Saturday, May 16, 2015

Only Americans would believe this

Thank you to a reader who drew my attention to Bloomberg Politics writing about NZ's innovative approach of actuarial costing to show which social groups are most disadvantaged, and where the money is best spent. The 'program' is about to be employed in Pennsylvania.

But the writer has somehow gotten a bit carried away. Only in America, the most heavily prison-populated country in the dveloped world, would this gem go unquestioned

New Zealand has moved the furthest toward applying data to a range of social services. Along with extra support for children and families, New Zealand’s government is reviewing its driver licensing system after data showed young people in rural areas were being criminally convicted for driving without a valid license, landing them in prison at an annual cost of $87,000 per person.
Do they know how hard it is to get into a NZ prison?

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Folly that is Whanau Ora

The following was written for NZCPR:

On the campaign trail last year, ACT leader Jamie Whyte was ridiculed for being “clueless” about Whanau Ora. This became apparent when questioned by Mihingarangi Forbes on Maori Television. But Whyte certainly wasn’t alone in his inability to describe what Whanau Ora is or does. Annette King, then Labour’s social services spokeswoman, described it as “blancmange” because “when you try to get a grasp of it, it slips through your fingers.” In 2009, when asked for a definition of Whanau Ora by parliamentarians, Families Commissioner Jan Pryor struggled, “I am putting a caveat around it for the simple fact that I am a middle class white woman. And so I don’t feel that I should be giving definitive answers.”
This week, even Lyn Provost, the Auditor General who has presumably spent many, many hours putting together a report on Whanau Ora said, “It was not easy to describe what it is or what it has achieved.”


Muriel Newman backgrounds the history during which time she was an MP:

The policy has had a long gestation. It was first announced in January 2000, under the guise of “Closing the Gaps”, as a flagship policy of Helen Clark’s Labour Government. The Prime Minister established a special Closing the Gaps Cabinet Committee and committed $140 million to the policy over four years: “There has been a strong voice from Maoridom urging that it be able to take control of its own destiny, determine its own strategies, and devise its own solutions. That means the government going back into the mainstream budgets and ensuring that funding meant for Maori actually delivers for Maori. The evidence is that it has not been. It means strengthening the capacity of Maori organisations to strategise, to plan, and to deliver services.”


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Brand new benefit system findings

A new report, 2014 Benefit System Performance Report (not to be confused with the Taylor Fry Actuarial report released earlier), has some interesting, but not surprising, new findings.

Clients with psychiatric conditions (including JS-HCD clients) now represent 17% of the benefit system client base.
The figure has been constantly growing and represents around 50,000 individuals.

 74% of under 25 year old clients (88% for youth benefit clients) were supported by parents (or a parent) on benefits while they were a child.
 The clearest evidence yet of the inter-generational transmission of benefit dependence.

126,126 main benefit clients (or 40%) live in a household with two or more people receiving a main benefit.
The is brand new data. This number  is 43 percent of all beneficiaries. It would be fascinating to know how many households contain them. But certainly some 'overcrowding' is quite possibly a choice as multiple benefits going into one home can result in not insignificant net household  incomes.

The more people in a household receiving a main benefit, the higher the per person average liability. This is the case across all benefit categories, suggesting that clients living in households with more than one person receiving a main benefit may experience different barriers to employment. Those living in multi-beneficiary households are also likely to be younger on average and more likely to be Māori.

Again, no surprises here.

Nearly one-third of clients receiving a main benefit have some form of Corrections history.Conversely, approximately one-quarter of people with a Corrections history
are receiving a main benefit.
Probably lots of overlap with those with psychiatric conditions mentioned earlier.

 Average liability is consistently higher for people with a Corrections history across all benefit categories (with the exception of youth benefits), genders and ethnicities.

Liability in the benefit system is still cheaper than a liability in the prison system. Had to find something positive to say.

(Will report further if warranted. Up to P12 currently.)

Jetstar and Jury Service

The two are related inasmuch as pieces about them both me laugh out loud this morning.

The first is from the reliably hilarious Civilian:
A man who booked a flight with Jetstar is angry today after missing a flight because it departed at the time it was scheduled to.
JQ287, from Wellington to Christchurch, was scheduled to leave this morning at 8:15am, and did, in an unexpected turn of events that one passenger has described as “unacceptable.”

The second is the jury service experience  (or non-selection process at least) of a libertarian living in Brooklyn, US:

(In a moment both hilarious and disturbing, the orientation officer then tells us we are forbidden by law to talk about our jury experience on social media, and then he proceeds to read tweets from people in the room, including a guy who wrote something along the lines of "Ain't NO WAY I'm staying here until fucking 5 o'clock!!”)

Baltimore and bad social policy

Baltimore is no different from many other large US cities. Brookings highlights ten facts that show:

1/The city is relatively affluent
2/ The region boasts a significant black middle class
3/ Jobs pay better than the national average
4/There are significant numbers of jobs for downtown residents

5/ But there are high concentrations of poverty
6/ Poor areas are largely black
7/ Black residents fare much worse eg child poverty is 41% for black children compared to 13% for white

8/ But Baltimore's level of concentrated poverty is about average amongst US cities
9/ Its income inequality is similar to other big cities
10/ Many cities have blacks with worse poverty and unemployment (though Baltimore does rank fairly low)

The article concludes

In these respects, Baltimore is a typical American city. Its level of concentrated poverty is average among cities in major metropolitan areas. While Baltimore has a higher overall poverty rate than most other cities, its level of income inequality mirrors that for U.S. cities generally. And Baltimore’s depressing outcomes for black residents on poverty and employment are actually better than those in a majority of other cities with large black populations.
In sum, Baltimore is a region on the upswing economically, but one in which stability and prosperity are distributed highly unequally across racial and community lines. That is more or less the norm in metropolitan America today, and a stark challenge to economic growth patterns that have left too many behind for too long.

What Baltimore reflects is the sad state of the black family. The view expressed in a comment below the article isn't far off the mark:
The utterly predictable outcome of a policy that for 50 years has subsidized unwed motherhood while taxing traditional families.
Anyone who took and passed Econ 101 saw this coming.

The same outcome applies to every country that went down this road.  High rates of single parent families, child poverty and workless households.

(Note the difference in unemployment rates between white and black in Baltimore - 4.8% vs 11.3% - is very similar to NZ's unemployment rate differences: European 4.5%, Maori 12.6 percent and Pacific 12.5%).

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Recycling the bribe

Working For Families was Labour's biggest electoral bribe. And it worked. Once. When they won the 2005 general election.

But it has stopped working for them thanks to National retaining the massive redistribution of wealth it rallied against in opposition.

But could Labour harness THEIR policy to their advantage once more? Tim Barnett (Labour's behind the scenes brains) obviously thinks so.

The collective wisdom says that non-voters are low income, Left-leaning voters.  Many will be WFF recipients. So if they won't, in the first instance, take the bribe and do what Labour wants them to do, why not threaten to take the bribe off them? Recycle it.There's some petulant satisfaction to be had. Labour having a tanty and throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Even if the idea came to fruition, resentful submissives may quite purposefully vote against the party that forced them into the ballot box. After all, National isn't threatening to make them worse off.

But what is the big deal about people voting if they don't want to?

I could easily become a non-voter myself. As it is I vote for the least worse party. I vote against socialism yet we keep getting more of it. As a conscientious non-voter I'd retain the right to complain however:-)

Why is it always assumed that non-voting indicates apathy and a lack of engagement with this precious governance institution called democracy (also famously described as the best of a bad bunch)? It's not serving the local government process very well with ratepayers routinely up in arms over their inability to control rampant councils and rate hikes.

Anyway, back to Labour, who are becoming more and more desperate and ridiculous.

I'd have more respect for a decent first-time bribe than this sort of second-time 'screw you' for not taking it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The more government intervenes, the more it has to

"Good social policy is not without cost. It is the price we pay for a fair society."

Would you expect that to come from the Left or Right?

Surprisingly, it's from the current Revenue Minister commenting on the enormous $129 million child support reform budget blow-out.

It's ironic. The social policy that created the need for the government to legislate a child support system  - essentially the DPB - is also still considered 'good' policy in some quarters.

Social policy is always well-intentioned. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Whether it is good or bad is a matter of perspective. Whether it delivers a "fair" society is also highly arguable.

A society that features 140,000 odd individuals having money removed arbitrarily, at source, to pay for estranged (or otherwise) children, many of whose upkeep total strangers pay the lion's share for, hardly sounds "fair".

There is a clear principle at work which the National government continues to operate under - this particularly member, quite willingly.

The more a government intervenes, the more it has to.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Blog problem

New paintings but nowhere to put them!

My artist blog shows me as 'signed in' but doesn't appear on the dashboard, so I can't update. I've tried contacting Blogger to no avail. It was previously linked to a second e-mail address and would require a sign-out from this blog and sign-in to the art one but something has changed. If anyone has any ideas at all, they would be most welcome.

Just solved it. As often happens the act of writing or talking about a problem triggered a new idea. I had to add the other e-mail address and the one I had been trying was incorrect. Lesson learned - entrust nothing to memory.

These are two small oils painted from historic black and white photos. The first was titled only "1900s Haka" and the second is a WW2 Maori Battalion soldier and dog, Paddy. Both appealed to me emotionally but it's getting harder to paint very small detail (though I could stop being forgetful and put my glasses on).

End Child Poverty petition

The DomPost published my response to  Deborah Morris-Travers' column under the heading "Poverty campaign wants benefit hike".

It's a good heading because that's exactly what the petition calls for and many thinking people have come to understand that welfare is the problem - not the solution.

That's not just a hopeful speculation either.

Despite loads of media publicity, links from columns in the DomPost and NZ Herald, even TV advertising, the End Child Poverty on-line petition, which calls for parents who don't work to get the In Work Tax Credit (which is like calling for childless people to receive Family Tax Credits) has garnered only 8,000 signatures. Their aim is 100,000 because that's the number they believe will leave the government unable to "avoid the question: Is this the Budget to end child poverty?"

Of course, there may be more off-line signatures to be added but the on-line showing indicates that not many people agree with aim of the petition. It does not mean that they don't care about children in families that are struggling.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Qualifying for Super when you don't qualify

Most people think you have to be 65 to qualify for NZ Super. But there is a group of individuals who receive Super as 'non-qualified' recipients. A minority are over 65 and don't meet necessary residency qualifications but almost 12,000 are under sixty-five; 3,689 are under 60.

Generally the male turns 65 and can reject the single rate ($345.72 net weekly) for two married rates (2 x $273.82 net weekly or $547.64 combined). The decision to include or exclude  lies with the Superannuitant. The effect is the government has to pay 58% more.

An OIA supplied the numbers at December 2014:

88 percent of non-qualifying spouses are female.

Here's the ethnicity breakdown:

It appears only partners in marriage or civil unions can receive the 'non-qualified' payment. That's borne out by the ethnicity breakdown. Maori have a  low marriage rate.

At the same date there were 650,636 Superannuitants aged 65 and over.  So just under 2 percent have a non-qualified spouse.

Annual payments to non-qualified spouses amount to $133 million.

Now that mightn't be a big deal against the total Super bill, but significant anomalies are occurring.

1/ For the purposes of an unemployment or sickness benefit, the law similarly recognises marriages and civil unions. However it also recognises de facto relationships. How long before under 65 year-old de facto partners of Superannuitants start pushing for Super payments?

 2/ In the case of unemployment or disability, the rate for two partners is exactly half of the single rate. For non-qualifying partners of Superannuitants the payment is 79 percent of the single rate. How long before partners of unemployed or disabled beneficiaries under 65 start challenging on the basis of discrimination?

Beneficiary advocates are notoriously active so it surprises me that this hasn't already become an issue.

Perhaps most people aren't aware that under 65s can collect Super via their 65 or older husband (or more unusually, wife)?

Would appreciate hearing from readers whether they were aware of this. A simple 'yes' or 'no' would be fine.