This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 11 July 2013.
Yes, I’m being picky. But if you can’t be picky when you’re looking at somebody’s deliberate, planned, entirely-under-their-control press release, I don’t know when you can be. Emphasis mine:
“Of course, there is a significant number of children who go to school to hungry, because they have not been properly fed at home, and of course poor nutrition has an adverse effect on learning and the subsequent development of the child.
“But that is not the issue – rather, the question is what is the best way of addressing this problem,” Mr Dunne says.
Translated from the original Conservativesian: yeah, kids are hungry and it’s fucking them up, but that’s not the issue.
The real problem is that I can’t support anything with Hone Harawira’s name on it because I’m too heavily invested in camouflage-racist Common Sense.
But of course, a scheme which involves government subsidisation of religious organisations like Sanitarium who pay no tax on their profits (which they then invest overseas) who then get to market themselves as caring about New Zealand children, that’s totally cool!
You may recall that Family First’s line was much the same. Only two questions: how do these scumbags sleep at night, and why do they never get called on their shit by actual paid journalists?
This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 20 June 2013.
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.
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.
I’ve got a real thing about “live below the line” challenges. The key point is that taking a week out of your “normal” life to “experience poverty” can never even come close to the grinding, wearying shittiness of poverty. And plenty of things are manageable when you know there’s a finish line. Poor people don’t get a finish line.
Fuck, even American Dad! managed to do a half-assed job showing this.
While highlighting the plight of the world’s poor is a top priority, Rose says the challenge for her is about much more than starving yourself for a charity.
“We live in a world where the numbers of obese people now are greater than the number of people starving, a world where over a billion people are barely surviving on less than NZ$2.25 a day, and where 70% of the extreme poor are women and children,” she said. “I see the challenge as an opportunity for me to make intelligent food choices and to reflect deeply on our relationship to health, nutrition, and our global food production and distribution systems.”
The point of this challenge, however flawed, is not to pat yourself on the fucking back for knowing people who will sell you fucking hipster organic juice for wholesale prices. It is not about setting yourself up as an example to prove to the stupid poor people that their children will do just fine with kale chips which are totally affordable on a per-chip basis.
If only the Global Poverty Project team had bothered to explain this to Ella Rose before publishing her self-promoting bullshit for her.
I can only imagine she’s making some very intelligent food choices to be able to afford any of what she listed. The juice bar she’s partnered with, rEvolution, sells a medium juice for $5.50 – making two medium juices her entire food supply for the week with 25c left over. Presumably she has access to their wholesale supplier’s prices, which will really help her to be empathic about the everyday struggles of poverty.
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 …
So, I wrote a thing after this week’s pretty terrible episode of The Vote (and sorry, TV3 producers, I realise that you probably hoped this deliberately-trolling episode would get more people watching longterm, but it’s just reinforced my desire to watch as little of your crap as possible.)
I focused on the whole cheap-circus aspect of things, which did mean, ironically, not getting into real detail about the issues at hand. Fortunately, there are other groups who are far more qualified than I to do so.
The Vote points to misunderstanding about children’s plight
While the prime responsibility for children firmly resides with parents, wider social and economic determinants impact on the ability of parents to meet their children’s needs. This is why public policy is so important – it has the single biggest impact on rates of poverty and shapes the kind of society we create for families with children. This can be seen clearly with the dramatic rise in poverty that occurred in the early 1990s as a result of government policy. That rise in poverty was not due to a sudden decline in parenting skills.
Paula Bennett – a driver of crime
“While Bennett spoke of ways to decrease the ‘drivers of crime’ through increased police numbers, hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders (at the hands of her and Work and Income) go without the bare necessities – a form of violence and insecurity in itself.
“Tonight we sent Paula Bennett a loud message letting her know that poverty is violence, and our communities would be safer without her and her welfare reforms.”
The fundamental problem with pitting “poverty” against “parenting”, as TV3 did for ratings, is that it assumes that they aren’t interrelated things, and it perpetuates the idea that people can always deal with any shitty circumstances in their lives if they just try hard enough (or in Christine Rankin’s words, “have the right life skills”).
If you can’t afford food or electricity, no amount of wishing is going to make things OK.
A few of my closest pseudonymous Twitter pals and I will be live-tweeting TV3’s The Vote, asking hard questions like “can’t we just keep bashing parents and ignoring the shitty situations they’re living in due to ongoing neoliberal economic fuckups?”
Tune it to #voteWTF tomorrow night for good wholesome rage. Warning: contains Bob McCoskrie.
On this coming Wednesday’s episode of The Vote – our monthly break from the awfulness that I hear is 3rd Degree – a very
angry-making important moot is to be discussed:
Our kids – The problem’s not poverty, it’s parenting. Do you agree?
I first heard of this on Twitter, was informed of this, and the fact that one of the “debaters” is to be Bob McCoskrie, on Twitter. Then I visited the webpage for the show and found out who the rest of the debaters are. On the side of “shitting on poor people”:
- Bob McCoskrie
- Hannah Tamaki
- Christine Rankin
On the side of “acknowledging that poverty is a thing”
- Celia Lashlie
- Dr Russell Wills
- Hone Harawira
Oh my god. This is going to be a fucking trainwreck punctuated with occasional moments of beautiful Hone smackdown. This totally calls for live-tweeting.
If you’re not already hanging on my every word on the Twitterz, you can follow #voteWTF. I cannot promise lulz. Only capslock.
If you want to do some homework before the debate, I recommend r0b’s Poverty Watch posts at The Standard.
Via Holly Walker, who gets to make kickass statements on the topic since she wasn’t a key advocate of a discriminatory, beneficiary-hating policy in the first place:
Children have the same needs, whether their parents are in work or not. But if a parent loses their job overnight (as so many have in Christchurch), they also suddently lose access to part of their WFF support. The In-Work Tax Credit (IWTC) provides about $60 per week to help with the essentials for those on the lowest incomes, but only if you’re in paid work. If you can’t find work, or lose your job, you miss out, and so do your children.
Now CPAG needs your help:
You can support their efforts to raise funds for their appeal here. They’re also selling three original Tom Scott cartoons, which first appeared in Bryan Bruce’s Inside Child Poverty documentary on TradeMe to help raise funds. But don’t buy them, ok? They’re on my watchlist.
Those cartoons are pretty ace. Holly might have to keep a close eye on that bidding price …
NRT for details. My brain’s just stuck trying to decide whether I scream “FUCK YOU” loudly at the ceiling or roll my eyes so hard they fall out.
My feelings are pretty much still summed up in this post I wrote in January 2011. Labour, in power, needed to keep the middle classes happy, and so by buying into the idea that a well-above-average income makes you a “struggler” (pay no attention to the median income behind the curtain) they introduced “in-work” tax credits. Which weren’t about work, they were about children (and thus the Independent Earner Tax Credit was split off to keep us DINKs happy.)
Beneficiaries didn’t get the tax credit, because according to Labour, they needed to be “incentivised” into work. And if you honestly believe that that doesn’t tell you everything about Labour’s real attitudes to the unemployed, you’re kidding yourself.
Labour believed so strongly that beneficiaries were horrid bludging scum that they fought tooth and nail when the Child Poverty Action Group tried to draw their attention to that pesky human rights law we have.
Then came election 2011, and once their self-preservation glands finally realised that saying “I think Liz Hurley is hot too!” was not actually going to win back the centre from That Nice John Key any time soon, they had a brief brain explosion and literally announced a policy of “extending the in-work tax credit to beneficiaries”.
Josie Pagani, for one, had a really hard time explaining this to people. Of course, as far as she’s concerned that’s because Beneficiaries Are Scum, not because it sounded fucking ridiculous.
Now the election’s gone, and apparently the meme of the Labour upper echelons is “we need to revisit things. Oh, not the things like “listening to John Pagani” and “buying into Chris Trotter’s wish fulfilment”, maybe just the things which contributed to our downfall because even though they were good policy we completely sucked at selling them.”
So, here we are. Holly Walker is trying to do something to reverse a Labour policy which punished children living in poverty for their parents’ lack of advanced SQL development training and Chartered Accountant qualifications, and Labour is promising only the very, very see-through “we’ll support it to first reading.”
My mind’s made up. If you’re in Wellington and a loud expletive rattled your windows right before this went up, my apologies.