Tagged: beneficiary bashing

Shock news: when you don’t punish beneficiaries for going into work, more of them go into work

Paula Bennett must be congratulated for a groundbreaking, earth-shattering development in the treatment of beneficiaries:

More than 700 beneficiaries have sought out and landed jobs despite having no requirement to work since the new Work Bonus became available.

Operational since July 15, the latest welfare reforms include the new Work Bonus, which allows the benefit to be phased out incrementally so people keep a proportion of it as they transition to a wage.

“Even just six weeks into the policy, 706 people had gone off benefit into work and were getting the Work Bonus,” says Mrs Bennett.

WHOA.

It’s almost like before, when people tried to move from a benefit into work but were literally financially punished for it, it was really hard for them to move into work.  And now that they can move into work without having their income reduced to $1 an hour, they’re doing it!

MIND. FUCKING. BLOWN.

Maybe next Paula can figure out that people who have babies while they’re on a benefit are just as worthy of social support as anyone else!  Or, shockingly, that it might make sense for benefits to actually cover the costs of existing!

… then again, given that her media release was entitled “Beneficiaries seek out emerging jobs” – which misses the point about as far as it’s possible to while still using the words “beneficiaries” and “jobs” – I suspect not.

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[Daily Blog reposts] Last night’s Vote: let them eat blankets

This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 20 June 2013.

Serious note:  KidsCan and Plunket are two amazing organisations which help kids in need without, to the best of my knowledge, being judgey shitheads.  Think about supporting them, yeah?

~

So, last night’s episode of The Vote, a show where Guyon Espiner and Duncan Garner really strut their “we are such fucking awesome journalist” peacock stuff, dealt with a complex issues which affects the lives of many vulnerable Kiwis, especially children, in a thoughtful, sensitive and informed way.

No, wait, I’m sorry, that’s completely wrong.

What Espiner and Garner did was happily reduce the issues of poverty, deprivation, child abuse and a vague, undefined notion of “bad parenting” to a circus act.

Look!  Here we have lined up the extremist Christian right of the country, representatives of Family First, the Conservatives, and Destiny Church, to say money don’t buy me love and hate on parents who are doing it wrong!

And look!  Here we have actual advocates for the poor and unprivileged, representing the medical community, poor and unemployed Maaori, and “dysfunctional families”!  (The silly fools think they’re here to actually discuss the issues, but we’ll soon fix that!)

And throughout it all Garner and Espiner grandstanded (grandstood?) and pretended to have one view or the other, while a studio audience and denizens of social media came to probably exactly the same conclusion they started with, either “I hate poor people and have no concept of real poverty” or “I think this is a fucking complex issue so I’ll pick the bigger structural cause.”

The tell is at the end, when Espiner and Garner crowbar in a little talk-piece about how obviously it’s a complex and difficult issue and obviously both parenting and poverty place a part in kids’ lives, standing there and pretending they haven’t just reduced serious social issues into a custard pie fight.

Like they haven’t let Christine Rankin talk about “a bowl of cereal and milk costs 37c” – because they, too, live in a magical world where supermarkets sell you a single serving of cereal and milk at a time, and milk doesn’t require refrigeration (even when it’s in the more-expensive-brand’s lightproof bottle) and refrigeration doesn’t require electricity.

Like they haven’t just let Hannah Tamaki waffle on about how families in cold houses should just snuggle under a blanket – literally a minute after Celia Lashlie talked about horrible cases of family sexual abuse – and pretend that no church ever forces people to tithe.

Like they haven’t just brushed over Hone Harawira’s clear, brutal facts about the median income in Te Tai Tokerau ($12,500) or incidences of “third world disease” rheumatic fever (90, I believe in the last year.)

As much as I knew the “debate” itself was going to anger me, it was the cheap theatrics combined with the overwhelming sense that we were all meant to be so very impressed by the Serious Journalism going on that saddened me.

But then I reminded myself that this was exactly as to be expected, given the trailer for 3rd Degree basically involved a circle-jerk about how amaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing Espiner and Garner were as journalists.

So of course the Vote’s production team turned 270,000 children living in poverty into a farce.  They probably don’t even realise.

[Daily Blog reposts] Family First: let the children go hungry

This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 2 May 2013.

Lest you think this is some hilarious send-up, let me stick a link to the original press release right here at the front so all may marvel at it.

Yep, that’s Bob McCoskrie, who cannot jump up quickly enough when parents’ rights to whack children are threatened, actually arguing that we shouldn’t have food-in-schools programmes because … well, I’ll let the man speak for himself:

The danger is that we could be simply rewarding bad parenting.

Yep.  The danger is that, by ensuring children from low-decile neighbourhoods get a piece of fucking toast in the morning, we’re just encouraging their parents to … Bob?

there is a welfare system in New Zealand. Every home has a source of income. The important question is – what is the money being spent on, and is that appropriate?

That’s right, rip off the welfare system.  The generous, generous welfare system.  But hey now, he’s not heartless or anything.

Where there is genuine financial need – and there are sure to be genuine cases out there – WINZ should play a role

You can always spot the people who really understand poverty and need by the way they just have to make it explicit that they are totally sure there are real cases of poverty out there.  I mean, he’s never seen a really poor person, but they, like, must be out there.

This is the man, and his little marching band, who claim ownership of the moral/ethical/social high ground in New Zealand politics.  This is the group which screams bloody murder at letting loving same-sex couples raise children together, which wants to remove any hint of sex education from our schools, which campaigns tirelessly to restrict our already-onerous abortion access.

A group which pays God knows how much money to David Farrar to conduct rigged polls to generate endless Chicken Little the-moral-sky-is-falling headlines.

But when we’re talking about children going hungry, what’s Family First/McCoskrie’s first concern?  That we’re not regulating, monitoring and punishing poor parents harshly enough.

If anyone can actually point me to a single instance where Family First NZ has given the tiniest of fucks about structural causes of poverty, inequal wealth distribution, the failure of social welfare to keep up with inflation and increases in the price of living, do drop a link in the comments.

I’d prefer a unicorn, personally, but one can’t get too fussy when given an opportunity to see an imaginary creature.

[Daily Blog reposts] The myths – and lies – about the Domestic Purposes Benefit

This post was originally posted at The Daily Blog on 30 March 2013.

The Child Poverty Action Group has released a new background paper outlining the myths and the facts around solo parents and the Domestic Purposes Benefit.

You may recall Gordon Campbell on much the same topic back in February 2011.

Both pieces of work should be considered required reading among people interested in social justice, and/because they send a good, clear message:  beneficiaries aren’t inherently bludging scum stealing your taxpayer dollars; and the welfare system is doing God’s work.

But there’s another message I think needs to be said loud and clear – and it can’t be said by groups like CPAG, who fairly enough want to build relationships with senior politicians and influence policy

The message is this:  these aren’t myths.  They’re lies.

Paula Bennett has an entire Ministry full of policy analysts who could tell her that no one’s “dream” is to live on the DPB forever.  The Prime Minister, as Leader of the Opposition, had every option to OIA the Ministry now headed by Bennett to establish if teenagers are “breeding for a business”.  And Lindsay Mitchell is paid to write columns on the welfare system despite plenty of evidence which refutes every hateful, judgey thing she says.

These people are not stupid, and they are not ignorant.  They are wilfully spinning a narrative about DPB recipients which suits their purposes.  They want to force people into such dire circumstances that they’ll take any job going, even if it means leaving their children alone or with strangers.

That means employers can pay less, demand more, get away with shirking their ethical and legal duties.  It doesn’t really do anything to help the wider economy – most National Party policy doesn’t – but it does mean business owners making a buck.

Bennett and Key and Mitchell also want you to hate people who get the DPB.  They don’t want the voters to think “wow, you must have fallen on hard times” because then they’d start thinking about all the other ways a society should support people, through accessible healthcare and education and childcare.  And then they’d stop voting for a party like National which exists to cut everything down to the bone so their mates can make a buck.

Your only alternative is that we have a Prime Minister and a Minister of Social Development and any number of “experts” like Lindsay Mitchell who are literally incapable of seeing the facts before them.

I’m not saying it’s completely implausible, but …

Oh look, Diane Vivian: Paula Bennett DID come for you

I really do hate to gloat, honest, folks.  But it’s not that often that I get a four-month turnaround on my political prophesying.

See, back in March, I criticised Diane Vivian, chair of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, for being a mouthpiece for Paula Bennett’s then-most-recent attack on beneficiaries.  Ms Vivian, you may recall, said

“Parents are putting their own selfish wants and needs before those of their children. What I am seeing from our perspective is there is a whole generation of that,” she said.

And in step the brave grandparents to pick up the pieces.  And good on them.  It’s a tremendous job they do and one which, I noted, doesn’t actually get nearly as much support as it deserves.  Like parents caring for their adult children with disabilities, our society likes to ignore the hard, vital work done by people when it’s family doing it.

Then, totally by coincidence, Diane Vivian got to head up a group doling out $35 million in extra funding to extended family members raising children.

At the time of my first post, Ms Vivian insisted

[Paula Bennett] is not using me at all I do this for the greater benefit of our people

And I surmised,

you’re not really getting the point, Diane. I’m sure it’ll click once grandparents are no longer convenient to push Paula Bennett’s latest spin.

And here we are today.  A mere four months after Paula Bennett used grandparents who raise their grandchildren as a meat-shield, exploiting their hard work to build a case that she doesn’t hate all beneficiaries, just the evil bludgers, after she claimed

“In general I have found them to be remarkable people doing a job that very few would. When I added all of those things together I thought it was a fair spend for a small number of people,”

… suddenly, the worm has turned.

Diane Vivian Chair of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust NZ says their phones have been ringing non-stop from upset grandparents who have received letters stating they now need to go into W & I for an appointment to seek work. Most of these people are aged 55 to 64.

Vivian says, it is time a Carers Benefit was looked at to enable them to safely care for these vulnerable children

Gee, Ms Vivian.  Do you think that argument might have been more compelling if you hadn’t pushed Paula Bennett’s lines about evil bludgers?  Hadn’t literally labelled an entire generation as selfish no-goods?

And now she’s come for your people.  How much less damage do you think could have been done if you hadn’t laid the groundwork of beneficiary-bashing for her?

Tread ’em down

I have not been a beneficiary in my adult life.

But when I was a child, my mum was on the DPB.  It was no fucking life of luxury – and believe me, I went to a decile 10 primary school, I fucking lived that – but we got by.  And through the Training Incentive Allowance – which Paula Bennett scrapped – my mum was able to get through university and build a decent life for us.  And god only knows how much tax she’s paid back since then – never mind the whole “raising a child who’s also a Productive Member Of Society (TM)” thing, which isn’t a figure on a ledger so isn’t real, as far as the National Party’s concerned.

If I were in the same situation today, we’d be pretty fucked.  Like Aaron Hawkins at TDB, I’m seriously pissed off about that.

Our government isn’t just driving people off needed benefits.  It’s not just grinding them into the dirt and trying to chase them away with endless, pointless bureaucracy.

No, it’s doing all that and then trying to tell people “we’re doing this for your own good!”  Because starvation builds character.

The Little Pakeha links the welfare reforms to Wellington City Council’s fucking shameful “alternative giving” campaign, aka “ignore the problem right in front of you ’cause it makes you feel icky”.  Giovanni Tiso has blogged on this too, and they’re both must-reads.

Beyond what TLP and Gio have said, I can only add that this shit was clearly thought up by the same drug-addled agency which produced Drive Social.  It’s certainly going to be another roaring success of a campaign, based on serious research and an incisive insight into how people really really don’t actually behave ever.  And I’m sure that the money being spent by Wellington City Council and the NZ Police could not possibly have been used more effectively.

(No, I’m being sincere there: if their social welfare project teams are being run by people who’ve bought into this bullshit, imagine all the ideas they rejected!)

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It all comes down to a simple truth:  people deserve to live with dignity.  And when there simply are not support systems, are not the jobs, then the state absolutely has an obligation to help them.  Not turn them into scapegoats to keep the middle classes distracted.

If you’re such a callous, self-centred douchebag that you literally refuse to understand that, try this:  a social welfare system which keeps people basically fed and cared for and allows them a bare minimum of self-esteem is something societies need to provide.  If only so the poor don’t become so desperate and alienated that they chop your head off and burn down your fucking house.

~

For a lighter, but snarky, take on the issue I recommend The Civilian’s post, Welfare policy changes encourage beneficiaries to seek work or the lost city of Atlantis.

Oh, and pay your fucking taxes, scumbags.

The lies we tell ourselves

In a very interesting but highly trigger-warning’ed article about what causes parents to “forget” their children and leave them in cars, this bit jumped out at me, in a discussion of why other people can be incredibly vicious and hateful to the parents involved:

Hickling is a clinical psychologist from Albany, N.Y., who has studied the effects of fatal auto accidents on the drivers who survive them. He says these people are often judged with disproportionate harshness by the public, even when it was clearly an accident, and even when it was indisputably not their fault.

Humans, Hickling said, have a fundamental need to create and maintain a narrative for their lives in which the universe is not implacable and heartless, that terrible things do not happen at random, and that catastrophe can be avoided if you are vigilant and responsible.

In hyperthermia cases, he believes, the parents are demonized for much the same reasons. “We are vulnerable, but we don’t want to be reminded of that. We want to believe that the world is understandable and controllable and unthreatening, that if we follow the rules, we’ll be okay. So, when this kind of thing happens to other people, we need to put them in a different category from us. We don’t want to resemble them, and the fact that we might is too terrifying to deal with. So, they have to be monsters.”

It jumped out at me because this is just so true of basically everything which pisses me off in society.

We have rape culture and rape myths because the alternative is living every day with the knowledge that the nice young man could just rape you on a first date, or your local minister could just be abusing the children of the parish, or you could be attacked even when you’re out running and you haven’t showered and you’re in your trackpants and surely no one is looking at you.

We have fat hatred because the alternative is understanding that really, it’s a roll of the dice what body type you have, and you having one of the “beautiful” body types has very little to do with your own personal virtues.

And we have beneficiary bashing because it’s a lot easier to hate on poor people and judge their “choices” than acknowledge that the capitalist sword of Damocles is hanging over all our heads on a daily basis.

Because really, the universe IS pretty implacable and heartless a lot of the time.

Of course, if you don’t labour under any of these illusions, the world is a pretty fucked up place to live in.  And then there’s nothing for it but to start up an angry sweary blog and nuke all that shit from orbit.

Government to use private thugs to force sick people into work

You’d think that would be the headline, wouldn’t you?  Instead of “Govt will pay to shift mentally ill into work“.  That makes it sound far nicer.  It’s just a shift!  Not a private-sector jackboot up your ass if you’re evil enough to have messy brain chemistry issues.

I’ve seen a lot of people point out that this is basically what the government has tried to do in the UK, with predictable, horrific, corrupt results.

I just have a few questions.

What magical powers do these organisations have which mean for a mere $12,000 they can find suitable fulltime work for a mentally unwell/non-neurotypical person – which WINZ isn’t able to find them?

Or is it just convenient to get a private provider – who is presumably not subject to the OIA – to kick vulnerable people onto the streets so there’s no official paper trail of why and what happens to them?

Who are the companies making $12,000 for each ill person they force into work?  Who owns shares in them?

What are the criteria used to determine if a job is a good, sustainable job?  Or don’t we give a fuck?

Do they have to give any of the money back if a mentally ill person kills themselves?  Or do they get a bonus?

Fuck the bludgers

Following a piece in the Herald on “high-wealth individuals” who pay fuck-all tax, John Minto has declared at The Daily Blog that he’s had a gutsful of low-life bludgers.  And I think he makes a bloody good point.

Wage and salary earners pay tax on every dollar we earn and every dollar we spend but these layabouts hide their money in trusts, overseas bank accounts and tax havens of all kinds and leave the rest of us to keep the country running. Most of them have never done an honest day’s work in their lives. Miserable pricks.

But let’s just look back at that Herald article, shall we?  At the multiple quotes given to act like people worth over $50 million paying less tax than a construction site foreman in Auckland is somehow not a problem:

“They do it because if there’s a way you can pay less tax, why wouldn’t you? I think they are a small minority though. The average person has got relatively little opportunity to avoid tax other than by reducing their liability, for example buying duty free.”

Oh, it’s okay because they’re a small minority!  A small minority whose combined wealth is worth at least eight billion dollars.  And note the assumption – made by a fucking academic at the University of Auckland – that everyone would pay less tax if they could, and thus it can’t be a bad thing.

Or how about Andrew Ryan – yes, it’s almost too perfect, isn’t it? – who thinks that actually  rich people – people who have the resources to arrange their wealth into nearly two hundred separate legal entities – are totally paying their fair share of tax:

“These high-net-wealth individuals will most probably be paying more GST than most individuals. In order to get a true reflection of the tax paid by the wealthiest individuals, it is necessary to include the tax paid by their companies and trusts.

“Not paying personal tax on income at the top tax rate does not mean that an individual is not paying a fair share of tax, once tax paid by their associates is factored in.”

Gee.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you or I could be arm-twisted into “paying more GST” because we’ve hidden our incomes and have lots of lolly to spend on super-yachts and designer clothing?  What a terrible burden rich people bear.

It’s simple logic:  if there were no financial benefit to fiddling with their income, rich people would’t have lawyers from Minter Ellison Rudd Watts on standby to fiddle with their income for them.  Of course they’re not “paying their fair share”.

Let’s be fucking blunt here, shall we?  We have an income tax to tax income.  If you’re deliberately obfuscating your income in complex financial and legal arrangements so you pay less of that tax than a person on standard PAYE?  You’re fucking scum.  You’re a cheating, lying, dishonest, unethical shitheel.  Sure, the law may draw fancy lines between “avoidance” and “evasion” and our political masters may continue to prop up a really complex tax system to help you on your way, but at the end of the day, you are profiting off New Zealand and refusing to pay your fair share.

(32 of you fucks aren’t even filing tax returns!)

You’re a dick.  And please, please fuck off to somewhere where it’s “easier to do business”.  You ain’t going to be missed.

And this brings me back to That Roofpainting Anecdote.  Because sure, if you, as a party/leader of the left, want to try to adopt the inherently-individualistic Personal Responsibility message, go right ahead.  But can’t you at least be consistent?  Yeah, side with Random Guy Who Totally Exists about his evil bludging beneficiary neighbour.  But then maybe you could also say something like,

Last year before the election, I was chatting to a guy in my electorate who had just got home from work. In the middle of the conversation, he stopped and pointed across the road to his neighbour.

He said: “see that guy over there, he’s a multi-millionaire, yet he pays less tax than I do.  That’s not bloody fair. Do you guys support him?”

From what he told me, he was right, it wasn’t bloody fair, and I said so. I have little tolerance for people who don’t give back to the society which has provided them and their business huge amounts of support like tax breaks, investment incentives, infrastructure, and basic law and order and social welfare which may not go directly in their pockets, but is integral to being able to operate a business secure in the knowledge mobs of disaffected starving peasants aren’t burning your Auckland head office down.