So, it looks like Paula Bennett doesn’t hate all beneficiaries with the power of a thousand suns!
After taking a close, careful look at a particular group of beneficiaries – those being paid to look after children of parents who are “incapable or unable to do the job” – Paula’s decided that they’re not bludgers: they’re heroes.
Simon Day of Stuff then handily produces a profile of one of these heroes, a grandmother raising eight of her grandchildren. Hmm … I wonder how he got all her personal and financial information?
And this should be a heartwarming story about people doing what’s best for the kids and the state being willing to support them when they take on the financial burden of raising (eight!) extra children, and coincidentally doesn’t this just prove that Paula Bennett is really kind and compassionate and not just out to screw all beneficiaries?
I guess that means that the beneficiaries she does screw over really are bludgers.
And this is why that narrative works: because Paula Bennett has found someone else to do the dirty work for her, and that person is Diane Vivian, chair of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.
Now, grandparents who step in to raise their grandkids when it’s necessary are doing fantastic work. They’re providing a really important social good. They deserve to have a group which advocates for them.
But that group, and its chair, should take care. Because right now, you see, it’s really useful to Paula Bennett for them to be the ones slagging off parents:
There has been a generational failure in parenting in New Zealand, leaving grandparents to pick up the pieces, according to Diane Vivian, the chair of GRG, who raised three children and two foster kids.
“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.
… because right now, that feeds into the narrative that Paula Bennett wants: look at me, I don’t hate all beneficiaries, just the evil bludging scum ones, and see, the saintly heroic grandparents agree with me!
Ms Vivian might just like to consider this, though: what if that weren’t the order of the day? What if Paula Bennett hadn’t front-footed this story for her own gain? What if it had been the season for dumping on people raising kids who aren’t their own?
Then, Ms Vivian, you’re fucked. Because the nasty little question you really don’t want journos like Simon Day to ask is this:
Why did you fuck up raising your own kids so bad in the first place?
I mean, Ann Tahitahi, the subject of his second article, is doing a fantastic job. A job which should be supported. She shouldn’t, in my opinion, still have to be working graveyard shift while raising ten kids.
But Paula Bennett isn’t saying “good on you, Ann Tahitahi” out of true admiration. She’s saying it for a political purpose. And if her purpose were just slightly more sinister, she might be saying “why should Ann Tahitahi get paid to raise more children when on her first try she turned out neglectful P addicts?”
Diane Vivian might like to consider that before sticking her foot in the way of a gun barrel. Right now it is convenient for Paula Bennett to be on your side. Do not assume she will be on your side tomorrow.
David Shearer was on The Nation on Sunday, continuing to emphasise for us all that he sees absolutely no problem in psychically diagnosing people’s health based on their neighbour’s greedy, judgemental envy.
And he rejected criticism from his party’s left over his references to a sickness beneficiary who had been well enough to paint a roof.
“You know you work, you pay your taxes, and then when you need it you lose your job, you have an accident, the State looks after you.
“As soon as you’re able to get back onto your feet again, the expectation is that you go back and you start paying your way again.”
the speech that I made is about fairness, and it is about a social contract, and it is about paying your way, and then living up to your responsibilities at the other end. That’s all it was, and New Zealanders are very very attuned to somebody doing the right thing, whether it be paying their taxes, or not taking advantage of the welfare system.
Now sure, there’s nothing wrong with fairness, and there’s nothing wrong with talking about “doing the right thing” – what is wrong is the Leader of the Labour Party claiming he gives a crap about fairness while continuing to defend that anecdote.
Because if he wasn’t calling the guy painting his roof an evil bludger, if he wasn’t taking it upon himself to judge another person’s right to a benefit, if he wasn’t in favour of believing everything a grudge-holding stranger tells him … he wouldn’t still be saying “as soon as you’re able to get back onto your feet again”. He wouldn’t be saying “New Zealanders are very attuned to somebody doing the right thing.”
Because all that says is “clearly, this guy was back on his feet, and clearly his neighbour was “attuned” enough to make medical judgements about him.”
David Shearer, plainly, still thinks it’s okay to make assumptions about other people based on gossip. David Shearer still thinks it’s okay to label people he’s never met as bludgers just to make some point about “fairness” – and per my previous post, it’s a very nasty kind of “fairness” that involves throwing sick people into the gutter just because it’ll win a vote from their petty, mean-spirited neighbours.
David Shearer, Leader of the Labour Party, literally uses the phrase paying your way to describe how people should behave.
Meanwhile, somewhere else, another David was delivering an interesting speech about economics and supporting the vulnerable. Lucky for him Labour’s a “broad church”, right, David S?
… and apparently hasn’t figured out that the Internet never forgets. Um, especially when you publish transcripts of your own dog-whistling bullshit on your own website.
For the benefit of comparison, here’s what David Shearer said in the infamous roof-painter anecdote:
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 pull their weight.
And here’s what he said when finally cornered on it (after some marvellous persistence from Gio) today:
and the point was, I mean, wasn’t actually… whether this guy was right or not I don’t know,
Hawkins: So you don’t know if it’s true, at no point did you go talk to the beneficiary in question?
Shearer: No, the point was Aaron – the point was how people perceive others not playing by the rules, that’s all I was saying.
So now, after a substantial amount of backlash, this is apparently all about “how people perceive things” and “he didn’t conduct a police investigation into anyone” or anything.
But he was more than happy to say “From what he told me, he was right, it wasn’t bloody fair, and I said so.” and follow it up with “I have little tolerance for people who don’t pull their weight.”
Sure, there’s weasel-words enough in there for his defenders to say “but he said from what he told me, so he was just talking about another person’s opinion!”
Yes, and he didn’t question that opinion. He thought that opinion was good enough to stick it right up front in a prepared speech, not questioning it, not considering that maybe since he’s the leader of the Labour Party he might want to say, oh,
From what this guy said, I could see that he had a strong sense of fairness. But that sense of fairness had been manipulated by people like the National and Act Parties. They’d used this hardworking man’s sense of fairness and justice and convinced him that anyone who could – at his own pace, in his own time – paint a roof must automatically be able to work.
We don’t know who that man was – I didn’t want to invade his privacy by demanding he justify his illness to me. I already knew that under a National government, it would be hard enough getting the kind of support he was entitled to, the kind of support he needed to live a basic life, much less rip off the system. After all, we’ve become a country where people’s neighbours – like the guy I was talking to – are probably more than happy to pass judgement on people they don’t know and report them to WINZ.
I talked with this guy some more, and I appealed to that sense of fairness, that common decency he clearly felt. I said, “hey, you don’t know this guy that well. Maybe he’s got a condition which means sometimes, he can paint a roof, and sometimes he’s stuck in his house in a huge amount of pain. Do you think any employer’s going to give a job to someone who has a 50-50 chance of being able to show up on any given day?
“That’s why we have a strong social safety net,” I said. “That’s why Labour is committed to helping the people who need it, even if sometimes they can look like they’re fine.”
I can tell you, like I told this guy, that that person is getting checked on and audited and inspected and sometimes he may even be denied his basic dignity because our Government wants to treat him like a thief, just because he’s had a hard run of luck.
Our Government wants to turn us from being a caring society – the kind of society where you’d know he wasn’t a bludger because he’s your neighbour, and that means he’s your friend, and you know there are the days he can’t get out of bed and that’s when you pop over to make him a cuppa or get your kids to bring in his recycling bin – into a society that sits back and sees someone in need and says “We don’t care, you should just try harder.”
Of course, all that would rely on David Shearer giving a fuck about the undertrodden, instead of rarking up Grey Power about Evil Bludging Beneficiaries Who Don’t Know How Easy They’ve Got It. But a blogger can dream.
I’m a bit pissed off about this whole free-contraception-for-beneficiaries thing. And it’s not because of the policy.
It’s because of the number of people who should know better saying “Oh well, it doesn’t sound that bad.”
The number of people who claim to give a shit about reproductive freedom, but are quite happy to assume the worst of beneficiaries, who apparently just don’t know that sex leads to babies – babies they should not be having because look, while we all agree with social welfare and supporting families and stuff it shouldn’t just be handed out to sluts.
The number of people who want to shy away from the word “eugenics”, when this policy will pretty clearly affect certain groups of women – i.e. poor, brown, and with disabilities – disproportionately (albeit the “non-working” ones, because Labour bought into that fiction so NACT are hardly likely to let it go). Groups of women who dominant white western patriarchy have a slightly bad history of shitting all over in the reproductive department.
The number of people who would happily agree with concepts like “compulsory heterosexuality” – i.e. that we live in a system which makes heterosexuality the only viable option yet presents it as simply normal – but are now saying “oh, but the contraception is voluntary” – like anything is really voluntary when the entirety of the world in general, and the bureaucrat in front of you who controls whether your children eat this week specifically, is saying if you don’t do this you’ll just be proving you’re a stupid greedy hobag.
The number of people jumping on the bandwagon of “but what about the men involved? [remember, all sex is hetero, all pregnancies the result of PIV sex, and only cismen ejaculate/ciswomen gestate] Why aren’t we handing out vasectomies?” GUESS WHAT, THAT WOULDN’T BE OKAY EITHER. And I don’t know about you, but I think giving NACT another opening to push their perennial “let’s force women to name the father or no monies!” issue is not the most feminist idea I’ve heard all day.
The number of people who don’t get how obviously this is the top of a slippery, pre-ordained slope. It’s basic NACT governance: put together an extremist “advisory” group, act shocked at their extremist recommendations, implement policies which are watered-down versions of those recommendations, and once everyone – especially you so-called progressives – has gone “see, it’s not that bad, they’re reasonable people, actually I think this is quite a good idea” they get re-elected and really put on the thumbscrews.
I mean, y’all seem to fucking get it when it’s parental notification (i.e. a step towards full criminalization of abortion) or banning street prostitution (i.e. a step towards full recriminalization of sex work). But when it’s beneficiaries, somehow the Welfare Queen paranoia takes hold.
Here’s what plenty of people who should know better seem to be missing: This is not a socially liberal policy created in the interests of reproductive choice. This is about adding yet another signal to the pile that certain women should not have children.
It’s an absolute masterpiece: misogyny wrapped up in a vaguely feminist banner. That doesn’t mean you have to fall for it. It’s still sexist, classist, racist, and fucking contemptible.
So why paraphrase their excellent points?
If cost really is the rationale, then these family planning methods should be being made available for free to all women on low incomes, whatever their occupational status. Otherwise, the state is making a distinction between the virtuous working poor and the poor on benefits, who are being regarded as irresponsible and/or morally degenerate. From October, this contraceptive assistance will be offered to allwomen on benefits, and their daughters aged 16 to 19.
That’s outrageous. Think about it. Most women are on the DPB due to marital or relationship breakdown, leaving them – usually – with the prime custodial care of the children from those relationships. In response, Bennett is offering to pay to insert IUDs or contraceptive implants in those women and in their teenage daughters. That is pretty insulting. From October, the state intends to treat all such women – most of whom are on a benefit not by choice but through divorce and relationship breakups – as if they and their children are sexually irresponsible. In this respect at least, the government’s view of beneficiaries seems to belong to the 19th century.
… that’s not what the government is planning. Instead, they’re making it freely available to some, in a form which will limit their fertility for prolonged periods, in the very specific hope that they will use it. This isn’t about enabling choice – its about constraining it.
“We have long had a culture of ‘benefit bashing’ and the power imbalance that comes with walking into a Work and Income office will mean many will feel bullied into getting whatever form of contraceptive they are told to get. These measures take away an individual’s right to choose what is right for them” says spokesperson Ta’ase Vaoga.
The right to plan ones family has explicit protection in International law. This entitles both women and men to the full range of contraceptive choices, as well as to information about sexual and reproductive health. Singling out young women on benefits and the female dependants of beneficiaries, and funding the uptake of only one type of contraception, undermines their ability to make an informed choice about the method of contraception, if any, that is right for them
Hilary, comment at The Standard:
It’s eugenic in that it targets one group of people for whom reproduction is deemed ‘undesirable’. Such ideas (of restricting the breeding of certain groups) were gaining popularity in New Zealand 100 years ago, and led to various policy manifestations including segregated residential confinement, and forced sterilisations of institutionalised people. There is a dark eugenic undertone in much NZ public policy and among certain groups of politicians that has never gone away.
Anthony Robins, The Standard:
Now here we are with the current offer, free long-term contraception for beneficiaries and their daughters. In some respects its a perfectly sensible plan, remove the price barrier to women asserting control of their own fertility. Who could argue with that? The problem is that a perfectly sensible plan comes wrapped in two layers of baggage. First, it’s from the same Nats who last year were speculating about compulsion, so it has to be seen as the thin end of a wedge. And second, it targets one sector of the community only, and therefore carries an implied stigma.
There isn’t just one hard truth to NZ politics at the moment. The second is equally unpopular with people, but if it doesn’t offer a clear way forward it at least suggests a fixable problem. At the same time, it’s not the kind of thing Labour/the Left want to have bandied about too publicly in an election year.
Everything Labour does is waffle.
No, seriously, everything.
Where my previous post argued that NACT are motivated by a clear and demonstrated drive to financially benefit themselves and their class and keep the true “middle New Zealand” distracted by shiny, often illusory toys (beneficiary bashing, north-of-$50 tax cuts), this one poses more of a question I wish I didn’t suspect the answer to:
What the fuck is Labour doing except waffling?
Waffling, swaying, flip-flopping, whatever today’s pop-propaganda term is, from one statement to the next, one lukewarm denunciation to the next, since the 2008 defeat Labour has basically been a yacht captained by people who figured hey, it was their turn so they might as well have a go, desperately seeking the right current to sail them into Getting Elected Harbour and getting caught on the treacherous reefs of No1curr and Fuck You’re Uninspiring every single time.
Everything is waffle. Waffle doesn’t win elections.
A first pre-emptive rebuttal: Key/National did not waffle their way into victory in 2008. They made explicit, just-qualified-enough statements which set them firmly and believably (to the middle-voting public) in the role of Just Like Labour Only Without The Sense You’re Being Put On The Naughty Spot.
But what the fuck does Labour stand for at this point?
Waffle. Whatever the headless chickens and soccer-fan octopi in the strategy team think is a winner this week.
What month is it? Are we panicking about the loss of the “centre” vote and rehashing really obviously-going-to-backfire Brash/Orewa dogwhistles? Hmm, fuck, that didn’t go so well (hint for Labour strategists: when Idiot/Savant is telling you you’re fucking hypocrites, be worried). Best throw some “I can’t believe it’s not a real leftwing policy” bones to the fanbase! A fanbase who, possibly in serious need of some reassurance that the Apocalypse had not in fact left them in a better-treed version of Transmetropolitan, thought “fuck yes! A real turnaround!”
‘Cause you see, “the many, not the few” involves such fantastically leftwing setpieces as “listen to the stories about gang members ripping off WINZ, those fucking bludgers!” and “young offenders need intervention and literacy skills AND a kick in the pants, am I right, holla at your boy Garth McVicar!”
But some celebrated nevertheless, right until the rightwing research unit bots said “Oy, bitches, how’s 1985 treatin’ ya?” and silence descended, because not all the pretty speeches in the world from Goff count for shit until he utterly disowns that Rogernomics crap. Prediction: never going to happen.*
January 2011. Election year, baby. And someone gets it through HQ’s hivemind that maybe being a bit fucking bold could be a good idea! Let’s do it! Let’s face down those NACT bastards with their relentless “the left doesn’t understand how the economy works” meme and release completely uncosted tax policy! How could this go wrong???
Oops, even one of the staunchest left bloggers in the country came to the conclusion: waffle.
Which is not to mention that whole not condemning Paul Henry’s vile fucking racism thing – can’t upset the white underclass since we’ve thrown those nasty identity politics types under the bus (oh wait, but the Big Gay Out’s on this weekend!). Or the neverending quest to try to turn a stern, serious, career politician into his affable, smarmy, shallow opponent (because of course the only way to defeat an opponent is to become him … wait, what?). And let’s not forget that this isn’t just a Goff problem when suddenly Annette King tooooootally wants to help out those poor people who incidentally Labour royally fucked by defending a discriminatory policy tooth and nail.
Not just waffle. PowerWaffle.
To put it bluntly, fellow lefties: we are in an election year with a main-left-party leader who thinks the appropriate response to “I told my mate Tony Veitch that Liz Hurley’s a hottie” is “I think she’s hot too butIlovemywifebecauseI’mabetterfamilymanthanyou.”
You thought we were fucked before?
We are so fucking fucked.
*I’m like Ken Ring, only I admit I make shit up off the top of my head and act smug when I’m correct anyway.
Instead of individuals controlling their own fertility, this is an attempt to impose state control, on the basis of socioeconomic status
And that’s why the Welfare Wrecking Group’s recommendations are fucking wrong. When someone advocates a theoretically-good policy but only for a select demographic? It’s not the same good policy any more, it’s fucking suspicious.