Green for slow

August 18, 2014

The Green Party wants to give in-work tax credits to people who aren’t working and fund it with an envy tax.

The motivation to end child poverty is noble.

But in taking away the incentive to work they are going to increase benefit dependency, which as Lindsay Mitchell, says is one of the major determinants of poverty:

Let’s remember is was Labour that introduced the IWTC, the rationale being to attract more parents, mainly single, into employment. Clark and Cullen believed that the best way to get children out of poverty was to get their parents into paid work. From Cullen’s 2006 budget speech:

The Government believes that ultimately work is the best way out of poverty, and provides the best social and economic outcomes for families in the long run. Making work pay through the In-Work Payment component of the Working for Families package improves people’s opportunities to make a better life for themselves and their families.

In Social Developments author Tim Garlick wrote

The decision to strengthen work incentives by not increasing the income of non-working families was strongly criticised by some academics and community groups…

 But they stood by their conviction.

And the courts have upheld the policy’s legitimacy against multiple challenges from the Child Poverty Action Group.

Yet the Greens see no value in paid work. No value in children growing up with working role models.No value in actually earning an income; participating, contributing and producing.

All they see is a quick cash cure (with no gaurantee the money will be spent on the children) which comes with the almighty risk that more children will grow up welfare dependent as the financial rewards of working, as meagre as they are, disappear.

I must have said it hundreds of times. Welfare made families poor. More of it is not the answer.

Contrary to what the Greens believe, neither more welfare nor higher taxes are the answer to reducing poverty:

The Greens/Labour recipe of more and higher taxes would stall New Zealand’s economic recovery just when we are getting back on our feet after the Global Financial Crisis, National’s Associate Finance spokesman Steven Joyce says.

“The Greens have proposed a 40 per cent top tax rate that would affect many hard-working New Zealanders, including school principals, doctors, and many small business owners,” Mr Joyce says.

“We’ve been here before. A 40 per cent tax rate is damaging to the economy because it increases tax avoidance, penalises hard work, and sends some of our best and brightest offshore.

“And it is of course just another in a long list of new taxes Labour and the Greens want to introduce including a capital gains tax, a big carbon tax, taxes on water use, higher personal taxes, and regional fuel taxes.

“Just when the New Zealand economy is heading in the right direction and we are growing the largest number of new jobs in a decade, the Greens want to go back to the old tax and spend approach that clearly didn’t work in the lead up to the GFC.

“Back then, our best and brightest were flooding out the door for better opportunities in Australia. Now migration out to Australia has stopped.

“Back then, welfare rolls were already growing because of our domestic recession. Now 1600 people a week are moving off welfare and into work because of our growing economy.

“Back then, government spending had jumped by 50 per cent in just five years, pushing floating mortgage rates close to 11 per cent and leaving us with forecasts of budget deficits and soaring debt into the future.

Mr Joyce says the economic recipe that’s working includes lower, not higher, taxes and a government that is relentlessly focussed on growing jobs and getting people off welfare support and into meaningful work.

“National’s economic plan is working for New Zealand. We have just become one of the fastest growing economies in the OECD. Keeping with the plan is the best way of helping people the opportunity to get off welfare and into work. We should not go back to the failed recipes of the past,” Mr Joyce says.

And let’s not forget that the Greens are also promising a carbon tax which would impact directly on every individual and business adding costs not just to luxuries but to basic necessities including food and heating.

Anything they “give” to reduce poverty will be more than counteracted by what they take away in direct and indirect cost increases and the brake their policies would impose on the economy.

Green is supposed to be for go, but Green influence in government would be for slow and low when it comes to economic growth and the social progress and environmental protection and enhancement that depend on that.


Motherhood as career option

July 13, 2014

An interesting comment on Lindsay Mitchell’s column on the greatest risk: from Rosy Fenwicke:

. . . One piece missed from the analysis is the cultural movement which embraced the idealisation of ‘motherhood’ as a career option regardless of the financial means to support this ‘career’ choice. Prior to the ‘liberation’ of women in the 1970s or rather the ‘liberation of entitlement’, motherhood was always associated with how it was to be financially supported in the long term- hence marriage and the partnership with men.

The whole women’s movement, with its middle and upper income roots, did no service to women with little education/income or their children. Likewise the liberation of women, liberated men from their connection with parenting and their responsibilities towards their offspring.

I do think the liberation of women is a good thing but it is only now that the younger generation is getting it right and pairing it with the need to assume the responsibilities which go with it- earning your own living!

My generation may well have been the last to have been brought up with the expectation that we would marry and have children, in that order; that we would probably give up our careers, or at least put them on hold while our children were young; and that our husbands would provide for our families.

That was before the DPB which enabled women to escape abusive relationships, but also enabled them to replace their children’s fathers with the state.

I wouldn’t want to return to the days that women and their children were beholden to their husbands for everything and trapped in dreadful situations because they were financially dependent on bad men.

But I applaud government initiatives which are working with women on the DPB to help them help themselves and escape the poverty trap in which welfare can snare them.


Most deep-seated deprivation occurs in beneficiary families

July 10, 2014

Quote of the day:

Employment for existing sole parents, and deterrence for prospective, particularly young parents, is the most effective approach to reducing child poverty. Lindsay Mitchell

This is a very small part of a post which deserves to be read in full.

It shows that being in a benefit-dependent family is the greatest predictor of child poverty.

That isn’t an argument for more generous benefits.

It’s an argument in favour of current government policies which aim to help people from welfare to work, for their own sake and the sake of their children.

 

Great work by Paula Bennett MP and all the social sector team.

The post is an opinion piece in this week’s Listener which also published two letters:

Your support of Professor Jonathan Boston’s definition of child poverty in New Zealand (Editorial, July 5) simply perpetuates the debate over how much money to throw at the problem. But money is just a glib answer to so many of society’s ills and, in this case, skirts around the elephant that’s filling the room.

A child without access to a flat-screen TV and missing out on birthday parties might constitute deprivation from an academic perspective, but the most pervasive manifestation of poverty, and the most distressing to witness, is that of three- and four-year-olds who have never known or been shown love and affection from their parents; children who are emotional vacuums.

Boston argues that children from poor homes are less likely to succeed educationally. He’s just missed that elephant. Although emotionally deprived children are almost exclusively from low-income households, a household having a low income is not the cause of such child neglect. In fact, if a child from a low-income home is loved and emotionally secure, the scholastic disparity with children from more affluent backgrounds is almost non-existent.

Any early childhood teacher will testify that before a child can start to learn, he or she must be emotionally engaged. Teaching and engaging a child from an emotionally deprived background is almost impossible and certainly beyond the resources of most early-childhood educational centres. And without early intervention, these emotionally deprived children will later help to fill our mental and correctional facilities.

Unfortunately, there are no easy fixes to the problems of bad parents – parents who probably shouldn’t be parents – and social agencies that are poorly resourced and pursue the least challenging options. Nonetheless, a good start would be recognition and debate on New Zealand’s real child poverty issue: the love-starved little ones.

Roger Clarke
(Te Awamutu)

Poverty isn’t just financial it’s emotional too.

The second letter builds on this point

Your editorial appears very “ambulance at the foot of the cliff” stuff.

Everyone would agree it is not in society’s best interests to have malnourished children suffering various degrees of brain damage as a result of poor nutrition. Although there will be exceptions to this generalisation, it is reasonable to assume that a high percentage of parents of such children are just incompetent in a variety of ways – quite possibly as a result of ignorance and deprived upbringings of their own.

The priority needs to be to identify the poor carers and the common causes of their inabilities to cope. Then introduce policies that direct resources at those people while forcing them to address their shortcomings.

The majority of carers on low incomes are managing to bring up children who are adequately loved, fed, clothed and housed. For the deprived children, the issue in a great many cases is more that of carer competency than available cash. More money is not necessarily going to solve anything in such situations if the underlying competency issues are not addressed.

Denis Muir
(RD2, Kaiwaka)

This is why National’s policy is to work with teen parents to educate them and help them help themselves and their children.

Lack of money can be part of the problem but lack of knowledge, skills and love are often contributing factors to child poverty too.

That can happen in families at any income level.


Fewer teen births

July 9, 2014

One of National’s initiatives was to take an actuarial approach to welfare.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett sought, and got, figures for the long-term cost of welfare then worked on policies which would help reduce it.

Among the initiatives she introduced were those aimed at reducing teen-births – and they’re working.

Lindsay Mitchell writes:

. . . For years I have agitated about the long-term DPB population being derived from teenage births. The children of these parents form the most at-risk group.

But from 2008 the number of teenage births started dropping. In 2013 there were 29 percent fewer than in 2009.

But even better, at March 2009 there were 4,425 teenage parents on any main benefit. By March 2014 the number had dropped to 2,560. A 42 percent reduction.

The really important news is it’s happening across all ethnicities.The proportions are reasonably stable.

In 2009, 52 percent were Maori; in 2013, 55 percent.

For Pacific Island, the proportion rose slightly from 9 to 11 percent.

NZ European dropped from 29 to 25 percent.

The percentage who are aged 16-17 dropped from slightly from 16.5 to 15%.

The percentage who are male is unchanged 4%.

This means thousands fewer children experiencing poor outcomes – ill-health, disconnect from education,  in and out of fostercare, potentially abused and neglected, having the cards stacked against them from the outset.

Thousands of would-be teen mums will keep their own lives and  potential, and hopefully have children when they are ready to.

It’s a fantastic development.

National deserve at least some credit for it with their new young parent mentoring and benefit management regime. . .

The government can’t claim all the credit, but it has played an important part.

Measures to reduce teen benefit dependency haven’t been punitive nor have they been cheap.

They have involved working with young people to help them turn their lives around for their own sakes and those of their children.

That has both social and financial benefits for them and for the rest of us.

 


Incomes up, poverty down, inequality flat

July 9, 2014

The left tried to manufacture a manufacturing crisis and manufacturing improved.

They’ve declared a housing crisis and are particularly critical of the government’s social housing initiatives.

But Lindsay Mitchell reports good news on that front too:

. . . On the positive side,  in March 2008 the HNZC waiting list stood at 9,935. Now the number is 5,840 and includes those waiting for other social housing. A good news story for National. . .

And there’s improvement on two other problems on which the Left has been critical of the government – child poverty and inequality.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has welcomed the latest Household Incomes Report showing child poverty has fallen three percent.

“Today’s release shows we are making progress.  From a survey conducted between July 2012 and June 2013, findings show that median household incomes rose four percent in real terms in the two years since July 2011,” says Mrs Bennett.

“While the gains since 2011 were shared reasonably evenly across incomes, the global recession in the two years previous impacted slightly more on lower incomes.  The report also shows that trend-line inequality has remained flat.

“This latest research shows New Zealand households have bounced back.  In the past year 84,000 more jobs have been added to the New Zealand economy, 8,600 sole parents have come off benefit in the past year and there are nearly 30,000 fewer children in benefit dependent households compared to two years ago.

Moving from welfare to work is one of the best ways to address poverty for adults and any children who depend on them.

Yet the opposition have opposed and criticised every move National has made to help people get off benefits and on to wages.

“Nevertheless the Government recognises more needs to be done to support our most vulnerable families. 

“Which is why, on top of free breakfasts to all schools that want it, a social worker in all decile 1-3 schools and warming up nearly 300,000 homes, we are in this year’s budget investing nearly $500 million over four years in services and support for families. 

Initiatives include:

  • $171.8 million to boost the paid parental leave scheme. Paid leave will be extended by four weeks – starting with a two-week extension from 1 April 2015, and another two weeks from 1 April 2016. The eligibility of paid parental leave will also be expanded to include caregivers other than parents (for example, permanent guardians), and to extend payments to people in less-regular work or who recently changed jobs.
  • $42.3 million to increase the parental tax credit from $150 a week to $220 a week, and increase the entitlement from eight weeks to 10 weeks, from 1 April 2015.
  • $90 million to enable GPs to offer free doctors’ visits and prescriptions for children under the age of 13, starting on 1 July 2015. Over 400,000 more children will benefit by including six- to 12-year-olds.
  • An additional $155.7 million to help early childhood centres remain affordable, meet demand pressures and increase participation towards the Government’s 98 per cent target.
  • $33.2 million in 2014/15 to help vulnerable children, including eight new children’s teams around the country to identify and work with at-risk children and their families, to screen people who work with children, and to support children in care.

“Recognising that housing costs are a significant issue for low income families, the Government is investing $95.7 million of new money into social housing over the next four years.

“There’s more financial assistance to help people into private rentals to free up social housing for those who need it most, there’s new funding to grow more social housing in partnership with NGOs, and easier social housing assessment processes with the transfer of responsibility to Work and Income

“This Government is determined to improve the lives of children in low income families by targeting resources to services and support that are guaranteed to make a difference for those children,” says Mrs Bennett. 

The Household Incomes Report for the 2012 calendar year can be found at: www.msd.govt.nz

Lindsay Mitchell notes:

Using MSD’s Economic Living Standards Index (ELSI), hardship rates for children rose from 15% in the 2007 HES to 21% in HES 2011, then fell to 17% in HES 2012. The trend finding is robust, though the actual levels at any time depend on a judgement call on the threshold used.

 Poorer people will always be hardest hit by hard times.

But the government borrowed to take the hardest edges off the GFC for the most vulnerable and has put a lot of effort into addressing the causes of poverty – one of the biggest of which is benefit dependence.

There’s still a long way to go but the trend is in the right direction – inequality is stable, benefit dependency has reduced and poverty is declining.


Politics Daily

June 3, 2014

New Zealand Politics Daily is taking  a break.

I don’t have the time or inclination to provide the same service of a reasonably comprehensive list of links to news stories and blog posts on issues of the day.

However, I’m willing to start with a few and invite anyone who has read anything I’ve missed to add a link to it in a comment.

I won’t pretend to be balanced – there will be more links to blogs of a bluer hue. Anyone who wants the red and green end of the spectrum better represented is welcome to leave links.

John Key in Samoa

BeehiveNZ to invest $1 million into Samoa’s tourism sector:

Prime Minister John Key has today announced New Zealand will invest $1 million to help boost Samoa’s tourism sector. . .

Tova O’Brien - Pacific voters warming to National:

With large sections of New Zealand’s Pacific Island community now gravitating towards National, the battle for the Pacific vote has gone offshore. . . .

Immigration

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog – So what will Labour cut?

is claiming that it will cut migrant numbers by somewhere between 20,000 and 35,000 to get net migration from 40,000 to somewhere between 5,000 and 20,000. . .

Pete George @ Your NZ – Cunliffe still vague on immigration:

Cunliffe was interviewed about immigration on Q & A on Sunday. . .

Housing

Hannah McLeod @ Southland times - State house sales reap $4m:

Millions of dollars from state housing sales in the south could be going towards new homes in Auckland. . .

Catherine Harris @ Stuff – ‘Holistic’ plan for housing sought:

New Zealand needs a wider discussion about housing affordability and the issues that surround it such as migration, say senior figures in local government. . .

RadioNZ – Fast-track housing plan for Taruanga:

Tauranga City Council wants special rules to speed up housing developments.

 Labour Party

Andrea Vance @  Stuff – Labour MPs not happy with Mana Internet:

Senior Labour Party MPs have used social media to attack the alliance struck between Mana and the Internet Party. . .

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – White-anting in Labour? Surely not…:

Is David Cunliffe being white-anted again? You’d have to wonder after reading Andrea Vance’s story on Stuff: . . .

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Things are falling apart in Labour:

When something happens that isn’t going the way a political party particularly wants, they need to get together, work out a strategy, and communicate that coherently. . . .

 Isaac Davison @ NZ Herald –   Labour looks at changing $10m-for-residency scheme:

Labour is looking “very closely” at changing the rules for foreign investors who can get residency in New Zealand by paying $10 million. . .

IMP

Chris Keall @ NBR – Laila Harre NBR interview part 2: Baboom offshoring jobs; getting paid; the UFB; how she rolls:

Chris Keall – Where’s all the Baboom development taking place? . . .

Cameron Slater @ whale Oil – Internet Mana Party “a joke from the far left” – Key:

Unlike our media, John Key is refusing to take the Internet Mana Party seriously. . .

Josie Pagani @ Pundit – Say no to the cup of Te:

No way should Labour do a ‘Cup of Te’ deal.

Labour should stand up for its own strong values. . .

Danyl Mclauchlan @ Dim Post – On the logic behind a strategic loss:

Rob Salmond makes fun of Bomber, which is something we can all enjoy. But I do think that Bomber’s theory that a faction within the Labour Party would prefer a National victory in 2014 if the alternative is a Labour/Greens/New Zeland First/Mana/Internet Party government is pretty plausible. . .

Q & A @ TVNZ –  Laila Harre   interviewed by Susan Wood:

SUSAN: Long time unionist and left wing politician Laila Harre is back, she’s been a member of Labour, New Labour, Alliance, and the Greens, and now she’s taking the helm of the Internet Party, she joins me now good morning. Most political parties are built on something positive, on a movement, on beliefs. How can the Internet Mana Party which is built on yes, wanting to change a government, but an almost pathological dislike of the Prime Minister work? How can it be a force for good? . . .

Carbon Tax

Andrew McMartin @ TV3 – Carbon tax means nothing without Labour – English:

The Green Party’s carbon tax policy “means nothing” without Labour support, Finance Minister Bill English says. . . .

Peter Cresswell @ Not PC – The Greens cutting taxes?

Let’s start with the good news. . .

Lindsay Mitchell – Support for the Greens carbon tax surprises:

The Taxpayer’s Union has come out in support of a carbon tax that is revenue neutral. On balance they find it preferable to the Emissions Trading Scheme.

I wonder why we need either. . . .

Mark Hubbard @ Life Behind the Iron Drape - Green Naivety: Carbon Tax:

Julie Anne Genter is a New Zealand Green MP, and promoting the NZ Green Party policy this election year of a carbon tax, including on agriculture – dairy, initially, with other livestock to follow presumably. . .

Election

Rob Hosking @ NBR – Election 2014 – The Minors’ Strike:

The Green party must be quite relieved its conference was this weekend . . .

Scoop – Northland Leader Backs Kelvin Davis in Te Tai Tokerau:

Northland Kaumatua Rudy Taylor says Labour MP Kelvin Davis has the heart and the mana along with total support to win the seat of Te Tai Tokerau in the upcoming general election. . .

Scott Yorke @ Imperator Fish – How to win an election:

It’s all about the party vote. Electorate contests can be distracting, because in most cases they will be irrelevant to the result. A few electorate results will be critical, but only where they would allow a minor party to enter Parliament. . .

Scoop - iPredict Ltd 2014 Election Update #19: 30 May 2014:

Key Points:
• Internet Mana forecast to win 3 seats
• National expected to sneak in with minor parties’ support . . .

Christchurch

Beehive - Vodafone to anchor Innovation Precinct:

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce today released the spatial framework for the Christchurch Innovation Precinct and announced that Vodafone’s new South Island headquarters will anchor the precinct. . .

The Christchurch Innovation Precinct will bring together some of our most innovative people to help create an exciting and vibrant future for Christchurch. http://ntnl.org.nz/1oq447h

Education

Beehive – Budget 2014: $28.6m investment in ICT Grad Schools:

The Government will invest $28.6 million operating funding (including $11.8 million of contingencies) over the next four years in three Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Graduate Schools to help address significant high-level skills shortages in the rapidly growing ICT industry, Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce says. . . .

Beehive – $359m boost for student achievement moves forward:

Education Minister Hekia Parata has welcomed advice from sector leaders on the Government’s $359 million initiative to raise student achievement, saying it maintains momentum and strengthens the path forward. . .

Other

Trans Tasman – Trans Tasman Announces Government Department and Government Department CEO of The Year:

Trans Tasman’s 5th Annual Briefing Report – New Zealand Government Departments People and Policy, 2014 Edition , has announced its top performing Government Department of the Year and the best Government Department CEO. The pair is chosen by a 16 strong Independent Board of Advisers . .

Hamish Rutherford @ Reserve Bank governor named top chief executive:

A former top international banker, who stared down the Beehive with lending restrictions and official cash rates rises months from the election, is this year’s public sector chief executive of the year.  . .

Matthew Beveridge – Green Party AGM:

Queen’s Birthday Weekend was also the weekend the Green Party held their annual conference. As one would expect, there were a number of policy announcements, free doctors visits for up to 18 year olds and a change from the ETS to a Carbon Tax system. . .

Bob Jones @ NZ Herald - A message to screaming John Minto: Shut up:

If Parliament proposed a nationwide synchronisation of clocks and watches, then at a given date and time, invited everyone who’s had an absolute gutsful of the screaming skull, otherwise known as John Minto, to go outside and jump up and down for two minutes, imagine the reaction. . .

Lindsay Mitchell – More welfare changes on the way:

The government has announced a rewrite of the Social Security 1964 Act, which is a massive maze of dated legislation. . . .

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Political porkies:

It seems the minor parties are able to get away with making stuff up, or flat out lying.

As a new service we will now start calling out these ratbags. . . .

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog – The new blockbuster:

It’s a poster of Dr No, you’ll have to pop over to see it.

Adam Bennett @ NZ Herald – Peters rubbishes claim he paid Harawira’s protest fine:

Current and former MPs and “ordinary people” banded together to pay the $632 fine Hone Harawira received last year for defying police at a 2012 Auckland housing protest. . 

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – Pay your own fine Hone:

Hone Harawira is in trouble over trouble he was in last year. If that sounds confusing, hopefully the Herald will explain: . . .

NBR – Labour might revisit MMP’s ‘coat-tail’ provisions if elected — Cunliffe:

David Cunliffe says Labour may revisit MMP’s “coat-tail” provisions if elected . . .


Is welfare part of the problem?

March 21, 2014

Is poverty driving family break-ups?

Surprise Census figures suggest that poverty may be breaking up the nuclear family. . .

Wellington analyst Paul Callister and Statistics NZ demographer Robert Didham said in Auckland poverty was increasingly concentrated because of housing costs.

“What you are seeing in Auckland is a real sorting effect in the housing market, it’s pushing the sole parents into certain areas,” Dr Callister said.

He said the welfare system meant many couples were better off by separating. Welfare entitlements are based on family income, so if one person loses a job they can’t get a benefit if their partner is working. . .

Lindsay Mitchell points out that this isn’t a chicken or egg scenario:

For a nuclear family to “break-up” it has to exist first. In 2012 the proportion of unmarried births was 48 percent. In the same year, 21 percent of babies born were dependent on welfare – usually the DPB – by Christmas. Around half of these children will spend 7 or more years in the benefit system.

It isn’t poverty driving family disintegration. It’s the availability and heavy use of welfare. This is particularly prevalent amongst Maori because welfare incomes are close to incomes from low paid, unskilled jobs.

As the article notes, “Education is also a powerful factor.” Exactly. In time females with qualifications and aspirations may choose not to embark on a career of poverty-stricken single parenthood. Then again, as long as it’s a seemingly ‘easy’ option the pattern of single mothering and subsequent hardship will continue.

If welfare is regarded as a preferred option for people it is part of the poverty problem, not the solution.

Welfare has a place for those unable to look after themselves, some of those will require long-term, possibly permanent assistance.

But for most recipients it should be a temporary safety net not a long-term hammock.

This is why this government’s policies which are addressing long-term benefit dependency are helping those who can help themselves to do so.


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