Saturday, October 16, 2010

There is nothing " noble" about choosing to live off the efforts of others

Taxpayers and rate-payers, via Creative NZ and the Wellington City Council, have been forced to fund, to the tune of $52,000, a one finger gesture aimed right back at them.

This arsing-about advocate who believes "We should never be forced to take a job,'' needs to add a few more caveats to understand how untenable his position is. How about, We should never be forced to take a job in order to allow someone else not to? Both can't be right.

In any case, who is forced to work? If we didn't have a massive state bureaucracy busy redistributing income willy-nilly, people would be "forcing themselves" to work. Or starve.

I really detest this highly infectious idea that it is somehow noble to not work and not consume. Taken to its logical conclusion we would all perish. Or is Mr whatever- his- name- is saying just some should never be forced to take a job, a new sort of elitism. State supported saints perhaps.

All the media talk this weekend is about the dire state of the economy; the lack of recovery. Yet money continues to be dished out on bullshit 'art'. Art promoting loafing as a lifestyle. Just what we f____ing need.

Friday, October 15, 2010

PM says Coastal Coalition " misleading" people

Wrangling over the Coastal and Marine Bill continues. Audrey Young reports on ACT " boasting" about achieving a clause out of Finlayson that states access to beaches will be "free".

And here (47:50)the Prime Minister tells a caller to NewstalkZB that Hugh Barr of the Coastal Coalition is intentionally or otherwise misleading people about what the legislation will mean.

Key maintains that deals labelled "backroom" are no different to what property developers already pursue through local councils for example. The new legislation simply means that when the government won't cede to Maori claims they can then proceed to court.

I am not sure who to believe.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Australia - "the dumb blonde"

A British branding expert has told Australians that their country is viewed as "the dumb blonde" of the world - shallow, unintelligent but attractive. Which probably explains why so many NZ men go there.

But assuming his theory has some veracity it raises two questions for me.

Do New Zealanders see Australia in the same way as other nationalities? And, if Australia is the dumb blonde, what is New Zealand? I've only been to Australia a couple of times, and bypassed it on the big OE. It seemed too similar to NZ to hold much excitement. Having said that I still travelled to English speaking countries - the US and my original home, the UK, which is a great base for visiting European destinations. But now I am grown up the sameness, paradoxically, holds more attraction. Like many New Zealanders I imagine my lifestyle could be replicated there if I really got sick of NZ, which hasn't happened and is very unlikely to.

Because of our geographical proximity to Australia I don't think we do see it through the same lens as say Americans or Europeans. And I couldn't presume to speak for Asians. Rather than a dumb blonde Australia seems like a scout mistress maybe. Practical, capable, no nonsense, unable to see how others view her. Or rather uncaring about how others view her. (Having already received a couple of nasty shocks searching for an image of a blonde with an Australian flag I am disinclined to look for a picture of a scout mistress.)

New Zealand on the other hand has none of Australia's confidence and self-certainty. New Zealand is still searching for an identity and ergo, a brand. Trying to find one in the dumb blonde vein shouldn't be confused with trying to describe kiwi women. I think the world does have a handle on girls from NZ but how do they see the country? When people would ask me what is NZ like, sometimes, if they were actually interested in an answer and not something else, I would venture that NZ is to Australia what Canada is to the US. Now I think about it, I have no idea what I was talking about beyond accents. Kiwis and Canadians have milder forms of Australian and US accents. Perhaps milder forms of everything.

So maybe NZ is the dumb blonde's mousey friend. The second best but with a bigger heart and a bigger brain.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Benefit growth continues

Acting Social Development Minister Judith Collins, issued a statement about latest benefit numbers putting the usual positive slants on it. Seasonal factors and slowing rate of growth. But cutting to the chase...

There are 338,212 New Zealanders currently receiving a benefit.

That is 1.6 percent higher than in June 2010 when there were 332,924.

Of the 5,288 increase only 1,371 was accounted for by the unemployment benefit. So three quarters of the increase is on other benefits. That is bad news because, as I have pointed out many times before, people stay on the DPB and invalid's benefit much longer and create much higher future liabilities (and social costs).

By December I expect the DPB will exceed the previous high at December 1997 of 114,799. Unless the 'anticipatory' effect of work-testing kicks in (ie faced with a looming obligation to find work some will jump before they are pushed).

One benefit to rule them all

The UK government is forging ahead with its Universal Credit which will apparently replace all benefits. According to the Independent:

Millions of welfare claimants are set to have their benefits scrapped and replaced with a single "universal credit", it was reported today.

The decision represents a victory for Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith in his lengthy battle with the Treasury over his plans to overhaul the welfare system, The Times reported.

Under the changes, housing benefit, income support, incapacity benefit and dozens of other payments will be swept away in a major reform programme intended to break the culture of welfare dependency by making work pay.

The move was announced in a fairly dramatic and sometimes gushy speech given by Iain Duncan Smith on October 1. Some excerpts:

This Conservative-led government has concern for the poor running through its DNA and we are focused each day in order to see joined up government working together for the national interest....

This country needs a completely different type of government. It needs a government of transformation. A Government determined to mend what is broken and reform what doesn't work....

For me, for my department and for this coalition government we recognise that there are five pathways out of poverty.

• Strong, stable families.
• A school that gives you the skills you need for your future.
• Work where you can provide for your family
• Streets that are free of drugs so that our children can grow up in safety
• And freedom from debt.

A government welfare cheque can protect against hardship but can never substitute for a loving parent, an inspirational teacher and a good employer....

But detail on exactly how the Universal Credit will improve on the status quo is not available.

Then, ironically, after announcing the one benefit to rule them all he announces another new benefit:

Today we are going to go further. After discussions with the Prime Minster and the Chancellor I can announce that I will set up the New Enterprise Allowance that will be run by Chris Grayling.

If you have been unemployed for 6 months and want to start your own business we want to support you.

We will provide business mentoring and a financial package worth up to £2000 to get your business up and running.

We want to see 10 000 new small businesses by next year.

Well let's just back up a moment. He also says in his speech;

I'm all for fairness.

I will always fight for fairness for people who have fallen on hard times.

I will always fight for fairness for the very vulnerable.

But fairness must be a two way street.

I'm determined that the people who pay their taxes into this welfare state get a fair deal too.

How are the many self-employed plumbers, roofers, builders, electricians, retailers, cafe owners, cab drivers, couriers etc etc going to feel about the government using their money to fund 10,000 new competitors when times are already very tough?

Sorry, but I just don't think this guy has any hope of making the difference he has sworn to.

What is needed is less welfare; not more welfare, and not welfare under another name.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Feminism vs multiculturalism

Don't you love it when gender politics slams up against ethnic politics? A prominent instance was when Josie Bullock refused to move to a back row on a marae in observance of Maori cultural customs. This left the Corrections Department in a very difficult position unable to uphold both sets of 'rights'. Feminists will normally jump on the multiculturalist band wagons because both groups are collectivists and work to harness state power to advance their agendas. But feminists from the Hand Mirror are at loggerheads with Te Papa over Te Papa's insistence that women who go on a behind-the-scenes tour of Maori exhibits be neither pregnant nor menstruating.

Deborah Russel, prominent feminist blogger on The Hand Mirror blog, does not think the policy should be enforced in modern society.

"I don't understand why a secular institution, funded by public money in a secular state, is imposing religious and cultural values on people.

"It's fair enough for people to engage in their own cultural practices where those practices don't harm others, but the state shouldn't be imposing those practices on other people."

However, Margaret Mutu, head of Maori Studies at Auckland University, said the policy was common in Maori culture.

Women cannot go into the garden, on to the beach or in the kitchen when they are menstruating.

"It's a very serious violation of tapu for women to do those things while menstruating. Women cannot have anything to do with the preparation of food while they are menstruating."

She said the exhibition rule was quite normal. "It's just the way we are ... It's part of our culture, but it's just one that isn't well known and that Pakeha aren't aware of."

Umm. What was that again?

"I don't understand why a secular institution, funded by public money in a secular state, is imposing religious and cultural values on people."

Therein lies the difficulty. "Public money" is, in part, raised from people with "religious and cultural values". Feminists are quite happy to use that money to further their own causes even when those causes clash with the values of the people forced to pay for them.

Monday, October 11, 2010

"The real problem is not enough jobs"

Kay Brereton, Benefit Rights advocate responded to last weeks Treasury report to the Welfare Working Group by saying, The real problem is not enough jobs.

There are 4 points I would make about that statement;

1/ Economies are cyclical. Nobody knows when, but the NZ economy will recover. If we fail to change the current policy settings around the sickness and invalid benefits (what Treasury wants) when we have another strong period of economic growth similar to that of 2003-2008, the numbers on those benefits will continue to rise, as they did during that period.

2/ NZ has a rapidly ageing population which is going to mean increasing demand for aged care workers in rest homes and in the community. Demand already outstrips supply. There is significant caring capacity within the DPB population where over 40,000 people are caring for school age children only.

3/ Many mothers want to work but there is a shortage of pre-school care available. The government pays around half of the DPB population (50,000) to care full-time for one child only. This is a very inefficient use of resources. Every dollar spent on benefits can't be spent elsewhere creating employment.

4/ Tourism is an integral part of the NZ economy. Our PM is Minister for Tourism. Tourism creates many low-skilled jobs but potential workers need to be in the right location to take them. Labour was very successful at moving people off the unemployment benefit into work and one of their strategies was the Jobs Jolt which prevented unemployed beneficiaries from moving to places where there was no work. But that policy was never applied to the sickness, invalids or DPB. Again, all Treasury wants is the same effort put into those people on other benefits who can do some work.

But as long as people continue to take a paralysed defeatist approach that says there are no jobs, there will be no jobs.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

US unemployment - how it compares to NZ

A Washington Post report describes how the US economy continues to shed jobs. The good news is that the reduction is in the public sector. The private sector is adding jobs.

The nation's 14.8 million unemployed people have been out of work an average of 33.3 weeks, and nearly 42 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for at least six months.

By way of comparison in NZ 21 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for 6 months or more (not including those who have not specified the duration of spell).

Men continued to bear the brunt of the unemployment problem, with an overall unemployment rate of 9.8 percent, compared with 8 percent rate for women. The unemployment rate for 16.1 percent for blacks, 12.4 percent for Hispanics, 8.7 percent for whites and 6.4 percent for Asians. All of those rates were little changed from August.

Again a comparison to NZ shows that the unemployment rate for men is 6.9 percent compared to 6.8 percent for women. The unemployment rate for Maori is 16.4 percent, Pacific 14.1 percent, Asian 10.5 percent and European 4.4 percent.

Interesting that in the US Asians have the lowest unemployment rate whereas is NZ it is considerably higher than for Europeans. Do Asians do better in a more capitalist society? Are Asians more (or less) integrated into the US compared to NZ and what difference does that make? Perhaps where an ethnicity is less integrated their own economies provide more work opportunities? I have no idea what the answers are. You might.