National punishing the poor | The Jackal

21 Mar 2013

National punishing the poor

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

Welfare benefits will go up by just 0.61 per cent from April 1 because the Government has decided not to give beneficiaries any compensation for higher cigarette prices.

The increase is the lowest for many years and represents only an extra $1.25 a week for a single unemployed person aged 25 or over, or $2.08 a week for a couple.

But superannuation rates will go up by 2.44 per cent in line with the net average wage, providing an extra $8.50 a week for single superannuitants living alone and an extra $13.08 a week for a couple.

That seems entirely unfair... If superannuitants get the full increase, why aren't beneficiaries? That makes Nationals decision discriminatory, and it also makes a mockery of Paula Bennett's claim that benefits would match general inflation.

It's incorrect to make the calculation by averaging inflation across the board when most beneficiaries rent the house they live in. Rents have increased dramatically; therefore the cost of living for beneficiaries has increased more than the average waged person.

Having an increase of only 0.61 per cent in comparison to general inflation will simply cause more inequality, which is a shameful result that indicates a failure of governance to properly look after the populace. New Zealanders don't want a country divided between the haves and the have nots... We want an equal society where everybody can prosper.

The diverging trends mean that the super rate for a couple will stay fixed at 66 per cent of the net average wage, while the benefit for a working-age unemployed couple will slip further from 42 per cent to 41.3 per cent of the net average wage, continuing a trend which has been steadily downwards since the late 1980s.

A Treasury paper prepared for the Long-Term Fiscal External Panel in January forecasts that benefits will roughly halve again as a proportion of wages as wages continue to increase faster than prices out to the year 2060.

With many areas not having any opportunities for people to work themselves out of poverty, reducing benefits in comparison to inflation will simply have an adverse effect on society. It will dramatically increase inequality and hardship.

For instance, less beneficiaries will be able to afford health care, which accompanied by higher prescription costs, will lead to an increase in acute cases of illness and subsequently more time spent in hospital. That being the case, one has to ask whether Nationals attempt to save money is going to save any at all?

Salvation Army analyst Alan Johnson said a "low-income consumers price index", based on typical spending by low-income families, rose by 1.4 per cent during the year, significantly above the 0.9 per cent official average.

Which clearly shows that the governments decision to effectively cut benefits by by 0.79 per cent will adversely impact on those who are already struggling, and not just smokers I might add.

Unfortunately National is ideologically hard wired to punish the poor, and their stupidity looks set to increase inequality in New Zealand even further.

The Herald also reported:

Sweeping changes to the welfare system came closer to passing into law despite losing the support of New Zealand First and official advice that the changes would lead to a decline in poor families' health.

After a fiery, personal debate in which Opposition members accused former beneficiary and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett of "kicking away the ladder", the reforms passed their second reading 61 votes to 60.

That one vote is why nothing will be done about the corrupt John Banks.

Ms Bennett said that despite "hand-wringing" by the Opposition and claims of beneficiary bashing, National campaigned on the changes in 2011 and was overwhelmingly supported by New Zealanders.

Overwhelming support by New Zealanders? With a million Kiwis deciding not to vote at the last election, National only receiving 47% of the vote and such a slim margin of MPs supporting the defunct legislation, one has to ask whether the current government has a mandate to pass these detrimental changes into law at all?

But Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei pointed to Ministry of Health advice, released under the Official Information Act, which warned ministers that the economic benefits of the changes could be undermined by health impacts. Families who were sanctioned were likely to defer healthcare and increasingly show up in emergency departments instead of primary care.

The ministry also warned that making Well Child checks compulsory for beneficiaries' children could change the relationship between families and health providers and make the system less effective.

So, the government is once again ignoring its own official advice, and instead ramming through ideological changes that will have no benefit to society at all. There's also no benefit to the governments budget, which makes Nationals archaic policy changes not about helping the poor, and all about punishment for the sake of it. How stupid is that?