Written By: - Date published: 6:24 pm, October 22nd, 2013 - 22 comments
Categories: benefits, capitalism, child welfare, class war, david cunliffe, housing, paula bennett, poverty, public transport, sustainability, unemployment - Tags:
I was very pleased when David Cunliffe in his speech earlier this month at the CTU conference, talked about moving from a “from a cost-based to a values-based” strategy. This is something that needs to be developed as part of a wider narrative, that shifts public discourse from an individualistic focus, to one that focuses on valuing all members of society – to a focus on us all being in this together in the long term. The kind of findings that were reported in The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, need to be repeated again and again, in as many ways as possible. What is good for the least well-off in society, is good for all of us.
The 1980s+ escalation of individualistic values resulted in short sighted, short term politicised policies that ultimately damage the wider society. The focus on the here and now, and how it impacts on “Me” masks the way society is being damaged in the longer term. This focus can be seen in two news items reported on today: Paula Bennett’s disregard of the risk of negative impacts on children through her welfare reforms; a survey that shows transport is a way bigger issue for Aucklanders than affordable housing.
The Child Poverty Action Group has published a report that shows pressuring parents to get into work and to fulfill various “social obligations” puts the children of beneficiaries at risk. key’s government can demonise beneficiaries, and fail to provide adequate support for them, because, overall, they are a minority, and for most voters it’s a case of out of sight, out of mind. Too many people fail to understand how this damages our society, and diminishes us all. As reported in the NZ Herald:
CPAG spokesman Associate Professor Mike O’Brien said the children of beneficiaries were being singled out for different treatment under the Government’s new welfare reforms.
A background study by CPAG on benefit sanctions found the children of beneficiaries were now subject to a set of rules which other children were not required to meet.
The changes risked creating a separate, disadvantaged class of children whose activities were unjustly restricted for reasons beyond their control, Mr O’Brien said.
The NZ Herald also reported today that an digipoll shows Aucklanders care far more about improving transport, especially public transport, than providing more affordable housing. It’s great to see such a high amount of concern on the transport issue, but worrying that affordable housing is marginalised by such results:
A Herald-DigiPoll survey of 500 Super City dwellers found 43.8 per cent ranked transport as the biggest issue facing Auckland.
It was streets ahead of affordable housing, the chief concern of 17.1 per cent of those surveyed, and balancing the city’s budget (3.4 per cent).
Of course transport issues impact on a great number of Aucklanders daily. The people who daily struggle with issues of no or less than adequate housing, and with pressures on their budget because of the relative high cost, are a smaller number of people.
Affordable housing and better public transport are related issues that impact on us all, as does demonisation of beneficiaries, child poverty, and too high an inequality gap.
The 2009 Guardian review of The Spirit Level sums it up:
Inequality causes shorter, unhealthier and unhappier lives; it increases the rate of teenage pregnancy, violence, obesity, imprisonment and addiction; it destroys relationships between individuals born in the same society but into different classes; and its function as a driver of consumption depletes the planet’s resources.
The graphs also reveal that it is not just the poor, but whole societies, from top to bottom, that are adversely affected by inequality.
However, the book does end on an optimistic note, with a transformative, rather than revolutionary, programme for making sick societies more healthy. A society in which all citizens feel free to look each other in the eye can only come into being once those in the lower echelons feel more valued than at present. The authors argue that removal of economic impediments to feeling valued – such as low wages, low benefits and low public spending on education, for instance – will allow a flourishing of human potential.
This is the story that needs to be told again and again, and where I see a values-based approach should guide any economic and financial polices. It needs to be in political policies and campaigns, but also in
How can we keep telling it in different ways, in different media and on different platforms? I’m trying to thinking of a really good positive political song about valuing all in society. I can only think of the protest ones about “neoliberal” values, like this one.