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.
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.
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.
The concept of a living wage is one that just makes good sense to me. A wage should be enough to live on, right? Because it’s a wage? Because what’s the point if it doesn’t? Because … because we have to work to support ourselves and our families and if the wage isn’t enough to live on surely it makes no sense?
(As I ask these questions, my expression gets progressively more and more confused. I assure you it’s very cute.)
But I realise I am not everyone, and so when a group of very knowledgeable people put together some estimates of what a “living wage” would really be (covered by Eddie here and Ben here), I go “sounds fair to me” and other people go, “But I could live on far less than that, these numbers are too high!!!”
What I’ve come to realise is that “living wage” means vastly different things to different people.
To some people, it means enough to tread water. Enough to fulfil basic caloric requirements and pay for rent on the smallest place you can find (probably in Kawerau, or Gore, because if you claim you can’t afford rent and you live in Auckland, where all the jobs are, you’re just being demanding), wearing underwear from a $2 shop and using minimal power because you don’t need a television if you’re really struggling.
Honestly, I’m surprised I haven’t yet seen a comment saying “but you don’t need to go out even once a month if you really can’t afford to!!!” And I will thank you not to link me to it if you see it.
To me, there’s an unspoken “with dignity” that sits after “living”. It means more than the bare bones, more than scraping by, more than just making ends meet.
It means being able to save, so you have a safety net when things go wrong. It means not shifting from flat to flat when the landlord raises the rent, moving the kids from school to school, and certainly never having the temerity to aspire to home ownership. It means having treats – a day at the zoo, a movie, a bottle of wine, opportunities to bond and socialise and enjoy the company of your family and other people.
It means being able to hold your head up at the school gate because your kid can have a new pair of shoes (which aren’t shitty plastic that’s going to hurt their feet) to wear to school.
Sure, the kid could wear jandals, and nobody’s going to die without a glass of $10 sav, and takeaways are going to kill us all … but seriously. What complete sociopathic lack of empathy do you have if you can’t even allow that human beings deserve lives which include enjoyment and reassurance and dignity?
And if you really are a middle class bastard motivated purely by self-interest, you know what else letting people live with dignity means?
People not becoming totally disillusioned with our society. People not doing everything they’re told they have to do, only to feel like they’re never going to get ahead. People not turning into criminals, breaking into your home, stealing your shit, and burning your fucking house down because they have been browbeaten and shat on and starved and shuffled from low-paying temporary job to low-paying temporary job until they have fucking snapped and said “fuck it, why the fuck not go eat the rich?”
People don’t have bread and you’re sitting back saying “Let them NOT eat cake, cake’s a luxury item!” and you don’t expect this shit to bite you in the ass?
A living wage is a wage that lets people live with dignity. Is that so much to fucking ask?
Rejoice, friends! Two of the heavyweights of the Kiwi blogosphere today announced that they not only support a comprehensive overhaul of our current reproduction-related legislation, but they are going to make affordable, accessible contraception, abortion and sterilisation available to all New Zealanders their number one priority!
“It just makes economic sense, drongo,” Cactus Kate/Cathy Odgers said in a comment on The Hand Mirror. “Poor people are too stupid to just stop having sexual relationships, so there’s a killing to be made in selling RU-486 over the counter at dairies.”
“I love freedom and personal responsibility,” David Farrar added. “Anyone who tries to stop pregnant people accessing safe, early abortion is basically just like Robert Mugabe.”
A Curia study released mere hours before the joint announcement found that 68% of New Zealanders agreed that “letting people control their fertility was a basic human right which would also decrease the costs of the welfare state”, while 52% concured with the statement, “Fuck Bob McCoskrie, prochoice is where the money’s at now.”
Oh wait. No. That didn’t happen. Because it’s much more in line with the Tories of our fair country to attack people for having “too many children” and “making poor choices” and yet ignore a real, practical way to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. Because that would piss off the fundies.
CK herself thinks the proper capitalist solution is to pay people not to have babies (sadly her math doesn’t include the increased costs to the taxpayer of actually training and maintaining sufficient medical professionals and facilities to have abortions … I guess they’re just expected to be abstinent?)
DPF has said “I think it would be appropriate to amend the law to reflect the practice.” but if you can find him explicitly raising this as a thing which needs to happen at the same time as he’s supporting Cactus Kate’s take on events? I’d love to see it. Instead, we get “Of course there are situations, where even the best of planning fails, but this is the exception, not the rule.”
How prochoice of him.
Instead, they just all-but-say, “if you can’t afford the kids you have, I don’t care why. You should’ve been psychic, and then your kids wouldn’t be starving now. Not my problem.”