Friday, December 19, 2014

Blog's 9th birthday

My first post was on December 19, 2005. Wouldn't have put money on it lasting nine years.

The stats are steady but not growing. I usually occupy some position in the 30s when it comes to blog rankings in NZ and average around 200 visits a day.

So you'd wonder why I bother.

I continue to believe the welfare stuff is hugely important and pester MSD, read all their publications, monitor party policies, keep a watching brief on welfare reforms abroad and if I have something particularly interesting the goodwill of other bigger blogs (particular Whale Oil - thanks Cam)  usually means I can get them to pick it up.

And thanks to my regular readers who often send me tidbits and comments off-blog. You in particular keep me going.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

An American down-under sees what too many NZers can't

Today Sean Plunket interviewed an amazing man called Terrance Wallace on Radio Live .

He is a black American raised by a single mother in Chicago, who has sent up a home for disadvantaged Maori and Pasifika young men  that provides them with opportunities they would not have in their own communities.

His initiative is called The In Zone project.

Under his scheme these young guys are achieving great results.

It's a reasonably long though deeply interesting interview (Plunket at his best).

But have a listen to what he says about state welfare at 25:15

Reducing welfare dependence would reduce inequality

Letter to the Hutt News:

Dear Editor

According to Gordon Campbell  a recent  OECD report showed New Zealand's "...economic policies have caused a significant rise in income inequality" (Hutt News, December 16).

Income inequality grew during the late 1980s and early 1990s then levelled off during the 2000s.

Over that period the structure of families, and gender participation in the work force changed significantly. Single parent families headed by females with no or low educational qualifications and/or  work experience increased significantly through to the turn of the century before levelling off over the past few years. Many depend on welfare and consequently form a large share of poor families.

At the same time,  partnered woman increasingly either remained working or returned to work earlier after childbirth.

In a nutshell, there are now more households with one work-less parent, and more households with two working parents. The difference between the the incomes of the  two households is pronounced.

What the OECD report  Campbell refers to said was that, " labour market policies, childcare supports and in-work benefits" are needed if increased economic growth is desired. This recognises that children coming out of disadvantaged homes eg unemployed households, need a working parent and better engagement with education from an early age.

The welfare reforms instituted by the National government (and Labour prior with the creation of the In Work Tax Credit) have gone some way to fulfilling this goal but need to go much further. Reducing welfare dependence would contribute enormously to reducing inequality.

Lindsay Mitchell

Figure J.5   Inequality in New Zealand and the OECD trend: the Gini coefficient


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"I hope my father dies soon"

Thank you very much to the reader who sent this to me. It needs no additional commentary from me.

I hope my father dies soon.

And while I'm at it, I might want you to die a painful death too.

I'm entirely serious on both counts.

My father, age 86, is on the final approach to the long dirt nap (to use his own phrase). His mind is 98% gone, and all he has left is hours or possibly months of hideous unpleasantness in a hospital bed. I'll spare you the details, but it's as close to a living Hell as you can get.

If my dad were a cat, we would have put him to sleep long ago. And not once would we have looked back and thought too soon.

Because it's not too soon. It's far too late. His smallish estate pays about $8,000 per month to keep him in this state of perpetual suffering. Rarely has money been so poorly spent.

I'd like to proactively end his suffering and let him go out with some dignity. But my government says I can't make that decision. Neither can his doctors. So, for all practical purposes, the government is torturing my father until he dies.

I'm a patriotic guy by nature. I love my country. But the government? Well, we just broke up.

And let me say this next part as clearly as I can.

If you're a politician who has ever voted against doctor-assisted suicide, or you would vote against it in the future, I hate your fucking guts and I would like you to die a long, horrible death. I would be happy to kill you personally and watch you bleed out. I won't do that, because I fear the consequences. But I'd enjoy it, because you motherfuckers are responsible for torturing my father. Now it's personal.

I know that many of my fellow citizens have legitimate concerns about doctor-assisted suicide. One can certainly imagine greedy heirs speeding up the demise of grandma to get the inheritance. That would be a strong argument if doctor-assisted suicide wasn't already working elsewhere with little problems, or if good things in general (such as hospitals and the police) never came with their own risks.

I'm okay with any citizen who opposes doctor-assisted suicide on moral or practical grounds. But if you have acted on that thought, such as basing a vote on it, I would like you to die a slow, horrible death too. You and the government are accomplices in the torturing of my father, and there's a good chance you'll someday be accomplices in torturing me to death too.

I might feel differently in a few years, but at the moment my emotions are a bit raw. If I could push a magic button and send every politician who opposes doctor-assisted suicide into a painful death spiral that lasts for months, I'd press it. And I wouldn't feel a bit of guilt because sometimes you have to get rid of the bad guys to make the world a better place. We do it in defensive wars and the police do it daily. This would be another one of those situations.

I don't want anyone to misconstrue this post as satire or exaggeration. So I'll reiterate. If you have acted, or plan to act, in a way that keeps doctor-assisted suicide illegal, I see you as an accomplice in torturing my father, and perhaps me as well someday. I want you to die a painful death, and soon. And I'd be happy to tell you the same thing to your face.

Note to my government: I'll keep paying my taxes and doing whatever I need to do to stay out of jail, but don't ask me for anything else. We're done now.

[Update: My father passed a few hours after I wrote this.]

Increasing employment rate of single parents

A reader sent through the above graph which was part of a brief article in the Economist (Britain).

The Economist commentary,

The government will surely be pleased with new figures showing that a growing proportion of single mothers are in work. The percentage of children living in workless families is at its lowest since 1996, when records began. The reduction in income support for single working parents since 2008 may have contributed to the shift. But the overall rise conceals the fact that, compared with women who are part of a couple, single mums are almost twice as likely to be in low-skilled—and low-paid—jobs. And for some, especially lone parents, the price of child care can still be a barrier to entering the workforce. All political parties have promised to make it more affordable. But women are used to being left holding the baby.

 The NZ rate and trend is similar. The main driver is welfare reform, including the In Work Tax Credit.

 Data extracted from Household Composition by Household Labour Force Status (Qrtly-Mar/Jun/Sep/Dec)One parent with dependent child(ren) only All Employed

Monday, December 15, 2014

Little courage leaves opportunity for ACT

I am underwhelmed by Andrew Little. Previously I've blogged about his lack of courage in turning away from a capital gains tax (which I don't want but concede there is significant support for on the left) and lifting the Super age - an issue that must be faced.

According to the NZ Herald he has now instructed Iain Lees-Galloway to drop the private voluntary euthanasia bill previously sponsored by Maryan Street.

A bill which would legalise voluntary euthanasia has been dropped by Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway at the request of his leader Andrew Little.
Mr Lees-Galloway had been canvassing support for his End of Life Choice Bill before deciding whether to return it to the private members' bill ballot.
But Mr Little confirmed yesterday that he had told Mr Lees-Galloway not to put it in the ballot because it was not an issue Labour should be focused on when it was rebuilding.
"It comes down to priorities at the moment," Mr Little said. "We are very much focused on ... jobs and economic security.
"There are more people affected by weak labour market regulation and weak economic strategy than they are about the right to make explicit choices about how they die."
The bill would have allowed any adult suffering from a condition likely to cause their death within 12 months to request medical assistance to die.
Mr Little said Labour was still a socially progressive party under his leadership.
"It's not about avoiding controversy but it's about choosing the controversies that are best for us at this point in time. That stuff on euthanasia, it isn't the time for us to be talking about that."
This is dumb. When will the time be? When you've lost even more support from the older generations to NZ First? I've done the Grey Power meetings over two elections and know that this group is particular keen to address the issue.

It's not a politically smart move and it isn't a principled one either. Labour WAS the socially progressive party of ideas and reform. Not any more.

ACT should pick up the bill. ACT's philosophy champions the rights of the individual.

A paramount individual right is that of choosing to end one's own life without the state criminalising any other party who may have had knowledge or assisted.