Comments from the Prime Minister suggest that the government's willingness to act tough on welfare may go a lot further than many expect

What is the real Key agenda on welfare reform?

It could be a lot scarier than media commentators and the public think.

So far, knowledgeable types on the parliamentary circuit, for example John Armstrong in a recent article, question whether tough recommendations from the Government Welfare Working Group will actually ‘sit easily with the Prime Minister’s more centrist disposition.’

How centrist John Key actually is on welfare is now very open to question.

When Anglican Bishop Muru Walters took part in a church leadership delegation to the Prime Minister in late November, he presented Mr Key with a copy of the first report from the Alternative Welfare Working Group: Welfare justice in New Zealand: what we heard.

The PM’s response to the gift of the report, as relayed by the Bishop in the foreword to the final Welfare Justice report launched last week, was, in total, “Is welfare sustainable? No!”

The second indication of what the PM might really be thinking comes from further feedback from the same meeting, picked up by myself on the Wellington grapevine last week.

Among other comments made to the church leaders that day, John Key is reported to have said, “If we cancelled welfare to 330,000 people currently on welfare, how many would starve to death? Bugger all.”

Clearly the PM does not personally give a damn about the fate of working age beneficiaries – or their children.

From the point of view of the rich, anything that doesn’t benefit them is not sustainable.

This Government appears to neither know nor care that it is not welfare expenses that are likely to spiral out of control between now and 2050, but superannuation, health and Government financing costs, as per a 2009 report from Treasury itself.

Benefit levels are already too low for most people to survive on without a pile of supplementary allowances, and without going ever deeper into debt.

For anyone who doubts this, consider living on rates such as these (if you’re not already):

  • single 19 year old on unemployment benefit: $161.76 per week;
  • married couple on sickness benefit: $194.12 per week;
  • sole parent on DPB: $278.04 per week;
  • married couple on sickness or unemployment benefit: $323.52 per week.

Yet Mr Key appears quite relaxed about taking things even further.

Without any welfare in this country, the scenario is likely to look something like this:

  • Charitable organisations expected to feed the ‘deserving’ poor – aided perhaps by a return to the Victorian workhouse system;
  • Further budget blowouts on police, justice and prison budgets, as people engage in all manner of crime simply to feed themselves and their children;
  • A huge increase in illhealth and addictions among the destitute and their families, in some cases leading to death – but meanwhile creating a massive burden on health and child welfare services already creaking at the seams;
  • Beggars in the streets, homelessness at levels we can’t imagine, and -- for some -- starvation.

Because I trust my sources, I believe that at heart, John Key really would be quite comfortable with such a dystopian future.

Of course, he won’t go there yet. I have enough faith in the good hearts of most New Zealanders to believe that the electorate won’t put up with it.

However, what his comments to the church leaders signify is that he is serious about cutting welfare costs by cherry picking whichever recommendations of the Rebstock Welfare Group will best meet his goals when that group makes its final report in February 2011.

Jim Bolger was a National Prime Minister who presided over some of the worst attacks on beneficiaries in recent times. He is also a sincere Catholic, and eventually he dropped Ruth Richardson as Finance Minister and softened down some of his policies, reputedly in part because of pressure from church leaders.

Whether Bolger did enough in the end to redeem himself is not something you or I will ever know, but there is no hope of this happening with John Key.

He is a man without visible values, a gambler who only knows and cares about the game.

The possibility of divine intervention looks remote, unless it comes from Bill English, who as far as I know is still a devout Catholic.

The problem is that we have a PM who believes in nothing more than maximising self fulfillment through money and power, and whose current life consists of playing games with our money and our lives.

It is terrifying that we are at the mercy of a gambler who is willing to take a punt on whether people will starve to death if he reduces or cuts off income support altogether.

Policy making in a decent, fair society shouldn’t be a series of gambles – it should be based on objective analysis and sound policy advice, just what the Government isn’t getting from Rebstock Welfare Working Group.

For those of us who care about what happens to those who have least in our society, these are ominous times indeed.

Comments (65)

by Mark Wilson on December 13, 2010
Mark Wilson

Ah, but you see it's not "your money" to start with - it's the long suffering taxpayers. The left consume way more than they produce.

The wealth creators are sick of seeing the welfare numbers blow out from a few thousand 60 years ago to a third of the population now.

Who have seen the left impose welfare dependency on hundreds of thousands and seen it never produces  any result but more failure.

"This Government appears to neither know nor care that it is not welfare expenses that are likely to spiral out of control between now and 2050, but superannuation, health and Government financing costs, as per a 2009 report from Treasury itself."

Doh - Superannuation is not welfare????

Double doh - has it not occurred to you that the biggest part of the government financing costs is welfare????

"It is terrifying that we are at the mercy of a gambler who is willing to take a punt on whether people will starve to death if he reduces or cuts off income support altogether."

You have no evidence whatsoever to say this - this was the same sort of scaremongering that Labour used and the electorate rejected last election. And will reject at the next one. If a comment like that was made by the right against a lefty there would be massive complaints. And let's put aside the fact that it is defamatory.

"For those of us who care about what happens to those who have least in our society, these are ominous times indeed."

It is par for the course that the left claim the moral high ground on poverty. The problem is that society has tried the left wing policies for 60 years and look at the mess we are in. The right are saying that your policies have hammered the poor long enough - it is time we tried something else.

by nommopilot on December 13, 2010
nommopilot

Oh look it's a comment from Mark.  Let me guess it goes something like:

"blah blah wealth creators blah blah the left blah blah socialist parasites blah blah"

you are fascinating.

by Andrew Geddis on December 13, 2010
Andrew Geddis

Mark,

You would help your argument enormously if you got your facts right. I mean, there is room for ideological differences and preferences ... but surely we can agree that factual claims should be, you know, factual?

1: "The wealth creators are sick of seeing the welfare numbers blow out from a few thousand 60 years ago to a third of the population now."

Let's put superannuation to one side ('cause it's a somewhat different issue ...). In 1950, there were about 280,000 people receiving one of the main welfare benefits - with a population of 1.9 million. In 2008, there were about 280,000 people receiving one of the main welfare benefits - with a population of over 4 million. Have a look here

2: "Doh - Superannuation is not welfare????"

Sure it is - but it's a different sort of welfare, with different arguments around it, that is complicated by the fact that (some groups of) people are living far, far longer today than they were 60 years ago. Hence, the rise in superannuation claimants from 186,512 in 1950 (bit more than "a few thousand, though?) to over 500,000 today.

Point is, rolling the superannuation debate into the wider welfare debate is a bit like saying that because tax breaks to Hollywood movies and incentives for agricultural R&D both are "to do with economic development", we should be debating them in the same way at the same time.

3: "The right are saying that your policies have hammered the poor long enough - it is time we tried something else."

Did you have a particular Dickens novel in mind?

by stuart munro on December 13, 2010
stuart munro

It is to be hoped Sue, that NZ without welfare would also include mass riots, along the lines of the UK poll tax riots that ended the Thatcherist experiment, or the present tertiary fee riots, though hopefully somewhat broader based.

I remember that Prebble made the same modest proposal some years ago, after which I made him a special project. Key just qualified for the same treatment, but he doesn't have quite such a career of outspoken hypocrisy.

I might have to find a use for that old pike yet.

by Mark Wilson on December 13, 2010
Mark Wilson

Talk about lies, damn lies etc!

In 1950 excluding the minimal universal payment of the family benefit there was 30k odd beneficiaries. Now it's a tad more! 15k on sickness benefits - we can only wish!

Doh - Superannuation is not welfare????

"Sure it is - but it's a different sort of welfare,"

Could you point that out to Ms Bradford?

Double doh - has it not occurred to you that the biggest part of the government financing costs is welfare????

This is the real issue - how can the country not go broke when a simple issue like this is not understood by an ex MP?

"Did you have a particular Dickens novel in mind?"

It is impossible to argue that the current situation does anything other than reinforce welfare dependency. There are alternatives between that and Dickensian conditions. If they are all off the table as the left would have it then it is certain that the long term future for the poor will be a Dicken's scenario and the left will be responsible for that.

by Andrew Geddis on December 13, 2010
Andrew Geddis

Mark,

"In 1950 excluding the minimal universal payment of the family benefit there was 30k odd beneficiaries."

Oh! So you mean, if you exclude the single largest benefit paid in 1950, there were not that many people who received welfare? Is there a reason why that benefit doesn't count as "welfare", aside from making the numbers work in your favour? And what work does the word "minimal" do in your analysis?

by Beatie on December 13, 2010
Beatie

If he gets away with this, I believe the next step will be getting rid of the minimum wage and desperate people will literally be working for peanuts

by Mark Wilson on December 13, 2010
Mark Wilson

Andrew family benefit was a few dollars per week per child. The damage is done by people who get the bulk or the whole of their income from benefits. My point is valid.

And I still say -

"This is the real issue - how can the country not go broke when a simple issue like this is not understood by an ex MP?"

by Andrew Geddis on December 13, 2010
Andrew Geddis

Mark,

Here's a description of your halcyon 1950s from Te Ara:

"When the Labour government left office in 1949 the top income tax rate was 76.5%. The working class paid little tax. A top-ranked butcher on £460 ($29,000 in 2008 terms) a year, with two children, paid no income tax after exemptions and rebates. He paid a £34 social security charge, but received £52 a year family benefit for his children. The tax system was very friendly to families."

Golly gosh! Those were the days of rugged individualism and self reliance, alright.

by Sue Bradford on December 13, 2010
Sue Bradford

Thanks all of you for your comments, and to those of you who've been engaged in making sensible replies to Mark's postings.  Just a few additional points Mark:

Re the superannuation/welfare debate - of course super is welfare, but the Government is deliberately excluding it from the current welfare reform debate.  It was specifically left outside the brief of Paula Rebstock's Welfare Working Group, thus I'm seeing it as another category for these purposes.

Superannuation and working age income support (including Working for Families & Accommodation Supplement) are a big cost to our economy. WFF and AS are a huge subsidy to employers, helping to keep pressure on wages down.

Like every aspect of a Government's budget, it comes down to balancing what's spent where, and why. 
Trying to press down or remove the incomes of those who are already  barely getting by will only lead in the disastrous direction I describe in my column.

Last May's Govt budget saw Key giving tax breaks to the rich paid for by Govt borrowing; SCF has been bailed out at huge cost to the taxpayer, and the Govt has seen fit to give $100m to a film company just to keep Hobbits here...all depends on one's priorities, I reckon.  And where's the real dependency?  Why is bailing out investors, bankers, and providing tax cuts to the wealthy more important than providing support to those who are unable to work through no fault  of their own?

* And Mark, you say we've had 'left wing' policies for the last 60 years - hardly, or you're so far right that you'd make Don Brash look pink.  Richard Prebble and Roger Douglas in the 80s?  Richardson & Shipley in the 90s?  ...even Labour in the 2000s, with welfare policies that laid the way for what National is doing now?

 

 

by Mark Wilson on December 13, 2010
Mark Wilson

"This Government appears to neither know nor care that it is not welfare expenses that are likely to spiral out of control between now and 2050, but superannuation, health and Government financing costs, as per a 2009 report from Treasury itself."

Double doh - has it not occurred to you that the biggest part of the government financing costs is welfare????

by peasantpete on December 13, 2010
peasantpete

The Nats have always said they would do nothing to upset the electorate in their first term.

This does not sound good for the next term.

I can just see Mark Wilson leading the charge of John Key's Cossacks against welfarism into an utopian world of US and 3rd world misery.

Election 2011 = Apocalpse Now.

Sayonara to the New Zealand I grew up in.

Haere Mai!

Kia Ora!

Talofa!

Bula!

Whatever!

To John Key and his cronies New Zealand is a "resource" to be "traded".

Bugger the population.

by william blake on December 13, 2010
william blake

Shit. and a cop gets cut up with a machette and reasonably the Police want side arms. I said in January that welfare cuts meant arming the Police. What are we doing?

by Alec Morgan on December 14, 2010
Alec Morgan

It would be nice to get JFK’s comments verified, though any reluctance by people present coming forward might be understandable following how Northland journalist Mr Edmonton was bullied by Fairfax execs after reporting Keys infamous 2008 “we would like to see wages drop” comment to a Kerikeri business audience.

The Natz are not coming for the ‘nice’ superannuitants or middle income welfare recipients on WFF just yet. But they will. Agree with Sue that WFF takes upward pressure off wages, middle income earners should consider joining unions and organising to obtain their very own decent pay rises off employers.

Key is going for the ‘dirty filthy’ real bennies, the ones who around half of new zealanders love to demonise and treat as sadistically as they can. I see this as an electoral tactic that will be highly popular among many aspirational but nonetheless not overly rich, tory voters. Don’t blame the governments pathetic job creation and economic stimulus record, blame those with no jobs! Brilliant diversion. It is always interesting to note that there are more ‘bludgers’ during economic downturns than when things are buoyant.

Measures like reasonable abatement rates to encourage part time work, which is best suited to many beneficiaries, and a UBI are not even considered seriously-the vital word. NZ is at another fork in the road, if the tories are returned in 2011 be prepared for all hell to break loose. Private prisons, out of control prison numbers, regular shootings by cops, car jackings, living in cardboard boxes, corpses on the street every morning, privatisation of anything that moves, active use of increased state agency surveillance powers to squash dissent, need I go on?

It is amazing how on the face of it our small population has such a talent for creating (or more correctly accepting) inequality and division. The missing factor is organisation, which oppression does not automatically create. However there are still enough of us left, pun intended, including young people not zombiefied by neo liberalism to give the right a fright.

by solo mum on December 14, 2010
solo mum

Just a quiet word here from a "solo mum" (bottom of the social heap) I receive $200 a week (after rent), to live on, and feed a 13 yr old boy. That is ment to cover food, petrol, school books, school uniform, ph, power, unexpected bills (car maintenance ) etc. We were both haunting the kitchen cupboards in the evening, HUNGRY. We were surviving on bread. When I came into some $, and was able to buy enough food, my son put on 6 kilos in 4 weeks. It made me cry.

I have NO debt, bills come 1st, and we eat 3 meals a day, but it IS IMPOSSIBLE to live on $200 a week, and feed a child PROPERLY.

End of rant.

 

by Tim Watkin on December 14, 2010
Tim Watkin

You're right Alec, someone needs to ask Key whether he made those comments and then verify with the church leaders. Sue, who were the church leaders at that launch?

Mark, no-one wants to see so many people on benefits, but we do have to start with some facts. Benefit numbers spiked under the fourth Labour government and then Bolger, as Andrew's link shows. I'm guessing you're a fan of the policies those governments followed, but what makes you think it would go differently this time?

And if you cut benefits – either in scope or amount – you've really got to answer two straight forward questions: What will those people do for income instead? And what do you do about the children living in the affected families?

That family benefit is fascinating, I thought something like that existed when I was a kid, but have never found out what it was. Was it equivalent to WFF? Or more of an out-and-out benefit?

by Alec Morgan on December 14, 2010
Alec Morgan

Very quick search reveals that Universal Family Benefit was bought in by first Labour Govt. in 1945 and finally abolished by National in 1991. The payment of 10% of the average wage, 1 pound per week initially, was payable only to the matriarchal member of the family for several reasons, and was paid out for each child under 16 years, later 18 years. The relative value of the UFB declined over time. In 1958 the amount was raised, and future benefit payments were allowed to be ‘captialised’ as a lump sum to allow for a home deposit. So there.

source: various incl retirement.org.nz and nz history.net.nz

by Mark Wilson on December 14, 2010
Mark Wilson

Tim, income without responsibility does not work for the poor or the children of the rich (although the rich usually can buy their way out of trouble at least for a while).

Of course as this thread shows any one who suggests that the current system is not working is tarred as a "let them starve in the street monster".

All beneficiaries should have to work for their money to the best of their abilities and in a manner that allows children to be cared for.

The reality is that on average beneficiaries are less intelligent and less mentally tough than non beneficiaries so require extra incentives. (Yes I know, the truth is not permitted on this blog if it is not PC.) 

The current system is broken - this cannot be argued. The average tax payer is losing patience - this cannot be argued. 

There has to be a significant incentive for beneficeries to improve themselves and that does need a stick as well as a carrot. 

Until that happens you just entrench welfare dependency and ensure that beneficiaries children will be as unable to cope as their parents.  

 

by Alec Morgan on December 14, 2010
Alec Morgan

 

Sue Bradford described some likely outcomes above of a significant attack on welfare:
  • Charitable organisations expected to feed the ‘deserving’ poor – aided perhaps by a return to the Victorian workhouse system; (we already have young grads working for nothing Sue, aka “interns” whata rort, what did unpaid workers used to be called? -slaves.)
  • Further budget blowouts on police, justice and prison budgets, as people engage in all manner of crime simply to feed themselves and their children;
  • A huge increase in illhealth and addictions among the destitute and their families, in some cases leading to death – but meanwhile creating a massive burden on health and child welfare services already creaking at the seams;
  • Beggars in the streets, homelessness at levels we can’t imagine, and -- for some -- starvation.
She didn’t even get around to describing the loss of potential and the human waste like that which occured in the 90s. My partner helped as a beneficiary advocate in those times and saw people that were actually suffering suffering from malnutrition. More kiwis than you might think are just a couple of missed mortgage payments away from destitution.
There a three answers to high welfare levels-jobs, education and jobs. The cuts approach is a dead end. Where do you go when everything is cut? Hint, Haiti and other sad cases give a clue.
@ Mark Wilson: mantras are a better fit for spiritual purposes thankyou. Your remarks about the intelligence and mental strength of beneficiaries are just plain offensive.

 

by Penny Bright on December 14, 2010
Penny Bright

Where's the Government 'review' on  corporate welfare beneficiaries of public monies?

Given the $30 billlion central government expenditure on 'procurement' - where's the evidence /'cost-benefit' analysis that private procurement of public services is a more 'cost-effective' use of public monies than former 'in-house' provision by central (and local) government?

Where's the 'review' of the use of  consultants and private sector contractors across all state sectors?

Wouldn't it save a small fortune if those private 'piggies in the middle' were cut out of the public trough?

Isn't it time to 'CUT OUT THE CONTRACTORS'?

Penny Bright

http://waterpressure.wordpress.com

by Mark Wilson on December 14, 2010
Mark Wilson

Alec Morgan - those unable to compete always hate the truth and it is true.

by Pete Turangi on December 14, 2010
Pete Turangi

Mark,

Of course as this thread shows any one who suggests that the current system is not working is tarred as a "let them starve in the street monster". 

Not quite right - instead try answering Tim's questions coherently (otherwise we are free to ‘assume' based on the limited troll-like blather you have so-far provided), namely:

... if you cut benefits - either in scope or amount ... What will those people do for income instead? And what do you do about the children living in the affected families?

See the ‘2010 Children's Health Monitor' (for example) about the impact on vulnerable children in benefit-dependent families.  Then offer an alternative to 1. ‘stick', 2. ???, 3. Profit!

All beneficiaries should have to work for their money to the best of their abilities and in a manner that allows children to be cared for.

Here I firmly disagree - nobody should be forced to do anything, unless they have done something that directly contravenes the rules of a society (criminal behaviour for example).  Your comment essentially says that you rebuke New Zealand's social support system, and that people who are (by choice or circumstance) in need of its use are the equivalent of a pseudo-criminal.

Do you consider, as an example from the Alternative Welfare Working Group, that raising children is equivalent to a ‘regular' job (to paraphrase)?

The reality is that on average beneficiaries are less intelligent and less mentally tough than non beneficiaries so require extra incentives. (Yes I know, the truth is not permitted on this blog if it is not PC.) 

Citation for your "reality/truth"?  Specifically re: ‘mental toughness', I'll love to see how that is defined.  And don't most studies show that (for example) a society that has less than a full employment policy will thereby create an ongoing underclass that receive less than average health/education etc opportunities?  Can anyone help with stats on this one?

The current system is broken - this cannot be argued. The average tax payer is losing patience - this cannot be argued. 

True on both counts Mark.  The question in response to the first point is - what is broken to YOU about the current system?  I'll go out on a limb and say that it is broken to you in terms of you ‘hard-earned' tax-payer dollars going to "less intelligent", less mentally tough, bludging, probably left-thinking ‘others'.  Oh, and they don't ‘create wealth' this way (even though they spend all their income and it cycles through the economy more than the wealthy, but who's counting?).

On the second point, why is this?  Is it due to the manufactured crisis created around welfare since National was a pup?  And latterly by the ‘Welfare Working Group', and parroted without much in the way of examination in the (resource-depleted) media?  Is this not a populist political ploy?  Are you buying into it?

Question - how many welfare dependent individuals are there in New Zealand's welfare system?  And how do you define this (clue, not all benefit recipients are thereby ‘dependent' on it).

There has to be a significant incentive for beneficeries [sic] to improve themselves and that does need a stick as well as a carrot. 

So what of the existing work-first policies entrenched in Work and Income?  Not tough enough?

And should ANY thought be given to the well-being of these people?  For an example, read what ‘solo mum' wrote above.

Until that happens you just entrench welfare dependency and ensure that beneficiaries [sic] children will be as unable to cope as their parents.  

But John Key ‘pulled himself up by his bootstraps' (or so the story goes), what's so different about the kids today?

Also, a response to the earlier question re defining ‘dependents/dependency' would be good.

Have a nice day, and try and spare a thought for the (actual) numbers of people in our own country who (through no fault of their own) live in a state of poverty.  And question what the current government is doing as a ‘carrot' to get these people work.

by Mark Wilson on December 14, 2010
Mark Wilson

All beneficiaries should have to work for their money to the best of their abilities and in a manner that allows children to be cared for.

"Here I firmly disagree - nobody should be forced to do anything, unless they have done something that directly contravenes the rules of a society (criminal behaviour for example)." 

Sounds fair - they don't have to work for their money (like everyone else) and we shouldn't be forced to pay them. Gets my vote. Do please explain why they shouldn't be forced to work but we should be forced to pay them - do please explain that oxymoron!

"Your comment essentially says that you rebuke New Zealand's social support system, and that people who are (by choice or circumstance) in need of its use are the equivalent of a pseudo-criminal."

Damn right I believe that someone who CHOOSES (your word) not to work and takes a benefit is a criminal. Theft is a crime.

You cannot argue that on average beneficiaries have less intelligence and less mental toughness than taxpayers - if that was not so then they wouldn't be on a benefit. If they are the equal of tax payers then let them earn their own income - you can't have it both ways!

Until that happens you just entrench welfare dependency and ensure that the children of beneficiaries will be as unable to cope as their parents can't.  

There has to be a stick which should include financial penalties for breeding if they require state support. Works well in the US. If you are not competent enough to get a job then you are certainly not competent enough to breed.

Question - how many welfare dependent individuals are there in New Zealand's welfare system?  And how do you define this (clue, not all benefit recipients are thereby ‘dependent' on it).

100% of welfare recipients are dependent on welfare and if they are not they are criminals who should be in jail for fraud.

I support welfare for those who through no fault of their own needs assistance. Those who deliberately make bad choices or who are to lazy to work are on their own. Of course they will end up in jail but that is inevitable anyway.

The point remains that the taxpayer has had enough and because the left refuse to reform the system the beneficiaries will in time end up with way less than they have now - the lefts fault!

by Andrew Geddis on December 14, 2010
Andrew Geddis

@Mark,

"... those unable to compete always hate the truth and it is true."

You seriously need to get over yourself and learn that "I said it so
it must be so" is not widely regarded as a valid truth test (outside of the Catholic Church that is ... and there it only applies to the Pope ... which you ain't). I mean, by your criteria of "truth" my claim that all blowhards who pontificate online about the laziness of the poor are just trying to compensate for small genetalia would have to be taken as gospel ... .

Further, let's review your claims:

1. You say you aren't arguing that the poor should just be left to starve, but rather should have to work for a living.

2: You say that those on benefits are stupid/weak, so unable to make it in "the real world".

How exactly do you square 1 with 2? I mean, you expect private employers to somehow magic up some quarter-of-a-million jobs for the most stupid and fragile in society? Or you want some sort of massive state make-work scheme purely to accomodate your "make 'em earn a crust" preferences (and what of the displaced private sector firms that presently inhabit those niches)?

Point being, you've proven your ability with vacuous cliches and generalised assertions. Now kick it up a gear and join the real world debate.

by Claire Browning on December 14, 2010
Claire Browning

You forgot this gem:

Those who deliberately make bad choices or who are to lazy to work are on their own. Of course they will end up in jail but that is inevitable anyway.

Hm. Let's see now. Based on Sue's figures, above: single 19 year old on unemployment benefit = $161.76 per week = $8411.52 per annum.

Average cost to house said 19 year old in jail for a year: just over $90,000, according to the Treasury. That's not counting all the hidden costs, eg toll on victims, insurance industry for the houses they knocked off, ACC if anyone got injured, trial costs to prosecute them, etc.

Way to go.

by Mark Wilson on December 14, 2010
Mark Wilson

Andrew -

"I said it so it must be so" - in my case it is of course self evidently true.

I mean, by your criteria of "truth" my claim that all blowhards who pontificate online about the laziness of the poor are just trying to compensate for small genetalia (SIC) would have to be taken as gospel ... .

As I have never said that your claim may well be true although outside of a university (where anything is believable) no one would take it seriously.

1. You say you aren't arguing that the poor should just be left to starve, but rather should have to work for a living.

I am correct and it is for their benefit. Yes it would be initially expensive to create work that does not interfere with the private sector but there are any number of areas that would apply and it would provide great societal benefits as well as personal benefits to the participants.

 It has worked overseas and would work here.The reality is that numbers would drop off rapidly and costs would reduce as the unpalatability of working for a living hit home. Certainly there would be an initial increase in crime but that would sort itself out - fortunately the criminal classes are not generally smart enough to not get caught.

2: You say that those on benefits are stupid/weak, so unable to make it in "the real world".

Sorry Andrew, but you can't have it both ways - if they are not generally stupid or weak (your words) then they would not be on the dole!

We are always going to have losers in society but the current system is ensuring that they stay that way on a generational basis.

 

by Claire Browning on December 14, 2010
Claire Browning

From ad hominem to ex cathedra.

by Pete Turangi on December 14, 2010
Pete Turangi

Sounds fair - they don't have to work for their money (like everyone else) and we shouldn't be forced to pay them. Gets my vote. Do please explain why they shouldn't be forced to work but we should be forced to pay them - do please explain that oxymoron!

Almost there Mark - we democratically elect a government who can continue to support social welfare or not.  If we feel ‘forced' into a position that we aren't comfortable with, then we can vote against it (Libertarianz, Mark?).

But what I was really getting to is the question of ‘what is considered work?' which relates to your comment about "allow[ing] children to be cared for" - i.e. shouldn't caring for a child (not just up to one year old) or a sick or disabled person be on par with work?

Damn right I believe that someone who CHOOSES (your word) not to work and takes a benefit is a criminal. Theft is a crime.

I do believe there is a small fraction of benefit recipients who take money they should never be entitled to.  Hence the use of the word.  However, I understand that they are in the VAST minority (despite contrary claims by the likes of you) - shame they get the media coverage to stoke the engine.

You cannot argue that on average beneficiaries have less intelligence and less mental toughness than taxpayers - if that was not so then they wouldn't be on a benefit. If they are the equal of tax payers then let them earn their own income - you can't have it both ways!

Why not? Have you had to struggle on the pittance these people get (24% of the average wage)?  I'm sure it isn't a barrel of monkeys - despite what they tell you on talkback.  I'm sure most people who receive welfare and come off it (the VAST majority - if given the opportunity) are pretty tough people.  As are those made redundant during a recession. 

The intelligence comment is not really worthy of a response - more dog-whistle than substantive.

Question - how many welfare dependent individuals are there in New Zealand's welfare system?  And how do you define this (clue, not all benefit recipients are thereby ‘dependent' on it).

100% of welfare recipients are dependent on welfare and if they are not they are criminals who should be in jail for fraud.

Thanks for that - I was hoping to get a perspective on this that I hadn't (perhaps foolishly) considered.  I had assumed we were talking about the same thing - long-term welfare dependency, as was the raison d'être of the Welfare Working Group.

I support welfare for those who through no fault of their own needs [sic] assistance.

So you accept they exist.  That's good.  As a proportion how many do you think there are?

... and because the left refuse to reform the system ...

Have you heard of ‘Working New Zealand'?  Not perfect, but a pretty significant change c/o the (sometimes left) Labour-led government.  Working For Families similarly was designed to incentivise parents back into work (i.e. not communism by stealth).

by Andrew Geddis on December 14, 2010
Andrew Geddis

Mark: "The reality is that numbers would drop off rapidly and costs would reduce as the unpalatability of working for a living hit home. Certainly there would be an initial increase in crime but that would sort itself out - fortunately the criminal classes are not generally smart enough to not get caught."

So your entire solution to a social problem of benefit-dependency is ... force those on benefits to work at such shit jobs for such shit incomes that they turn to crime, whereupon they will be caught and imprisoned at a cost of some $100,000 a year.

I think I preferred the empty sloganeering.

by Mark Wilson on December 14, 2010
Mark Wilson

Andrew - So your entire solution to welfare dependency is to give everyone as much money as they want! - oh sorry you didn't actually say that but never mind. What's a straw man or two between us?

The fact is that those on welfare should work to receive their benefit - if as you as others maintain very few people on welfare are not deserving of it then they will accept that assistance goes with responsibility and they will no doubt look to get something better which will be good for us and them. Those who are just lazy will according to you be a tiny number who are jail fodder anyway.

I am aware of the cost of jail but you fail to see the true cost of welfare dependency. Take the lifetime cost of the health, education, law enforcement, drug use, alcohol abuse, domestic violence and the generational transmission of those costs and you run into millions per person.

At least in jail they cannot breed which is a very significantsaving both in money terms and societal costs.

The point still remains - the left won't allow reform so when the whole system hits the wall (and that is a lot sooner than you think) the poor will get really hammered.

Well done the left. 

by nommopilot on December 14, 2010
nommopilot

there's an easy solution to your problem Mark (ie. the problem of those unemployed people stealing your money).  Just utilise the magical wealth creating powers you're constantly boasting about to create some enterprising new businesses which can provide employment for the 7%+ of working age people who currently cannot be accomodated in the workforce.  Then you get to take credit for solving the problem in a far more concrete sense than your ideological brain farts ever could.

by nommopilot on December 14, 2010
nommopilot

"At least in jail they cannot breed which is a very significantsaving both in money terms and societal costs."

You're obviously not aware of what it costs to keep someone in jail (hint: it's about 5 times as much as paying someone an unemployment benefit).  Thanks for playing...

by Mark Wilson on December 14, 2010
Mark Wilson

Hi mic -

"ideological brain farts"

Better watch out - I get redacted for far less than that. Of course big brother and sister would agree with you so you might be OK.

You're obviously not aware of what it costs to keep someone in jail (hint: it's about 5 times as much as paying someone an unemployment benefit). 

"I am aware of the cost of jail but you fail to see the true cost of welfare dependency. Take the lifetime cost of the health, education, law enforcement, drug use, alcohol abuse, domestic violence and the generational transmission of those costs and you run into millions per person."

If they are in jail they can't breed so think of the savings!

by Andrew Geddis on December 14, 2010
Andrew Geddis

Mark,

My issue with "work for the dole" schemes or the like isn't ideological. I actually think there is far more dignity in work than in the grey struggle of life on a benefit. However, despite your claims that such schemes have been so successful overseas, we have our own history with them here. Further, you might like to look at what is happening at the moment in the home of "work for welfare", the USA ... for some inexplicable reason, the number of weak and stupid people there has leapt to around 10% of the workforce, despite the glories of Clinton's benefit reforms in the 1990s.

Point being, trying to put all the blame for surging beneficiary numbers on "dependence" and the failings of those who receive them is so absurdly simplistic that it raises questions about the mind that made the claim. Equally, claiming that "if we just made people work, the problem will be fixed as they'll all end up in jail" is, once again, a wonderful slogan but crap policy. And you actually did say that. Go back and read your own words.

Finally - a test case for you. A 33 year old intelligent woman who suffers from schizophrenia. Most of the time, she is capable of functioning reasonably "normally", but is subject to repeated episodes of erratic behaviour (especially where she self-adjects her medication). This would make her a highly unreliable employee, as well as mean she'd regularly miss her community work obligations (if imposed on her). Given that all policy ultimately boils down to the individual case, what's her fate in the bold new world of Wilsonomics?

by Andrew Geddis on December 14, 2010
Andrew Geddis

"'ideological brain farts'

Better watch out - I get redacted for far less than that. Of course big brother and sister would agree with you so you might be OK."

If you don't want your ideas to be criticised, Mark, then make them smarter. Mic's criticising your claims - which read, basically, a list of slogans that have been cribbed from a pre-shooler's version of an Ayn Rand novel - and not you as an individual. Which is what you so regularly get pinged for.

by Mark Wilson on December 14, 2010
Mark Wilson

Andrew there is no possible idea smart enough to overcome left wing prejudice. Just because you don't agree with it doesn't make it wrong.

Finally - a test case for you. A 33 year old intelligent woman who suffers from schizophrenia. 

Sorry but this is another hollow stalk of a grain plant
homo sapiens.

I have never suggested those who can't function should have to work. But why should people like your example get less help than they may need because the system can't be reformed?

The ideas I put forward re welfare may be wrong, although i don't believe for a minute they are, but one thing I am certain of is they are the future because what we have is not working.

 

by Andrew Geddis on December 14, 2010
Andrew Geddis

"I have never suggested those who can't function should have to work."

Well, then ... perhaps you'd like to engage with the vexed quesiton of what a suitable "work test" would be to determine those who "can function" from those who "can't function"? And could you enlighten us on what proportion of those presently on benefits would meet your putative work test, and how you know this in advance of that test actually being applied? Please also remember your earlier comment: "15k on sickness benefits - we can only wish!" when addressing this matter, least you start contradicting yourself within the one thread. Also make reference to actual current practice as applied by Work and Income, rather than make stuff up.

Unless, of course, such analysis is a bit beyond you? Go on ... prove me wrong.

"...one thing I am certain of is they are the future because what we have is not working."

I'm not sure anyone thinks it is working. But your argument "something must be done, I'm suggesting something, so what I suggest must be done" is about as convincing as your argument "I said it is true, so it is".

by Penny Bright on December 14, 2010
Penny Bright

When it comes to private procurement of public services - what is 'efficient' about allowing contracting companies to effectively 'write out their own cheques'?

Who is responsible for checking that they aren't?

How are we going to 'wean' all those 'corporate welfare beneficiaries' off the public 'teat'?

Appears there are potentially billion$ to be saved by cutting out all these private 'piggies in the middle'!

Along with 'cutting out the contractors and consultants', how about some real transparency in where our public monies at central and local government level are being spent?

Why don't we get the 'devilish' details published in Council Annual Reports / Govt Department Annual Reports/ SOE /CRI Annual Reports so they are available for public scrutiny?

The name of the contractors/consultants?

The scope, term and value of the contracts?

How about publicly-available 'Registers of Interests' for all those responsible for authorising contracts at central and local government level?

How can 'conflicts of interest' be checked if the 'interests' are not declared in the first place?

Got any views Mark, (or anyone?) on transparency and 'cost-effectiveness' in the expenditure of our public monies?

Penny Bright

'Anti-corruption' candidate who will be standing in the Botany by-election.

http://waterpressure.wordpress.com

 

 

by Tim Watkin on December 14, 2010
Tim Watkin

OK, this ain't reached abuse level yet, but please be careful y'all. Keep it to the the ball and not the man and we'll all get along.

It's interesting Mark that a couple of comments ago you talked in favour of 'make work schemes'. That's so anti-market I didn't think it'd be your stripe, but you've surpised me. You and Matt McCarten have something in common! Must be a blue moon!

Lots of governments have promised to force teens into work or training, but the reality is harder than the wishing. If creating tens of thousands of jobs was easy, heck, someone would be doing it. Then there's drawing a line that is fair for those who don't have to work... I'm assuming you don't include the terminally ill, the most seriously mentally ill, or all the totally blind in your list of thieves on the dole who must work, because they are a decent chunk of the Invalids Benefit, for example.

So I'd seriously be interested in how you you think those jobs might be created and who would be allowed not to work...That's the hard work of policy – making it real.

Oh, and by far the biggest beneficiary numbers are on the DPB. At what age – and I say this provocatively now – would single parents lose the right to choose to stay home with their children? And if under your rules those kids then suffer from a lack of parental care, are you happy to let the state take the blame, or will you blame the parents anyway?

by Penny Bright on December 14, 2010
Penny Bright

So what's the total number of  NZ 'corporate welfare' beneficiaries?

Total numbers of consultants and private sector contractors across all State sectors?

Penny Bright

http://waterpressure.wordpress.com

by nommopilot on December 14, 2010
nommopilot

"If they are in jail they can't breed so think of the savings!"

Yep, there are no parents in jail, Mark.  I mean, I won't call that a brain fart but it does smell a little bit like one.

"Got any views Mark, (or anyone?) on transparency and 'cost-effectiveness' in the expenditure of our public monies?"

It's certainly going to be very difficult to do the maths on how much Rodney's "saved" us by super-sizing our city.  I'd hate to be the one trying to do the maths comparing eight local bodies' total spending in various areas with one local bodies' spending through a range of CCOs, departments, and whatever the hell else we have now...  i hope someone does do the maths because there were some pretty optimistic (dare I say, unrealistic?) projections from super-city proponents...

 

by Penny Bright on December 15, 2010
Penny Bright

FYI, on 11 October 2010, I sent an OIA request to Mark Ford, (then) Executive Chair of the Auckland Transition Agency (ATA), asking 'where EXACTLY are public rates monies being spent NOW across the Auckland region?'

This OIA request was declined:

"We hereby decline your request as information requested cannot be made available without substantial collation or research."

"11 October 2010

OPEN LETTER/OIA REQUEST TO THE EXECUTIVE CHAIR OF  THE AUCKLAND TRANSITION AGENCY- MARK FORD:

Where EXACTLY are public rates monies being spent NOW across the Auckland region?

PLEASE PROVIDE THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION:

1) On a Council by Council basis:

Franklin, Papakura, and Rodney District Councils;
Auckland, Manukau, Waitakere and North Shore City Councils;  Auckland Regional Council

Which services are:

a)  Currently provided 'in-house';
b)  Provided by a Council Controlled Organisation(CCO);
c)  Contracted out;
d)  Not Applicable (not provided by that Council)?

2) On a Council by Council basis:

Franklin, Papakura, and Rodney District Councils;
Auckland, Manukau, Waitakere and North Shore City Councils;  Auckland Regional Council

For each one of the 112 'Council service's, on a 'one-by-one' basis, please provide the following information on those services  which have been 'contracted out':

a) The name of the contractor.
b) The length of the contract.
c) The value of the contract.
d) The general 'scope' of the contract.

The provision of this information will provide,  for the FIRST TIME, to citizens and ratepayers of the Auckland region, a very accurate and current picture of WHERE EXACTLY OUR  public rates monies are being spent.  ...."

______________________________

THIS OIA REQUEST WAS DECLINED:

"We hereby decline your request as information requested cannot be made available without substantial collation or research."

[Bruce Thomas
Public Information Manager
Auckland Transition Agency ]
_______________________________________
This is the statutory duty which arises from the Public Records Act 2005 for such records to be created, maintained and available:

http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2005/0040/latest/DLM345729.html?search=ts_act_Public+Records+Act+2005_resel&p=1#DLM345729

17 Requirement to create and maintain records (1) Every public office and local authority must create and maintain full and accurate records of its affairs, in accordance with normal, prudent business practice, including the records of any matter that is contracted out to an independent contractor. (2) Every public office must maintain in an accessible form, so as to be able to be used for subsequent reference, all public records that are in its control, until their disposal is authorised by or under this Act or required by or under another Act. (3) Every local authority must maintain in an accessible form, so as to be able to be used for subsequent reference, all protected records that are in its control, until their disposal is authorised by or under this Act.

_________________________________________

I have been granted speaking rights at the Auckland Council meeting Thursday 16 December 2010, 10am at the Auckland Town Hall and will be asking where is the promised 'transparency'?

(Sorry for the length of this post - but I just want people to see from the evidence provided how little information the public are being given about where our monies are being spent, and who is benefitting from this public expenditure.)

Thanks Sue! :)

Penny Bright

http://waterpressure.wordpress.com

by Claire Browning on December 15, 2010
Claire Browning

Andrew there is no possible idea smart enough to overcome left wing prejudice. Just because you don't agree with it doesn't make it wrong.

Brilliant.

by Claire Browning on December 15, 2010
Claire Browning

Um, Penny ... this is clearly an issue of some importance to you, and Auckland ratepayers too I'm sure.

I think you've made your point. Would you mind explaining how it relates to the topic of this post? 'Cause it's just that the 'corporate welfare beneficiaries' connection seems a bit, well, tenuous.

Alternatively, you could always offer us a guest post ... your very own platform, to tell us what's on your mind.

FYI, I delete spam, as a general rule. Just sayin'.

by dave bedggood on December 15, 2010
dave bedggood

Actually "corporate welfare 'beneficiaries'" is quite accurate, since corporates 'benefit' from social spending from taxation as a subsidy on their profits.

But this argument about whose taxes are making who rich/lazy/stupid/criminals/ is pointless since taxation is no more than recycled income, and income itself all originates in the surplus value of productive workers.

It is convenient for bosses whose profits originate from surplus value to question the 'entitlement' of workers to 'welfare' since it means that by cutting welfare they lower their taxes and get to keep a larger share of the national income. But that taxation on their income was never theirs to begin, but the expropriated surplus value created by productive workers.

While workers continue to debate a fair distribution of income they ignore the class exploitation the system is built on so they will always be outmanouvered by bosses who control the media.

My attitude to state spending of taxation is that it should only go back to the working class from which it was expropriated in the first place.  A decent socialist program would make expropriation of the capitalist class is main platform.

by Ron Wilson on December 15, 2010
Ron Wilson

I know its a long time since I left school and my math may be suspect but looking at the welfae figures quoted above it seems that in 1950 we had 9.6% welfare reci[pients and in 2010 we have 11.3%. It does not seem a horrendous increase over 60 years.

by Mark Wilson on December 15, 2010
Mark Wilson

Andrew there is no possible idea smart enough to overcome left wing prejudice. Just because you don't agree with it doesn't make it wrong.

Brilliant.

Claire thank you for the compliment!

 A decent socialist program would make expropriation of the capitalist class is main platform.

Dave - come in spinner - 100 million dead at the hands of the socialists in the 20th century and you are still sticking to the most proven of failed ideas in the history of the world. Brilliant!  

Ron - you can't compare because the child benefit was a small benefit available to all - it has no modern equivalent. Deduct that and look at the figures!

Mic - of course anything organised by public servants (now there is an oxymoron for the ages) is going to be a shambles but over time 1 council will be more cost effective than 7, although the mayor is going to murder millions of dollars before he is done.

by Alec Morgan on December 15, 2010
Alec Morgan

Dave Beggood is onto it. Bourgeois economists and generations of people mind bashed by neo liberalism and post modernism etc. may not want to go near concepts such as surplus value. But certain uncomfortable facts remain: US and European finance capital just about crashed several capitalist economies in 2008. But for taxpayer funded ‘bailouts’ surely corporate welfare? and a spot of money printing, the proverbial would have hit the fan even harder.

Bailouts actually happen 24/7 for a capitalist enterprise, the hidden factor of workers generating more value than they receive in wages. But isn’t that fair?-no because all wealth is created by the application of human labour and intellect to natural resources. It is just the minority private ownership and appropriation of the result that needs sorting out. Yes marxism for beginners, but the ‘politics that dare not speak its name’ is poised for a comeback before the planet chokes on its own dust.

It is insufficient to quote the failed worker states of the 20th century as some ‘end of history’ triumphalism. That was then, this is now. Capitalism has had its chance, as anyone that has followed UN stats for 60 years knows. It only outstays its welcome due to armed force and ideological force-msm.

by Mark Wilson on December 15, 2010
Mark Wilson

Sure Alec - North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba - workers paradises all.

Not good options for beneficiaries there.

It is insufficient to quote the failed worker states of the 20th century as some ‘end of history’ triumphalism. That was then, this is now. Capitalism has had its chance, as anyone that has followed UN stats for 60 years knows. It only outstays its welcome due to armed force and ideological force-msm.

Within 20 years only capitalism will be left. Socialism is gone for good because most people accept that 100 million deaths was a large enough total.

by nommopilot on December 15, 2010
nommopilot

"Within 20 years only capitalism will be left"

And then what will you do?  I thought you hated the left...?

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