Sacrifice isn't a popular word, but the government green paper on vulnerable children poses some tough questions for all of us. For one, if we're to really help the worst off, are we prepared to stop judging them?

What price are we willing to pay to make children safer in this country? For all that the timing of the government's green paper conveniently saves National from having to come up with any hard policy until after the election, it does raise the unpopular question of sacrifice and asks what you - and me - are prepared to give up for the sake of tackling our hideous statistics.

I don't think there's any doubt now that having ten young children killed here every year and 20 percent of our kids living in poverty can be called anything other than hideous.

So there's a broad consensus that we need to act. But how? Often the implication that it's time to get tough on others and it's time for others to act. Me? I'm fine over here, ta.

The green paper, however, talks of sacrifice. Sir Peter Gluckman, who as the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor has had a hand in this paper, said on Q+A today: "What are the trade-offs the country's prepared to make for our kids to do better?"

(There's a valid argument that National is putting unnecessary cost constraints on itself; that the obvious sacrifice not being asked is for those with plenty to pay higher taxes and higher wages to those with less. And as Sue Bradford writes, this government's track record on poverty alleviation is, well, poor. But that's not the discussion I want to have here, because even with higher taxes and a booming economy, the job of government is always to prioritise.)

The green papers raises a few ideas.

  •  One, will we sacrifice some privacy so that government agencies can more effectively share information?
  • Two, will in the middle-class forego some government programmes so that money can be targeted at the poorest?
  • And three, will those without kids let those with kids pass them in the queue for social services?

Of these suggestions, which are wise? And which fair?

For me, privacy seems like a luxury compared to child safety, and the worst privacy abuses less troublesome than the worst outcomes of children falling between the cracks of government services.

The targeting question is much harder. On one level it's a no-brainer. As Thomas Jefferson said, "There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people". Gold, that.

The growing weight of evidence is that the middle classes are mostly pretty good at looking after their own, and the real bang for your tax buck comes from throwing money and services at the least of these - often and early.

But politically it's tough to sell because it can be so unfair to those who miss out.

Many are wary because it allows governments to put some inside the box and leave some out, when there's an argument that health, welfare and education is a fundamental right of all citizens, whatever their income (or parents' income). And there's the political consideration that universal schemes are thought to last longer and be less susceptible to being set up by one administration, only to be dumped by the next. Put simply, if everyone has some skin in the game, it's harder for a political party to take it off them without losing votes. You only have to look at Working for Families to understand that point.

Those are arguments that appeal more to those on the left. On the right, and in the minds of many who bother to write letters to the editor or send feedback into Q+A, for example, the reluctance to target stems from concerns about the undeserving poor.

Yes, they say, targeting makes sense, family is paramount, let's save the kids! But scratch even a little at that surface and the support slides markedly. They say 'why should my taxes go to the likes of them?', 'get tough on the bludgers and cut their benefits' and 'cut the DPB for all those who breed for cash'. An example of the political risk: Look at what happened when Helen Clark's first term government tried to target negative Maori statistics.

The reality is that you have to choose. You can't target the poorest and punish 'bludgers' at the same time, because in most cases they're the same people. Saving kids from abuse means spending money on people that you may not like terribly much.

The other political problem is that targeting is another way of saying 'taking money off the voting middle classes to give to the less-voting poor'. Gluckman works very hard not to be political, but what he is saying, for example, is that quality early childcare is vital for all kids, but that most middle class kids are going to get it with or without state funding. So rather than 20 hours free for all, let's have higher quality provision for some.

Cue those households living on $80,000 saying how expensive kids are and how hard they work for their money compared to those bloody beneficiaries. (And lord knows, even the so-called middle classes don't have a lot of coin left at the end of the week.) The hard question is whether they will accept less so that those they perceive as scumbags get more.

Finally, should someone with a child get into rehab ahead of a single person? That's an example of how government funding might be aimed at those with kids.

Single people will ask why they should go without. Those who choose not to have kids, and can argue that they are thus already taking fewer of society's finite resources, can rightly argue that it's not fair.

To which the rejoinder now is, so are you prepared for sacrifice what's fair for what works?

All of these questions presuppose a big change in thinking for many New Zealanders; we are by and large a judgmental lot. We tend to want people to earn our help. We want to know they're worthy.

Thing is, that means nothing to the kids who are doing without, getting hit or missing school. They don't care what you or I think of their parent(s). Or who's paying for their toast and shoes.

So can we pay perhaps the toughest price of all? That is, can we suspend judgment and simply meet the need?

Comments (43)

by Graeme Edgeler on July 31, 2011
Graeme Edgeler

Look at what happened when Helen Clark's first term government tried to target negative Maori statistics.

They won the next election with an increased majority, had polls showing they might get an absolute majority, and took National to its worst ever election result.

by The Falcon on July 31, 2011
The Falcon

So can we pay perhaps the toughest price of all? That is, can we suspend judgment and simply meet the need?

No. It might seem like it's solving the problem to throw more cash at the most negligent parents, but there are two problems with this:

1) The more cash you pay people to breed, the more they will breed. It starts an endless cycle.

2) There's no guarantee the cash will be spent on the child.

Personally I would like to see negligent parents who don't bother to properly feed their kids charged with criminal negligence. We don't tolerate people neglecting their pets, yet we throw cash at those who neglect human beings.

by stuart munro on August 01, 2011
stuart munro

In a word, no.

Meals at schools to the needy kids- all up cost $7-8 million. Can't end up on booze & cigs - parents never see it - not that most beneficiaries have spare pennies for such things with a 9% cost of living increase in their bracket this year.

We can afford to wage a doomed and immoral war in Afghanistan. We can afford to transport ministerial bottoms by BMW. We can afford cricketing goodwill ambassadors on prime ministerial junkets to India. But we cannot afford to feed our hungry children. - They might grow up with the unrealistic expectation of stable jobs, and living wages.

Still, gravy for any opposition party with the guts to clearly say that NZ kids shall not go hungry. Awfully quiet, though, aren't they...

by Ross Bell on August 01, 2011
Ross Bell

Finally, should someone with a child get into rehab ahead of a single person?

Let's first make sure we have enough rehabs and other alcohol/drug services in the first instance, whether for parents with kids or not.

by Tim Watkin on August 01, 2011
Tim Watkin

Graeme, don't be so cute! Are you really questioning my point, which was that any attempt at targetting will exact a political price? There was a cost paid by Labour for that attempted policy, regardless of the next election, not least the ground laid for the foreshore & seabed over-reaction (by the party and the public) and Orewa etc.

Falcon, I'd love to hear our evidence to back up the claim that people are 'paid to breed'. It's a repulsive image and I've never seen any numbers or cause and effect data to back that up. Even the word 'breed' is purposefully dehumanising.

Some folk have further children safe in the knowledge the state will provide? Sure. A stupid choice, but not quite the cunning, money-spinning plan you make it out to be. Unless you're a complete conspiracy theorist, presumably you'll accept that most repeat births by beneficiaries stem from some sloppy or drunken mistake or – shock – more passion than financial sense?

And do you really think that if you removed the funding the lack of education and ambition, carelessness about contraception, drug and alcohol abuse etc that is so often part of the picture will suddenly disappear as well?

Do you think every beneficiary who has a child, when faced with a financial penalty, will suddenly say "thanks for showing me the light, I won't have any more children without an income to support them"? And if not, what do you believe will happen to their kids?

As for not bothering to feed a child... have you ever met someone who simply can't afford enough food? I have; thank God I haven't had to be there myself. But if there's evidence of child neglect, state services often do intervene, so I'm not sure what change you're suggesting.

Finally, you say "there's no guarantee the cash will be spent on the child". Depends how you spend the funding. Funding for more Plunket visits... more social workers... parenting classes... child-friendly centres in poor areas... school meals... and so on.

 

by Graeme Edgeler on August 01, 2011
Graeme Edgeler

Graeme, don't be so cute! Are you really questioning my point, which was that any attempt at targetting will exact a political price? There was a cost paid by Labour for that attempted policy, regardless of the next election, not least the ground laid for the foreshore & seabed over-reaction (by the party and the public) and Orewa etc.

My point was mostly that a popular government can get away with things that an unpopular government cannot.

Don Brash can give a successful Orewa speech, and Bill English giving a similar speech a little earlier can lead National to its worst ever election result. etc.

by The Falcon on August 01, 2011
The Falcon

Here's the evidence: Economics101. If you offer cash incentives for doing something, people will do it more often. I can guarantee there will be a link between increasing "baby bonus" welfare like the DPB and Working for families, and birth rates. Surely you don't think the science of economics just stops applying when you're talking about children?

I refer you to this article: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/5365493/Pre-teens-dream-of-kids-and-dole

Presumably you don't regard stuff.co.nz as a conspiracy website?

And if not, what do you believe will happen to their kids?

Unfortunately, the "think of the children" argument is used to justify a literally endless amount of money being thrown at these people. If they spend it all on cigarettes, throw more money at them because otherwise the children will suffer. If they gamble the new money away, give them more for the children's sake. The bludgers are using their children as hostages to extract a ransom from society, and the bludgers know that society will pay up again and again and again.

As for not bothering to feed a child... have you ever met someone who simply can't afford enough food? I have; thank God I haven't had to be there myself. But if there's evidence of child neglect, state services often do intervene, so I'm not sure what change you're suggesting.

I am very very skeptical of the idea that people "can't afford food". The numbers of such people must be close to zero. I guess it's just our different biases, just as you would find it hard to believe that wealthy people actually work hard in positions that require skill and responsibility. You would tend to assume they're mostly evil lazy people.

Finally, you say "there's no guarantee the cash will be spent on the child". Depends how you spend the funding. Funding for more Plunket visits... more social workers... parenting classes... child-friendly centres in poor areas... school meals... and so on.

Well that would certainly be preferable to just giving cash, which is what the DPB, dole and WFF do. Ideally people would not gain a single dollar of taxpayer cash from having a child.

by stuart munro on August 02, 2011
stuart munro

I am very very skeptical of the idea that people "can't afford food".

Well go and talk to some of the more experienced food bank providers before you embarrass yourself any further.

by on August 02, 2011
Anonymous

Some of child poverty would be allieviated if Men would man up and pay to support "THEIR" children properly and not abdicate responsibility to the state.

 

 

by on August 02, 2011
Anonymous

Gee Stuart have you been to the supermarket lately?

by The Falcon on August 02, 2011
The Falcon

Well go and talk to some of the more experienced food bank providers before you embarrass yourself any further.

Funnily enough I got food from the foodbank a few days ago, despite the fact that I can afford food. Left-wingers would claim people can't afford to eat even if the lowest wage was $1billion. In the end it's just a front for your loathing of inequality; you're using "can't afford to eat" as a more acceptable front for the politics of envy.

I note that WINZ now regards a television as an essential item that you can get a grant for. So-called "poverty" in NZ is a joke.

by stuart munro on August 02, 2011
stuart munro

@ Patsy - recently enough to know that a pound of butter was $3 cheaper here in Korea, before NZ's latest gst increases. And that cost of living inflation on the lower classes of NZ, has been outrageous ever since Labour sold out - there has been no-one protecting the vulnerable at all.

Falcon, it isn't quite clear which is worse - pretending to fraud to shore up an untenable argument, or actually indulging in fraud at the expense of NZ's most vulnerable. You're obviously a true blue American, which is to say, beneath contempt  - oh wait - you ran out on those guys -.not even that.

What you know about poverty in New Zealand doesn't amount to a hill of beans. Wanting to eat occasionally does not constitute a politics of envy. A society succeeds or fails together.New Zealand's slide to the right has accompanied our plummet in OECD ratings.  It's time you gave up your flip nonsense and actually met some people trying to live on social welfare you ignorant, arrogant, buffoon.

by The Falcon on August 02, 2011
The Falcon

WINZ's definition of "poverty" includes not having a TV. I assume you want to upgrade that definition so that everyone who doesn't have a 50 inch plasma TV is in poverty. Oh and we couldn't possibly condemn the bludgers in Farmer Crescent, Lower Hutt for having Sky TV. They need it! Otherwise they'd be in poverty, and we wouldn't want that.

Personally I would like to see grants for 3D TVs for beneficiaries. It's an essential need, not a want. How can they get ahead in a 3D world if they're stuck with two dimensions? It's poverty I tell you.

by Tim Watkin on August 02, 2011
Tim Watkin

Falcon, "these people"? You really think that anyone on a beneficiary is a lower form of life, don't you? Seriously, can you not imagine that people get trapped by cancer, one dumb drunken night, rape, or stuff beyond their control?

When did you last speak to someone on a benefit? Or at a foodbank? One of the privileges of being a journalist is that I've interviewed all sorts. I've seen the empty cupboards mate. And I've volunteered at a foodbank. I've heard the stories of having to choose between fixing the washing machine or buying something other than Weet-Bix. You might "find it hard to believe", but just because you don't bother to talk to "these people" doesn't mean they don't exist.

And you know what? I know, like and respect lots of hard working rich people. I'm doing pretty well myself. I just don't despise those who have less than me or assume that being wealthy makes someone a better parent. There are beneficiaries who buy cigarettes rather than shoes for their children, and we can slag them off together. But then let's also slag off the middle classes who give their kids too much booze and crap food or the upper classes who flick their kids off to boarding school and don't give them any time or affection. Mate, there are plenty of negative stereotypes to go round and all have some truth, but let's not condemn a whole class cos of the few, eh?

You don't believe it's a few? I can only point you back to previous posts, where I've pointed out, for example, that a grand total of one third of one percent of the working age population in this country are on the dole for more than a year at a time. In other words, the stereotypes you choose to traffic are the exception, not the rule.

Simply saying "Economics 101" isn't evidence. Not everything in life is an equation. Damn it, people make mistakes and end up in the crap. Not everyone's out to steal form the sainted middle and upper classes.

As for the link to a single Sunday News story, yeah I do think that's crap. It's a single source, anecdotal story tacked onto some website numbers from a tabloid rag in a slow news week. If that's your idea of evidence... and if that's the best you can do...

Finally, you believe the "think of the children" argument has wasted millions. Do you want to hazard a guess how much more it might have cost had they been abandoned? And for all your bitter words, you still don't answer the vital question I asked. What happens to the kids? Even if there are hundreds of thousands of "these people" using their children as hostages, as you seem determined to believe, I'd like to know what you think would happen to the children if the money was removed? Are you comfortable with them suffering for the sins of their parents?

by william blake on August 03, 2011
william blake

Falcon your anachronistic fixation on Left - Right polarised politics of exclusion betrays a fundamental mistrust in humanity.

by Tim Watkin on August 03, 2011
Tim Watkin

Anyone willing to answer on Falcon's behalf? As someone seems to have clipped his beak.

by The Falcon on August 03, 2011
The Falcon

Falcon, "these people"? You really think that anyone on a beneficiary is a lower form of life, don't you? Seriously, can you not imagine that people get trapped by cancer, one dumb drunken night, rape, or stuff beyond their control?

You're focusing on the 1% here rather than the 99%.

I've seen the empty cupboards mate. And I've volunteered at a foodbank.

I've volunteered at a charity as well. You can't always trust everything people say about their blameless circumstances... a lot of the time they're not telling the whole story. If you do the maths, people on a benefit should easily be able to afford food. If they can't afford it, it's because they're not budgeting properly. Can I ask what you would consider to be a wage on which someone can survive?

You don't believe it's a few? I can only point you back to previous posts, where I've pointed out, for example, that a grand total of one third of one percent of the working age population in this country are on the dole for more than a year at a time.

I read that post, did you count the DPB (the most expensive benefit of all)?

Simply saying "Economics 101" isn't evidence. Not everything in life is an equation. Damn it, people make mistakes and end up in the crap. Not everyone's out to steal form the sainted middle and upper classes.

Yes people make mistakes. What about a better system for insulating people from calamities, i.e. private insurance? That way people can take responsibility for protecting their own future instead of budging off others.

I'd like to know what you think would happen to the children if the money was removed? Are you comfortable with them suffering for the sins of their parents?

No I'm not comfortable with that. But I'm really really uncomfortable with paying a literally endless amount of money to useless parents. They get paid cash for every child they have and the cycle gets worse and worse as each of the 8 children born into a welfare-dependent family has another 8 welfare-dependent children. Meanwhile the 17% of households who pay 97% of the net income tax struggle to carry the burden of a nation.

I favour an approach based on deterring criminal negligence by parents.

by Andrew Geddis on August 03, 2011
Andrew Geddis

You're focusing on the 1% here rather than the 99%.

You're just pulling figures from your fundament, aren't you?

I've volunteered at a charity as well.

Really? Did you steal from them as well, or is it just foodbanks you feel you're entitled to rip off?

If you do the maths, people on a benefit should easily be able to afford food. If they can't afford it, it's because they're not budgeting properly.

Funny, then, about the amount of concern expressed by budgeting service providers about how much their clients are struggling to meet the bills on essentials like food, power, etc. Unless, of course, you think the budget services aren't doing their job properly (or are lying)?

What about a better system for insulating people from calamities, i.e. private insurance? That way people can take responsibility for protecting their own future instead of budging off others.

We already have a great way of insulating people from calamities. It's called the social welfare state, and I take responsibility for protecting myself through it by paying my taxes - just as every other working New Zealander does. If you're concerned about "bludgers", then put up an economic policy that provides jobs for the 6-7% unemployed so that they can take their part in this collective responsibility.

Meanwhile the 17% of households who pay 97% of the net income tax struggle to carry the burden of a nation.

Someone hasn't been reading Pundit frequently enough ... see here for why this is nonsense.

 

by The Falcon on August 03, 2011
The Falcon

You're just pulling figures from your fundament, aren't you?

You're right, the reality is that 30% of all babies are born to rape victims. My mistake.

Really? Did you steal from them as well, or is it just foodbanks you feel you're entitled to rip off?

Meow. No one's "stealing" anything here.

Unless, of course, you think the budget services aren't doing their job properly (or are lying)?

Budgeting services are just like any other interest group, they have their own biases. The Business Roundtable often says it's impossible for businesses to get ahead in NZ's regulatory environment, but you presumably think they're lying about that.

We already have a great way of insulating people from calamities. It's called the social welfare state, and I take responsibility for protecting myself through it by paying my taxes - just as every other working New Zealander does.

Except the bottom 44% take $4.40 in welfare for every dollar they pay. Stop making out like people are taking responsiblity for themselves and admit that half the people are leeching off the other half.

Someone hasn't been reading Pundit frequently enough ... see here for why this is nonsense.

And see here for why Rob Salmond's pundit post is nonsense. http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2011/07/new_maths.html

Instead of avoiding the issue with dodgy maths, why don't you tell me whether you would support a (hypothetical or not) situation where 17% of households pay 97% of net income tax. Because to me it seems like the word "poverty" is being thrown around as an excuse for envy taxes and more welfare.

by DeepRed on August 03, 2011
DeepRed

@Falcon: abolishing the welfare state is easy to do, but it's unlikely to stop the 'proles' breeding or motivate them to climb the ladder, so what then? A CCTV in every state house bedroom? Napalm drops on South Auckland and Porirua? An Escape From New York or an Antifaschistischer Schutzwall on Manukau? Or chicken out and cotton-wool oneself behind razor wires like in Bolivia or Joburg?

Or there's always Somalia...

by The Falcon on August 03, 2011
The Falcon

NZ should have a constitution that forbids government spending on ridiculous things like the dole. In that case, the "proles" can breed as much as they want, although in reality they would breed a LOT less.

by Andrew Geddis on August 03, 2011
Andrew Geddis

Oh Falcon,

Why do you hate democracy so?

by The Falcon on August 03, 2011
The Falcon

I'm sure the homosexual community in Jamaica love democracy. 95% of people democratically voted to make homosexual activity punishable by 10 years in prison. Good ol' democracy, the will of the people rules all.

Way to avoid my questions by the way.

by Tim Watkin on August 03, 2011
Tim Watkin

So 99% of those on beneficiaries and 1% are the deserving poor? I pity you your miserable view of people, I really do.

I've volunteered at a charity as well. You can't always trust everything people say about their blameless circumstances...

I accept that. I've seen the rip off merchants. But if you really believe that's the majority, you're deluded and not talking to the people coming in for help or the long-term workers who have seen a thing or two.

But if you still don't believe me, perhaps you'll believe these kids... or are they bludgers too?

I read that post, did you count the DPB (the most expensive benefit of all)?

Nope, that post and the one third of one percent figure was about those on Unemployment. I haven't got figures on the DPB, except to say that there are roughly twice as many people collecting the DPB as the dole. Problem is, those on the DPB by definition are looking after kids, so have a particular reason to be getting state support, and also by definition, should be on the DPB for longer (ie even this government says the first six years of a kid's life is ok). So how would you define a DPB bludger?

And then for the biggie – thanks for finally answering. So you're more concerned about taxpayers' rights than children's rights. As you say, you're more "uncomfortable" about potential taxpayer waste than about actual child poverty. And we wonder why we have a problem with neglect in this country. Seriously, who in this picture should be arrested?

by The Falcon on August 04, 2011
The Falcon

http://wheresmytaxes.co.nz/

Ministry of Social Development is the largest government department, wasting $22billion per year, or 27% of government expenditure. Here are the stats for how much the different types of dole cost:

$430.09 (⇧7.4%) Domestic Purposes Benefit
$305.74 (⇧3.1%) Invalid's Benefit
$286.99 (⇧5.1%) Accommodation Assistance
$233.58 (⇧7.3%) Unemployment Benefit and Emergency Benefit
$177.60 (⇧5.4%) Sickness Benefit

As you can see, the deadbeat mothers are topping the list by quite a margin.

So you're more concerned about taxpayers' rights than children's rights.

Your problem is that you don't accept that the line has to be drawn somewhere. You seem to accept that children are being effectively held hostage to extract ransom after ransom from taxpayers... but your solution is to keep paying. Imagine if governments started paying the Somalian pirates' ransoms - a few hostages would initially be saved but the number of kidnappings would increase tenfold, which would result in far more deaths over time.

If you really cared about children so much, you'd be donating the majority of your salary to African children. The fact that you don't do this shows that you believe trade-offs are necessary. You'd rather have a giant TV than to save another African child.

by DeepRed on August 04, 2011
DeepRed

In a perfect world people wouldn't need to collect benefits. But the questions in my previous post remain unanswered. Further to that, what's the point of a (near) zero-tax regime if your kids have to be escorted to school by the SAS, and the only thing between you and the barbarians at the gate is a good supply of razor wire and bodyguards? Visit any gated community in La Paz, Joburg, Lima, or any other law-of-the-jungle place to see what I mean.

From past historical precedent, 'starving proles' turned to reading Mao and Guevara, and we all know how that usually turned out.

by Tim Watkin on August 04, 2011
Tim Watkin

Fellow citizens fallen on hard times, for whatever reason, who are raising children, are not Somali pirates. There's no moral equivalency.

All you're doing is showing how much contempt you have for other New Zealanders.

by Andrew Geddis on August 04, 2011
Andrew Geddis

Falcon,

In what way is the collective decision reached through a democratically elected legislature to have progressive taxation and social welfare programmes is the same as criminalising sexual relationships between same-sex couples? If you want to enforce a libertarian regime upon a populace unwilling to vote it into existence, then it's up to you to explain why your preferred political/economic system is the one that must be in place, irrespective of the desires of those who have to live under it. Which, incidentally, makes you the Taliban of the right ...

As for the rest of your arguments, it's hard to argue with someone who either just makes up figures or misrepresents them. For example, the MSD may be the largest government department, but how much of that spending is on superannuation (or does it not matter, because old people are deadbeats too)?  Equally, using Bill English/David Farrar's figures, I am happy with a society where the top 56% of income earners pay 154% of tax ... whatever that means. And I write that as someone who actually pays tax, btw.

by The Falcon on August 04, 2011
The Falcon

DeepRed - threats of violence, nice. Luckily we have prisons to prevent that.

Tim - some of them are like the pirates. And your response is to pay the ransom every time, without question.

Andrew - In what way is the collective decision through a democratically elected legislature to jail gay people for 10 years and different from the decision to smack the top 17% with massive taxes? You're supposed to be an expert on democracy, so why not admit that democratic majorities make horrible decisions at times and should be prevented from doing so?

If you want to enforce a libertarian regime upon a populace unwilling to vote it into existence...

By your logic, gay people in Jamaica are being incredibly selfish demanding the right to live their lives without being jailed, when in reality 95% of the populace are unwilling to give them that right.

If saying "fuck you" to the majority who wants to criminalise homosexuality is Taliban-esque in your mind... then your mind is deteriorating.

As for your last paragraph, once again you have refused to answer the question. The reason you refused is because you don't care about poverty at all; it's just a mask for your hatred of inequality, even if no poverty exists.

Once again, the question is: Regardless of whether the 17%/97% figure is correct, would you be happy with the top 17% of households paying 97% of the income tax?

All you have to do is answer the question.

by Tim Watkin on August 04, 2011
Tim Watkin

I still think the pirate metaphor says more about your world view than anything real in our welfare system.

But if I was to buy into it, I guess it comes down to this – I guess I'd rather pay the ransom and save the child, rather than standby and see the child shot for the sake of a few bucks.

You're happy to lose a few (thousand) children in the misguided belief that somehow you can teach people a lesson. The problem with that thinking is that tens of thousands end up on a benefit and with children without thinking it's a clever get rich scheme. So you're punishing them to make your point – daming the 'deserving poor' just to punish your 'undeserving poor'.

And second, "the poor will always be with us". If you accept that fact, you can either go round preaching at them or you can show compassion and try to break the cycle. It won't always work, but it's a system of hope. Yours is one of despair and condescension.

by Tim Watkin on August 04, 2011
Tim Watkin

Oh, and while Andrew can answer for himself, the reason why no-one's answering your 17/97 question is that no-one byys your numbers. They're just something else you've plucked from the air. But the answer to the principle is obvious and in Andrew's previous comments... Yes, a progressive tax system assumes that those who are best off pay the most. It helps with inequality and stuff (like everyone having a stake in society, so a more stable society and so on).

by Richard Aston on August 05, 2011
Richard Aston

Falcon I have no idea where you got those benefit figures from but they are wildly wrong.

From the 2011 Budget  we have
( in $ millions)

Sickness benefit: 782.38 (3.40%)
Unemployment benefit and emergency benefit: 1,028.95 (4.40%)
Accommodation assistance: 1,264.23 (5.50%)
Invalid's benefit: 1,346.84 (5.80%)
Student loans:     1,589.68 (6.90%)
Domestic purposes benefit: 1,894.64 (8.20%)
New Zealand Superannuation:9,575.37 (41.30%)
From a total Social Welfare Budget of   $23,166.31 Million.

The big item clearly is Superannuation.

DPB at 8.2 % is not exactly a huge item.

How many of those people on DPB are the bludgers or useless parents you speak of ? I my work I engage with hundreds of solo parents the vast majority of whom are pretty good parents trying their best - and yes a small percentage are terrible parents addicted to welfare. It's so easy to tar all solo parents with the same bludger brush.

Sounds like a snappy , clever debating tool but actuall its just bloody lazy thinking.

 

 

by The Falcon on August 05, 2011
The Falcon

And second, "the poor will always be with us". If you accept that fact, you can either go round preaching at them or you can show compassion and try to break the cycle. It won't always work, but it's a system of hope. Yours is one of despair and condescension.

Actually it's YOUR worldview that is despairing. I hope that NZ's economy will continue to grow and that one day even the poorest person will be very well off by today's standards. Again, it makes me wonder whether you really care about "poverty" or whether you would be claiming a guy on $1b per year in a $5b per year average wage society was in "poverty". You just want all incomes to be the same.

no-one byys your numbers. They're just something else you've plucked from the air.

I didn't pluck them from the air, they were published on kiwiblog. But it doesn't matter whether they're true for the purposes of saying whether you like the idea of a 17/97 system. Good on you for acknowledging that you're okay with it. Perhaps Andrew should do the same.

by Richard Aston on August 05, 2011
Richard Aston

An observation - Tim started a discussion on the Green paper with what I thought were some good starting points.
The debate has now descended into a polarised tennis match between Falcon and the rest. I got sucked in, Falcon's statements are so wildly opinionated and factually lose we can't help but want to offer a rational counter balance. I just had to hold back on responding to “30% of all babies are born to rape victims “.  It does deserve a reply.
This is not a discussion that will build any new understanding; it is not a conversation that will lead anywhere at all.
My most positive take on the green paper is it’s an opportunity to have a wider conversion on changing outcomes for vulnerable children. It’s an area I work in and I think the debate is very much needed, an intelligent and reflective conversation is most welcomed.  The area of child abuse and vulnerable children is not simple and does not lend itself to point scoring polarised debate. In fact it deserves way more from us than that. Because in the end we can all enjoy a political point scoring debate and go home with satisfied egos but the problems don’t go away, in fact they get worse and those of us doing the work carry on regardless. 
We desperately need creative thinking and generative conversations around this topic. There will be politics in this area, no doubt, but the politics is just bum fluff, ephemeral opinions of little value toward the understanding let alone the solutions.

by Andrew Geddis on August 05, 2011
Andrew Geddis

"In what way is the collective decision through a democratically elected legislature to jail gay people for 10 years and different from the decision to smack the top 17% with massive taxes?"

I'm tempted to just say that if you can't tell the difference between never being able to safely and openly engage in a loving, physical relationship with another person and only receiving $15,000 a month rather than $17,000, then there isn't much hope for you as a person. But, seeing as you asked so nicely ... they differ in the way that an individual's sexual preferences and practices are so intrinsically bound up with that individual's sense of self that to prohibit them from engaging in these is to fundamentally deny their human worth (provided, of course, there is no immediate harm to others involved). Hence, the criminal law ought not to be invoked in this realm, because it is (i) not the business of the law to try and dictate moral choice where there is no harm to others involved; and (ii) the consequences of intervention are to force individuals to repress and denny a fundamentally important part of their very nature. By contrast, the earning of wealth is at best an instrumental benefit for an individual - one that is accomplished against a social background which both permits and aids that activity. Consequently, the degree to which an individual is expected to contribute to the functioning of that society in which their wealth accumulation occurred is one that is properly within the realm of collective decision making.

Now, whether the law really should remain silent on sexual mores is a debate that has been had (see here). And there may be some (even a majority in Jamaica or elsewhere) who still say that this approach is wrong - the law should enforce moral codes on purely private behaviour. To which I would say "this is a mistaken view of the world", and I would argue against it, and I would hope to change minds. But that does not necessarily mean I would say that the national constitution must be written in such a way that prohibits the criminalisation of gay sex - always recognising, of course, that writing a constitution is something that requires the consent of the people ... and how exactly do you propose to get the people to agree to a constitution that allows gay sex when they won't agree to an ordinary law that allows gay sex?

Finally, I would note that in New Zealand, it was democracy that not only decriminalised homosexuality, but also permitted civil unions and will, within my lifetime, allow for full gay marriage. So, you know, majorities suck ... unless, of course, they don't.

"Good on you for acknowledging that you're okay with it. Perhaps Andrew should do the same."

But Falcon - I DID acknowledge that I'm quite happy with 54% of the population paying 156% of the tax ... which is what Bill English's/DPF's figures show. If that doesn't make any sense to you, then I'm sorry that the figures you yourself are relying on are unintelligible.

As for the rest - I'm with Richard ... you've had a good go here, but I'm done arguing this stuff with you. And yes, that means you win. 1 million interwebz points to you.

by on August 06, 2011
Anonymous

<i>I didn't pluck them from the air, they were published on kiwiblog.</i>

Priceless! Unitentional, but priceless nevertheless.

by Richard Aston on August 08, 2011
Richard Aston

Back to the original questions...

"Will we sacrifice some privacy so that government agencies can more effectively share information?"

This disturbs me a little - I may be paranoid but I worry when a govt uses emotive issues to talk up greater govt interferance, last time we saw this was the ChCh earthquake recovery bill giving Jerry Brownlie draconian powers - surfing on the ChCh greif and guilt wave.

In my experiance just getting govt departments to share and consolidate information they have outside of privacy considerations would be a huge step forward. Child abuse stats for example. I recently got some research done on these for one of my projects and was horrified to find this area was a mess frankly. CYFs. Justice and Police seem to have different stats. Trying to get down to stats that show any causative linkages was impossible. Talking to the police, they gathered  a lot of useful info in their interviews but none of it made it into statistical reports . Families Commission - useless , Childrens Commission - next to useless. Just getting detialed data on child neglect and abuse in a comprehensive clearing house woud be a big start and would not require intrusions into privacy.

Lets try to at least understand the nature and extent of the problem before we fire off solutions.

 

by Richard Aston on August 08, 2011
Richard Aston

Second question.
"Two, will in the middle-class forego some government programmes so that money can be targeted at the poorest?"
Why does it have to be an either/ or ? 
Why do we assume poverty causes child abuse? Yes it seems there could be a linkage ie more child abuse happens in poor backgrounds but do we know its causative? ie making the poor less poor will fix child abuse. The poor are more likely to be on social service case files, wealthier people are better at hiding child abuse or at least managing social services.

by Richard Aston on August 08, 2011
Richard Aston

Actually what we have sacrificed to date is creative thinking. It seems to me so many of the attempted solutions to child abuse have been lumbering mechanical approaches – one size fits all policies implemented with machine like momentum.  Fractionated multi service approaches , uncoordinated and completely lacking any realistic engagement with individuals. Social workers with huge caseloads allocating 10 mins per case – referring off to multiple agencies in the hope that someone will fix the problem.  And within all this some real heros , stars who can engage identify the real issues and the people who can be part of the needed change.

by Brendon Mills on August 09, 2011
Brendon Mills

Tim, are you saying that people should be prepared to give up our universal health care system?

Last year a single friend of mine in her 50's had her gallbladder out and a month ago a gastric bypass through the public health system, and her quality of life has massively improved in the past 18 months. Are you saying that she should have gone without so 'at risk families' can get those resources?

Our social housing system is targeted at families. If youre a single person with a housing need, you can forget about getting a state house. Youll have to take your chances in the private rental market. A lot of those single people have ended up in lice infested rickety boarding houses or in homeless shelters. That is the reality of what your targeting will get you.

The best way to deal with child abuse is to start changing our attitude to violence and agression.

by Tim Watkin on August 10, 2011
Tim Watkin

Richard, going from Lord Winston and Sir Peter, the evidence suggests a link between poverty and abuse exists. It's not exclusive of course, but... And no it needn't be an either/or, but then you have to argue for more taxes, bigger government etc. And then there's the point that ideologically it needn't be either/or, but in this market and with Christchurch to rebuild, we may have to make some choices.

Either way, I didn't want to have that argument in this post, but rather talk about whether targeting is politically viable regardless. Targeting may be wise even if we had all the money in the world.

by Tim Watkin on August 10, 2011
Tim Watkin

Brendon, I'm asking that question. I'm not making an argument, but if our resources are squeezed as a country for the next few years and given the research shows throwing money at the abuse problem may work, well, where might we move the money from?

Personally, my choic wouldn't be from your friend.

Perhaps changing attitudes is important, but that takes many, many years and putting resources where problems already exist now is vital - let's not pretend we can just talk our way out of this.

by Brendon Mills on August 10, 2011
Brendon Mills

Tim, the simple answer is to reverse the millions of dollars worth of tax cuts that high income earners had been lavished with over National's term.

We can also implement the capital gains tax and as a former British Chancellor said, squeeze speculators until their pips squeak.

We can also get rid of the insane ticket clipping within the state sector (in the form of outsourcing, etc).

I really dont think we need to start robbing Peter to pay Paul at all.

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