Monday, June 01, 2020

The Left loathe the concept of the 'deserving' and 'undeserving'

A commentor on Kiwiblog drew attention to a Newsroom article by an Auckland University sociology professor:

Dr Louise Humpage was hoping Covid would help Kiwis better understand how tough it is to live off the benefit, but the newly unemployed are not being treated like main beneficiaries at all...
I became more suspicious of the Government’s intentions when it announced that 35 new unemployment centres would be established across the country, along with an employment service specific to those directly impacted by Covid-19, who are not on a main benefit.
Why? Work and Income already has offices in most towns and cities across New Zealand which focus on finding employment.
Could it be that they are either a) not very good at their job; or b) that the ‘toxic culture’ endemic in these offices is so awful that we couldn’t bear the shame of letting ‘ordinary’ (i.e., working) New Zealanders experience it?


I doubt the 35 new employment centres referred to will be places people walk into. Applications and grants all take place on-line. The new processing centres will be about boosting staff capacity to approve applications and attempt to redeploy workers.

The usual eligibility requirements she refers to as a “toxic culture” have been suspended because of the increased workload in processing new applications. Not because they were unfair.

She writes, “the base rate for the existing Job Seeker Support is $250 a week (before tax – yes, it is taxed) for a single person over 25.” Wrong. It is $250 after tax.

Essentially she wants all benefits paid at the same rate as the temporary Income Relief Payment saying, “a truly brave government would look voters in the eye and say ‘we want to treat all unemployed people, no matter when or how they came to be jobless, with the same dignity and respect that all New Zealanders deserve’.”

There are thousands of beneficiaries who have 1/ never worked 2/ made themselves unemployable through crime and/or drug and alcohol abuse and 3/ have no incentive to work because it pushes up their child support liability and income-related rent. This is the unfortunate reality of the benefit system.

In fact it would be preferable if the system could take more account of ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ – not less, leading to greater fairness for anyone who is genuinely (temporarily or permanently) unemployed through no fault of their own.


Sunday, May 31, 2020

Treasury predicts 1 in 6 on a benefit by June 2021

Treasury is forecasting 487,500 working age people will be on some form of benefit by June 2021 (16.2 percent).

At the moment it is nearer to 1 in 10 (11.7 percent).


Here are the numbers to May 22:


I haven't posted much about the data to date because the numbers are being kept artificially low by the wage subsidy AND now the new Income Relief Payment (IRP) which cannot be applied for until after June 8. 

Obviously Jobseeker numbers will stabilise as people apply for the better paying benefit but one has to assume that Treasury's forecast includes IRP recipients despite Labour insisting that the IRP is NOT a benefit.

Friday, May 29, 2020

ACT: "Minimum Wage Hikes And Handouts -Sounds Like Labour"

Todd Muller made a speech today. Seymour responds:

Minimum Wage Hikes And Handouts -Sounds Like Labour

Friday, 29 May 2020, 2:49 pm

Press Release: ACT New Zealand

“It sounds like Labour, is what I’m already hearing about National’s promise to raise the minimum wage regularly while handing out money to businesses,” according to ACT Leader David Seymour

“ACT won’t sign up to supporting a Labour Government, or vote for Labour Party policies in any Government.

More


I would add that as Labour made the historical move of linking benefit rates to average wages, National is also promising regular benefit increases.

No matter what you think about the policy, it's proof that under Todd Muller, National is even more deserving of the label 'Labour-lite'.

Trying to please everyone results in pleasing no-one.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Forget the forecasts - free up the restrictions

One: Unemployment could rise to 18 per cent, house prices could halve, and the viability of the banks could be "called into question" if the coronavirus prompted a further period of economic lockdowns, the Reserve Bank has warned.

Two: Unemployment is likely to peak at only 8.1 per cent and not until March 2022, according to a relatively upbeat forecast by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.

The first is more than double the second. I'm in the middle. But apart from Treasury trying to guess the size of the expenditure it's pretty futile. Trying to make people feel 'upbeat' isn't going to save their job.

We need action and activity immediately.

The Prime Minister is now clearly the one with the foot on the brake. ACT and Winston First are both calling for a move to level one. National appears neutral. Useless as usual.

Sue Bradford says Labour betrays its traditions

If Sue Bradford writes something I generally read it. Because Sue has political conviction. She shunned Kim Dotcom's money and has stayed true to her roots. I respect that she engages with opponents in a  thoughtful and non-combative manner. That was my experience anyway.

Here she addresses the rift created by the Jobseeker Premium benefit introduced from June 8:

For over three decades, we've had governments who politically and through the administration of a flawed, punitive welfare system have blamed unemployed people and beneficiaries for their situation, rather than treating "them" as "us".

Yesterday, Labour brought this two-class system into stark focus once again, as it did when it introduced the discriminatory "In Work" payment as part of Working for Families back in the mid-2000s.

During his Budget speech on 14 May, Grant Robertson evoked the "great traditions of the First Labour Government who rebuilt New Zealand after the Great Depression".

I reckon the employed and unemployed workers and their families who brought the first Labour government to power in 1935 would be scandalised by Robertson's evocation of that era at a time when his government is entrenching a brutal divide between the worthy and unworthy poor.

No. I doubt they would. A 'brutal divide between the worthy and unworthy poor' was a stark feature of early Social Security. Unmarried mothers couldn't access a benefit. Criminals couldn't. And sorry to go on about it but anyone who was considered the author of their own misfortune certainly would not have been able to drawn on the pooled social security funds paid into a specific account and recorded individually in a passbook weekly.

What the "employed and unemployed workers" of 1935 would be scandalised by is being forced to support other people's children whose father's pay nothing. They would be outraged that someone who has committed a crime can come out of a prison and get immediate recourse to welfare - repeatedly! They would be angry that  entire isolated rural communities could turn their local economies on welfare.

What I think Sue overlooks is the strong socially conservative streak that existed in Labour (and in most people) back at the outset of social security. The left today is rather revisionist in recalling the sentiments of their forebears.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Questions about the Income Relief Payment

Perhaps Freudian, the word ‘relief’ hasn’t been used in relation to state assistance since the Great Depression when it described the government’s relief work schemes eg the building of the Homer Tunnel on the Milford Road.

But questions …

1/ How are the other 300,000 beneficiaries not on the Jobseeker Premium going to feel about being paid a basic rate of up to 50% less than the favoured? Probably like those green grocers and butchers who were shut down in favour of dairies and supermarkets during lock down four. Justifiably angry and unhappy.

2/ Grant Robertson says the IRP is about ‘cushioning’ and economic stimulus but if you’ve just been made redundant and know the benefit you are receiving will be halved in 12 weeks, would you be out spending? Apart from on the basics like mortgage or rent, food and utilities?

3/ Given the two large English-speaking countries without wage subsidies - Canada and the US – have  unemployment  rates of 13-14 %, why will NZ be any different? Ours will be in double digits when the IRP policy ends - when the chance of finding other work is lowest. If still in power, will a left-wing government introduce massive ‘benefit cuts’ - knocking the Jobseeker Premium recipients back to Jobseeker Regular rates? (BTW Treasury estimates are for Jobseeker numbers  to reach 297,000 in 2021)

4/ How long can the economy be kept artificially afloat? That’s the question for National. Will they have the kahuna’s to tell the country – during the election campaign - that we cannot keep borrowing? Or will they be forced into a Faustian bidding war for votes?

5/ Does the public understand that when Roberston talks about creating a unemployment insurance scheme similar to other countries  that it will, if it is anything like the US scheme, be paid for via employer and employee premiums?

(BTW when I searched the budget expense tables for the wage subsidy I found one item described as  "The 2020 forecast of non-departmental expenses includes costs in relation to the Government's response to COVID-19" projected as $9.122 billion. That's already well surpassed.)

Monday, May 25, 2020

What will National do?

The new Income Relief Payment for people who have lost their jobs due to the  Covid response is available from June 8 for 12 weeks. That takes Labour up till 2 weeks before the election.

So how will this play out in the election campaign? Because the question hangs in the air and demands an answer.

Will Labour extend The Jobseeker Premium (pays around 75% more than The Jobseeker Regular) beyond September 7?

Which forces National to answer the same question.

However it plays out, Labour has put National in a politically fraught position.

Labour are being either very smart or very foolish and I can't decide which it is. But I don't think like socialists.

These wage subsidies and high rate income relief payments cannot go on and on. National may just have to come out and say so.

And if the public can't accept or understand that, then would you want to govern them anyway?

I get more worried by the day.

Update: The PR says, "The payment will be available for 12 weeks from 8 June for anyone who has lost their job due to the impact of COVID-19 since March 1." I understood that in terms of the wage subsidy framing ie it would be available over that 12 week period. In fact the availability is from the time of the claim for up to 12 weeks for any job lost between March 1 and October 30 so could extend into 2021. The question I asked isn't substantively affected.

Friday, May 22, 2020

The Great Depression birthed Social Security. The Covid Depression could kill it.

Social Security benefits were legislated in 1938. The Labour government harnessed the collective financial power of all workers to provide for those who fell on hard times through no fault of their own (quite removed from today's premise where own-fault is ignored).

Participation was  a personal process with each citizen having their own recorded contributions and a pocketbook notating them. The money originally went into a distinct fund from which the government invested. State forests for example. It started going into the consolidated fund during the sixties.

It all worked well for a period. People had common values and didn't abuse benefits. They had been bruised by the Great Depression and the First World War.

But a 'free' money genie can never be kept in a bottle.

As societal values changed, calls for greater widening of the safety net came. For instance, Family Benefits were relatively (but decreasingly over the years) generous and paid to the mother. But only married mothers qualified. Resistance to benefits being restricted to the nuclear family grew and from the mid 1960s all mothers qualified.

As communities became more tolerant of human frailty, especially drug addiction, sickness and invalid benefit qualification criteria loosened.

That's just two examples of how social security has evolved.

Add in another compounding condition. The more normalised benefit dependence became, the greater the uptake.


The recession of the late 1980s wrought havoc and receipt blew out in the 1990s to eye watering levels. While academic lefties will tell you that the welfare state was dismantled under Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson that's rubbish. Yes some cuts to rates were made (but eventually effectively  restored via other new forms of second and third tier assistance). The Family Benefit was abolished but half of the savings were redistributed to needier families (a little known fact). While numbers relying on an unemployment benefit gradually fell uptake of the other three - Sickness, Invalid's and Domestic purposes continued to climb.



This century receipt had gradually declined (after the GFC spike) but only to levels viewed as reasonable when compared to the early nineties, not the 1960s or 70s. Dependence is still historically high at around 1 in 10 people.

The current Labour government was in the process of turning the downward  trend around. More people were accessing benefits despite the unemployment rate being low and jobs plentiful.

And that was before Covid.

Now?? Here's a few future scenarios.

Social security is the greatest $ liability the govt has, though the majority was in Superannuation. The wage subsidy is heading towards the total annual Super bill. Means-testing and lifting the qualifying Super age cannot be avoided. NZ was out of step with Australia, the US and the UK anyway in not raising the age. Though everyone seems to have forgotten we still have a rapidly ageing population.

With dwindling income ACC will seek to offload as much of its caseload to MSD as it can, increasing pressure on the MSD budget. At the same time more people will pile up on the sickness-type benefits as the health system struggles either playing catch-up after weeks of unnecessary inactivity or coping with new Covid outbreaks. The payment rate of the highest paying benefit, the Supported Living Payment, will drop.

There will be cuts to the accommodation supplement as the property market adjusts downwards.

More assistance will be provided as repayable regardless of whether that prospect is realistic.

As the imperative to get anybody they can into work ramps up the sole parent benefit will go. Paying people to look after their own children will be seen as a luxury.

Instead of the current move to NOT chase fathers for child support, the reverse will occur.

The lower age limits for benefits will rise and families will be expected to provide for previously independent children.

Working for Families will be severely curtailed.

Paid Parental Leave axed.

That's just a few possibilities.

Social Security is the very opposite of its name. It is not secure. It relies wholly on revenue from taxation or borrowing. It's sustainability cannot and should not be taken for granted as we go into a depression of unknown depth and extent.

It won't matter whether the government is Labour or National. The former will just delay the inevitable.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Rawinia Barrett ... or not



In 2015 I came across this photo of an unidentified Maori woman on the internet.




Because I used it to produce the painting below I came to know it quite intimately.


Early January 2020 I walked into the Taranaki Museum and came across this exhibit:




I stopped in my tracks. My unidentified subject was revealed as Waikawa, or Rawinia, Barrett the wife of whaler and trader Dicky Barrett - after whom Barrett's Hotel and Barrett's Reef are named.

In my mind there was no doubt at all that the photo had lent itself to the woodcut. This was a fairly exciting discovery to me.

But as I absorbed the information overnight I realised that there was a fly in the ointment. Next day I went into the reference section of the Taranaki library and read all I could about Dicky and Rawinia Barrett. Plenty about him but very little about her. Then I went and visited their joint graves.

Rawinia lived between 1811 and 1849. Before photography.

So I sent the following email to the curator:

I visited your museum for the first time on 4/1/20. You are displaying an image of Rawinia Barrett, Dicky Barrett's wife as per attached.

The image was immediately familiar to me because I produced a painting from a photograph with the same face, pose and clothing details:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%C4%81_moko#/media/File:Femme_Maori_1998-3160-173.jpg

The photo is in a collection held by the French National Library and labelled as created between 1860 and 1879.

The similarity between the 'woodcut drawing' and the photo is unmistakable. I believe the woodcut drawing was executed from the photo.

But the photo could not be of Rawinia Barrett who lived between 1811 and 1849 - before the age of photography in New Zealand.

Perhaps you can check the provenance of your display image to ascertain whether she is indeed Rawinia Barrett.

Not long after I received the following response:

I've had a look into the woodcut image that is described as depicting Rawinia Barrett, and what I've been able to find is that the image was published in the book 'Early Days Taranaki' by local historian and collector Fred B. Butler, with a credit line stating that the image was reproduced with permission from Mr and Mrs W.T. Duffin of New Plymouth (descendants of the Barretts), and that the woodcut block was loaned by the Taranaki Herald.
But as you say, the woodblock image is very clearly an artistic derivative of the photograph that you found online, and it's certainly highly unlikely that Rawinia was ever photographed as I don't believe she left the country. So I suspect that someone along the line has incorrectly attributed the woodblock.
The writer assured me that she was going to do "some more digging" and I inquired again mid March but was told nothing definitive had been discovered. I now expect the issue is not of great urgency given recent events. BUT...

This is a prime example of how errors - even unintentional - become 'truths' over time.

I note that there are a couple of family trees into which descendants have put a lot of time and energy using the woodcut image to depict Rawinia.

Sadly it is not.


Monday, May 18, 2020

"...you're going to do WHAT!!!?"


Another wonderful Wahlberg creation

I love this work. The hammer cowers like a supplicant dog being menaced by a more aggressive beast who may not be bigger and stronger but is defiant and dominant. I like the hammer because she reminds me of my dog Limmey. Not a nasty bone therein .... Wahlberg's sculptures always evoke a response in me.

Prisoners on remand double


In the first three periods charted just over one in five prisoners was on remand - awaiting trial. The latest March statistics show the ratio has climbed to 38.5% - almost 2 in 5.

What is the saying? Justice delayed and all that.

And it is projected to get worse.

The number of prisoners held on remand over the period from June 2017 to June 2027 is projected to nearly double from 3,000 to 5,400, the Ministry of Justice says.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Brave new world makes no sense

Simplicity of idea is always desirable. But the idea still has to make sense. A professor reported on RNZ says:
"I think the pandemic spells the end of the neoliberal era and I think the idea that government should be small and inactive and everything should be left to market forces has seen its day."
People had few possessions until there was an explosion of prosperity in the 20th Century, and now people have garages, basements and houses full of stuff, and full themselves with too much food, Westacott said
But if Westacott wants to frame matters historically the, "small and inactive" government he decries coincided with when, "people had few possessions". His nirvana.



Some people have 'too much stuff' even for the size of their homes as evidenced by the explosion of the storage industry but their consumerism has contributed to voluntary wealth redistribution  globally, lifting many out of poverty. Voluntary is indisputably better than  forced wealth redistribution.

I wonder how the professor squares the well being of people in developing nations making our imports - those emerging from poverty -  against ours? Or does philosophy have geographical borders?

It's an indulgent novelty for rich countries to play at non-consumerism. 

The pandemic should not be encouraged to end the general progress to a richer, more peaceful globe.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Colonisation key driver in men's violence

Released last month from the Family Violence Death Review Committee.

Sixth report | Te Pūrongo tuaono Men who use violence |
 Ngā tāne ka whakamahi i te whakarekereke


The report looks at 97 men, from between 2009 and 2017, whose family violence resulted in death (not theirs).

I hoped for some real insight and recommendations. But my anticipation was short-lived.

The report very quickly draws attention to, " ... the historical and ongoing impact of colonisation, which includes unchecked privilege, and how colonisation contributes to chronic and complex trauma for both individuals and communities. We believe these factors are central reasons why Māori and non-Māori experience violence across generations. Addressing these issues requires an honest partnership between the Crown and Māori, leading to decolonised services and measures that address structural racism."

More specifically,

Colonisation and Aotearoa New Zealand society 

Different groups in a population will always vary in their behaviour and episodes of violence. However, here we raise questions about cultural norms and how society responds to them. Indigenous researchers both in Aotearoa New Zealand and internationally see a patriarchal social structure as removing the natural supports and caring that people had for each other before this structure was imposed. Mikaere, for example, describes how Māori before colonial times understood the roles of men and women as part of the interrelationship or whakawhanaungatanga of all living things.  
Both men and women were essential parts in the collective whole, both formed part of the whakapapa that linked Maori people back to the beginning of the world, and women in particular played a key role in linking the past with the present and the future. 

It goes on to describe how colonisers came here with notions of men owning women and children. That may be but they didn't practice slavery. And Chiefs must have 'owned' their highly born daughters because they gave them away in marriage to useful traders.

Yes there was tension between the Maori and Pakeha cultural beliefs and behaviours but some of us have moved on. For instance, women fought to be free as individuals, to be educated and independent. New Zealand has evolved and this whole backward-looking narrative about the superiority or otherwise of anthropological worldviews of 200 years ago is pointless.

But the academic authors do not think so. Thus their recommendation  to stop the violence is decolonising institutions and services, which means infusing those institutions and services with Maori tikanga and Maori worldviews (already rife in the public service). Ending institutional racism and properly honouring the treaty.

This will stop men murdering, including the 64 who are European, Asian, African, Pacific and other ethnicity.

Right.

In my humble opinion the only offenders who truly reform are those who look in the mirror, see themselves for what they are and resolve to change. If they can't achieve this, they need to be locked up to keep innocent people safe.

But there I go with my patriarchal unchecked-privileged point of view...

Monday, May 11, 2020

Excuse me. We'll take that prize.

Here's an interesting chart from Jim Rose's blog.




I don't know why there is "no data" for NZ. From the 2013 census - within the period they analysed -from NZ Stat chart,  "Number of dependent children and total number of children, for one parent families in occupied private dwellings, 2001, 2006, and 2013 Censuses (RC, TA)"  in 2013 =  201,804 out of a total of 671,287. 30 percent. Higher than any other number on the graphic above.

But that would have spoiled the title.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Censorship by omission: importance of family

A reader sent this interview to me. I have selected the passages that particularly interest me:

On April 14, 2020 Gonzalo Schwarz, President and CEO of the Archbridge Institute, conducted the following interview with Dr. James J. Heckman. Dr. Heckman is the Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and the Director of the Center for the Economics of Human Development at the University of Chicago. 

S: Without going into detail, what do you think are the main barriers to income or social mobility? (Could be micro level such as agency and family structure or on a bigger scale in terms of labor markets, entrepreneurship, etc.)

H: The main barriers to developing effective policies for income and social mobility is fear of honest engagement in the changes in the American family and the consequences it has wrought. It is politically incorrect to express the truth and go to the source of problems. Public discourse, such as it is, cannot speak honestly about matters of culture, race, and gender. Powerful censorship is at play across the entire society.

S: In your research you discuss the key importance of family structure for social mobility. Why do you feel so strongly about this issue?

H: The family is the source of life and growth. Families build values, encourage (or discourage) their children in school and out. Families — far more than schools — create or inhibit life opportunities. A huge body of evidence shows the powerful role of families in shaping the lives of their children. Dysfunctional families produce dysfunctional children. Schools can only partially compensate for the damage done to the children by dysfunctional families.

ME: Despite the "censorship at play"  American academics are still far more open and prone to research families objectively. NZ just doesn't go there. For instance NZ has little interest in the relationship status between couples with dependent children and how that impacts (but I am working on how to correct that.)

A 'tool buy-back scheme'

Son has been made redundant two years into a building apprenticeship. Employer laying off over a third of their workforce.

Said to me this morning, "Do you think the government should run a 'tool buy-back scheme' for apprentice builders? The tools in my boot are worth more than my car!"

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Quote of the Day

"...if you are worried about stupidity in high places, your best solution would be to get rid of high places."

Eamonn Butler, Adam Smith Institute

Friday, May 08, 2020

Weirdos

I know I should be sleuthing for serious stuff but it's Friday night and I really can't be bothered. This whole lock down debacle has made me realise the government is a law unto itself. If the necessary legislation doesn't exist in the here-and-now, it can be conjured up retrospectively.

But I did have a half-hearted look at the papers dumped today. Being a visual person, shortly into my perusal I was caught by the signatures:

Ashley's signature is terribly, incredibly elegant and David's is a dog's breakfast and looks like ... well I won't say what immediately springs to mind.

But it recalls my thoughts today (and every day) listening to the press conference addresses with the requisite Maori greetings. "How many times do they rehearse the phrases to get the pronunciation right?"

Similarly, now I wonder, how many times have they practiced their signatures - or variations of - to get those just right? I mean, look at them.

Weirdos.

(Disclaimer: The only time I ever practiced a signature was when trying to forge my mother's on absentee explanations at college.)

Spurious comparison

Here's what Grant Robertson said at noon today:

He said 40,000 people had signed up for the jobseeker benefit since 20 March.
Robertson said the increased number of people on the benefit represented 0.8 percent of the country's total population.
"For comparison, in the United States, they have had new jobless claims relating to Covid-19 of 33 million, or 10 percent of their population."

The elephant in the room is the wage subsidy. Yes NZ has fortunately not had a huge call on the jobseeker benefit yet because of the 1.7 million wage subsidies being paid out.
Which totally muddies the picture.

Even when the subsidy ceases there will be a lag while WINZ makes covid-response collateral use any redundancy, sick and annual leave payments before 'commencement day' begins.

I don't even know why Robertson brought it up. Just another instance of treating us like numpties.

Update. I checked out the rule re redundancy payments before I wrote this post. Now it would appear that WINZ has been acting unlawfully in taking redundancy payments into account. Good sleuthing on someone's part.

Individualisation of benefits not imminent

A Stuff ("trustworthy, accurate and reliable news") headline reads:

Government considering change to benefit access rules

A spokeswoman for Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said entitlement to most benefits and social assistance was reliant on the "couple" unit of assessment.
“Moving to an individual unit of entitlement would be very complex however it is something that is in our medium to long-term work programme.”

Despite the headline which infers something that might happen shortly in response to the pandemic, I doubt there's any immediacy regarding  individualising benefits.

In 2018 economist and social policy advisor Michael Fletcher was commissioned by Superu to investigate individualising entitlements in New Zealand’s benefit system.  Fletcher cites investigations as far back as the Royal Commission on Social Policy 1988 which concluded, “…a rapid move to individual entitlement would mean a very large increase in government expenditure…”
Fletcher goes on to model changes that “… suggest the cost of individualising all entitlements would be in the order of $1.5 billion to $2 billion.” But he also cites forthcoming work from Anderson and Chapple that estimates individualisation would cost several billion dollars per annum.

On the one hand, compared to what has been spent on wage subsidies to date, "several billion" might seem palatable. Bear in mind though that those estimates are based on 'normal' levels of benefit uptake. Not during a recession or depression.

To make this change in the near future could only be achieved by more borrowing.

(BTW I cannot leave this article without a further comment. Geoff Simmons from the TOP party says,"“Relationships aren't life-long like they were in the 70s and 80s when these rules were designed. I don't know many people who even have joint bank accounts any more.” What a sad observation. I really don't give a monkeys if people want to flip in and out of relationships. That's their business. But very little thought is given to the effect this has on their children...a whole other topic for another day.)


Thursday, May 07, 2020

Who cares?

The years stolen from this baby would probably exceed all of the years left to those who've died from Covid 19.


Oh well. Who cares?



Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Hold your nose

Help me out here. Below is a selection of passages from Bomber Bradbury's blog. Now I know Martyn likes to use hyperbole and stir people up but surely, he can't really believe what he writes? Perhaps it's a case of saying it enough will make it true.

Employing as much objectivity as I can muster, among my small circle of immediate friends and family - and whose views I know - support or otherwise for the PM is 50/50. I listen to talkback most days, especially when out walking dogs, and again my sense is that the country is split. There maybe a gender bias operating also, with males tending to not support the PM more than females. Of course there is another younger generation I don't know much about.

But if Bomber is right the silent majority must all be as enthralled as he is. What do you find in your circles?

Warning. Hold your nose.

"Voters who have voted Blue their entire lives have been bewildered by Jacinda’s competence and are considering voting Labour in gratitude..."

"Jacinda’s extraordinary leadership not only through this plague but through the White Supremacist Terror attack and the volcanic eruption (all the while being  new mother) have lifted her to legacy level."

"We are seeing a political leader who has every chance of being Prime Minister for 4 terms."

"Jacinda has won the vast majority of New Zealanders over. She asked for lockdown sacrifice and the nation obliged, there is a real sense of pride and gratitude in her leadership that builds an electoral loyalty."

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Covid 19 in context

Here's another viewpoint on Covid 19 from a retired English professor.

"Robert Watson: A comparison of the relative magnitude of ‘COVID-19’ and ‘All other causes’ of deaths per 1,000 for age and sex cohorts

The analysis indicates that:

(i) whilst COVID-19 is most certainly a new cause of death, its victims are predominantly older men (75+) and very elderly women (80+); as both these cohorts are already very small (particularly so in the case of males) and also suffer from very high rates of death from all other causes, COVID-19 deaths only make up a small minority of the deaths (many of which would have occurred anyway within a few months); hence, it seems highly unlikely that COVID-19 will result in a long-term increase in death rates even amongst these vulnerable age cohorts.

(ii) Covid-19 does not kill off young people at all or even the middle aged to any significant extent; indeed, the pattern of deaths largely replicates existing patterns of deaths from all other causes; moreover, COVID-19 actually marginally reinforces the existing pattern of early male death rates
and the very high death rates experienced by the very elderly of both sexes;

(iii) as a new ‘killer’ disease, COVID-19 has the benign characteristic of choosing its victims from the already elderly, i.e., it is best seen as reinforcing the natural order of death; essentially, is there an alternative age cohort that one would rather this new disease decimates?; COVID-19 really would be a human life game-changer if it drew its victims from the young and/or otherwise healthy people in their prime of life!

(iv) If the blither being put about in the media that ‘every life saved is worth it’ really is to be taken seriously, then it is clear that we ought to forget about COVID-19 and instead throw vast medical resources at trying to reduce the existing massive premature slaughter of males in their 40s, 50s and 60s."

Hat tip Rodney Hide

Sunday, May 03, 2020

PM's patronising accolades are misguided

The police are running around ordering people off Christchurch beaches. Their message: "If you're not exercising, clear out." So you can skip on a beach but not sit on it.

It's a revolting and indefensible state of affairs.

But it set me off again on trying to get my head around another consideration.

Many New Zealanders are not law-abiding. Think the size of the black economy. Or that some don't bother to register a birth. Or that substantial numbers lie about their family circumstances to qualify for a benefit. Or the extent of still-illegal cannabis use. Just a few examples I can substantiate for any readers who think I make stuff up.

Despite the PM's patronising and puke-making accolades for our en masse efforts, do YOU honestly believe the level 4 lock down was dutifully observed across the country?

I don't. Not for a minute.

Yet the Covid incidence reduced anyway.

Which explains why Australia's far less intrusive and stringent lock down measures achieved similar results.

Forget Level 4 - Here's Wave 4

Source

Birthdays during the debacle

We've had three April birthdays during the debacle.

My dear Mum turned 88. Yesterday we were at last able to play a few games of Scrabble in her and dad's house at the village she now calls Stalag Summerset. My son turned 26 and was happily at home (choosing more space over his small flat for the duration). And my beloved Limmey turned 2.

I was slightly hesitant about taking on a newborn but she has grown quite painlessly into a charming young adult.


Friday, May 01, 2020

1,000 people a day going on a benefit

Source

God, I really feel for them. That's all.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Don Brash: Have we been conned?

Have we been conned? (originally published in elocal April 2020)

Perhaps it is dangerous to write about such a fast-moving situation as the Covid-19 pandemic when what I write may not be published for 10 days or more, but at time of writing my strong impression is that the public believe that the Government has done a remarkably good job of suppressing, perhaps even eliminating, the spread of Covid-19 in New Zealand, and that they deserve warm applause.

I believe the public has been conned.

To begin with, in common with most of the countries in Europe and North America but quite unlike the countries of East Asia, the New Zealand Government was very slow to take the virus seriously. Despite the Ministry of Health issuing a statement in late January talking of the extremely serious threat posed by the disease, the Government did little or nothing to prepare for its arrival on our shores for more than a month.

By contrast, and perhaps because they had had experience of the SARS epidemic some years ago, countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong swung swiftly into action with far-reaching testing and tracing. As a result, for example, Taiwan – geographically and economically much closer to the source of the virus in China than New Zealand – has vastly few total Covid- 19 cases than New Zealand has had. Indeed, on a per capita basis, New Zealand has had some 17 times as many cases as Taiwan has had.

As late as the middle of March, there had been no suggestion that the very large public ceremony to mark the anniversary of the Christchurch massacre would be cancelled, even though a crowded public event would have been the perfect way of spreading the virus.

On 17 March, the Minister of Finance announced what he called a “$12.1 billion support for New Zealanders and business”. Some of that was well targeted – including an extra $500 million for the health sector and a substantial wage subsidy to help businesses retain staff. Other parts were very poorly targeted, including a permanent increase in benefit levels and a change in the depreciation rules around commercial buildings. And the Government made it clear that they intended that a further increase in the minimum wage would still take place on 1 April, making it certain that whatever impact the virus had on employment would be made worse by a significant increase in the cost of employing people.

On 23 March, the Prime Minister announced that two days later the country was moving into an Alert Level 4 lockdown for four weeks. We had to do this, we were told, because otherwise “tens of thousands” of New Zealanders would die from the disease and our hospital system – especially the availability of ICU hospital beds – would be overwhelmed. Yes, there would an economic cost it was acknowledged, but faced with a choice between saving lives and worrying about dollars, the Prime Minister was clear that she placed a higher value on lives saved than on dollars.

Has it worked? Superficially yes. The number of new cases yesterday (I’m writing on 18 April) was just eight, only 14 people were in hospital, and only three were in ICU beds. Only 11 people have died from the virus. Perhaps we could even look forward to the day when New Zealand has no cases of Covid- 19, and we can all get back to work, though with our international borders permanently closed, or at least closed until an effective vaccine is discovered and deployed.

But very serious questions must be asked.

First, it is now clear that “tens of thousands of deaths” were never likely. Yes, some of the projections made by epidemiologists at Otago University suggested that deaths could rise to between 8,600 and 14,400 – not exactly “tens of thousands” but certainly a very large number – but those numbers assumed that the Ministry of Health would abandon its trace, test and isolate strategy. As Ian Harrison of Tailrisk Economics has noted, the same model “configured with effective tracing and isolation, and some other plausible assumptions, generated about 160 deaths” 1. And given that we have had 1,409 identified cases at this stage, and only 11 deaths as a result, it appears that the fatality rate is not much over 1% (I’m allowing for a few more deaths from those who, at time of writing, had contracted the disease but had not yet recovered).

Second, it also seems clear that Australia has had fewer cases of Covid-19 than New Zealand has had, on a per capita basis, despite having a much more relaxed attitude to “lock-down”.

Third, without exception all those who have died of Covid-19 in New Zealand are people who were over 70 (and most were over 80), all with one or more other serious “health issues”. While clearly overseas experience confirms that younger people can die of Covid-19, it appears that in other countries too those who have succumbed to the virus have overwhelmingly been over 70, and overwhelmingly people with other health issues. At no time has our hospital system even looked like being overwhelmed, and typically no more than three or four ICU beds have been occupied at one time – of the several hundred ICU beds which either are, or could quickly be, available.

More serious still is the fact that the Prime Minister seems to think that by locking the economy down tightly she is showing that she cares more about lives than about dollars. If she imagines for a single moment that locking the economy down tightly has no effect on lives lost she is even less well informed than I had imagined. We all know that four weeks of isolation in our respective bubbles has seen a marked spike in domestic violence. We can guess that seeing a business that one has spent years or decades building up destroyed in the course of a few weeks has led to an increase in suicide. And suddenly being unable to bring home a wage or salary will be having a similarly devastating effect on the mental health and lives of many tens of thousands of employees.

Professor John Gibson, one of New Zealand’s leading academic economists, has drawn attention to the fact that life expectancy is to some extent a function of real GDP per capita. He has noted in a recent paper that “if real per capita GDP in New Zealand falls by 10% due to the lockdown and other effects associated with Covid-19, life expectancy would be predicted to fall by 1.4 years” 2. Of course, not all the fall in real GDP per capita is a result of the lockdown: earnings from international tourism, and the education of foreign students, were going to fall precipitously, almost no matter how severe our cdomestic lockdown had been.

But there can be little doubt that severely locking down much of the economy will have cost a great many lives, and very probably many more than the lives clost to Covid-19 to date. As the Prime Minister must surely know, every time cthe Government decides to spend money on improving road safety, or cincreasing the Pharmac budget, or increasing the school lunch programme, they are implicitly (and often explicitly) calculating how many dollars they are willing to spend to save a life. I strongly suspect that in adopting perhaps the strictest lockdown regime in the world, the  government has cost more lives than it has saved.

Don Brash
April 2020

[1]The Ministry of Health’s modeling of the impact of the Coronavirus on New Zealand: A look behind the headlines, April 2020, Ian Harrison.

[2] Quoted in Croaking Cassandra, a blog by former Reserve Bank economist Michael Reddell, on 16 April 2020.

Dancing on the grave of Radio Sport

I recently wrote a piece about the forced  feminization of society.

Here's another blow for the boys. The death of Radio Sport, much to the delight of someone called Zoe George who, if the internet links are up-to-date, is paid by the state via RNZ.

She must have listened in to Radio Sport's farewell episode on Monday furiously scrawling her complaints, counting how many times sportswomen women weren't mentioned, taking offence at the blokiness and a derogatory mention of Paris Hilton (who I am sure subscribes to the adage '... any publicity is good publicity'), fulminating whilst formulating  "Why Radio Sport missed the mark."

"Only four female voices were heard among the sea of middle-aged men on Monday's show."

She quotes a female journalist who worked there briefly saying, "Radio Sport was never able to shake that macho appeal."

Well here's a thought. Perhaps it didn't want to.

Just where can men be men anymore?

A commercial enterprise, Radio Sport doubtless died from the lack of sport, sponsorship, advertising etc. under lock down conditions. More Covid collateral.

But no. Along comes this publicly-funded person to tell us all that it failed, "missed the mark"  because it refused to submit to feminization.

In conclusion she crows,"By taking all these blokes off the airwaves, the percentage of female sports journalists is higher than ever before."

Says it all really doesn't it?



Tuesday, April 28, 2020

"Eliminated" or "eradicated" it?

"Hammered" or "nailed" it?

Doesn't really matter. 

It's going to hurt.


Monday, April 27, 2020

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Why did the world go ballistic over Covid 19?

I keep trying to figure out why the world went ballistic over Covid 19.

There's been a string of scary viruses but  international panic didn't ensue. Deadly influenza circulates but international panic didn't ensue.

Yes, first world societies have become increasingly risk averse and legislated to reflect that. Health and safety is a suffocating, saturating blanket which employs thousands directly and indirectly. Its tentacles reach further and wider.

But I think there's more. The world has been primed with hysteria over the spectre of rising seas, the extinction of species, and searing temperatures that will become frankly non survivable. In the very near future no less. The masses appear to believe these predictions based mostly on modelling, some manipulated imagery and an acceptance that the science was settled and the scientists infallible. We are collectively cowering and unable to control our destiny.

Then, along comes a new and unknown threat. Covid 19.

The threat pretty quickly magnifies with modelling. We are conditioned to trust modelling because modelling gave us all the climate change predictions which are now part of our wall paper. Our articles of faith.

So a critical mass is already scared witless. The media provides evidence of that daily.

BUT at last a threat we can exercise some control over. We can don our masks and keep our distance. Make lifestyle changes with immediate individual consequences if not collective. Quickly we are aided and abetted by the authorities. Perhaps most importantly, validated.

Lock down, Stay home, Stay safe.

What relief.

Trouble is, one man's relief is another man's aggravation.



"Millions of cases; small amount of death"

I spent an hour watching this and found it rather compelling.

Two practicing doctors - specializing in immunology and microbiology - who are trying persuade the governor of California to end their lock down. This is the press conference they called on Wednesday last week.

"Acclaim for the PM boosts Labour in the polls – but voters may not be so kind as the recession bites"

A cut and paste from Point of Order:

"...is it   a  winning  narrative  first to exaggerate the  catastrophic  number of  deaths  likely from the coronvirus,  striking panic  into  the population,   and  then to claim “We saved you”?

That narrative  will not  resonate  with  small  business  owners   whose  dreams have been  shattered  by  the way the government   has operated  in the Covid-19  lockdown. Already many  are  convinced  the government’s  lockdown rules   have  been  far  too stringent,  an over-reaction  to  academic  modelling  that  was  wildly   inaccurate.

They are  asking   why   NZ  didn’t  follow   Australia’s  example  in  allowing  small and  medium  businesses  to continue  operating .

Then there is the problem with the  word  “kindness”.   It worked very well  for the  Prime  Minister   as  she steered the country through  the threatened  crisis.   But  how   will  that  go  if  unemployment   reaches  10% or  more of  the  workforce?

The danger  for the PM  and her ministers  is  that hundreds  of thousands  of  voters   may come to believe   they were  hoodwinked  into  being confined  in  their  cells  for the duration.

That belief,  if  mixed    with  socialist  policy solutions  for the  blitz  on  the economy  subsequent  to  the  pandemic,  could   prove a    fatal  political  cocktail.  The  record  shows  the  Ardern  coalition  carries too  much deadweight  in Cabinet   when it comes to framing  and implementing  policy.

Peter Dunne   summed it up  neatly:

“Critical to this whole process of crisis management is there being an actual crisis to manage.  That has been clearly the case in places like the US, Britain, Italy and Spain, for example, as the numbers of cases and deaths have been spiralling out of control and the public reaction has been one of desperate panic.

“While the potential impact for NZ was just as serious, the perverse consequence of acting early to avert the extent of the crisis has been that the extremes seen overseas have been averted. But an inevitable consequence is that some now question whether there was ever a crisis here in the first place”

What won’t  escape voters  is that  the  billions of  dollars    being spent  by the government as a  result of its decision to  fight  the pandemic in the  way   it did   will have to  be repaid,  not  just  by the  current generation of   taxpayers but by future  generations — and the  prosperity  which New Zealanders were  enjoying just a few  months  ago  may  not   return    any  time   soon.

So,   as   voters  approach the  ballot  box to cast their votes,  will   phrases like  “ Be  kind”  and  “we are  all  in this  together”   still be ringing in  their  ears?"

Complete article here

Personally I don't think there are any 'buts' or 'maybes' about it. It is one of the few comforting thoughts I have currently. She's gone come September ...

Thursday, April 23, 2020

NZ - The little engine that couldn't

NZ has always been  'the little engine that could.' It's endearing imagery but  also powerfully symbolic.

But thanks to our leadership and their reckless decision-making now compounded by dogmatic digging-in, we are fast becoming the little engine that couldn't.

Today exactly what many have predicted has begun. Pharmac backtracks on a cancer drug that could have saved 1,400 lives a year because, "it can no longer afford to make the investment." In a headlong rush to save the lives of an unknown but over-stated quantity,  the lives of a known number will be lost.

The economy, our very lifeblood, was all but switched off with no advice from people whose job it is to understand and appreciate  its criticality. I still can't work out why. Maybe Grant Robertson thought that NZ was  in a relatively strong position debt-wise and he could take risks, enormous risks with it. But I am dismayed and disgusted by how many people think it's a mere matter of switch off - switch on. Just like that. Hence their patronising chiding of the rest of us to 'just be patient. 'It's only a few more days in your bubble'. Or worse, their snitching to the authorities.

Hell's bells. Have these idiots (many deriving their security from Super or a public service salary)  really thought any further than the end of their twitchy noses? They seem incapable of joining the dots beyond just A to B. Austerity will come as a rude and rough shock and they will deserve it.

Everyone of us is a domino to some degree.

Many have all ready fallen over. Tragically, today it was lung cancer patient's turn

"A government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have." 

Monday, April 20, 2020

ANYONE FOR A PROTEST?

OK. People everywhere are banging away on their keyboards (especially on KiwiBlog) and that's fine. But all the angry frustrated commenting  does is dissipate the anger and frustration.

The economy is dying in front of us.

The modelling that caused the move to level 4 has been subsequently discredited.

There is enough evidence now to convince that the cure IS worse than the disease.

Every day business cannot operate their prognosis worsens.

I would go and stand on the lawn at Parliament with a banner conveying any one of these messages (and there are more) but I'd be swiftly removed under the new laws the police have been given (though the sole climate change protester stayed there for weeks).

Three people made sense to me yesterday and none was the PM. Sir Ray Avery (we cannot eliminate Covid), Oliver Hartwich (the economy is getting sicker by the day - exponentially) and Ian Harrison (the modelling the govt relied on was flawed.)

We should be moving out of Level 4 right now and to 2 if not 1.

If you are in the Wellington area and feel like I do email me.

"The Statisticians That Killed New Zealand"

A response to the Covid crisis strategy from Sir Ray Avery (if you haven't already seen it):

The most worrisome of words routinely used by Jacinda Adern, Ashley Bloomfield and Shaun Hendy is the rhetoric around New Zealand's mission to eradicate COVID-19 in New Zealand .
This has no scientific validity and if we continue on this course to get our infection rates down to zero then our country will become bankrupt for no good reason.

Over-Arderned

The Dominion Post features no less than five images of Jacinda Ardern this morning. On the front page, pages 7 and 8, and 13 and 14. Perhaps an editorial decision was taken to fill the void left by avoidable women's mags.

This led me to reflect yet again how visible previous leaders would have been in a similar crisis.

I cannot for instance imagine Helen Clark appearing daily to make housekeeping-type  announcements.Neither can I envisage John Key being so heavily involved in the minutiae.

Not a big fan of the whole societal love of 'leadership'  I do accept that at a certain level good leaders are vital.The best I have experienced are delegaters; people who nurture the abilities  around them and who keep their powder dry for the really important stuff.

As someone who will never vote for Labour the PM's 'over-exposure' is my perception and my problem - not hers.

But will it remain that way? The cult of personality is very fickle. The biggest fans can become the greatest detractors. Quite quickly.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Six in 10 of the 'employed' now on a wage subsidy

The most recent data for the employed was December 2019 when 2,648,000 people were working.

We now know that at April 10, a week ago, 1,236,875 people were being paid a wage subsidy.

47% of the country's workers are sitting idle.


Update: Treasury is providing different data saying "The number of Jobseeker Support beneficiaries has jumped sharply. Total wage subsidies payments reached $8.9 billion on 9 April, benefiting 1.4 million people." That would represent 53% of workers.

Update two: According to this source, 1.6 million at Friday April 17 - 60%

The article says, "By Friday afternoon, the government's wage subsidy was supporting 1.6 million workers - half the entire work force." I am using a different denominator - the closest approximation available of the number working before the crisis. The workforce includes people who were not.


The article also says, "Not every worker receiving the wage subsidy will lose their job - many are in construction, which is one of the areas tipped for boom times once the lockdown restrictions end."

Tipped by who? That's not what I am hearing firsthand.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

What use is empathy?



But the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff isn’t empty. It is crammed full of casualties. Right now 1.4 million existing on wage subsidies wondering if or when they will work again. 30,000 more eking out an existence on a benefit wondering if or when they will work again.

Empathy is a rather useless trait because it merely requires you to 'walk a mile' in EVERYONE else's shoes. Leading exactly where? 

The decisions required from a government should be utilitarian. Based on the greatest good for the greatest number. I see no evidence that they have been.



Friday, April 17, 2020

Jobseeker benefit numbers and wage subsidies at April 10, 2020






Source

The cost of the wage subsidy is now twice that of the ANNUAL spend on working age benefits (see my previous post)

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The lie I really take issue with

This is the lie I really take issue with.

Verbatim from the Prime Minister at today's  press conference:


"Three and a half weeks ago NZ was in a unique position. Unlike other countries we had enough lead-in before Covid 19 reached our shores. That meant we could make a choice.
We could allow a wave of devastation to hit us like it has in other countries or we could take decisive  preemptive action by going hard and early into lock down to stop the spread of the disease in its tracks. We chose action and the indications at this stage are promising. We will never know what would have happened if we'd taken the first path but the projections were for thousands of deaths if the virus got away on us, many more sick and in hospital and the COUNTRY AND OUR ECONOMY GRINDING TO A HALT REGARDLESS."
Why would the economy have ground to a halt?

Can anybody explain that to me?

We know that Covid 19 is relatively harmless to the working age, those who keep the economy afloat. Hospitals in crisis would be a dreadful but a contained catastrophe. As it stands nobody has been going there anyway.



Lives have a value. Pharmac calculates it somehow. Hospital administrators do it all the time when juggling waiting lists.  New Zealand may have sustained much greater loss of life if it hadn't gone into lock down BUT the economy, notwithstanding the damage from external factors beyond our control, would not have ground to a halt.

It would have been hurting, undoubtedly, but the government, with an unholy rush of blood to the head committed the proverbial extremely unkind act of 'kicking a man when he's down.'




Wage subsidy cost already supersedes ANNUAL working-age welfare benefit bill

Wage subsidy data at April 3:




Just to give you an idea of how much $5.361 billion is, it equates to:

MORE than the ANNUAL combined Jobseeker, Supported Living Payment and Sole Parent Support cost of $4.525 billion

or

37 percent of the ANNUAL Super bill at $14.562 billion



Not that I begrudge the claimants. I save my bitter resentment for this reckless government.




Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Bit of much-needed excitement



Amazing display by mother nature today. You can see the 3-4 metre wall of wave in Muritai Bay and in the foreground is sea where it has never been before. Not in the 25 years I have lived here.
A park bench and pontoon had both disappeared. A young man sped past on his motor scooter heading south with surfboard tucked under his arm. I smiled quietly wondering how the police launch was going to cope with that.


And while I enjoy a bracing bumpy flight into Wellington Airport (remember airports??) you can leave me out of ferry trips across heaving seas.



Monday, April 13, 2020

Good example of the confusion that abounds

The opinion of a Timaru lawyer, questioning the legality of the lockdown, a better communicator than dear leader:

"In the meantime, if we comply with the rules, enforceable or not - because they are good law - then we will get to the end of the 4 weeks, flatten the curve, and carry on in restricted fashion with a health service able to cope with whatever comes its way, which is the point of all this. After all, the virus has cemented its place in our health environment and in the fashion of viruses, has secured its own survival by not killing everyone it meets." (My emphasis)

This guy makes sense to me and yet when I click on the embedded link midway through the article I read this:

Alert level 4 - eliminate

And yesterday: "Almost two-thirds of New Zealanders are willing to have the current lockdown extended so Covid-19 can be eradicated, a new survey has found."

There is a distinct whiff of the Mad Hatters tea party about all of this. And it's getting stronger by the day.

Still we've had all manner of bureaucratic bullshit going on for a while in this country. Smokefree Aotearoa 2025, Predator Free 2050 and most recently Road to Zero - the elimination of all road deaths. We haven't even achieved that in the lockdown!



Saturday, April 11, 2020

Australia versus NZ in Covid cases

Interesting graph from Michael Reddell's Croaking Cassandra another of the blogs I follow, just more spasmodically:



I'm away to take in the excellent Easter racing coming in from Royal Randwick in Sydney this afternoon featuring some of New Zealand's best horses and jockeys.

Nothing to watch in this country.

New Corona Virus Assistance Announced

Due to the current upset situation caused by the Corona Virus in the economy, the Government has decided to implement a scheme to put workers of 50 years of age and above on early, mandatory retirement, thus creating jobs and reducing unemployment. This scheme will be known as RAPE (Retire Aged People Early).

Persons selected to be RAPED can apply to the Government to be considered for the SHAFT program (Special Help After Forced Termination).

Persons who have been RAPED and SHAFTED will be reviewed under the SCREW program (System Covering Retired-Early Workers).

A person may be RAPED once, SHAFTED twice and SCREWED as many times as the Government deems appropriate.

Persons who have been RAPED could get AIDS (Additional Income for Dependents & Spouse) or HERPES (Half Earnings for Retired Personnel Early Severance).

Obviously persons who have AIDS or HERPES will not be SHAFTED or SCREWED any further by the Government.

Persons who are not RAPED and are staying on will receive as much SHIT (Special High Intensity Training) as possible. The Government has always prided themselves on the amount of SHIT they give our citizens.

Should you feel that you do not receive enough SHIT, please bring this to the attention of your Congressman, who has been trained to give you all the SHIT you can handle.

Sincerely,
The Committee for Economic Value of Individual Lives (E.V.I.L.)

PS - Due to recent budget cuts as well as current market conditions, The
Light at the End of the Tunnel has been turned off.

At least the blogs aren't in lockdown

The bloggers I read daily have sprung to life over the last two weeks. People never short on opinion have provided me with much needed entertainment and solace.

My favourite female blogger, the arch contrarian, Cactus Kate, who I would gladly adopt if she ever becomes orphaned, the epitome of everything Jacinda tells us not to be, is off the leash and utterly unrestrained.

Tribal National farmer Ele Ludemann writing from the Home Paddock is altogether more pragmatic, sensible and measured - to be taken in smaller doses. At least she's not a leftie. And she quotes Thomas Sowell frequently.

The assorted old codgers at No Minister produce some startlingly good insights but regular trolls turn the response room into a biff and bash session where quite thoughtless and stupid things are said by people who I suspect aren't usually thoughtless and stupid. That may be overly charitable on my part.

Over at Kiwiblog the comments are far more interesting than the posts (gems from David Garret especially). But new parents... they lose it for a while.

Being a libertarian slacker now made to sit up ramrod-straight by unprecedented government 'interventions' (Ele would approve of my restraint) I go to Not PC for my obligatory objectivism lesson (I don't often reach the end of them shhh).

Bob Jones needs no intro from me. He promising a big reveal on Easter Monday. How droll.

And my Pahiatua friend has presented us with a window onto Main St seen through his particular sometimes perverse lens.

At a time when the locked-up, who are losing the will to live, are being commanded to be gushingly thankful to those who still have jobs and incomes, can I say I am genuinely grateful to the bloggers who make me laugh out loud.

Friday, April 10, 2020

COVID knocks off Wahine Day acknowledgement

I thought I'd wait till well into the day to see if the media were going to do the usual Wahine Day remembrance. Zilch.
The Wahine heavily listing shortly before sinking in Wellington Harbour on April 10, 1968. Lifeboats are just visible on the left.
It is April 10. But COVID obsession overrode recall of New Zealand's worst ever maritime disaster.
The day and date is etched on my memory.

I don't get it

Apparently our leader is a great communicator. She spells stuff out really clearly. For example 'Stay home' and 'Act like you have covid 19' and 'Be kind'. All unambiguous instructions.

But it isn't easy to follow instructions if you don't understand why. Here's a simple analogy. I'd never used a clothes drier before. I was told it was important to remove the fluff from the container where it accumulates. Because I didn't know why it was important I always let it build up. Then one day I was told you need to remove the fluff because it might catch fire. SAY WHAT? Now I remove it regularly.

So, the great communicator hasn't told me why I have to follow her clear instructions.

1/ To stop the hospitals being overrun?

They are currently at around 50 percent capacity apparently. Casual staff are redundant. How long can that state of affairs persist?

2/ To eradicate the virus?

So our borders will be permanently closed thereafter? That makes no sense whatsoever.

3/ To wait for a vaccine?

We're in lock down for a year or more? Anyway the flu kills more people and I've never had a flu jab. Along with thousands of others.

I'm not a massively smart person. My attention  span leaves a lot to be desired. But I don't get it.

And everyone else seems to because they just keep saying 'look at Italy, look at the US'. Yes? And we have nothing like that happening here right now. Touch wood the numbers are trending down even.

Yet every day that passes the government persists with more wealth destruction and more borrowing.

And more messages about 'staying the distance'. But still no explanation about why.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Second-guessing the economy

Many commentators refer to the Global Financial Crisis and the unemployment rate peak of 6.7% in September 2012 as a reference for how high the rate might go in the next few months.

There are two earlier periods which we will probably surpass.

"... in September 1933 almost 80 000 men were registered as unemployed or were working in subsidised employment; that figure—at about 12 percent of the work-force—does not include boys or men who did not register because they were not eligible for relief."

Then after the eighties recession unemployment reached 11.1% in March 1992.

There is an entire industry, tourism, which accounts for one in 12 workers or 8% of the workforce which has died for the mean time. There are thousands of retail workers who won't resume because spending power won't allow it. Many small businesses will survive but with a straitened structure and fewer employees. The tertiary education sector which relied so heavily on overseas students will struggle. Media is shedding badly. Forestry stalled. Etc.

In December 2019 unemployment sat at 4%.

The rate is measured by surveying a sample of the population continuously (while refreshing that sample.) The next figure due for report is the end of the March quarter. That will only provide a preliminary number.

Apparently Grant Robertson has been promising up- to- date data on benefit numbers, also not due to be released until late April. Maybe we will see something today. Paul Goldsmith has rightly been putting the pressure on.

Expect increases across all benefits but obviously and especially on the Jobseeker benefit.

I will make a prediction with all the confidence that I try to pick the score in an All Black match at the TAB.

At end of March 2020 an unemployment rate of 8 percent rising to over 12 by the end of the June quarter.

A rise in Jobseeker numbers from 147,000 to over 200,000 at the end of March rising to over 300,000 by the end of the June quarter.

Watch also for the Sole Parent Support Benefit to climb as couples decide they are either psychologically and/or financially better off 'separated'. And the Supported Living Benefit to climb - but to a lesser degree - as people with psychiatric and psychological conditions increase, and elective surgery is delayed.

These numbers are very conservative.

1/ Some made redundant will have earning parents and partners which will mean they cannot qualify for a benefit. Families can and will absorb albeit their discretionary dollar will vanish.
2/ The wage-subsidies will also suppress numbers temporarily.
3/ New Zealanders will take up the jobs that can't be filled by overseas workers
4/ And we have one major difference between now and the Depression , and even the early nineties. Credit availability.

It is nevertheless entirely reasonable to expect that half a million people will be on benefits by mid winter. The thought chills me. I'd love to be proved wrong.

Update: Report from the Epidemic Response Committee. A tad over 1 in 25 applications granted? Must be a typo. (Since checked with reporter and it was a typo.) But even 25,000 in one week is one hell of a lot of applications.

Sepuloni said that as of the end of March, there had been an 8.2 percent increase on a year ago in people receiving the main benefit, and revealed a 15 percent increase in people receiving Jobseeker support. 

But Sepuloni clarified that the data only goes up to 27 March, so it doesn't cover the entire March period, and Upston said because of that, it doesn't even reflect the scale of the crisis. 

"What's been happening since 27 March?"

Sepuloni replied, "You can expect an increase, that's for sure."

She said last week MSD received 250,000 benefit applications, but siad some of them were duplicates and some applications may not be eligible, so it's not an accurate reflection of how many people have been approved since 27 March. 

Last week, 10,700 benefits were granted, the majority of which were Jobseeker benefits.