Road blocks to family life

October 11, 2014

Is helping middle class families social engineering?

James Pethokoukis asks the question and provides his answer:

One frequently mentioned criticism of the plan in “Room to Grow” to dramatically expand the child tax credit* is that it’s somehow “social engineering.” But as Bob Stein, the author of that chapter, has patiently pointed out, the expansion would actually help offset the anti-family “social engineering” of current government policy and make Americans less dependent on government.

Anyway, all this talk of “social engineering” reminded me of a passage in “Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II” by George Weigel (bold is mine):

Perhaps the hardest-fought battle between Church and [Poland's] regime involved family life, for the communists understood that men and women secure in the love of their families were a danger. Housing, work schedules, and school hours were all organized by the state to separate parents from their children as frequently as possible. Apartments were constructed to accommodate only small families, so that children would be regarded as a problem. Work was organized in four shifts and families were rarely together. The workday began at 6 or 7 a.m., so children had to be consigned to state-run child-care centers before school. The schools themselves were consolidated, and children were moved out of their local communities for schooling.

Now that’s social engineering. I guess my point here is that policy reformers should think carefully about the roadblocks government inadvertently puts up to Americans conducting a healthy family life. Maybe that’s tax policy. Maybe it’s welfare policy. . . .

I am not a fan of Working for Families when it is given to people earning well above the average wage.

However, I do accept it has a place at the lower end of the wage scale to ensure families are better off with a parent in work than on welfare.

Anecdotal evidence says it discourages  a second parent from seeking work because what’s earned is cancelled out by what’s lost in steep abatements from WFF.

If financial reward was a major consideration in the parent seeking work that could be the case.

Another issue which impacts on family life is the push for urban development which promotes infill-housing and going up rather than out.

Going up results in apartment blocks and in-fill housing – both usually have hardly any outside areas for relaxation and play which families need.

That is the norm in many other countries and isn’t a problem if there are plenty of public recreation areas which isn’t always the case.

The concern people have over the ageing population is not just a function of the post-war baby-boom. It’s a function of people having fewer or no children since then.

How many children people have, or if they have any at all, is entirely their business.

However, governments can influence that by policies which are or aren’t family friendly.

WFF is family friendly although it gives support to some who might not need it.

Sole parent benefits do support families in need, but they can also sabotage family relationships if the state is a better bread-winner than the absent parent.


Helping to help selves

September 29, 2014

Prime Minister John Key has asked officials to come up with fresh ideas to tackle the issue of child poverty.

. . . Key’s genius is to sense developing problems, define what needs to be done and then act decisively to cauterise them. No better example is the call he has made this week for the DPMC, Treasury and other departments to delve into the issue of child poverty, and come up with fresh advice on how to wrap services into meeting the needs of those families who are struggling.

Left to its own, child poverty could lead to the evolution of a frustrated under-class and long-term a divided society. Key is going to make sure the issue is dealt to and doesn’t become a political headache. He doesn’t belong to the school which believes throwing more money at the problem is the solution. There’s a fundamental tension between ensuring sufficient welfare assistance is available and ensuring incentives to get into work are strong enough. Two out of five children said to be in poverty are in homes where one parent at least is in work.

Working for Families and other welfare measures are tactical measures: the overall strategy lies in more jobs, and, as Key sees it, in upskilling those who lack the skills for the opportunities opening up. Key argues the million NZers who voted for National on Saturday are caring people who will want to see the Govt understands the issue and is working its way through it. But he says those million people will also want to see those to whom assistance is targeted helping themselves. . .

Children shouldn’t be punished for poor decisions their parents make but nor should parents be paid, or compensated, for abrogating their responsibilities.

Only the hardest of hearts would begrudge assistance to the most vulnerable.

But most people work hard for their money and expect that those their taxes help, help themselves if and when they are able to.

Simply throwing money at the problem would entrench dependency and the social and economic issues that follow.


Environment first for farmers

September 20, 2014

Lincoln University research shows environmental stewardship is a high priority for farmers:

Farmers on properties with a net annual profit less than $50,000 list ‘minimising pollution’, ‘improving the condition of the property’ and ‘ensuring employees enjoy their job’ as more important objectives than ‘expanding the business’ or ‘making a comfortable living’.

That’s according to the latest results from research conducted by Lincoln University Senior Lecturer in Farm Management Research, Dr Kevin Old, and Research Fellow, Dr Peter Nuthall, who sought opinions and preferences with regard to farm succession and governance.

According to the researchers, the prioritised objectives of less profitable farmers may reflect a mindset which has largely dismissed the idea of achieving larger returns or expanding the business on grounds that these are essentially unobtainable. As such, job satisfaction or meaning comes from notions of environmental stewardship or quality of life.

Interestingly, farmers on properties with lower returns also placed ‘attending field days’ as one of the lowest objectives.

There could well be a link between this apparent unwillingness to learn and low returns. But it could also be that these farmers don’t feel they can afford the time off their farms.

For more profitable farms (those with a net annual profit of $100,000-$150,000) the same objectives appear as top choices, albeit in a slightly different order. These farmers put ‘it is important to make a comfortable living’ at the top of the list. However, the other top ranked objectives are in the same order with ‘minimise pollution’ fitting in after ‘ensuring employees enjoy their job’.

Of great surprise to the researchers was the objective ‘it is important to pass the farm to family’ being placed at the bottom of the list as the lowest ranked objective. . .

I think this has changed after the ag-sag of the 80s when farms couldn’t afford to have adult children come home and they got work elsewhere.

New Zealand has historically had an orientation toward the family farm: ownership systems were simple, and most farms kept one or two people fully occupied. Likewise, objectives were orientated toward farming ‘as a way of life’. The research aimed at ascertaining whether this traditional model has changed and to what degree.

It was found that the average age of farmers in New Zealand in 2006 was 50, but in 2013 this had edged up to 53. The average farm size has similarly increased, from 557 hectares in 2006 to 591 hectares in 2013.

The average number of people working on the farms has also increased. In 2006 it was 2.05, whereas the figure for 2013 sits at 2.76.

The researchers noted that changes in employment levels per farm are most pronounced in the dairy sector. This is no doubt due to growth in the sector which has seen dairy production increase from 951.5 kilograms of milksolids per hectare in 2006 to 1134.3 kilograms of milksolids per hectare in 2013 (compared with a drop in lambing productivity from 130.3 percent to 127 percent).

The South Island in particular has seen a notable increase in average farm size, which has gone some way to contribute to the fact that 3.2 percent of all farms in New Zealand – all of which are dairy operations – now have eight or more people working on them.

Across all farm types, 25 percent are run by a single person. Farms with two people make up a further 41 percent, with three person farms covering an additional 13.5 percent. As such, close to 80 percent of farms in New Zealand are still low labour operations.

Of note, 20 percent of all New Zealand farms are sheep farms and have three people or fewer working on them.

It was also found that sheep farms experience less of a problem finding sufficient labour than dairy operations.

That reflects our experience.

Along with the increasing age of farm managers, the number of years which farmers own their farms is probably increasing. Currently the average length of ownership is 25 years.

Another change is likely to be in the number of farms each farmer has an interest in. While nearly 60 percent of farmers are involved with only one farm, the average across all farm types is 1.75 farms. This number is increasing, however, largely due to the growth in dairying, with some farmers holding an interest in more than seven farms.

It was found that family farms have a variety of ownership systems. Private companies are becoming important, with 14 percent of the respondents noting they have such a company. This might be combined with various other ownership systems, of which a trust could be one. In fact, the results showed that trusts factor into 47 percent of all properties in one form or another. Of the respondents, only 1.24 percent reported a public company ownership model.

Of all partnerships, around 70 percent involve a spouse. An additional 25 percent also involve one or more family members, but partnerships with non-family members are uncommon. A farmer’s spouse is also an important person in the case of trusts.

The researchers found that, on the whole, family ownership systems are such that the farmers themselves make most of the decisions. Indeed, the farmers reported they were the main decision maker on 71 percent of the farms, although they do frequently consult other family members before acting. It is suspected that this has probably changed over the years. Overall, it is likely that family members and other ‘important people’ are increasingly consulted.

All in all, while farms are certainly getting larger and farmers are staying longer on their farms, ownership systems largely remain relatively simple, and farmers continue to make most of the decisions on their own. Likewise, farmer objectives probably haven’t changed much, although the extra emphasis on the environment and sustainability was surprising.

“If you believe all that you read you would get the impression that New Zealand farming is going corporate,” says Dr Peter Nuthall. “But, while it is true that some corporate or quasi-corporate family arrangements exist, by far the majority of farms are simple family affairs.”

Farming doesn’t provide a high return on capital so is more suited to family operations than corporate ones which generally are more focussed on the bottom line over a shorter time period.


Fathers’ Day

September 7, 2014

To be a good father and mother requires that the parents defer many of their own needs and desires in favor of the needs of their children. As a consequence of this sacrifice, conscientious parents develop a nobility of character and learn to put into practice the selfless truths taught by the Savior Himself. – James E. Faust

I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection. – Sigmund FreudWhen a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry. –  William Shakespeare

It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father. -Pope John XXIII

 It is much easier to become a father than to be one. ~Kent Nerburn

It was my father who taught me to value myself. He told me that I was uncommonly beautiful and that I was the most precious thing in his life.  – Dawn French

A real man loves his wife, and places his family as the most important thing in life. Nothing has brought me more peace and content in life than simply being a good husband and father. – Frank Abagnale

 Son, brother, father, lover, friend. There is room in the heart for all the affections, as there is room in heaven for all the stars. – Victor Hugo

And from Brian Andreas:


Working for every man and his dog . . .

August 17, 2014

The left like to demonise the National Party as being interested only in the top end of town.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

The party is a very broad church with people of all ages, occupations and incomes.

To achieve its vision of a safe, prosperous and successful New Zealand that creates opportunities for all New Zealanders to reach their personal goals and dreams it has to have policies that work for all of us.

That must take account of the fact that some, for a variety of reasons, will need more help than others.

This is why the government has focussed on the quality of its spending – to make sure scarce public money is spent where it is needed most and where it will do most good.

One example of this is the wrap-around care being given to teenage parents on benefits.

They get one-to-one support from someone who gives them the help they need to help themselves and their children.

Helping these young women care for themselves and their children, get educational qualifications and ultimately jobs has social and financial benefits.

These families are less likely to be long-term beneficiaries with the risks that go with it including poorer education and health outcomes and a greater likelihood of being involved in crime.

Putting them on a more positive pathway is better for them and for the rest of us.

This isn’t cheap. But spending more money at the start will lead to bigger savings in the long term.

National is working for New Zealand and all New Zealanders – every man, woman and their dogs – and at least one dog is working for National:

National is working for all New Zealanders, even four-legged ones! #TeamKey


Most help where needed most

August 12, 2014

When National did an extensive review of welfare in 2008 it found most resources were directed at the people who needed them least while those who needed the most help were left to languish on benefits.

One of the costly, but effective, policies has been one-to-one help for teen beneficiaries.

It’s working and it will be extended if National is re-elected:

A re-elected National Government would extend payment cards, money management, and intensive support and guidance to all teen parents and many 18 and 19 year old beneficiaries.
 
“While the numbers have been reducing, too many teenagers are still at risk of falling into the welfare trap,” says National’s Social Development spokesperson Paula Bennett.

“We want to do everything we can to ensure young people have the opportunity to get ahead.”
 
National introduced the Youth Service approach in 2012 for 16 and 17 year olds, and for teen parents up to 18. The service involves mentoring and advice, money management, and budgeting and parenting obligations.
 
These young people have a capable adult from a community-based organisation to work with them, help them pay their bills directly, and have money loaded onto a payment card for groceries and essentials. They get help to find an education or training course, or to get a job and go off the benefit.
 
“This approach is working well, and that’s why we are going to extend it to 19 year old sole parents, and to many other 18 and 19 year old beneficiaries who need more support or who are at risk of long-term welfare dependence.
 
“Many 18 and 19 year olds coming into Work and Income need more than job search assistance – they need help to get their lives on track, manage their money and pay the bills.
 
“National supports people in need, but expects them to do everything they can to get back on their feet when they are able”, says Mrs Bennett.
 
Under the new policy, Work and Income will assess all under 20s who are seeking a benefit. Self-motivated young people who are not likely to spend long on a benefit will continue their job search with the help of Work and Income, just as they do now.
National wants to do everything we can to ensure young people have the opportunity to get ahead. http://ntnl.org.nz/1ssLCjM #Working4NZ
 
Others with more complex needs will be referred to a youth service provider, where they will receive intensive support and guidance, together with budgeting support and the use of a payment card.
 
There will be no change for young people receiving the Supported Living Payment.
 
“Since coming into Government nearly six years ago, we have made significant reforms to the welfare system and we are seeing positive results,” says Mrs Bennett.
 
“I’m proud of what we have done and we are now seeing 1,600 people go off welfare and into work every week.
 
“But there is more we can do, and that’s why we’re going to extend the successful Youth Service model to take in more young people who really need a hand to get on their feet.”
 
The total lifetime cost of all people currently on welfare is $76.5 billion and more than 70 per cent of that is attributed to those who went on benefit as teenagers.
 
The National Government has already increased training and education opportunities with fees-free Youth Guarantee places for 10,000 16-19 year olds as well as 20,000 Apprenticeship Reboot places and 5,250 Trades Academy places a year.

The number of young people under 20 who are not in education, employment or training, is now the lowest it’s been since 2004.

“National is investing in young people to ensure their time in the welfare system is as brief as possible, so we help them avoid welfare dependency”, says Mrs Bennett.

Keeping young people off a benefit is the best approach.

Ensuring those who are on a benefit get the help they need to get their lives on track, manage their money and get into training then work is the next best policy for the people involved and the rest of us who pay the cost of long-term benefit dependency.

While the numbers of teen parents have been reducing, too many teenagers are still at risk of falling into the welfare trap. http://ntnl.org.nz/1ssLCjM #Working4NZ


Rural round-up

July 22, 2014

Lepto danger with flood waters:

RURAL WOMEN New Zealand  reminds Far North farming families to be mindful about health issues in dealing with flood waters, including the elevated risk of leptospirosis.

Families should be careful about drinking water, pull on their gumboots, wash hands and faces thoroughly, and cover cuts and grazes before they come into contact with flood water to reduce the chance of getting infections, in particular leptospirosis, Rural Women says.

The leptospirosis bacteria is shed in the urine from infected animals including stock, rodents, dogs, possums, and hedgehogs and is more easily spread about where there is excess surface water as the Far North is currently experiencing. . .

Free lunch for Northland farmers:

WHO SAYS there’s no such thing as a free lunch – or dinner, asks the Northland Rural Support Trust.

It is holding free lunch or dinners for flood-hit Northland starting tomorrow (Wednesday, July 23).

“We can’t stop it raining, but here’s a chance to have a dinner you don’t have to cook and an opportunity to talk to other storm affected folk plus pick the brains of some support people,” the Support Trust says to farmers.

Free food and drink is supplied at each event thanks to the trust and local merchants. . .

Stark difference between NZ and Australian dairying but why? – Pasture to Profit:

The visual & financial differences between the New Zealand & Australian dairy industries at the current time are stark and startling!

Why is the NZ dairy industry booming and Australian dairy farmers under so much pressure & having to dig deep to remain profitable. Both dairy industries supply into the same international market and Australia has a much bigger domestic population and local market. A strong local market is often argued as being a strength and likely to lift dairy farmers farm gate price. The economy in both countries is relatively strong & to a large extent was not greatly affected by the world financial crisis. Yet one dairy industry is hanging in by their fingernails while the other is buoyed (perhaps unrealistically!) by higher milk prices. . . .

AbacusBio finalist in sheep awards – Sally Rae:

Dunedin-based AbacusBio and its managing director Neville Jopson both feature among the finalists in this year’s Beef and Lamb New Zealand Sheep Industry Awards.

After being held in the South for the past two years, the awards have been shifted to Napier and will be held on August 6.

Dr Jopson is a finalist in one of two new categories – the sheep industry science award, which recognises a project, business or person undertaking science that is having a positive impact on farming. . .

Decision on effluent area reserved:

An Environment Southland hearing committee has reserved its decision on whether Southland meat processor South Pacific Meats (SPM) can spread effluent on to a larger area of farmland in northern Southland.

SPM, jointly owned by Affco New Zealand and Talleys Fisheries Ltd, opened a plant at Awarua, south of Invercargill, in 2005.

Last year, it gained consent from Environment Southland to spread sludge from the bottom of its wastewater treatment pond on to 55.5ha of a 1033ha sheep farm near Garston. . . .

Farms: the abuse of children –  A Farm Girl’s Fight:

Recently, I was reading some blogs and websites of organizations and individuals that oppose farmers. These websites have “facts” that are outrageous. Luckily, these facts have “sources” attached….that link back to their own website. Anyway, it’s humorous to me, and gives me ideas for my blogs. And let me tell you what. I am fired up.

There was a sentence on one of the websites (which no I will not link to their website) that stated:

“Farmers are awful people that often take advantage of underage children, often their own, forcing them into a life of work and learning of inhumane ways.”
Let me tell you something. With the exception of the “inhumane ways” addition, that statement is damn true and I am darn proud of it. . . .

 


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