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 …
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.
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!
Welcome to the 40th Down Under Feminists’ Carnival. I am your stunning hostess, Queen of Thorns, “QoT” to my friends and “single-handed destroyer of progressive NZ politics” to my trolls.
I’m entirely enamoured of the fact that 40 in Roman numerals is XL, so I’m putting our plus-size Antipodean bloggers up first:
New study shows correlation between fatness and selling one’s soul to Satan
Definatalie writes about re-learning her love of cycling. sleepydumpling at Fat Heffalump talks about Why I Don’t Diet and Fixing the Relationship with Food. Bri at Fat Lot of Good sees that fat-shaming is now getting aimed at four-year-olds to the extent some are developing a fear of food.
sleepydumpling is on a crusade, people. A crusade for all super-fatties, deathfats, people who just cannot find clothes in their size for love nor money. Warning: utter fuckwittery in the comments. Remember, fatshion is activism. And no, fat acceptance will not in fact kill you.
There’s been discussion lately about the role of the fatosphere on people’s perceptions and lives. Dr Samantha Thomas has done a for-real ivory-tower-shaking academic paper on how the fatosphere proactively challenges fat stigma, and sleepydumpling covers the same topic in Breaking Down Fat Stigma: Shame. Sonya at Lipmag was one of the interviewees for Dr Thomas’ paper.
The body plays a huge (BOOM BOOM!) role in a lot of feminist discussion, and things always get good and heated around one fact in particular: pregnancy and how you are probably Doing It Rong right this minute.
You read a book while pregnant? You’re gonna DIE!!!
Feminethicist posts a quick note about double standards around scars – especially stretch marks. Aussie MP Andrew Laming fights the good fight for homebirths. Bluebec confronts the notion that any particular way of having babies is “unnatural”.
Pregnancy isn’t always wanted or continued, of course, and that’s why apparently I have to keep explaining that the “right to life” movement are a bunch of wanks with the intellectual honesty of a guppy.
And of course once Junior makes it out into the world it’s all downhill for progressive parents, who simply cannot win. Ever.
Buy this Mozart CD or your baby will sprout wings!
Blue milk continues to post on her presentation on feminist parenting. Part 4 covers “what is feminist parenting?” and Part 5 looks at the difficulties with being a feminist parent. She also talks about the idea that some parents are too sexy to breastfeed – and provides a challenge with a follow-up post on glamorous images of breastfeeding. Another post discusses pro-feminist fathers.
Breastfeeding also shows up as a really nifty shorthand for “crazy woman” in the Game of Thrones series, as discussed at Hoyden About Town.
Bee of a Certain Age talks about learning to love after having her children.
Our kids just aren’t getting a break: Lessons to be Learned covers the Toddlers and Tiaras phenomenon and blue milk looks at high fashion’s role in sexualising girls. Feminethicist has been having some fun challenging the heteronormativity when people play joke-matchmaker with babies.
Unsurprisingly, I did not take kindly to Family First’s insinuations that some families are just “obviously” worse than others.
For further reading, Mindy at Hoyden About Town has reviewed The 21st Century Motherhood Movement.
Where does a lot of this crap come from? Our wonderful media, of course.
This just in: reading mainstream media could be the reason you’re really angry all the time
Feminethicist is just thrilled by a camera app that makes your romantic partner look tolerable again. I have a slight issue with bra companies’ media releases being treated as scientific fact, with a sprinkling of obesity panic on top.
LudditeJourno, posting at The Hand Mirror, covers Michael bloody Lhaws’ preference for referring to poor brown people as “feral” and coleytangerina at The Lady Garden gets freaked out by news of a “cougar attack” … then a tad depressed.
Emma at Lip asks where the strong women are in literature. Kate Barker discusses anti-feminist imagery. Cara at Life is a feminist issue talks about our media ban on reporting suicide, and whether that’s really looking all that effective.
MJ at Kiwiana (inked) tells Stuff where they can shove their scare quotes when reporting on domestic violence.
Time for something a bit more positive:
Retrospective: awesome women being awesome
Penguin Unearthed talks about Gudridur Thorbjarnardottir as part of her Travelling Feminist posts – here’s another on Norway. The Hoydens share the news that Sensei Keiko Fukuda has become the only woman ever granted the 10th degree black belt in judo. Double Antandre talks about Nancy Wake.
Another big issue of the past month has been identity, especially given Google’s being douchebags about what’s considered a “real” name (all the more aggravating because it’s based on needing “real” demographics to sell to shitbox marketers).
I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine
Chally talks about the kinds of history that go into building identity. blue milk passes on information on the My Name is Me project created in response to Google+ being douches. Giovanni talks about Google+, identity and cyberpunk.
Where does a lot of identity come from? Our “race”, social construct that it is, and religion, and culture, and all other kinds of pretty touchy issues.
Nothing witty to put here
Mindmadeup asks if Australia is a racist nation. Chally confronts racism at the bus stop. stargazer discusses how the “default is male” concept extends to commentary about Muslims. stargazer also posted about the start of Ramadan.
Queen Emily at Questioning Transphobia asks “When am I trans?” and when trans people are “real”.
Love and Marriage
In happier news, Rachel is getting hitched! Of course, planning a wedding doesn’t get any easier when you’re a feminist so she’s provided a handy Guide to Feminist Wedding Planning. News With Nipples covers some tragi-comic anti-marriage-equality protests. Hayley at Equal Love Equal Rights posts on marriage equality.
Mr Wainscotting is pleased to announce the launch of Legalise Love, a group looking to get some actual marriage equality happening in NZ. Idiot/Savant has been taking an interest in our MPs’ views on the subject: here he is on Hone Harawira and David Parker (and it’s not good news).
As Chally notes, though, we shouldn’t devalue single women.
Then there’s some perennial issues for feminist bloggers:
stargazer helped produce a session on poverty at the Human Rights Commission’s diversity forum and also blogged her speech from the forum on needing an action plan on human rights. Maia at The Hand Mirror dissects a “game” where privileged people get to pretend to be poor for a while and probably learn some Important Moral Lesson.
Deborah Russell discusses welfare in the Dominion Post.
Rape culture / violence
The Naked Philologist deals in two parts with the subject of teaching problematic material – Can you teach Chrétien without talking about rape? and You might be able to teach Chrétien without talking about rape, but I shan’t.
Deborah talks about the gender pay gap and another Deborah’s predictable privileged attitude towards it. Idiot/Savant covers the Greens’ and CTU’s calling of National’s bluff: if people can just ask labour inspectors to check there’s pay parity in their workplace, maybe we should just start doing that all the time.
And finally, a little collection of random items to fill out your reading.
We can’t stop here, this is bat country!
Blue milk on potentially-problematic vulva-themed art. Geek Feminism on social media protest action. Bluebec on trusting people to make their own decisions. Maia at The Hand Mirror on the cost of being a woman in public. Chally’s thoughts on being “born this way”. A guest post on Geek Feminism about encouraging women’s participation in geekiness. Blogger at the Cast Iron Balcony on how to help the Sylvia Creek anti-logging protesters. Bluebec on polyamory and doing it right. Feminaust posts on listening to sex workers.
That’s all she wrote
Thanks to our lovely submitters, especially Chally and Rebecca who made my job a heck of a lot easier!
The 41st edition of the DUFC will be hosted at A Touch of The Crazy. As we still seem to be having issues with blogcarnival, send your submissions directly to stef_thomp [at] hotmail [dot] com. We’re four years in and going strong but we need your help to keep it awesome!
The list of DUFC contributors is woefully out of date, but feel free to peruse it in the meantime while I get some well-earned coffee.
Originally posted at The Standard.
There’s a hard truth to NZ politics at the moment. It’s not one people like to think about, it’s not one people readily accept, and it’s not one that gives Labour/the Left any actual tools to dismantle the shitty state we’re in. But it helps to be reminded every now and then:
Everything NACT does is a lie.
No, seriously, everything.
The topical example of the day is the Welfare Working Group report, with its vicious, predictable, you-could’ve-paid-Danyl-Mclauchlan-a-lot-less-to-write-it-as-satire recommendations, including forcing some women to look for work when their youngest child is 14 weeks old.
This is bullshit, the blogs cry. The Smiler is quick at hand to (predictably) rule out the most extreme measures. But even the more moderate measures won’t work! We complain. This is no way to get people off benefits! You need job creation, not forcing drug addicts to starve, that’s only going to make things worse!
We are too charitable.
We assume, as does the media (even the good ones) and as do the general public, that the leaders of the Left and Right in this country are just approaching the same issues from different perspectives. They just have different ideas, different theories about human nature and economics, but they’re still looking at the same situation and aiming for the same results.
NACT are not aiming for the same results. Everything is a lie.
I hear the objections already. I just want you to think: which is the more likely scenario, Occam’s Razor-styles?
That our Government is run by people who cannot see that tax cuts don’t stimulate the economy, who do not understand that there are no jobs, who will not acknowledge that being “tough on crime” and simultaneously starving/victimizing the most deprived people in the country are not going to make our society safer …
Or that they just don’t care, and everything is a lie.
Thus we see the entire existence of the Welfare Working Group is a lie. It’s not about people, or liveable incomes, or hope, or dependency, or jobs. It’s all a sideshow, because to people like Key and English and Brownlee and Hide it doesn’t matter what they implement, how or if it’s going to work. The goal is power, the goal is scapegoating beneficiaries (for now), the goal is getting you to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain while he’s stripping your assets for lolly money.
This is the NACT modus operandi: do the bare minimum to keep the economy going. Throw out Crosby/Textor lines to persuade the voting public – a public sadly not entirely made up of people with enough time/energy/interest to argue this shit on blogs – that Scapegoat of The Day is the source of all their problems (beneficiaries, Maori, Greens) without actually doing anything. Pillage everything in sight. Once unelected or bored of juvenile tussles in the House, fuck off in your spaceship to Hawaii and let everything end in fire.
And we are fucked. Because if the comments on this post don’t contain at least one person accusing me of jealousy, of tall poppy syndrome, of conspiracy or paranoia … well, I’ll wonder where all the good trolls have gone. But that is exactly the argument that will be made, and when the kinds of people the Left has to convince in 2011 are exactly those people most susceptible to C/T spin and cheerful Smiler soundbites, and when the truth you’re trying to convince them of is really fucking unpalatable … proper fucked.
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.
The message of welfare reform is not being aimed at beneficiaries – who are merely collateral damage in this process – but at low and middle income workers. In election year, there are electoral gains to be made from targeting people on benefits, even if only to divert criticism of the government’s own failure to manage the economy.
As Idiot/Savant puts it, and a loss to the entire fucking country, too. You’re going to be really sorely missed, Sue B.
Sue’s maiden speech from way back in the days of 1999 is here.
I am here on a mission. Unemployed people and beneficiaries have had enough of being treated like dirt, taking the blame for every problem in society. Previous Governments have institutionalised another form of apartheid in Departments like WINZ, where a culture of contempt underlines dealings with socalled customers as well as with hard pressed frontline staff.
I am here to do everything I can to turn this around. We need immediate relief of poverty in this country, including a radical overhaul of WINZ and the whole benefit system, and a commitment to progressive increases in the minimum wage. The compulsory work for dole scheme known as ‘Community Wage Community Work’ can and should end tomorrow. We should look at restoring the universal family benefit, acknowledging the needs and rights of those who have the courage to bring children into the world in an overwhelmingly child-hating society.
We should also start seriously researching the implications and possibilities of some form of Universal Basic Income which has the potential to replace the whole shattered and inadequate apparatus of the old welfare state.
It’s time that we put the blame for overdependency on the State directly where it lies – on those who use unemployment and inadequate income support systems as tools of deliberate economic strategies. And we should also examine why dependency is OK for some, and not for others.
In honour of this kickass woman,* get your posts in for the next Down Under Feminists’ Carnival!
Next time on Ideologically Impure: how angry will QoT get over attempts to drag her country kicking and screaming back into the Dark Ages an FPP electoral system? How many times will QoT headdesk over That Nice Mr Key being on Letterman? Will QoT explode with joy when Dexter season 3 finally premieres 4 October? Will any of these questions actually get answered? Tune in, same feminist time, same cussword-filled channel!
*Seriously, lauredhel, tigtog, here’s a right contender for Hoyden of the Week. Anyone who had to worry about getting her trespass notice from the grounds of Parliament revoked so she could start work as an MP is a hoyden worthy of recognition in my book.
To quote Anita at Kiwipolitico, If Bronagh Key is a solo mum then I’m an Iraqi refugee.
But no, apparently having a mansion so big the Diplomatic Protection Squad have difficulty covering it is totes balanced out by the long hours That Nice Mr Key puts in down in Wellington.
Like Anita, I don’t doubt that there are a lot of pressures put on a family by having one parent serving as Prime Minister. But … a “solo mother”? Seriously? That’s the line we’re running with? From a man who once attacked the Domestic Purposes Benefit because “some” solo parents* had been
for want of a better term, breeding for a business
And HE’S going to fucking pull the “lolz iz so hard for my wife coz I is away so much she iz totes solo mum lol” line?
GO EAT A BIG BOWL OF DICK, MR KEY.