Studies from all over the world drive home the exact same point: free money helps. Proven correlations exist between free money and a decrease in crime, lower inequality, less malnutrition, lower infant mortality and teenage pregnancy rates, less truancy, better school completion rates, higher economic growth and emancipation rates.
‘The big reason poor people are poor is because they don’t have enough money’, economist Charles Kenny, a fellow at the Center for Global Development, dryly remarked last June. ‘It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that giving them money is a great way to reduce that problem.’
It’s the right thing to do on every level: ethical, practical, cost-efficient, proven. And after six years of National Party ministers pulling the ladder up behind them I think it’s a story which could go very far here.
Hat-tip to NRT.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!)
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.
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?
Well, at least Diane Vivian got well rewarded for letting Paula Bennett use her as a puppet to shit on beneficiary parents.
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.
So, originally this was going to be a ranty post about how seriously grossed-out I am by repeated comments by lefties, in response to National’s prison labour proposals, which toss around the phrase “Arbeit macht frei” with little regard for either Godwin’s law or basic fucking proportionality.
Then I did a search for “arbeit” on The Standard and … well, the scale of the issue became very evident.
Forcing prisoners in New Zealand prisons to work is shitty. It’s oppressive. It’s an abuse of power. It’s capitalist scumthuggery.
It’s not a fucking Nazi death camp.
The phrase also gets thrown about casually in discussions about Paula Bennett’s vicious welfare reforms.
Forcing beneficiaries into low-paying, un-liveable jobs is shitty. It’s oppressive. It’s economic bullying. It pushes families into further deprivation.
It’s also not a fucking Nazi death camp.
Verbscape on Twitter summed it up pretty perfectly:
Q: What things are like deathcamps? A: Deathcamps.
Q: What things aren’t like deathcamps? A: Every-fucking-thing else.
You are not fucking clever because you can remember one single iconic piece of information from 5th form history, people. Can’t we just criticise this shit because it is wrong, and not so you can totally show off your awesome History Channel referencing abilities?
The language of this media release by Minister of Let Them Eat Cake Paula Bennett is … a little worrying, when you look at it too closely.
There’s referring to an “investment approach”, which makes a lot of sense when you’re talking about bales of hay and pecks of pickled peppers, but less so when you’re talking about the lives and prospects of living human beings who through misfortune, sickness or your own government’s shitty economic management are relying on society for support.
And you’ve always got to start looking over your shoulder when government – any government – refers to “refocusing” the “entire” welfare system.
Welfare systems, by their very nature, should have a focus: the welfare of people.
Otherwise they wouldn’t be called “welfare” systems, innit?
But all of that’s a bit high-minded and word-picky and if you’re not me, you can be forgiven for not immediately leaping to the [justified] conclusion that Paula Bennett is once more providing covering fire for the government and aiming at beneficiaries in the process.
You still might be interested in analysing this, though:
“This approach forces the Government to spend taxpayers’ money where it will have the biggest impact,” says Mrs Bennett.
That might mean getting treatment for a back injury, or access to mental health services or help to manage a pain related condition.
I mean, it’s buried right there at the end, but what the Minister of Social Development, administrator of our Sickness and Invalids’ Benefits, just said is that basically, our medical system has failed by not giving people the treatment they obviously need.
And it has taken Paula Bennett and a small army of ingenious MSD policy analysts to figure out that hey, if we treat people’s [treatable] back injuries, they won’t need to be on a Sickness Benefit any more [for their back injury]!
What a novel concept! With any luck they’ll share their findings with MBIE, who can extrapolate these conclusions to the realisation that we can lower unemployment if there are jobs for people to work in!
A lot of people who have the privilege of writing under their real/legal/given names perennially attack bloggers for posting under pseudonyms. It’s happened to me, but the biggest target in the NZ blogosphere is probably the various pseudonymous posters at The Standard.
The charges are that pseudoynmous blogging (though let’s face it, they always call it “anonymous” blogging either because they don’t know the difference, they don’t like using big scary words, or they know it sounds scarier and more random) is unreliable and not worth reading, because:
- you don’t know who’s writing it, and you can’t judge the words on their own merit without knowing if the author has red hair
- you don’t know if it’s always the same person writing it, because anyone could have the password to that account (in fact I’ve recently seen specific allegations of this directed at a Standard poster: “oh, I know X used to have the password, but then Y had it and now I don’t know.”)
- the writer never has to “back up” their opinions the way Real Writers Using Their Names do
And there are doubtless plenty of other reasons why you should just stop reading this right now because I’m incapable of having anything worth your attention if I haven’t shown you my birth certificate.
And all these arguments could have some validity to them. Certainly when a troll with a rapidly-shifting pseudonym pops up in blog comments we often just say “Ignore them, they’re a troll.” When a person’s writing has a lot of obvious bias in it, you may well find yourself saying “I wonder if there’s an ulterior motive to this.”
But there’s a big problem for me around all this, and that’s the long and honourable history of pseudonyms being used right there in the mainstream media which so often calls pseudoynmous bloggers mean names.
Take the editorial of the NZ Herald. Do you know who writes it? What their allegiances are? Which political party, union or business lobby group they’ve inevitably worked for as a press secretary? Certainly a lot of the more politically-active bloggers and personalities do, and that’s why you’ll see comments saying “Obviously they let [person] write the editorial today.”
But does your average Herald reader (they’ve still got a few, I’m sure) have a sodding clue whose work they’re reading? Are they given any better reason to accept that opinion piece beyond “it’s published under the mighty banner of the Herald so they must be on to something”?
As for ulterior motives, changing identities? Well, I look around at all the known attempts to make products go viral, to spam review pages or to astroturf comments on blogs … and let’s be honest, they’ve all been pretty arse.
If I, for example, am simply the sockpuppet of [pick a political party] designed purely to sway political conversation about [pick an issue] in [pick a direction], fuck me but I’m doing a fantastic job. Four years’ blogging, 500 posts on a wide variety of topics, random periods of activity and down-time which to the untrained eye might look exactly like the work of a person who sometimes has time to blog and sometimes doesn’t?
Whoever’s running Ideologically Impure deserves some kind of political-spin-doctor Pulitzer.
Let’s look at other examples of pseudonyms. In media: were Ann Landers’ words of wisdom less valid, less accepted, because she wrote as Miss Manners? How did anyone know that she had any basis for offering other people advice on etiquette? Because they read her columns and thought “that sounds like good advice” and accepted the pseudonym as a reliable guide.
They could also probably tell she wasn’t multiple people in a dark and smokey room by the way her writing style was consistent and she didn’t go from saying “Wearing white at another person’s wedding is rude because it distracts attention from the bride” one week to “HOOTERS IS A TOTES KEWL VENYOO, YO” another.
So pseudonyms: OK when they’re printed by a respectable source. When they’re just some member of the rabble who’s got a login and a pretty premade theme? Unreliable, useless, shut up shut up shut up, how dare you have opinions not sanctioned by Proper Editorial Authorities.
The final charge I want to deal to is the idea that we pseudonymous types are cowards for sticking behind pseudonyms. In a country the size of NZ, where everyone knows everyone, where our media and our political press departments overlap hugely, where a Cabinet Minister is more than happy to release the private financial details of people who cross her and literally doesn’t care when the Human Rights Commission says she did anything wrong …
You people who have the honour of being paid for your opinions really want to question why I’m sitting here behind a pseudonym?
Well fuck you, that’s why.
None of this even addresses the “side” issue, for me specifically, of blogging as a ranty feminist. Kate Harding covered it very well many years ago.