Saturday, May 22, 2021

Another one bites the dust

The only op-ed writer left worth reading at Stuff, Martin van Beynen signed off today:

As an opinion writer, it's easier to identify what you oppose rather than what you support. I don't like being told I'm to blame. I don't like zealots and young know-nothings telling me what to do. I don't like wokeness or virtue signalling or cancelling people for some trivial perceived infringement of current sensibilities. I don't like being told I'm privileged or that I had it too good because of being pale and male. I don't like tailoring my views to suit a new zeitgeist. I don't like the implication that everything done to improve people’s lives prior to the latest orthodoxy has been a disastrous failure and that some new system will bring in a utopia.

So there's another voice looking for a new home.

They are piling up.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Chris Trotter foolishly invokes Micky Savage

I think Chris Trotter was in his cups writing about the Budget yesterday, including this line: "To hear Robertson invoke the memory of Ruth Richardson’s “Mother of All Budgets” ... delivered 30 years ago as the final crushing blow against Mickey Savage’s welfare state..."

Is that a joke? The welfare state Savage designed was stringently policed. There was no benefit for any individual who caused their own incapacity to work. Criminals and drunks had no eligibility. Single women who became mothers had no eligibility. Even deserted married women struggled to access assistance. 

By 1991 Savage's welfare state had metamorphosised into a massive mess with sixteen percent of the working age population on a benefit. Until 1970 there was never more than two percent. Savage would have approved of Richardson's reforms (numerically exaggerated in the re-telling) intended to undo the intergenerational dependence and dysfunction that had developed.

Now the country is running headlong into free-for-all, no-questions-asked reliance on the state. As Trotter points out, Clark and Cullen resisted this. And they were right to do so. They consistently maintained work was the best way out of poverty (which includes child poverty).

The kind of values needed to raise children with their wellbeing absolutely utmost cannot be learned from a government. They cannot be replaced by unearned income.

Savage understood human hardship but he also understood human motivation.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

MSD priorities

Recently we learned that MSD was moving its fraud investigators away from beneficiaries and onto businesses.

"...between 40 and 50 MSD staff who usually worked on benefit fraud would be working on subsidy investigations for another 12 to 18 months."

In other words, leave the non-productive alone and go after the productive - those keeping the economy afloat by working and paying taxes.

This seems par for the course now.

I note today in the Budget detail this advice from MSD:

Right now, people getting Jobseeker Support – Health and Disability don’t need to renew their medical certificates. This will continue to be deferred until the new process starts.

This applies to over 78,000 individuals.

The "new process" begins next year and entails a new medical certificate process for Jobseeker clients with a health condition, injury or a disability that affects their ability to work. It’ll be more flexible and based on their health practitioner’s advice.

It's almost certain that for some this will be a fairer process based on their genuine incapacity. But there's an equal argument that these rules need to be stringent to deter malingerers. (Most doctors will welcome the easing. They do not want to play the role of benefit gatekeepers.)

Let's quickly recap on other rules that have been eased since 2017.

Single mothers no longer have to name the father/s of their child/ren. The father pays no child support.

Single mothers who continue to add children to their benefit are no longer subject to a subsequent child policy which kept their original work obligations intact.

Annual jobseeker reapplications and stand-downs are still deferred.

And despite what Mike Hosking said on NewstalkZB this morning about sanctions increasing under Labour, he was only referring to sanctions for having an outstanding arrest warrant. I expect the Covid disruptions to courts has provoked that.

Overall sanctions are decreasing. The following are quarterly:

Timeless evidence the Budget ignores

 "... there is an unavoidable trade-off between providing generous assistance to the poor and improving incentives for people to work and provide for themselves. On average across OECD countries, there is a fairly strong correlation between the effectiveness of tax and benefit systems in reducing poverty and the level of family joblessness. The correlation coefficient is 0.63 – implying that every 1 percentage point increase in the level of poverty reduction achieved by the welfare state is associated with an increase in the number of jobless families by 0.63 percentage points. Among the English-speaking countries, the correlation is even stronger (about 0.92), so that Australia and the United Kingdom reduce child poverty very significantly and have very high levels of joblessness among families; while Canada and the United States reduce poverty much less, but have much lower levels of joblessness (although they have much higher poverty among working families with children). That is, in the English-speaking countries the argument made by Adam, Brewer and Shepherd (2006) appears to apply – more generous support to poor families is associated with higher levels of family joblessness."


As I have said repeatedly that  Jacinda Ardern's fixation with reducing child poverty will be realised only at the cost of more children growing up in benefit-dependent families. 

"...findings show that poor children reliant on government transfers, when compared with poor children reliant on market incomes, have lower living standards and a number of compounding shortfalls that can be expected to place them at greater risk of negative outcomes."


Tuesday, May 18, 2021

No coherence in Labour's thinking or approach

 According to Bryce Edwards on RNZ

"...pressure to deliver to those most in need is now just too great for the government to ignore, and rumours are building that a benefit increase will be announced."

A benefit increase would be consistent with Labour's general approach to welfare.

But how does it tie in with the new immigration policy?

"...the country must move away from its reliance on a low-skilled migrant labour force."

The PM stressed on RNZ this morning, " Those on temporary work visas make up 5 percent of the labour force - the highest share in the OECD" with a definite implication that 'highest' was a bad thing.

But if benefits are made more attractive (along with already increasing ease of access) then New Zealanders are not going to fill the roles that migrants willingly do.

Here's an example:

Jade is on sole parent support, but she does not want to be on a benefit.

She wants to study, but she has decided to wait another couple of years, so she can spend more time with her nine-year-old daughter.

I initially received this as audio and thought I must have misheard, and she said 9 month-old daughter.

I was wrong. 

A benefit is not provided so a parent can spend more time with their 9 year-old who is presumeably at school for most of the day. Jade could support herself - or very nearly - doing any number of jobs that low-skilled migrants do.

Sorry but I have a problem with people with this sort of attitude.

And I am very grateful and inspired by people who come to New Zealand and uncomplainingly fill crucial roles. We need more of their work ethic and self-reliance here.


Monday, May 17, 2021

Why stats matter

You want to know what the average household income by ethnicity is. Seems straight forward. You take a survey of about 20,000 households, ask about how much income they receive (from various sources), assign an ethnicity and average it out for all households that fall into each ethnicity. Here is the result:

From the raw data:

European   50,562
Māori 40,760
Pacific peoples 38,204
Asian 44,198
MELAA 43,385
Other ethnic group 43,155

Total 47,775

Um. Don't these averages seem a little on the low side given so many households have two (or more) workers?

They are. That's because of the process called 'equivalisation'. The 'gross' incomes are equivalised according to the number of household occupants. The greater the number of people reliant on the income, the lower the equivalised income will be.

What would be more revealing is the unadjusted or 'gross' household incomes. Unfortunately these do not appear in the published tables. But I can tell you that the average total gross income is $107,196 which is a darn sight higher than the average $47,775 after equivalisation.

Remember the poverty stats are derived from equivalised income - not gross.

So a family with four children may be reported as poorer than the family with two children living next door even though their gross income is higher.

You may say, so what? 

Why they matter is because these stats drive taxation/redistribution policies. They influence how much is taken from Paul to give to Peter. Doesn't matter how hard Paul worked, what sacrifices he made, how careful he was not to have more children than he could personally afford to raise. If he is defined as 'rich' and Peter is 'poor' you know the outcome.

It's interesting that StatsNZ motto is now:

About Aotearoa, for Aotearoa
Data that improves lives today and for generations to come

Depends on whose lives really.

Men are lazy, delusional and selfish

 Men are not pulling their weight around the house. Apparently if they did the economy would be $1.5 billion better off.  Deloitte's who are making the claim says “You have to put a number on it to get people’s attention.” Surprisingly frank about how manipulative axe-grinders are.

Ex National MP Marilyn Waring wades in, “Men underestimate how much unpaid work their partners do, which means all the rest of their answers are highly questionable because they are working from a fiction, not facts.” 

Not just lazy then but delusional to boot.

"Men were also fiercely defensive of their leisure time". Selfish too.

That's backed up by men picking the best jobs. "Men also tended to favour work that involved fun things like power tools."

Of course all of this male failing can be corrected if the government steps in and makes some "good policy decisions."

Except... just a minute... along comes a bright young woman who doesn't think men are lazy, delusional and selfish. 

“It’s quite fluid for my generation. There’s no expectation to conform, which I quite like,” she said.

Stick that in your pipe Marilyn.