Saturday, June 12, 2010

Armstong moots a Machiavellian Minister

John Armstrong's interpretation of Paula Bennett's comment that during the Welfare Working Group forum we could see an "ugly side" of NZ is a way from mine. He paints the comment as a manipulative attempt to ostracise the left. I felt it could just as easily be aimed at people like me loosely characterised as libertarian extremists or misinterpreted as racist. Paula Bennett and I are not buddies. She has only once communicated to me directly and that was as an MP and ex DPB recipient, and was a criticism of a media release I issued.

There are a whole bunch of people who seem to think there is some sort of conspiracy occurring, John Armstrong included. I don't know what the word for this psychological phenomena is but where I would once have participated I now observe it. If you have ever worked your way up through large organisation for instance, at the bottom you imagine that management are in cohorts and have a plan. They are invulnerable and omnipotent. As you get closer to the top you understand that you are not necessarily dealing with a group of like-minded individuals at all but individuals with their own agendas, ideas, and varying abilities to make those ideas come to fruition.

I don't believe that National has a radical plan for welfare at all. Various players will be making it up as they go, some winning, some losing. But political inertia is a strong force. Back to Armstrong;

Bennett's remarks should have rung alarm bells in the institute's ivory towers about the highly divisive direction in which the welfare working group's work is likely to move. Rebstock's paternalistic talk of the current system locking "many people" into life on a benefit which "robs them of their potential" is the giveaway of the kind of agenda operating here.

What Rebstock said is undeniable. But not only does it rob people of their potential, it robs their children.

Such talk also does not equate with the facts. Ministry of Social Development data shows those getting the domestic purposes benefit number about 110,000.

But that disguises the stream of sole parents flowing in and out of that category. About 31,000 people signed up for the DPB in the year to March. But in the same period nearly 26,000 came off it.

And? What about the other 80-odd thousand? What about the ones I focus on, who go onto a benefit pitifully young, 16 and 17 year-olds, and stay there for many years continuously, or habitually cycle on and off? And he ignores that most of the people signing onto the DPB are either transfers or returners.

...The figures suggest the current system does not lock people into benefits and that people want to work, but the determining factor is the state of the labour market.

If everyone wanted to work why was the drop on DPB numbers during the economic boom, when NZ had the lowest unemployment rate in the OECD, so small? Because people lack skills and self-discipline; because they lack confidence; because benefits can pay more and offer more security; there are myriad reasons, only one of which is there isn't a job for them.

Armstrong doesn't understand what he is writing about in more ways than one.


Anonymous said...

You are right, Armstrong is flying without instruments. The problem is that almost everybody is, because of the secrecy around data. That secrecy can be the result of simply not knowing, or of purposefully hiding and manipulating data.
In my experience of govt information, it is probably a combination of the two. The only way we will ever be able to get through this problem is to get our hands on raw data, regardless of the "privacy" issues involved. In my view there needs to first be the acceptance that it is public money we are talking about, so everybody should have the right to know all of the details. Once that is achieved, data can be aggregated so it becomes meaningful. Only at that point can conclusions be drawn that have a chance of being beyond partisan or ideological viewpoints.
Unfortunately, the access to real data is now in he hands of those who benefit from obfuscation and from massaging data to mean what fits in the flavour of the day.
In my view therefore, there ought to be a stronger effort to achieve transparency, although probably nothing short of constitutional overhaul will be able to achieve that.

Anonymous said...

I do have trouble having sympathy for the view of some people that solo mothers can't work, there are no jobs, no after school care, after school care is too expensive, what do you do when your kids are sick, what do you do in the school holidays, raising children is the most important job of all.......The list of excuses seems never ending. Plenty of solo mothers (and married mothers) work and still do a good job raising their children. I have been a working married mother and now am a working solo mother. Yes it's hard being a single parent, but that doesn't mean you can't work outside the home and still be a good parent.
At the school I work at in a central Auckland suburb we recently had two teacher aide vacancies. (General classroom assistance - not working with kids with behaviour problems.) School hours, term time only, paying $20-50/hr plus 8% holiday pay. This works out as more than minimum wage in a full time job. Sound like a perfect job for a mother? We had only 18 applicants for the two positions, and all of those applicants were already employed.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that National has a radical plan for welfare at all.

More's the pity. Even ACT doesn't have a very radical plan. But we do: Stop the lot. Cancel all benefits including super (except war pensions).

loosely characterised as libertarian extremists

You aren't a libertarian extremist - I mean you're not advocating we just shoot all the bludgers are you? Or even compulsory sterlize them?

Really the question of NZ's welfare system is down to basic mathematics.

NZ's bludger-laden welfare syetem costs something like 300 MILLION DOLLARS PER WEEK. Money NZ simply does not have - money that we borrow and have been borrowing for years with no plan at all to actually pay back

The only way to stop borrowing is to stop welfare.

The only way to pay the money back is stop state "health" and "education" and use those funds to pay back the debt.

There aren't enough govt "assets" to sell to pay back 200% of out GDP which is NZ indebtedness.

You know - I wish NZ was like Norway or Saudi - countries with enough income that they can afford to pay everyone a living wage, still build up huge reserves for super schemes etc, have lots of people on benefits and import "Guest Workers" to do the dirty jobs. It would be great.

It would be great if NZ was like Germany or even Belgium or Sweden - countries with high benefit levels and high taxes, but high public infrastructures and large real economies that actually make fucking money for the country

But NZ isn't like that at all. Which part of nett debt 200% of GDP don't these idiots understand

No matter how many times you say it - and how obviously true it is - some people are just so stupid they cannot understand: they ONLY way to stop welfare dependency is to STOP WELFARE

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Thanks Hollyfield. I have heard smilar tales over the years. Just out of interest, would the positions have been put with Work and Income?