Friday, June 20, 2014

In celebration of Gen Y

And the beat goes on...

Wellington High School had their music evening last night. The range of talents was notable. Classical  singing, playing, through jazz through to reggae, rock and blues. One of the bands, Head Chef, has just won the Wellington Battle of the Bands.

Here are two peformances (make allowances for the poor visual and audio recording). All 15 year-olds.

Guitarist Wayne Williams playing Friends, a Sungha Jung composition and my Sam singing B B King's, The Thrill is Gone, with Lawrence, Thomas, Bill and Sean and a guitarist

What socialists don't get

 This is a great summary of the economics socialists don't get. Too good not to cut and paste from NCPA:

While today's political climate is tense, agreement on some essential economic truths could help lawmakers get things done in Washington, says Jeffrey Dorfman, University of Georgia economics professor.
Dorfman identifies 10 important economic facts that he says policymakers need to recognize:
  • Government only reshuffles wealth, jobs and income; it cannot create anything on its own, as it has to take money from some in order to spend it on others. Any money collected or jobs "created" by government merely replace the private sector investment and job creation that would have occurred had people been allowed to spend their own funds.
  • Income inequality does not harm the economy. While the poor spend nearly all of their money, higher-income earners save some of their income, which is just as good for the economy as spending, if not better. Saving leads to more investment and greater national income in the long run.
  • Paying low wages is not corporate exploitation. Just as businesses have to set prices according to consumer demands, they establish wages based on the supply and demand for labor.
  • Environmental over-regulation drives up prices. Because the poor spend a greater percentage of their income, especially on energy, such over-regulation acts as a regressive tax.
  • Education is not a public good. While we publically fund K-12 education, it produces human capital that is privately owned by each person. While many defend public education because it is a "public good," it is important to realize that the ensuing benefits of education are not given away for free.
  • CEO pay may be high, but so is the pay to athletes and movie stars. Such pay may reduce a company's profits, but it does not reduce the pay of other employees, as their pay is determined the marketplace.
  • Consumer spending does not drive the economy. Saving more and spending less of our income will lead to greater wealth in the long run.
  • "Free" things provided by the government are typically low-quality and unnecessarily expensive.
  • Injustices happen. The government cannot correct every injustice, and every time the government steps in to "fix" something, it puts costs on someone else. Affirmative action policies, for example, grant college admissions only by denying admissions to other applicants.
  • There is no such thing as a free lunch. "Free" government services cost money. Similarly, raising the minimum wage gives money to employees only by taking away jobs and raising prices for consumers.
While liberals often focus their policy arguments on compassion, compassion cannot trump basic economic truths, writes Dorfman. All too often, government policies have unintended -- and harmful -- consequences.
Source: Jeffrey Dorfman, "10 Essential Economic Truths Liberals Need to Learn," Forbes, June 5, 2014.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Maori spam

Received this in my in-box:

Matohi Haumaru

Kitea e matou mahi pāme-rite i roto i tō pūkete webmail,
i te mea ki to tatou Use Policy Whakaaetia (AUP).

Aroha pāwhiritia konei: ki te manatoko e koe te rangatira o te
  pūkete me te kore he kaiparaurehe.

Tatarahapa tatou no te poroaki, tenei kia meinga koe.

"Team Tautoko Tukutuku"
Copyright © Admin tukutuku 2014 Rights Reserved katoa.

Fortunately (and to my surprise)  Google Translate can facilitate Maori translation:

Security Alert

We see the spam-​​like activity in your webmail account,
It is our Acceptable Use Policy (AUP).

Sorry click here to verify you over the
   account and not a spammer.

We repent of farewell, this may cause you.

"Team Support Web"
Copyright © 2014 Web Admin All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How many people claim a sole parent benefit unlawfully?

I have now had chance to look at the report released today, Growing Up In NZ.
Last report the children were 9 months; this report they are 2 years.

Total numbers reporting:

9 months 6476
2 years 6327
Numbers reporting being sole parents

9 months 439 (6.8%)
2 years  319   (5%)

Numbers on an income tested benefit

9 months 1062 (16.4%)
2 years  980    (15.5%)

Now, easily the most common form of benefit for people with dependent children is DPB (or now Sole Parent Support.) In 2013, 77 percent of benefit-dependent children relied on the DPB.

77 percent of those on a benefit at 9 months would equate to 818 of the study recipients claiming welfare.

Yet  only 439 claimed to be sole parents. Stunning.

I can also tell you that the data gathered under the Household Labour Force survey is being checked against benefit data and showing some significant anomalies. More on that later.

(The numbers reporting being on a benefit in the study are lower than mine but the drop-outs could account for the difference. Data released under the Official Information Act shows around 22 percent of babies born in either 2010 or 2011  were dependent on a caregiver receiving a welfare benefit by the end of the same year. )

How myths begin

Not on line yet, this appears on page 3 of today's DomPost:

This mixes two sets of statistics with a qualification in tiny print.

The left and right statistics are official data from Police and CYF.

The one in the middle is from a self-selecting poll.

Whether the ethnic proportions relate to the poll or official data isn't made clear.

But it won't be long before someone conflates the two.

(Even the call-out rate  to family violence incidents is wrong based on the number given:
525,600/87,000 = 6.)

Very odd numbers

About the Growing Up In NZ third report, the NZ Herald reports today:

Families Commissioner Belinda Milnes highlighted the study's findings on changes in the number of women without a partner, from 212 in the pregnancy phase, to 439 at the 9-month interview and 319 at 2 years.

There is something very odd about those numbers.

Of 7,000 children followed, at 9 months the percentage was 6.3%.

Whereas there are consistently around 20 percent of babies dependent on welfare by the end of their birth year. Most on a sole parent benefit.

Additionally, Counties Manakau has a higher proportion of benefit uptake than nationally.

I know the study has a reasonably high drop-out rate but the numbers seem, as I said, very odd.

One implication is that a lot of people who have partners are claiming a sole parent benefit. A lot.

The report doesn't appear at the Growing Up In NZ website yet.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Glenn Inquiry

Find below what I wrote about the Glenn Inquiry just over one year ago.

So it came to pass.

A large majority of submitters were female.

The resounding impression is that the overwhelming problem lies with men.

Oh and the colonist-blaming conveniently pops up.
Māori were once a people who held in high esteem their tamariki (children) and wāhine (women) because of the treasured roles they had in their whānau, hapū (sub-tribe) and iwi (tribe). Nevertheless, colonisation brought with it new ways, including privileging the place of men, which rendered women and children as their possessions (Section 4, p127).
(Interesting to hear what Bill Ralston and David Farrar said to Larry Williams on NewstalkZB here. )

It is grim reading and I don't intend to denigrate the submitters. It's the tenor of the report itself.


June 11 2013

I've been vaguely following the Owen Glenn Inquiry melt-down which the NZ Herald seem particularly pre-occuppied with, providing an almost daily instalment.

What I keep noticing though is the slant on the subject of abuse. For instance in today's Herald editorial:

Like most men, he will be unable to fathom how any self-respecting male can do violence to a woman or child. He knows it should not be happening in his own country. He wants to know why it happens, what the police and social agencies are doing about it, and how it can prevented. So do we all.
Then from another piece by Simon Collins:

 Waikato University psychologist Dr Neville Robertson, who said on Friday that the think-tank hoped to make a collective response by Sunday night, said he told other think-tank members by email yesterday that he used to think it would be possible to end violence against women and children in his lifetime.

This tenor has struck me at other times. Collins describing the recruitment of now resigned head, Ruth Herbert:

Ms Herbert jumped at the chance, and by the time the inquiry was announced in September its focus had broadened from child abuse to include domestic violence - the issue she has campaigned on for much of her life.
"Seventy per cent of the child abuse cases also have domestic violence happening, mostly the father abusing the mother," she explained.

In an earlier editorial not related to the Glenn Inquiry the Herald once again took this position:

 The vast majority of child abuse is perpetrated by men.

In the interests of balance here's a quote from Professor David Fergusson of the long-standing Christchurch Health and Development Study:

 "The proper message is that both gender groups have a capacity for domestic violence [and] women probably perpetrate more assaults on children then men do," Mr Fergusson said.
The ramifications are a public health system that tends to overlook male victims of domestic violence.
One example was White Ribbon Day, which he had been critical of because it focused on female survivors of domestic violence and there was "no comparable day for male victims".
"It is those biases which have been built into our system right the way through it, largely from feminist rhetoric that implies that males are always to blame"

And from Child Matters:

Myth: Most physical abuse is carried out by men, especially fathers.
Reality: Physically abusive acts towards children are just as likely to be carried out by mothers as fathers.

The inquiry is supposed to be officially about All Forms of Child Abuse and Domestic Violence in New Zealand

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Calls to restore benefits to 1989 level baseless

A new book called Child Poverty by Simon Chapple and Jonathon Boston will be published next week so the pre-release media activity has begun.

On The Nation today Lisa Owen interviewed Children's Commissioner Russell Wills and author Jonathon Boston:

Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills advocates restoring benefits in real terms to where they were a generation ago.
Wills: “So let’s restore it back to where it was when we were kids. I don’t think that’s unachievable.”
Prof Jonathan Boston agrees benefit system needs restructuring: “..people who are wholly dependent on the benefit now are almost a quarter worse off relative to other citizens who are in work than was the case a generation ago.”
As most of the child poverty problem is generated by single parent children, let's check that. A 'generation' back would be 1989 - before the 1990s benefit cuts.

According to the 1990 NZ Yearbook

Any of the above benefits with dependent children (incl. Family Support)
     Solo parent and one child249.14
     Solo parent with two children280.87
          Each subsequent child16.00
          Couple with one child291.08
          Each subsequent child16.00

('Any of the above benefits' refers to unemployment, sickness etc but it is important to note the rates include Family Support).

 Family support. The maximum amount payable is $36 a week for the first child and $16 a week for each subsequent child. Family support is provided to people with dependent children who meet income eligibility requirements. It is paid to income-earners through taxation (see section 25.2, Taxation), but is delivered to beneficiaries and non-earners through the social welfare system.

 Family benefit. This is a universal benefit paid at the rate of $6 per week to the carer of every dependent child in recognition of the contribution of families to the care of children. Its value has been $6 a week since 1979, and the direction of policy in recent years has been towards supplementing family benefit with additional assistance to low- and middle- income families.

Let's use the sole parent with two children example.

In 2014 dollars $280.87 (which includes Family Support but not Family Benefit) would be $509.14

Accommodation benefit. Accommodation benefit is for people whose income and cash assets are limited and who have high accommodation costs. The maximum rates of assistance at April 1989 were $40 per week for a single person, and $65 per week for a married couple. A supplement of up to $20 per week may be paid for elderly people and people with disabilities who are in residential care.

So even at the maximum rate of $40 (or $72 in 2014 dollars) that brings the total to $581.14

Finally adding in Family Benefit - $12 (or $21.76 in 2014 dollars) provides a total of  $602.90

How much is a sole parent with two children getting today?

Straight from the Minister's mouth:

“An average sole parent with two children under thirteen, living in South Auckland would receive around $642 on benefit, including accommodation supplement and a minimal extra allowance for costs.”

For simplicity's sake I'll table a breakdown for a single parent with two children aged under 13. Figures are all in 2014 $. The 1989 total is about half way between the highest and lowest 2014 totals (left click on image to enlarge).

Youth crime blamed on poverty

About West Auckland apparently:

Family structures are being broken under economic pressures and the facilities are not there to stop children from falling into a cycle of violence and poverty.
Family structures are not even formed in many cases, let alone broken. If a society is prepared to reward the worst impulses and absence of positive values in people, it can hardly be surprised at the result.

I was asked to speak on Leighton Smith's show last Thursday about youth crime in general (sparked of course by the latest West Auckland incident) and what I thought was contributing and if we could turn the ship around.

I talked about how violent incidents tend to stay within dysfunctional families. In this instance it has spilled over. But the dysfunction has been there for decades. The dysfunction that comes from making children a source of income and allowing them to be held hostage to their parents lifestyles.

I talked about the fact that young men  in prison are much more likely to be fathers. Criminals have more children.

Can we turn it around? We will always have criminality but yes we can reduce the number of children who are being born to parents with no financial or emotional ability to raise them. At least the current government has identified young people as their focus and are making greater demands on them in return for support and that is showing some positive results (albeit the results may be simply correlated.)

But there is no point in treating the whole population to cure a problem that rests in a small minority. We do not need to monitor every child and we certainly don't need to pour more money into every home with young children.

(I have probably mentioned this brief paper previously but the links between crime and welfare have been researched and proven. Worth a read:
" There are many factors contributing to the rise in juvenile violence and crime, from the glorification of violence in the media to the failure of the “war on drugs.” But, today, I would like to focus on a factor that has received far less attention — the relationship between the welfare state and crime." )