Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Graph of the Year

The current and beloved article of faith amongst leftists is rising inequality.

Here's a very recent example from Boxing Day:  

Inequality keeps rising, says UC social research expert

Earlier in the year I was fortunate enough to be sent a hard copy of the latest Household Incomes report by its author. Lucky because a request to MSD went unacknowledged and it's such a lengthy, comprehensive report a printed reference copy does wonders for data ease of accessibility and my good humour. Thank you Bryan Perry.

Here's the graph that should accompany every press release about growing inequality.

This is the official measure of inequality in New Zealand. The trend line can best be described as declining albeit slowly.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Taking envyism to a new level

Here's an interesting claim from a poster at the Daily Blog:
Right now the minimum wage is so low that those receiving it look upon beneficiaries with envy. - See more at: http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2013/12/30/next-year-is-election-year/#sthash.AMxcxww8.dpuf
Right now the minimum wage is so low that those receiving it look upon beneficiaries with envy. - See more at: http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2013/12/30/next-year-is-election-year/#sthash.AMxcxww8.dpuf
 "Right now the minimum wage is so low that those receiving it look upon beneficiaries with envy."

If that's true, it's a major problem for the Left who look for voters from both low-income groups - workers and beneficiaries.

With envy comes resentment. You might expect low income workers to feel some sympathy for beneficiaries if both groups are 'struggling'. But if the Left continue to stir and fuel bitterness about low wages, those workers might consequently feel more resentful towards beneficiaries than government.

Then, when Labour and the Greens talk about lifting benefit levels specifically through paying beneficiaries the IN WORK tax credit, how are they going to react?

Is that what's really behind the living wage campaign? To lift minimum wage levels up to the equivalent that (some) beneficiaries receive?

The political poser for the Left is how to keep low wage workers and beneficiaries both happy with election promises. What an awful dilemma.
Right now the minimum wage is so low that those receiving it look upon beneficiaries with envy. - See more at: http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2013/12/30/next-year-is-election-year/#sthash.AMxcxww8.dpuf

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ten positive trends

Time for a break from the hand wringing promulgated by left-wing academics, politicians and media, and note some of the positive trends that are happening in New Zealand:

1/ Assaults on police

Tasers and training are credited with a double-digit drop in assaults against police.
Recorded offences against police dropped more than 20% between 2009-10 and 2012-13, figures released under the Official Information Act figures reveal.
2/ Deaths from sudden infant death syndrome

The number of infants dying suddenly has dropped but the rate is still too high, officials say.
In 2012, 36 infants died of cot death or sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI). This is down from 55 deaths in 2008.
3/ Recorded crime

Police Minister Anne Tolley has praised frontline Police, with recorded offences down for the third fiscal year in a row, and a massive 17.4 per cent drop in crimes in the past three years.
There were 29,337 fewer recorded offences in the year to June 2013, a fall of 7.4 per cent, representing a 7.9 per cent drop per head of population.
4/ Smoking rate

The recently-issued 2013 census results show a big fall in smoking rates since the last count in 2006. Little by little, great progress has been made...The news stories focused mainly on the overall decline in the numbers of smokers, which had fallen by nearly a quarter, from 598,000 to 463,000. That means that today only about 15 per cent of adults smoke, compared with nearly 21 per cent in 2006.

5/ Teenage birth rate

... the birth rate per 15-19 year-olds has been dropping since 2008.
6/ Abortion rate

The general abortion rate decreased from 17.3 per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years in 2011 to 16.1 in 2012. It cemented a five-year downward trend, and the rate was the lowest since 1995, when it was also 16.1 per 1,000, Statistics New Zealand said.
7/ Road deaths

 A record-low Labour Weekend road toll is part of a "downward trend" in deaths on New Zealand roads, police say.
8/ Child mortality rate

New Zealand's infant mortality rate - babies who die before their first birthdays - has fallen steadily from 25 for every 1000 births in the early 1950s to 4.8 for every 1000 in the Unicef data, and to 4.2 in the latest Statistics NZ figures for 2012.
9/ Maori suicide rate

The drop in Maori suicide was largely accounted for by a decrease in male Maori suicide, in particular young male Maori suicide. In 2011/12 there were 94 male Maori suicides, while in 2012/13 there were 72.
10/ Rheumatic fever amongst children

The Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme began on 1 July 2011, and has been significantly expanded since. The goal of the programme is to reduce rates of new cases of rheumatic fever by two thirds, from a baseline rate of 4.2 cases in 2011 to 1.4 cases per 100,000 people by June 2017. In 2012, the rate of rheumatic fever had reduced to 3.8 cases per 100,000 people

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Poverty and relativity

Part of the 'poverty' proganda focuses on house size. In particular, how many children have to share a bedroom.

While New Zealand's narrative is similar to the United Kingdom's, the following piece from The Scotsman provides a more optimistic slant:

Modern Scots are living in relative luxury compared with conditions 150 years ago.
Two people were sharing every room in a home, the 1861 census shows, compared with a current average of two rooms for every person.

The term 'relative' should be employed in both a contemporary and historic sense.

In the developed world, we are all undoubtedly richer today then ever before.

I've been intending to link to this new site and now presents the perfect opportunity.


Forecast welfare spending

Governments come and go with ambitious reform ideas and plans.  Treasury just keeps on forecasting numbers and expenditures seemingly regardless of those policy changes. The depressing thing is, if you were going to put money on who has the most reliable crystal ball, it'd have to go on Treasury. That's what history shows anyway.

Table 6.2 - Welfare benefit expenses (continued)
Beneficiary numbers
New Zealand Superannuation 522 540 561 585 612 640 667 692 716 739
Jobseeker Support and Emergency Benefit1 ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  138 132 127 125 125
Supported living payment1 ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  96 96 95 94 94
Sole parent support1 ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  79 77 77 77 77
Domestic Purposes Benefit1 101 110 114 114 109 ..  ..  ..  ..  .. 
Invalid's Benefit1 86 88 88 87 87 ..  ..  ..  ..  .. 
Sickness Benefit1 50 58 60 60 60 ..  ..  ..  ..  .. 
Unemployment Benefit1 48 78 80 73 67 ..  ..  ..  ..  .. 
Accommodation Supplement 267 312 320 311 305 297 296 294 296 299

Friday, December 27, 2013

Do NZ women really get such a raw deal?

Here's a passage written earlier this year by a female academic:

New Zealand women are losing their human rights - the right to:

 •Life, liberty and security of person.

 •Not be discriminated against for any reason including gender.

 •Be equal before the law and, without any discrimination, to equal protection of the law

 •Free choice of employment, just and favourable conditions of work and protection against unemployment.

•Equal pay for equal work.

 •A standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of herself and her family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.

 •Security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond her control.

I wonder if they would also like equal social spending?

Per capita social expenditures by age (males)

This Treasury working  paper only featured the graph for males but the tables that contain the data the graph(s) are made from are available from another paper.

I expected that for females the social expenditures per capita would be higher, but was surprised by how much.

Looking at three age groups here are the total social expenditures per capita:

20-24 male $6,654 female $8,674 (+30%)
40-44 male $9,044 female $11,559 (+28%)
60-64 male $9,526 female $11,743 (+23%)
80-84 male $24,459 female $25,787 (+5%)

Over their working age lifetimes females consistently cost the state considerably more. Even at 80-84 females cost more in Super and Disability Support Services.

Yet women's  participation in the workforce is also lower throughout their lifetimes.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Absent fathers

The weather in Wellington has packed up so time for a bit of reading.

After Colin James drew my attention to it, I thought I'd have a closer look at what the Parliamentary Health Committee published. The title of the report is long-winded: "Inquiry into improving child health outcomes and preventing child abuse with a focus on pre-conception until three years of age", November 2013, Report of the Health Committee. It's 126 pages.

When I got to about page 70 it suddenly occurred to me that fathers were absent. So I did a search.

"Fathers" are effectively mentioned once. There is a two paragraph section titled, "Fathers and the maternity system" and an ensuing recommendation. Apart from the acknowledgement of a submission from Great Fathers Trust (that was a waste of time), that's it.

So I tried "male". Again one mention. This time relating to sterilisation.

As a society we nag on about deadbeat Dads and absentee fathers.

This report only demonstrates that fathers aren't particularly valued anyway. Any protective and positive role they play is virtually ignored.

I'd rather end on a happy note. My Dad was probably the most influential person in my childhood and youth. Even today, when I need solace or advice or help he is often the first person I turn to. So my thoughts about fathers are coloured by my own experience. I wish it was one more commonly shared. Merry Christmas, especially to those Dads who are unwillingly separated from their children and finding this time of year hard.

Colin James' christmas message

I didn't want to blog today. But this couldn't go without comment. It's an extract from Colin James' Christmas message:

In our small, enlightened society many tens of thousands of children go without some necessities or nourishing food or emotional security or guidance to learn.

Through the actions of mothers who eat badly and/or smoke, drink and take drugs before conception and during pregnancy and/or live with a violent man and/or then don't or can't get their children reading and counting and ready to be schooled, many of those children are in effect imprisoned, not in a hulk but in the lesser persons they become compared with what they might have been. Many are imprisoned in drugs, mental illness, delinquency and crime.

Well, that's just bad parents, isn't it? None of our business. Our job is to bring up our kids right, not interfere in others' private affairs, isn't it? Isn't that individual liberty? 
Individual liberty requires individual responsibility. When individuals cease to act responsibly, when they neglect or abuse their child, they are no longer living in a state of individual liberty.

They lost - or never achieved - that status because the collective has absolved them from taking it. That is the genesis of the conditions James' describes. Will more intervention and investment by the collective return these parents to a state of individual liberty? That seems to be the advice.

The parliamentary health committee disagrees. A report in November, chaired by National MP Paul Hutchison and signed by all 10 MPs on the committee -- five National, three Labour, one Green and one New Zealand First -- focused on the needs and opportunities of the child and proposed many interventions to get parents ready and fit and get children a good start.

That report, the most important parliamentary report in a long time, essentially said the country should frame policy and then make social investments on the presumption that a child of one of us is a child of all of us and that no child deserves a bad start.

That is a simple economic calculation: a child who can get educated and is emotionally stable will join the workforce, pay taxes, take a full part in society and bring up children who do the same in turn.

It is also a calculation of social cohesion: the more numerous the children who grow up feeling they are fully part of society, the stronger, and probably richer, that society will be.

But as the Health Committee report notes NZ's spending on children is already high compared to other OECD countries.

So the message sounds noble but it doesn't take me past the essential problem. You can't make people more responsible by taking responsibility off them. And in a large part, that's what the welfare state does.

Monday, December 23, 2013

You could spin it either way

Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett, released a good-feel statement to end the year.
Welfare reforms helping thousands get ahead

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is delighted over 62,700 people went off benefit and into work in the first nine months of 2013 alone.
That does not however equate to overall benefit numbers dropping by the same number.

Here's the official graph for benefit numbers since National took office.

On the one hand, numbers did not soar in spite of a deep (and ongoing IMO) recession.

On the other, for all of the fanfare about welfare reforms, the picture doesn't offer a lot to get excited about.

Every ninth New Zealander is still dependent on the state.

Go into some neighbourhoods and it'll be every second or third.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Available but not accessible

Earlier this year I came across an MSD fact sheet "Children's contact with MSD services". The title of the paper  had been given to me in advance of its publication by someone outside of the Ministry. Periodically I had been searching the MSD website for it but nothing appeared. At some point I decided to search for it on google. To my surprise it appeared at the MSD website.

(I then wrote about the flawed analysis and skewed findings here. Rodney Hide wrote about it in the NBR).

What  intrigued me was that the fact sheet was un-indexed and unsearchable at the MSD website. It remains so as I write.

Ministry of Social Development.

 Your search - Children’s contact with MSD services - did not match any documents.
No pages were found containing "Children’s contact with MSD services".


  • Make sure all words are spelled correctly.
  • Try different keywords.
  • Try more general keywords.

So I asked MSD why. They responded by saying that the fact sheet was available and providing the url. Also,
The Ministry's website is updated regularly with brochures, forms, fact sheets, media releases, publications and reports. We endeavour to ensure all our information is accessible (my emphasis) and if there are any publications not available  on the website that should be, we appreciate any feedback about  this.

I responded:

"I realise it is available.  My question asked why it isn't indexed. There is an important distinction. Under 'Publications and Resources' the fact sheet neither appears under 'C' nor the year of publication. Furthermore, a search of the site does not produce it. Therefore it is effectively inaccessible. Why is that the case?"

Here's their latest statement:

With regard to your question about why the “Children’s contact with MSD services” fact sheet is not indexed on the Ministry’s website.  As you will be aware, the Ministry have a number of publications and brochures across its various services and therefore it is not reasonable to index all of these on the Ministry’s website.  Publications like this are available in the Publications and Resources section of the Ministry’s website and “Children’s contact with MSD services” is a searchable phrase through various website search engines.

So there you go. If you just happen to hit on the right 'phrase' you will find the paper. But not if you look for it at the MSD website. It is effectively buried.

MSD does not understand the difference between 'available' and 'accessible'. Or perhaps they do.

I also asked for the associated spreadsheets on September 24, 2013. 

Do you think I've received them almost three months later?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Children continue to be added to benefits

As mentioned previously, it gets increasingly difficult to get timely information out of MSD.  I only now have the complete answer to a question asked on September 12.

Proceeding on the basis that policies often provoke an anticipatory effect, I was interested in any data that might show one resulting from the government's well-publicised, controversial intention to deter people from adding a child to their benefit by work-testing them when the child turns one.

First, from a cabinet paper, we know that the annual average of 'subsequent children' born to parents on a benefit 2006 - 2010 was 4,800 annually.*

I have data from October 15, 2012 (when the subsequent child policy came into force) to June 30, 2013 - 8.5 months which shows 3,646 working age clients in receipt of a main benefit added a child.

If the data is simply extrapolated out over a full year, the rate at which people are adding children has actually increased slightly. Of course that might not prove to be the case if over the remaining period up to October 15, 2013 the number drops significantly.

There is one noticeable difference.

Of the annual 4,800 added in the period  2006 - 2010, 88 percent were added to the DPB.

Of the 3,646 added between October 15, 2012 and June 30, 2013, 81 percent were added to the DPB.

The primary difference lies in more people adding a child to the unemployment benefit, reflecting higher unemployment.

Of the most recent group, 54 percent were Maori, 24 percent were NZ European, a third were aged 24 or younger, and 13 percent were male. Again the difference between Maori and Pacific behaviour shows up with only 12 percent of the beneficiaries being Pacific Island - only a slight over-representation given their very young population.

Anyway, I guess the answer to my question is, no.

(*In a small number of cases the child could be adopted or put into the care of a non-parent or grand-parent.)

Opportunity cost of living wage

The living wage wage was calculated by the Lower Hutt Family Centre Social Policy Research Unit, based on a two parent, two children family. One parent works full time, the second works part-time. A correspondent,  Brian Scott, sent me his analysis of their faulty research which he'd submitted to the Wellington City Council. When they asked him “what would you do then” he sent the following:

 1 | P a g e
Brian Scott
Living Wage: Interesting Calculations for Cost / Benefit
Assuming objective is to make sure that 2 adult, 2 dependent households have a reasonable living wage.
Example 1
Two people (and 2 dependents). Each earn $14.10. One is Council employee.
Council pays employee $18.40. Partner stays on $14.10
Council will pay extra $8944
Household will gain by $3119 (pay more tax, get less in accommodation and working for families)
Central Government claims back $5825.
Cost to Ratepayers per dollar of employee benefit is $8944 / 3119 = $2.87
Or RETURN ON INVESTMENT TO ACHIEVE OBJECTIVE is 0.348 ($1 cost produces 34cents benefit)

Example 2
Only 6% of households are 2 adults, 2 dependents. Council has 450 employees likely to be affected
by Living Wage policy.
Therefore, only 27 Council employees actually would need, according to LW assumptions, a pay rise
to $18.40.
Using Council papers, cost is $750,000 for 450 employees, average cost is $1667.
Cost to bring 27 employees up to $18.40 is 27 * $1667 = 44982 per year.
Cost to Ratepayers per dollar that achieves objective is $750,000 / $44,982 = $16.66
Or RETURN ON INVESTMENT TO ACHIEVE OBJECTIVE is 0.06 ($1 cost produces 6 cents benefit)

Example 3
20 year old living at home, pays $100 board.
Net income after tax at $14.10 ph is $474 per week.
Net income after tax at $18.40 ph is $613 per week.
I would challenge the idea that this person needs a pay rise to get out of living in poverty.

Example 4
A cleaner who works for a private company may get paid about $4 less for the same job, (about $129
per week after tax), and may pay more in rates for the privilege.

Alternatives to address inequality in the community. (For $750,000) Opportunity Costs
Subsidise health services (37,500 visits at $20)
Subsidise food banks (helps non-Council employees without affecting benefits)
Subsidise travel costs (1875 children in low income families at $2 for 400 trips each)
Subsidise low income students’ school fees. (Perhaps scholarships of $300 for 2500 children)
Providing food at schools, of which I am particularly in favour.

The above suggestions could be targeted at ALL low income households in the community, at value
of close to dollar for dollar. Point is there are plenty of other ways, if it is deemed responsibility of
Council, to help low income families.

If the objective of the Council is to reduce inequality in the community, then Councillors are required
by Statute to consider alternatives that are efficient and effective. It is not acceptable to say “we
must do something, this is something, let’s do this”.

Note: Calculations may be slightly out due to rounding and there are not exactly 52 weeks in a year.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Blog's 8th birthday

Jeepers. 8 years ago today I wrote my first blog post. Thinking back, the 2005 election had just been fought and lost. ACT dropped to 2 MPs and despite National going close, three more years of Labour and the Greens was on the cards.

Seems a strange time to start a blog but I didn't feel defeated. Just frustrated. Labour seemed lost for welfare reform ideas but hellbent on greater wealth redistribution to the middle voters. After Maharey there was a succession of lacklustre Social Development ministers. Sue Bradford got a lot of air wave time. I was still nagging away about the paucity of robust statistical data and the futility of continuing to throw money at the problems caused by ...throwing money at problems.

Under National there has been more transparency. A good deal more data is reported, although MSD's performance in responding to OIAs is abysmal. I must write a separate post about that.

Generally, the public now knows more about what is driving child poverty and are able to voice their opposition to welfare misuse without getting shouted down as beneficiary bashers. The good thing about the left making this issue, alongside inequality, their platform for 2014, is plenty of opportunities arise to disagree with their analysis and solutions.

And continue to disagree, counter and dispute I will.

Census result - no change in ratio of one parent to two parent families

The graphic below shows one parent families as a percentage of all families dropping from 18.1 to 17.8 percent. Notice that percentage of two parent families has also dropped but by a bigger margin. A simple calculation shows that as a percentage of all families with children the proportions have stayed the same. 30.1 percent are single parent families. Same percentage as in 2006. Since single parent families make up the biggest percentage of poor families, this Census result isn't good news.

Graph, Family type, 2001, 2006, and 2013 Censuses.

DomPost slates WCC's living wage

The DomPost has produced a great editorial pointing out the folly of a council-led living wage:

The stated aim of Wellington City Council's living wage policy is to reduce poverty and lift workplace morale and productivity. If only life were that simple.
It is not. Poverty can no more be eliminated at the stroke of a pen than world peace can be delivered by a beauty contestant wishing for it.

(On the same page my letter appears which is a distillation of this post.)

Quote of the Day

Tax evasion does not, of course, whatever Ritchie says, cost the world anything. We are still a closed system. That less money goes to governments does not mean that that money ceases to exist. It still gets spent or invested somewhere or other. Indeed, dependent upon what happens to that money, and how badly the government that didn’t get it would have spent it, tax evasion could, conceivably, result in an improvement in the human condition. But even leaving aside such an extreme (for example, someone takes the loot from tax evasion and invests it in a malaria vaccine, as opposed to the British Government which would have used £10 billion to build an NHS computer system that does nothing at all) it’s still true that tax evasion does not mean a loss for the world. Only a different distribution of the cash.
- Tim Worstall
Hat-tip Samizdata

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What is the Brown phenomenon?

The national conversation that is Mayor Len Brown just keeps on keeping on. I like to listen to talkback while I paint and haven't been able to avoid it. But why haven't people lost interest yet? Surely that's what Brown was counting on?

That answer interests me more than the fiasco. When morals get involved, and those morals apply to both personal and public actions, to infidelity and financial accountability, the conversation intensifies. It's no longer just Brown we are angry at. It's the last idiot caller who thinks it's OK for men to cheat on their wives. Or the last moron who said Len's corruption extends to aiding and abetting money laundering at Sky City.

The conversation has actually become a self-stocktake about what we will tolerate in our own families. Where we draw the line between what we expect from ourselves and what we expect from leaders. Something that's surprised me is the number of older women in their 70s and 80s who indicate tacit approval for the Mayor's indiscretion. Everybody gets up to it apparently. Which tells me something about my mother's generation that I perhaps didn't want to know. Not the bit-on-the-side habit. That goes on. But the turn-a-blind-eye habit.

So our reactions to the Brown Affair become something else. They divide us.That's why the whole country has become involved. It's not just Aucklanders who want an outcome.

There's also a discernible mood shift going on this country. And it's bad timing for Len. It's a backlash against the liberality of my generation. But it's also coming from my generation. Plenty of us behaved immorally. I did. But I grew out of it. We want our contemporaries to do the same. For a man in the position that Len Brown has achieved, the mana, the power, the pay, the great uniting leader, his judgement has been found badly wanting. He's behaved like a fool. Not just on the spur of the moment, not in a one-off uncharacteristic succumbing to temptation.

Brown is less than mere mortal. He can't command respect,can't honestly earn his salary, and can't expect Auckland ratepayers to accept that.

Auckland outsmarts Wellington

Auckland may have a widely acknowledged  lame duck Mayor, but it still has some smart councillors. Wallace Chapman, on RadioLive yesterday, was running a weak defence line that there's no-one better to take over from Len Brown. What about Sir John Walker?:

The Living Wage policy should be shelved, southern councillors say.
Wellington City Council decided last week to pay all its staff a minimum wage of $18.40 per hour, prompting Auckland councillor Sir John Walker to raise the issue at last week's meeting of the Papakura Local Board.
The living wage is defined as the amount for workers to be able to live while also participating in society, calculated at $18.40 per hour.
Paying a living wage to Auckland Council staff would cost an estimated $3.5 million each year, Sir John says. That doesn't sound like much but it is a lot of money, the Manurewa-Papakura ward councillor says.
The "contentious" issue is "Len Brown's little baby", Sir John says.
"I totally disagree with it. If you're going to earn money, you earn it. You're given it by your productivity."
The change would also be "unfair" to other people who already earn $18.40 per hour.
He believes investment should be aimed at getting people to learn skills and achieve higher qualifications so they can earn more.
Sir John's co-councillor Calum Penrose also opposes introducing a living wage at Auckland Council.
The issue is not one local government should be focusing on as "it is a central government issue", he says.
"Our core services are roads, rates, rubbish, footpaths, berms, parks, reserves . . . they're the stuff that affects people."
Franklin ward councillor Bill Cashmore, who also attended the meeting, says Finance Minister Bill English will be the only winner if the living wage is introduced.
Any gains would likely be offset by increased taxes and the loss of government support and benefits, making the move "pointless", he says.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Another candidate for Upper Harbour

Michael Kidd says he will seek the Labour Party nomination to stand against Paula Bennett and Christine Rankin in the Upper Harbour electorate. Apparently,

He will stand on a policy of restoring the cuts in welfare by the National Government which have negatively impacted on the most vulnerable.
What cuts?

Sanctions - not often - have been imposed on people who fail to do things like keep a WINZ appointment. If sanctions are applied to parents they are limited to 50 percent. Unlike the 100 percent possible under Labour.

Is Kidd going to argue for a return to that regime?

The 'cuts' to the Training Incentive Allowance meant that mature students studying at a higher level couldn't continue to access unconditional welfare. But the savings were targeted at supporting younger, tertiary students. That's in keeping with National's focus on keeping young people out of the benefit system or limiting their reliance.

Is Kidd going to argue for perennial students to be supported by the taxpayer?

Sole parents can't stay indefinitely on welfare by adding children to an existing benefit. Their entitlement to do so has been 'cut'.

Is Kidd going to argue the taxpayer should fund unlimited children born onto a benefit?

While I thought Colin Craig describing the Bennett/ Rankin clash as a cat fight was injudicious, Kidd will most certainly be walking into a big cat's den.

Sentencing inconsistency - same day, same Judge

Are these two women sharing a sentence?

They each received 8 years and 8 months for beating a man to death.

It seems incredibly light especially when another man sentenced  for murder received  life with minimum parole period of 15 years.

And they were both sentenced by the same Justice on the same day.

Monday, December 16, 2013

NZCCSS report - bullshit

My impatience is precluding politeness.

The leftist New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services Vulnerability  Report, released today, is a regular update comprising publicly available data.

Some of the statistics they report are thoroughly misunderstood.

But I begin with this patently false statement:
Home ownership remains elusive for the vast majority of New Zealanders.
(Page 4)

Census 2013 data shows,

In 2013, 64.8 percent of households owned their home or held it in a family trust, down from 66.9 percent in 2006.

Any reader of the report unfamiliar with NZ would believe "the vast majority of New Zealanders" rented.

Next I'm confronted with their inability to grasp benefit data.

The June 2013 DPB data reflects typical child rearing patterns - Recipients are mostly mature women (aged 25-39 years) at home caring for their child (or children) until they attend school at 5 years.

For starters, given 43 percent of DPB recipients at June 2013 were Maori, it'd be highly surprising if the DPB reflects "typical child rearing patterns".

At least a third of DPB recipients have been on benefit since becoming teenage mothers. That hardly reflects "typical child rearing patterns" when the average age of first time mothers in NZ is 30.

Back to the report:
Only a small percentage [10%] of recipients receive a DPB for ten years or more.
Square that with Paula Bennett's statement earlier this year:
 ...sole parents spend an average 15.8 years on benefit ...

When the NZ Council of Christian Social Services puts in the time to really get to grips with the issues I'll start respecting them.

Update.Further credentials proving economic illiteracy, a 2011 press release reported on this blog:

Celebrate Beneficiaries - The Heroes of the Recession

It is the government who is making bad life choices, not beneficiaries! In fact, Trevor McGlinchey from the NZ Council of Christian Social Services (NZCCSS) says beneficiaries are the heroes who are carrying the country through the recession.

NZCCSS Executive officer McGlinchey was speaking in response to today’s release of the third and final report from the government Welfare Working Group Report.

...“Last year’s Budget offered millions in tax assistance to those on mid to high incomes, many of whom pay relatively minimal tax because they know how to work the system. That leaves low income earners and beneficiaries to pay off the nation’s debts!”

Prue Hyman on the living wage

Regarding the living wage, there is one very persuasive argument for it. The employer pays more of the cost of labour instead of the taxpayer via subsidies like the accommodation supplement, family tax credit, partial welfare benefits etc.

Prue Hyman, who has heavily promoted a universal basic income  in the past, has a piece in the DomPost today which employs the argument:

The Treasury calculates that for a two-child family with two parents (one working 40 hours at $16 an hour and one 20 hours at $13.75), a living wage would increase take-home pay by $63 a week.
The government would be a bigger winner, with an additional $126 per week in increased tax and reduced benefits. But any increase in annual pay for such families is positive and $3276 is significant. Also, putting more responsibility on employers to pay a living wage allows the government to refocus spending, targeting the neediest and largest low-income families more effectively.
Further, with lower income families spending almost all their income, there will be a boost to the local Wellington economy which will itself create more jobs.
The Treasury's report argues that "adopting a living wage would rebalance the role of the employer and the welfare system towards work being the primary mechanism for people to support themselves." Isn't this a positive?
Well, yes. If the employer can absorb the increased wage bill without shedding jobs and if the employer is a private profit maker.

But if the employer is the council, and the increased wages are funded from increased rates, then the result is simply more transfer of wealth from Peter to Paul (and probably back again if, for instance, landlords raise rents as a result.) The pie hasn't grown. The size of the pieces may change slightly or even stay the same.

And while Hyman says the government would be the biggest winner from increased tax take, does anybody expect to see a corresponding tax cut?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Craig relishes "catfight"

For a conservative, Colin Craig often surprises - and not in a good way. He describes pitting Christine Rankin against Paula Bennett in the newly created Upper Harbour seat as setting up a "catfight".

Catfight (also Girl fight) is a term for an altercation between two women, often characterized as involving scratching, slapping, hair-pulling, and shirt-shredding.

Not an overly sensitive petal myself, I nevertheless think the use of the term was injudicious.  It's makes the pair sound like a couple of slappers. Which neither are.

For arguments sake, if ACT leader Rodney Hide has said in 2008, my standing against Sue Bradford wherever would set up a real catfight I'd have been mortified. Ah but that's why I am so unsuited to politics.Not enough mongrel - or feral - in me. (And before I cause offence it's not the sort of thing Rodney would do).

I'd love to see Christine Rankin take on Paula Bennett. In the welfare area, Bennett's portfolio and Rankin's passion, much that National has done would meet with Conservative approval. So Rankin will have to find strong points of detraction, ie the reforms have not gone nearly far enough.

Then again if the Conservatives take the line that a mother's place is in the home they might say that the reforms have gone too far. Whatever the angle, the contest would put welfare in the spotlight.

It's rather an odd strategy though to pit your best known candidate against a National Party favourite. But I forget the party vote. Voters may favour both of these candidates if they put up a spirited debate, and split their vote accordingly.

Anyway, back to the unfortunate turn of phrase. Don't be surprised if the feminists get their hooks into Craig over this faux pas.

Friday, December 13, 2013

CIR Asset sales referendum result

A third say YES. Good result. Probably reasonably representative. A minority of National voters didn't want the sales. Nothing to see here. Waste of time and money.

Preliminary Results of Citizens Initiated Referendum

Media releases
The Electoral Commission has released the preliminary result of the Citizens Initiated Referendum on the question Do you support the Government selling up to 49% of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand?”
2013 Citizens Initiated Referendum Preliminary Result
Number of Votes Received
Percentage of Total Valid Votes
For the response
For the response
Informal votes*
Total valid votes

RNZ panel discussion about poverty

Radio NZ invited me to participate in Jim Mora's panel discussion on poverty today. I would have loved to address David's Slack's lead-in comments about "intelligent redistribution" and the American experience but that would have used up too much limited time. Starts at 11:00.

"The politics of empirical truths"

This piece, by Peter Saunders, resonated with me and probably will with you:
The politics of empirical truthsidea3

In a lecture delivered at Munich University in 1918, the great German sociologist, Max Weber, outlined the qualities required by anyone considering a career in politics. He ended with this warning: 'Only he has the calling for politics who is sure that he shall not crumble when the world from his point of view is too stupid or too base for what he wants to offer.'
That counts me out, then.

Having spent the last 14 years working for public policy think tanks in Australia and Britain, I have become increasingly frustrated by the 'stupidity and baseness' of politicians who refuse to acknowledge awkward empirical truths. Even when, occasionally, a politician summons up the courage to tell people facts they would rather not hear, he or she immediately comes under pressure to withdraw their comment, and even apologise for it.  

Rod Liddle recently offered one example in the UK edition of The Spectator. He highlighted an apology issued by the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, who had warned of a culture of 'endemic corruption' in certain Asian countries (notably Pakistan) from which many British ethnic minorities originate. As Liddle showed, Grieve's warning was fully justified, for Pakistan is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, and the UK Electoral Commission has expressed concern about bribery and vote-buying in certain Pakistani communities in Britain. But although he was right, Grieve issued a grovelling apology.

This problem of thought crime and self-censorship is not limited to issues of race and ethnicity. It extends to discussion of gender and class differences too.

Last week, for example, a UKIP Member of the European Parliament, Stuart Agnew, was censured by his own party after claiming that men outnumber women in top jobs partly because many women choose child-rearing over career building. But he was right. A 2009 survey found only 12% of British mothers want to work full-time, and a 2008 report found two-thirds of working mums would still want to reduce their hours even if improved child care were made available. In Norway, where mothers can choose between free child care (if they continue working) or cash payments in lieu (if they raise their children at home), four-fifths choose to stay home.

Again last week, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, landed in hot water for pointing out that one reason upward social mobility is not more extensive is that some people lack the intelligence needed to perform high-level jobs. Again, he's right - this is something I have been documenting for the last 20 years, and Boris is the first prominent politician in all that time to acknowledge it. But in politics, evidence is often irrelevant. Deputy Prime Minister, 
Nick Clegg, attacked Boris for his 'unpleasant, careless elitism,' Cameron hastily distanced himself from him, and the BBC and newspaper journalists declared open season on him for several days afterwards.

Max Weber wouldn't have been surprised by any of this. He taught that political leadership is about charisma, the mobilisation of emotion among your followers. Evidence can be left to faceless bureaucrats. Populist leaders in search of votes work on sentiment.

If like the CIS, you are in the business of shifting policy agendas through appeal to evidence and reason, this emphasis on emotion and sentiment can represent a major frustration. But as Weber concluded in his Munich lecture: 'Only he who in the face of all this can say 'In spite of all!' has the calling for politics.' 

Peter Saunders is a Senior Fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Paid parental leave extension unwarranted

Media Release


Thursday, December 12, 2013

The government is reportedly reconsidering its opposition to extending Paid Parental Leave from 14  to 26 weeks. This comes despite Treasury advice that there would be "minimal benefit from increasing the length of parental leave."

Welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell said last year Treasury analysed who was using paid parental leave, labour market outcomes, and child health outcomes. It found that, "...there is not a strong evidence-based argument to support extending the length of paid parent leave."

Treasury's report states, "...the majority of mothers return to work when the baby is six months old...". Marginal benefits to labour market participation and child health and well-being would therefore be small. Additionally, it notes, "...the most vulnerable children are likely born into families where parents are not eligible for paid parental leave...".

In a discussion about improving income adequacy it found that the arguments are "weak" as "the current access group are likely to be middle and high income women with stable employment." Of the 32,000 paid parental leave recipients in 2011/12, 58 percent were earning over $40,000; 27 percent were earning over $60,000.

Treasury also noted a possible negative impact for employers, particularly small to medium enterprises, as their costs are, "...likely to be more significant as the length of parental leave increases." This could give rise to greater discrimination against child-bearing age females in the labour market.

The implementation of 26 weeks  Paid Parental Leave will cost $327 million by 2015/16. Unchanged, the cost would be $176 million in 2015/16.  An annual increased expenditure of $151 million for "minimal benefit" seems highly questionable. The benefit to the government may lie in gaining electoral favour in 2014.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Nats buy votes too

The government now appears to be entertaining Labour MP Sue Moroney's Bill to extend Paid Parental Leave from 14 to 26 weeks.

Opinion polls have shown strong support for extending paid parental leave.

In a nutshell, most parents with newborns already stay off work for 6 months. They fund the difference themselves. That's because they can afford to.

If Bill English approves this it's a middle-class handout. A vote-buyer. Nothing more, nothing less.

DomPost letters

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Jacinda Ardern and red herrings

Labour's Jacinda Ardern to Paula Bennett in parliament today:

Jacinda Ardern: What will her Government do to address low wage rates in New Zealand, given that 40 percent of the children living in poverty are being cared for by adults in paid work but who are still not earning enough to survive?

1/ Clearly they are surviving.

2/ Being pedantic, around 6 percent of children  'living in poverty' have parents who receive income from benefits and work.  34 percent receive incomes from work alone. But even they are getting more in tax credits etc than they are paying in tax. The government is already addressing low wage rates.

3/ This is the important point.

The 265,000 children (living in households receiving less than 60 percent of the equivalised  median household income after housing costs) are not all experiencing hardship (as measured by the Living Standards survey.)

That's because the income data is derived from a sample survey of 3,500 declaring their annual income.

Some families experience a year of low income for a variety of reasons. Unemployment, fewer contracts, a new business start-up, illness, accident, relationship break-up etc. BUT they do have savings and assets to draw on. That is partly why less than half of the 265,000 children 'living in poverty' are actually experiencing hardship.

Ardern's question is designed to shift attention from beneficiary families to working families. But children in working families will (generally) only experience transitory or temporary 'poverty'. They are not affected in the lifelong way that children who spend most of their childhoods in beneficiary families are.