Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Who are the real enemies?

Labour's post-conference pitiable policy announcements have depressed me.

What will it take to break the accursed connection between keeping people expectantly dependent, one way or the other, and political power-grab?

I deplore the contemporary 'victimhood' society but hell, we are all most certainly victims of one particular group. Politicians. Our franchise makes us victims of their boring bribery. Yes, they aren't even imaginative in their cajolery any more. The bribes are recycled and renamed; bribes that are enabled by forced wealth redistribution which all must submit to or face the legal might of the state.

But here is the very worst aspect of this despicable process.

The politicians turn people against people. Groups against groups; individuals against individuals. They do it knowingly and purposefully by manipulating one of the most powerful human emotions - jealousy - and its companion - resentment.

So, conveniently for the politicians, we start hating each other instead of hating them. But why? Especially when the abhorrence results from the leftists stirring loathing of the so-called 'rich'. After all, Labour and Green politicians are well within their own prescribed boundaries for qualifying as 'rich pricks'.

But low income people are too busy glowering about the unfairness of farmers supposedly not paying tax, to recall that politicians don't risk anything or produce anything. Politicians don't have incomes subject to the cruel vagaries of the weather. They aren't subject to the harsh physical realities of farming. Or the see-sawing economy.

Unbelievably politicians are even accorded recognition and kudos by dependent voters for revealing just who isn't pulling their weight. Like the employers. The very people who provide us with jobs and livelihoods. They are the greedy bastards, they say. Not us politicians, consumed by playing you off against each other to ensure our continued comfortable circumstances and regular ego massages.

And don't tell me National didn't bribe voters in the latest budget. Of course they did. They continued the handouts and hampers of various goodies despite their patent lack of affordability.

We are played for fools. We delegate our responsibilities gladly and take perverse pleasure in the battles that result. The battles that the biggest bandits, politicians, orchestrate through the most cynical play on human nature - evocation of the politics of envy.

Are we really so devoid of self-respect, so pathetic, as to keep submitting to this embittering exploitation? Would we let others in positions of relative power blatantly play us off against each other for their own gain? Isn't such an utter milking the hallmark of dysfunctionalism?

My faith in democracy is vanquished. I am squashed beneath the heavy abeyance of individual autonomy. I am surrounded by unseeing fools. And worst of all I don't know how to end this post.

An exhortation to rise up and throw off the shackles of dependence? Bah. All we are seeing around the developed world is revolt against the loss of entitlements.

The only people who will read my post and empathise belong to a minority so small we cannot even obtain a piffling, paltry portion of parliamentary presence. Let alone power. And how distasteful. To need to join the game to have the merest chance of scuppering it.

Bad news, good news - take your pick

The bad news is that the number of jobs continues to fall. The good news is at a slower rate.

“What we are seeing in the March 2010 year is a slowing of the recession’s effect on the labour market in New Zealand. Jobs have continued to decrease, but at a slower rate than in previous quarters, and more people are now moving between employers," project manager of employment and education statistics, Guido Stark, said.

The bad news is notifications of child abuse continues to rise. The good news is, as a percentage, fewer need investigating.

"CYF figures show that between 2003-04 and 2009-10, the number of notifications nationally increased by 200 percent from 40,939 to 124,921."

"But in the same period the amount of notifications requiring further action has increased by just 56 percent. In Hawke's Bay the figures are even better. Notification jumped 236 percent but the number requiring further action increased by just 10 percent." Russell Wills, new Children's Commissioner.

The bad news is the Horizon Poll has NZ First at over seven percent.The good news is ACT polled over 5 percent.

Act continues to poll over the vital 5% threshold needed to win seats in Parliament if it does not retain the Epsom electorate. It has 5.1%, compared with 5.3% on May 14.

Or we can flip it the other way.

The good news is Labour's new ingenious policy of a minimum wage puts extra costs on employers. The bad news is employer pass them on through price rises.

Minimum wage rise would put costs onto employers rather than taxpayers

"Recent discussions about Labour's plans to increase the minimum wage seem to have missed an important point" Says Kay Brereton of the Wellington People's Centre.

The good news is the number of criminal sentences and orders being served has dropped. The bad news is the prison population continues to grow.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bits and pieces

Bits and pieces this morning.

The Welfare State We're In looks at welfare in Italy:

In Italy, pensions are the biggest item. Social assistance or tax-fund benefits for the unemployed, lone mothers, children etc are very small compared to the UK. Low benefits for lone parents surely has had a major influence in the very low rate of lone parenting. (There are Catholic countries which have far higher rates.) In fact a professor told me, “The lone mothers are wealthy”. He did not mean they get high benefits. Only wealthy women can afford to be lone mothers.

NCPA covers off the problem with social entitlements:

Freedom and entitlement are largely two different paradigms to think about the fundamentals of economic development. Depending on the balance between free choices and more coerced decisions, individual opportunities to learn, own, work, save, invest, trade, protect and so forth could vary greatly across countries and over time, says Jean-Pierre Chauffour, lead economist in the International Trade Department at the World Bank...For developed countries, they suggest that prioritizing economic freedom over social entitlements could be an effective way to reform the welfare state and make it more sustainable and equitable in the long run.

Don Brash sticks to economic matters addressing a Federated Farmers meeting in Southland. Good. Less pleased to see latest polling but its very early days.

Mr Brash criticised the National Government for not having the courage or willingness to repeal some of the previous Labour government's "dopier policies", such as interest-free student loans and KiwiSaver subsidies. They did not help from a government policy point of view and required more overseas borrowing to afford the schemes.

If ACT gained power or influence, it would aim to cut out "sillier programmes" that Labour had introduced, he said.

The National Government might not have created the economic mess the country was in, but it failed to draw it back. It should not have taken three budgets to introduce a more austere one when the global financial crisis was developing, Mr Brash said.

Many of ACT's policies were what National had been promoting at the previous election.

And Tariana Turia goes all flowery launching the WE CARE SOCIAL AWARENESS campaign. What a lot of bollocks.

Some of you in this room may be gardeners. For those who are not, let me share with you a little secret.

There is no such thing as a green thumb.

There are gardeners who care – whose gardens reflect the quality of care they are exposed to. That care might extend to some pretty unorthodox approaches – gardening under moonlight; with mood music; with teabags or potato peelings as fertiliser….but whatever it is, the quality of care is immediately observable by the vibrancy and the strength of the plants.

Today we are talking about a different garden – the garden of humanity.

It isn't so much what she says that I object to but that government is all over the issue and arena of caring. It is their interference that breaks down the natural networks that provide care. Which takes me back to where I started, with a further quote from James Bartholemew about the Italian welfare system:

The Mediterranean system. This is centred around the ideal of the family as the first resort for welfare. Children and the elderly are considered firstly as the responsibility of the family. The state’s role is only to assist the family in doing this task.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Update on Working For Families (WFF)

Reading Helen Kelly in the DomPost this morning it struck me that many people do not fundamentally understand what WFF consists of. Kelly describes it as "effectively a tax cut aimed at those who need it most."

The $2.7 billion WFF bill is mostly made up of family tax credits to beneficiaries with children. If a family pays no tax they cannot receive a cut. Family tax credits used to be more accurately called Family Support. But when they started being paid to higher income workers the named was changed.

Here are some facts from Treasury:

In 2006, $1.5 billion of WFF tax credits were paid out to 159,000 people. By 2009, this had risen to $2.7 billion paid out to 419,200 people.

In 2006 the vast majority of recipients were parents on a welfare benefit. There are more now than there were in 2006.

To buy votes (and to be fair, try and entice more beneficiaries into work with the In Work tax credit) Labour introduced WFF.

National is not prepared to seriously risk fickle votes so has tinkered with various thresholds and payments slightly. Then trumpeted that they are saving almost half a billion.

Like most touted government savings they are the difference between forecasts if they do and forecasts if they don't and calculated over years, not annually. Back to Treasury:

These changes are expected to generate $448 million of savings over the four years to 2014/15. As a result, the total cost of WFF will reduce from $2.8 billion in 2011/12 to $2.6 billion in 2014/15.

Thoroughly underwhelming. I would put money on it that if no further cutbacks or complete repeal of WFF is made, by 2014/15 the forecast figure of $2.6 billion will be well under actual spending.

Kiwis choose to be poor

So Sir Paul Callaghan makes a point from the view of scientist. But there is another aspect to this statement which is just as worthy of debate.

When I heard that Newt Gingrich was going to run for the US presidency the first thought that jumped into my head was a quote about how to avoid poverty. As it turns out it wasn't attributable to Gingrich but exactly the sort of thing he might say.

It comes apparently from the Economist but certainly that is not where I first came across it:

"An American's chance of staying poor is less than 1/2 percent if he or she does the following three things: (a) completes high school; (b) gets and stays married; (c) stays employed, even if initially only at the minimum wage. Americans who fail these three requirements have an up-to-80 times greater chance of staying for a long time below the official poverty line, and breeding sad generations there."

But I think there is another version that includes children somewhere. Ah, yes. Walter Williams' rules for avoiding poverty:

* Graduate high school
* Get married before you have children
* If you get married, stay married
* Get a job, any job. A minimum wage job is a stepping stone
* Avoid engaging in criminal behavior

Sounds a bit fusty?

Even acquiring some NCEA credits and sticking with a de facto partner would probably boost the chances of avoiding poverty significantly.

But thousands fail to meet even those conditions. Maori in particular. The education levels of people on the DPB for instance are woeful. Let me look them up.

Sole Parenting in New Zealand: Understanding sub-groups of sole parents receiving main benefits

Educationl attainments for sole parents reistered as jobseekers December 2005

None 48
School qualifications 44
Post-school qualification 6
Unknown 2

So returning to Sir Paul:

Kiwis are poor because they choose to be, says Sir Paul Callaghan, one of the country's top scientists.

This assertion was part of a series of attacks he has directed at the Government's plans to develop the economy.

If the government stopped "planning" so much, the economy and the lives of people perceived as needing their assistance, NZ would be richer for it.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

More obvious alarm from National supporters

Here's a letter I sent earlier this week to the DomPost. Hardly a surprise it went unprinted as I was criticising one of their columnists. Sorry there is no link to Long's column but the gist of it is covered in the letter:

I read with amusement columnist Richard Long's pseudo letter to Don Brash in the name of John Key, (Dominion Post Tuesday, May 17.) In it he lays out Key's superior conciliatory credentials regarding race relations. Thus Long joins other National cheerleaders in attempting to warn disaffected National voters away from Brash.

Why the amusement? In a 2005 North & South Warwick Roger article about the rising popularity of then National leader Dr Brash, Richard Long, his chief-of-staff at the time, was described as "gleeful at all the pre-publicity" Brashs' Orewa speech was receiving.

Seems the expedient Mr Long is happy to change tune to suit whereas Brash has been consistent in his criticism of government policies since his days as Reserve Bank Governor.