2010). This could be because being partnered in the GUiNZ data is not the same as their domestic-purposes benefit status, from which partnership status is inferred by other studies. We find that 70% of those who say they receive the domestic-purposes benefit also answer yes to the question of whether they have a partner – confirming that the sole-parent status derived from GUiNZ is essentially different to those studies which rely on benefit status to infer partnership status." (My emphasis)

Work and Income rules state:

You may get Sole Parent Support if you are:
-aged 20 or older
-a single parent or caregiver with one or more dependent children under 14
-not in a relationship
-without adequate financial support

Claiming a sole parent benefit while partnered is illegal. Based on these new findings the practice may be widespread. It appears however to be tolerated.

The government is currently sitting on the completed Expert Welfare Advisory Group report. It is to be hoped that benefit fraud and better policy to prevent it, will form part of the ensuing discussion.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

There are no fathers now - just 'partners' of mothers

Are you a Dad? Do you want to be known as the father of your child or just the 'partner' of his mother?

Research released today by MSD into protective factors for vulnerable children based on the longitudinal Growing Up in NZ study refers only to mothers and partners, not mothers and fathers.

Fathers are only referred to in token reference to overseas research. Barely at all.

There is a huge irony in play here. I doubt the researchers noticed.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Stephen Franks nails it


Stephen Franks utterly nails it using gun control to illustrate how unknowingly incompetent the current crop is:
A general problem when censorious children are elected to govern
I see this issue as yet another where the urban ‘woke’ have utterly tin ears.
New Zealand has avoided many irreconcilable political fights over competing values. Now an ignorant generation are looking for ways to anger their opponents by deliberately kicking  sleeping dogs. Wise politicians pick no unnecessary fights that focus people on differences instead of on values they share.
Gun law has not been a tribal political issue here. My Select Committee 17 years ago reached a cross party consensus. But it is a badging issue in the US. So our “progressives” start the same chants to ape their US betters. They want to stick it to gun owners to show who is in charge – to anger “deplorables”. Whether the changes have any connection to a problem or a solution is immaterial to them. It is not so much ‘virtue signalling’ as IFF – identifying friend from foe.
From the same impulse they are trashing our 50 year old tacit deal  on abortion (‘we’ll pretend we have a law against abortion and leave the issue alone, if you too pretend the same”).
They look for any issue they can to stick the coercive state’s fat finger up the nose  of Christians – while excusing the ghastliness of Islamism, again to ape their US models.
They ended charter schools out of similar vindictiveness, thereby ensuring that whatever Hipkins does now in education will be reversed when he loses power.
And on free speech and so called non-binary gender and many other ‘me too’ (in its original sense) progressive causes their language, their solutions and their reasons are entirely derivative.
A consolation is that they are cementing their distance from the ordinary working people they have long scorned but claimed as the objects of their sanctimonious “altruism”.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Why child poverty claims are all over the place

MSD has helpfully produced a table that shows the extreme variability of official child poverty measures:

Depending on what political barrow is being pushed, the highest or lowest number can be selected.

The highest number - 341,000 - represents children living in homes under 60% of the median equivalised household income after housing costs. The lowest number - 65,000 - represents children living in severe material hardship experiencing eight or more specific deprivations.

Of interest the higher number has increased recently; the lower has decreased calling into question the relationship between the two.

The paper usefully goes on to point out:
Are all children in low-income households experiencing material hardship?
No.
The overlap between those in low-income households and those experiencing material hardship is considerably less than 100%, and the actual overlap depends on the measures being compared.
So next time you hear UNICEF for instance talking about one in three children in Aoteroa living in poverty you'll have some context to make sense of the claim.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Violence against women - some balance

Yesterday I received a press release from the White Ribbon Campaign containing the following statistics:

 KEY STATISTICS
·         New Zealand has the highest rate of reported violence towards women in the developed world
·         Police investigated 118,910 family violence incidents in 2016 or about one every five minutes
·         That’s 41% of a front line officer’s time
·         One in three women will experience partner violence at some point in their lives
·         Less than 20 percent of abuse cases are reported
·         Approximately 3,500 convictions are recorded against men each year for assaults on women
·         On average, 14 women a year are killed by their partners or ex-partners
·         Between 2009 and 2015, there were 92 IPV (Intimate Partner Violence) deaths. In 98% of death events where there was a recorded history of abuse, women were the primary victim, abused by their male partner.
 
 For balance here are some further statistics from the most recent 2018 Crime Victimization Survey:

The survey estimates that 16 percent of adults experienced one or more incidents of partner violence at some point during their lives. Women (21 percent) were more likely than men (10 percent) to have experienced one or more incidents of partner violence at some point during their lives.

21 percent is considerably lower than "one in three" so perhaps matters are improving. The correct expression of these percentages  should be one in five women and one in ten men.

 The survey also estimates that 23 percent of adults experienced one or more incidents of
sexual violence at some point during their lives. Again, women (34 percent) were more likely than men (12 percent) to have experienced one or more incidents of sexual violence at some point during their lives

Here we are closer to the one in three claim but note the distinction between 'violence' and 'sexual violence'. And again men are also affected albeit to a lesser degree. Of course these numbers rely on personal subjectivity and the individual's idea of violence. There may be gender differences between perceptions and willingness to acknowledge.

From 2009 to 2015 the Family Violence Death Review  Committee reports
There were 91 intimate partner violence (IPV) death events
Of the 92 deceased and 92 offenders in IPV death events:
• 68 percent (63 deceased) were women and 32 percent (29 deceased) were men
• 76 percent (70 offenders) were men and 24 percent (22 offenders) were women.

Almost a quarter of the offenders were women. Most of the women offenders were considered to be the victim of a history of abuse, but not all. Some cases are described as 'perpetrators in combination' which accounted for 8% in the 2002-08 reporting period.

Based on the above (latest) data, by my calculations, 9 women a year are "killed by their partners or ex-partners". Not 14. Googling 14 turned up this from the Christchurch Women's refuge:

About half of all homicides in New Zealand are family violence. There were 41 family violence homicides in New Zealand in 2010/11. On average, 14 women, 7 men and 8 children are killed by a member of their family every year.
So that claim is based on older data. Statistics are improving then for both women and men.

As for NZ having the "highest rate of reported violence towards women in the developed world," deaths are usually a good indicator for levels of violence, reported or otherwise. I had a quick look across  the Tasman where, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 99 women (and 27 men) were killed by a current or previous partner between 2012/13 and 2013/14. 50 women on average annually versus 9 in New Zealand. With a population only five times larger than NZ's, Australia looks slightly worse.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Causes of Poverty: Bad luck, bad choices and enablement


The Canadian think-tank, the Fraser Institute has just released a paper which suggests an elegantly simple framework in finding three causes of poverty: bad luck, bad choices and enablement. The first two need no explanation. The third is described thus:
We can say that poverty is “enabled” when systems and structures are in place to discourage the kinds of efforts that people would normally make to avoid poverty, i.e., find employment, find a partner (especially if children are present), improve one’s education and skill set, have a positive outlook, and take personal responsibility for your own actions. Ironically, it is government programs (welfare, in particular) that are intended to help the poor but end up actually enabling poverty.
In NZ, many of our current influencers (MPs and media) pooh,pooh the idea that bad choices are responsible for poverty despite this being self-evident. They base their disdain for the idea on a belief that greater systems, for example institutional racism, drive bad choices. Of course when they do this they excuse bad choices and even compensate the person making them. Undoubtedly, most of those sitting on the Welfare Expert Advisory Group would hold views of his nature.

There are people who will resist the suggestion that poor people might be responsible for their own poverty. Isn’t this just another example of “blaming the victim”? Shouldn't we be looking for other causes? Isn’t poverty really a condition of bad luck and something that just happens to people rather than a situation in which people find themselves largely due to their own bad choices? People who take the former view aren’t really looking at the implications of their own beliefs. Were we to live in a world where no one could be held responsible for making bad decisions that adversely affect themselves (and others who depend on them), then no one would be responsible for harm and no one could be held to account for the harm they do. But that is not the world in which we all live and,
indeed, is not a world that anyone would want to live in. The fact is that we all make bad choices from time to time. No one is immune. However, there are some critical choices we can make that will greatly reduce the chance of our being poor. Poverty researchers have identified those critical choices and this paper has discussed them at great length. Those choices are: 1) Finish high school—at a minimum; 2) Get a full-time job; 3) Wait until you are married to have children; and 4) Limit the number of children you have to those you can afford. Each of those four is a choice. This is what Sawhill and Haskins mean when they talk about “playing by the rules.” These choices are not always the easiest path. Making them well often means that you have to take responsibility for your own life, have some degree of self-control, and do some longer-term thinking. But there is certainly a lot of help available: remedial programs for completing high school; employment centres, skill upgrades, and job search apps; and various kinds of birth control. The problem, of course, is that we have institutions that, while nominally intending to help the poor, actually enable bad choices and thereby end up enabling poverty. 

The author, Christopher Sarlo, Professor of Economics, Nipissing University concludes:

Anyone who cares about the poor and wants to eliminate this horrible predicament needs first to understand what causes poverty. This paper suggests that a useful framework for understanding poverty is to look at bad luck and bad choices as the proximate causes, and to enablement as the key explanation for persistent and enduring poverty. I argue that bad choices are the dominant initiating cause of poverty in countries like Canada and the US, and that state policies like welfare are the critical enablers of poverty. 

Ditto New Zealand.