Friday, June 17, 2011

National right to put welfare at centre of election

Just posted at "Breaking Views".

Why is wowserism no longer the domain of women?

I usually don't catch up with NZ Herald columnists till the following day, given I read early and they are not published till later. Garth George yesterday called for the drinking age to be raised to 21. If you go back 100 years there are plenty of headlines about the demon drink and expunging it entirely from society. Yesterday I was reading from the Evening Post June 16, 1911 about the Women's Crusade for Prohibition in the Dominion and the eliciting of pledges from men not to drink. The campaign actually had a name. Catch my pal.

But the calls 100 years ago were largely from females. Now there are largely from men. I wonder why.

Oh and I see George is blaming alcohol for so many people being on the DPB. So if we legally withhold alcohol from them under-21s won't go on the DPB? Isn't it just better to withhold the DPB which indulges the consequences of drinking?

George blames alcohol for reliance on benefits and so reasons, take alcohol away from everyone under 21. Even those who drink responsibly.

Whereas I blame benefits for the abuse of alcohol. Nothing like a state income free of obligation to sooth a "shuddering hangover" Garth.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The psychology of the welfare debate

Unusually insightful article here from one Kevin E Schiemsing.

US religionists are in disagreement about proposed cuts to welfare programmes. The disagreement isn't just between various sects but between Catholics. This arises out of how different Catholics view the role of government. Without doubt the same variance of view exists in NZ.

The proponents of government welfare programmes came up with this declaration called The Circle of Protection. It appears that signatories insist that cuts will hurt the poor.

But this is what really struck me:

Defenders of government welfare programs not only cannot conceive of the possibility that government programs actually harm rather than help the people they target; they cannot conceive of the possibility that anyone else could conceive of the possibility. Those of us who sincerely believe that such programs are harmful are baffled at what we perceive to be stubborn resistance to the facts of the matter.


This explains why people like me are characterised as selfish and uncaring. Pro welfare types don't actually believe that I believe welfare hurts individuals. In which case I must have another evil agenda. Racism, or eugenics, whatever.

Talking to Leighton Smith the other day, the matter of my paper Maori and Welfare came up. He asked an odd question I thought. Pretty much, do you believe the things you write? Or maybe it was, do you believe the things you write to be true or factual? That was what I took from the question anyway. Which actually made me burst into laughter. Of course I believe them I said. I wouldn't write them if I didn't.

But here's another thing. I don't reflect the other side's disbelief. That is, I do not characterise proponents of government welfare as evil or having secret agendas. I describe them as well-intentioned but misguided. Patronising at best. Dangerous at worst. But nevertheless sincere in their clinging to faith in government efforts to reduce poverty.

Back to the column:

What unemployed and impoverished people really need is not government handouts, but access to, and the capacity and inducement to engage, the market economy—as Pope John Paul II put it, to “enter the circle of exchange.” Government policy should be encouraging companies to hire and potential employees to be hired. Yet, to take but one example of recent counter productivity, economists have shown that extending unemployment benefits beyond a certain length of time correlates with higher unemployment rates. If a safety net becomes too comfortable, people are inclined to remain in it. Welfare program advocates deny this vehemently—everyone wants to work, they say; they just need the chance—but statistical evidence and a realistic understanding of human nature contradict them. It could be that the perfect job is not available; maybe finding work means picking up and moving, or taking a cut in pay, or training to acquire a new skill. People faced with these situations deserve our compassion and assistance. But if we minimize the incentive to do what is necessary to find employment, we do neither the out-of-work individual nor the overall economy any favors.

So, do you think this fellow really believes all that?

You bet. And so do I.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

On Whaleoil's latest foray - hurray

When I thought Cameron Slater had hacked into the Labour site I was conflicted. Glad he had (intentionally or otherwise) avenged the Brash burglary, but two wrongs don't make a right.

Now it is clear he merely helped himself to what was on offer through another party's carelessness, the morality changes. And context is everything.

Although his outing of the on-line alias 'Micky Savage' (a person with views that would offend the original name-bearer) may have not been facilitated by his newly acquired database, if it has, I look forward to lots more.

Some of us have put our opinions and addresses and images out there for all to see, for some years. It gives me immense pleasure to see those who haven't, who have used the cloak of either an alias or anonymity to ridicule, malign, lie or bully, get their come-uppance.

Monday, June 13, 2011

More tripe about children in poverty

The DomPost reports that according to the school principal at Cannon's Creek School, "... about three quarters of parents are unemployed." Money is tighter than ever before apparently. It's the worst the principal has seen. In 30 years!

Slightly odd that as there are fewer people drawing an unemployment benefit in Porirua now than there was in 2006*. More on the DPB though.

Hasn't some well-meaning lefty pointed out to her that being on the DPB does not mean a parent is "unemployed"? Parenting is work afterall.

Seriously, when will 'child poverty' start being blamed on family structure instead of unemployment?

And Kidscan, who are supplying raincoats and breakfasts to the pupils only make it easier for their parents to get by on benefits.

*Porirua Unemployment Benefit March 2006 1,421 March 2011 1,261
Porirua Domestic purposes Benefit March 2006 2,108 March 2011 2,152

The Official Information Act for Officials?

Reading a NZ Herald report about households receiving high total benefits due to high total occupants had me thinking...

A report obtained under the Official Information Act shows 14 people, including three children, were listed at one household in Papatoetoe. Collectively it was getting over $4000 a week net in benefit payments - adding up to about $224,000 a year.

... how can the Herald get the sort of specific information I can't? The answer is, they can't. But the Minister can.

She [Paula Bennett]had asked for the breakdown of benefit payments per household as part of work a panel of ministers is doing on welfare reforms following the Welfare Working Group report.

I can provide many examples of refusal to release information by MSD.

Ah, but now I understand. The Official Information Act is so-called because it refers to Information accessible only to Officials.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Kill some local economies

I remember the first ACT 'do' I ever attended. Still a member of the Libz, I had been very active in campaigning against the DPB from the social, economic and philosophical viewpoints. It was 2002. The local candidate had persuaded me to attend this dinner and he would sit me next to Muriel Newman and we could exchanges ideas etc about welfare. It was at the Hutt Men's club, very plush and with many grey-haired, well-heeled in attendance. I was dumbstruck when this gentlemen, who had begun the conversation about welfare, said to me, smugly I thought, "If we took away the DPB it would kill some local economies. Can't be done." Because it was such an unexpected comment with validity, because I was amongst business people who may well share the same attitude, I let it go. If it was repeated to me today I would agree and explain why those particular economies need to be killed off. Economies that survive on the money pumped into them every day by Work and Income. Places like Ruatoria, Te Kaha, Waverley, Flaxmere, Reporoa and Kawerau. And certain suburbs near all of NZ's major towns and cities. Places of hopelessness. Places where inhabitants experience small superficial highs and desperate deep lows. Where life is about day-to-day survival with no capacity to aspire to anything else.

False economies do not work on a large scale, and they do not work on a small scale. The Labour government's official recognition of this manifested in the Jobs Jolt policy, which forbade unemployed people from moving to places where there were no jobs - not if they wanted to receive taxpayer support anyway. But because they never extended the policy to other beneficiaries, particularly those on the DPB who could support a none-work inclined partner, the jobless economies survived.

The remark from the ACT dinner attendee was probably well-intentioned in his view. It may have been self-interested. But it was shallow in its ignorance of 'that which cannot be seen' and a denial of the day of reckoning which must surely come.