Two out of four ain’t good

July 27, 2017

The four-A formula for repentance and redemption is simple: admit what you’ve done wrong, accept responsibility for it, apologise and make amends.

So far Meteria Turei has only got to the first A – she admitted she lied to get more in a benefit payment than she was entitled to.

She will get to the last A – she has changed her initial, I’ll pay the money back if I’m asked to of course I’ll pay it back.

But far from accepting responsibility for what she did, she cast blame and attempted to justify her lies. And rather than apologising , she’s using her past wrong-doing as a base for bad policy and to excuse others who defraud taxpayers.

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad might have worked for Meatloaf but two out of four ain’t good enough for an MP, especially one with the ambition to be a Minister.

Her refusal to accept responsibility or apologise now, and the policies she’s espousing which will entrench benefit dependency are bigger issues than what she did or didn’t do in the past.

 


Was not naming father fraud too?

July 22, 2017

Metiria Turei admitted she didn’t admit to having flatmates in order to collect a bigger benefit payment.

Rodney Hide at the NBR and Whaleoil have past quotes which show she didn’t name the baby’s father when she not only knew who he was but ensured he maintained a relationship with his daughter and took money from him and his family.

Is that fraud too?

After earlier saying she’d pay back the money if WINZ asked her to, she’s now decided she’ll pay it back anyway.

Will it be just the extra accommodation payment she got or should she, or the child’s father, also be paying what he would have been liable for had she named him and will anyone be looking into whether the help she got from him, his family and her own should have been declared too?

Life on a benefit wasn’t easy back then and isn’t now.

But a lot of people managed then and manage now without committing fraud.

A lot more people work hard to pay taxes.

Most accept the necessity of doing so to help people in genuine need, a lot fewer are happy to support someone who’s getting more than they’re entitled to through fraud.


Sense of entitlement

July 19, 2017

Who said:

…how could he have done all of those things credibly—and this is the important issue—knowing that his career and his credibility depended on his honesty? He has signed off on documents that have now led him to be in court on a charge of criminal fraud. There is an issue here of honesty, an issue of credibility, and that has had a very significant and very negative effect on this Government. . .?

It was Metiria Turei.

She was talking about John Banks who resigned from parliament, was charged, found guilty but subsequently cleared.

This makes her guilty of hypocrisy in light of her unashamed admission of benefit fraud.

It also shows a sense of entitlement:

. . . Spread over three years however, Turei’s lie of omission starts to look less like a one-off act of dishonesty and more like a systematic attempt to rort the system. Letter writers and talkback callers have voiced their anger over what they see as her sense of entitlement to public money – not helped by the fact that taxpayers are providing her with a huge salary today.

There is also considerable public anger over her selective and self-serving morality. Turei has effectively argued that she had a moral right to rip off the system because she had to feed her baby. She is wrong because hardship doesn’t give anyone the right to break the law. Her example encourages others to do the same and is unfair on those who struggle through legally. It is a particularly bad look coming from a party leader on a base salary of $173,000 a year.

The self-serving morality and sense of entitlement are also reflected in the welfare policy she announced.

It would increase benefits and remove the obligations now required of beneficiaries and sanctions imposed on those who don’t fulfill them.

That would undo the good work that National has done in helping people into work and in doing so reducing the long-term social and financial costs of benefit dependency.

Turei isn’t the only one to show no respect for taxpayers’ money.

There’s also the absolute stupidity of Gareth Morgan’s mad idea to have taxpayers provide $200 a week pocket money to every 18 – 20 year-old:

The $200 payment – which would be after tax – worked out to $10,000 a year, and would go to everyone regardless of income or whether or not they were studying. Unlike other benefits it would not drop off if a young person moved into employment.

It would replace the student allowance, which currently is tied to parental income and maxes out at $177.03 after tax for single people under 24. It would also replace the first $10,000 of any other benefits and the student living costs segment of student loans.

Morgan argued the financial security this would provide would bring down rates of youth suicide and financial stress. . .

Has he got any data for that? There is plenty of data on what happens when you give people money whether or not they need it.

Only people with no real understanding of people and economics would think either Turei’s or Morgan’s policies have merit.

As Alan Duff says:

. . . I am repeating the warning that free money to able-bodied humans anywhere can do just the opposite of what it intends: take away the will to work, the guts to struggle, the spirit to pick yourself up by the bootstraps. . .

Every cent spent on unnecessary welfare is a cent that could be spent on health, education, infrastructure and any of the other areas where it could do more good.

Every cent spent on unnecessary welfare is a cent taken from other people.

Every cent spent on unnecessary welfare feeds a sense of entitlement and erodes independence.

These policies are also political cynicism at its height because both Turei and Morgan must know that both are so unrealistic and unaffordable they could never be government policy, whichever parties were in power.


Knowing right from wrong

July 17, 2017

Green co-leader Metiria Turei has admitted she is a fraudster:

. . I was one of those women, who you hear people complain about on talkback radio.
Because despite all the help I was getting, I could not afford to live, study and keep my baby well without keeping a secret from WINZ.
Like many families who rely on a benefit, Piu and I moved around a lot when she was little.
We lived in five different flats with various people.
In three of those flats, I had extra flatmates, who paid rent, but I didn’t tell WINZ. I didn’t dare.
I knew that if I told the truth about how many people were living in the house my benefit would be cut.
And I knew that my baby and I could not get by on what was left.
This is what being on the benefit did to me – it made me poor and it made me lie.
It was a stressful, terrifying experience. . .

 

Turei isn’t the first MP to admit to benefit fraud, but this one paid it back:

Parliament is a house of representatives.

I doubt there is any MP who has not done something wrong, just as I doubt any of us who aren’t MPs could put our hands on our hearts and say we’ve never done anything wrong.

Doing wrong is one thing, not knowing right from wrong is quite another.

Turei has compounded the wrong of benefit fraud with no attempt to put it right and with the attempted justification: it made me poor and it made me lie.

What does it say about the morals of the woman who wants to be a Minister?

What does it say to people, especially those on low incomes, who work hard and pay taxes to support people in genuine need?

What does that say to all the people on benefits, all of whom are poor, many of whom don’t have the support Turei had from her baby’s father, her own family and his, and most of whom manage without lying?

It’s a similar message to the one in the policy she announced of removing the penalties and obligations on beneficiaries including the requirement for drug testing and sanctions for not actively seeking work.

Most beneficiaries want to get off benefits, many need help to do so which might include a carrot and a few need a stick.

Without sanctions, fathers of children whose mothers are on benefits will have to pay nothing, people who don’t try to get work-ready and actively seek work will be left to languish on benefits and everyone else will pay directly through taxes and indirectly through the social problems including poor health, low education achievement and higher crime that benefit dependency promotes.

Quote of the day on this goes to Act MP David Seymour:

Green Party policy: If you stay at home and smoke drugs all day you get a pay rise. If you get up and go to work you get a tax hike.

Benefits should help those in genuine need.

Some beneficiaries will need permanent help but for most taxpayer help should be a temporary bridge to help them from dependence to independence.

 


Dependency compared

February 28, 2017

Dan Mitchell asks which country has the worst dependency ratio and shows how many strangers each worker supports:

ratio

And the percentage of people reliant on public funding:

ratio

New Zealand compares well on these measures but it’s not something about which we can be complacent.

If it wasn’t for the policies of the 80s and 90s, which too many still regard as failures, we’d be at the other end of the graph with Greece.

Mitchell also has a couple of pictures which illustrate  the rise and fall of the welfare state.

 . . . The welfare state starts with small programs targeted at a handful of genuinely needy people. But as  politicians figure out the electoral benefits of expanding programs and people figure out the that they can let others work on their behalf, the ratio of producers to consumers begins to worsen. . .

The challenge is how to help the genuinely in need without encouraging entitilitis.

It is very difficult to draw a line which provides enough for everyone in genuine need without gathering in those who could, and should, be looking after themselves.

Add children into the equation and it becomes harder still.

It takes a multi-pronged approach to ensure children get what they need while not letting parents abrogate their responsibilities.

It must also be done in a way that doesn’t get the balance between consumers and producers get out of kilter by allowing the burden of dependence to become too great for those who fund the support.

That’s why the Government’s data-driven approach to social support, addressing the causes and funding what works is far better than Opposition policies which measure success by how much is spent, not by whether it would make a positive difference.

Hat tip: Utopia


What’s a necessity and who pays?

August 4, 2016

When I was in the UK in the early 80s women were up in arms over the imposition of VAT on tampons when pipe cleaners were exempt.

Fair enough.

One is a necessity the other is not.

Fast forward more than three decades and students want universities to supply free sanitary products to students in the same way they provide condoms.

New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations president Linsey Higgins said it had heard from a number of students from across the country about the compromises they were making due to not being able to afford sanitary products.

Ms Higgins said students were having to use substitutes, such as toilet paper, or staying home while on their period, and were missing out on their education.

She said universities could use their negotiating position to buy in bulk to provide the products for free.

“We would like to see menstrual products having the same pride of place that condoms do in tertiary environments, for example in fish bowls, in medical centre receptions or student association receptions, so they’re not hidden from students and it’s not a shameful thing.”

“The more we can minimise and destigmatise menstruation, the better off we are.” . . 

You could argue whether or not universities should be supplying condoms but they prevent disease and accidental pregnancies both of which impose a cost on individuals and the taxpayers.

Neither of those apply to sanitary protection, the benefits of which are the individuals’.

People on very low incomes struggle to afford enough food and other necessities. Sanitary products are necessities and aren’t cheap.

But students have choices.

They can work part time during the term and full time in holidays to supplement student allowances and loans.

They can study part time and hold down part or full time employment.

They can defer study while working to save enough to get them through their studies.

Every dollar universities spend on something like this is a dollar less available to spend on what they’re there for – providing excellent tertiary education.

If universities are expected to provide free sanitary protection should they also provide free razors for men who can’t afford to shave?


Managing those who can’t manage selves

July 12, 2016

Act MP David Seymour has a suggestion to help people who have children while on a benefit:

. . . You might think that if you’re on a benefit it’s a bad time to bring a child into the world.  You’re probably like the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders who think it proper to wait, save and sacrifice before having children, in a comfortable environment, then stop when you feel your family is at a size you can support.

Chances are you don’t begrudge taxpayer support for people who fall on hard times, need to escape an abusive partner, or have any of a dozen other circumstances.  But here is the interesting thing: being on a benefit seems to make you more likely to have children.

Only 10 per cent of working-age people are on a benefit, yet 20 per cent of children are born into families receiving benefits.  In the six months to March 2015, 6000 babies were added to existing benefits.  That’s enough to raise the hackles of those paying tax while preparing to have their own family, but worse is the outcomes for the kids involved.

Benefits seem to make people have kids early, a key risk factor for maltreatment.  As of 2015, in the general population 22 per cent of births were to mothers 24 or younger, but 44 per cent of beneficiary caregivers (mostly mothers but sometimes fathers) with a child born that year were 24 or younger.

The ultimate result has been calamity for New Zealand kids.  University of Auckland researchers have found that, of under-fives who faced maltreatment, 83 per cent were on benefits before age two. . . 

That doesn’t mean being on a benefit causes people to abuse children but it does show those on benefits are more likely to be abusers.

Out of fairness to the taxpayer and the children, we need a new deal.  It’s simply not good enough that the Government taxes some people, who are often waiting, saving, and sacrificing for parenthood, so that it can pay others to have kids earlier.  It’s absolutely unacceptable when we know this policy is enlarging child poverty and abuse.  We need to put children first.

If you’re 18 or younger, you can’t get an all-cash benefit from the Government.  Instead it pays rent, power, and basic necessities before giving the remaining entitlement in cash.  A compassionate government should attack child poverty by extending Income management to any parent who has additional children while on a benefit.

The message would be simple.  If you want to have children while receiving a benefit that’s fine, but the Government will give entitlements in a form that puts the needs of the children first.

Beneficiaries get more money when they have more children.

Providing income management for those who have additional children while on a benefit will help them budget and provide for their families.

This isn’t beneficiary bashing.

No-one can blame children for their parents being benefit-dependent. If people can’t manage themselves and the state is paying them to look after their children it also has a responsibility to ensure that they do.


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