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The Standard

Because it’s all about “me”

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.

Under questioning in the House today, Paula Bennett dodged the issue, showing she really doesn’t care enough to properly monitor the impact of her reforms, especially on children.

paula bennett inequality

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:

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.

22 comments on “Because it’s all about “me””

  1. Draco T Bastard 1

    What is good for the least well-off in society, is good for all of us.

    And the converse:
    What’s good for the rich is bad for all of us.

    • Zorr 1.1

      I dunno Draco – I think the rich could do with a haircut and that’d be good for them… and us… :)

  2. Ad 2

    That slippery-sweet red toffee of “what we all want” coating the bitter apple of neoliberal self interest will take more than one term to resolve into a proper dessert. The Auckland Unitary Plan tells me self interest beats strategic planning hands down so var. Common interest is going to take many years and smart policy to turn. We are seriously self-involved now.

  3. The changes risked creating a separate, disadvantaged class of children…

    Too late – wasters have already created a separate, disadvantaged class of children. The question is what to do about it now it’s happened, not how to avoid it happening – it’s way too late for that. O’Brien seems to be still living in the 1980s.

    • QoT 3.1

      Because beneficiaries deliberately choose to have children, specifically to raise them in poverty, because that’s how evil they are. :roll:

      • Mike S 3.1.1

        :xD:

        Yeah and it’s a lifestyle choice, all those bludgers choosing to live the highlife on my hard earned tax dollars instead of getting off their lazy arses and working for a change.

    • miravox 3.2

      “The question is what to do about it now it’s happened,”

      You can tramp them down or work with them to improve their circumstances. The US/UK/NZ version of the tramp down doesn’t work. Time to try another modell… Such as one of education, support and finance. You know, what Paula Benefit and John Key’s mother got. And what I got back in the ’70s when I was a 16 year-old single mum with no adult support.

      I’m pretty sure I’ve seen you restate your opinion of the ‘wasters’ over and over again, with bugger-all suggestions to improve the chances of these kids. Me? – I’m living proof of what works along with Paula, John and many others – and it’s not greater inequality that punishes people for circumstances they were born into.

  4. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen you restate your opinion of the ‘wasters’ over and over again…

    Yep. As long as Standard authors write posts in which the production of children by people without the means, ability or even inclination to raise them is treated as something to be supported and encouraged, I’ll write comments suggesting otherwise.

    …with bugger-all suggestions to improve the chances of these kids.

    I don’t see much that can be done for these kids, short of intensive management by servants of government (which carries its own risks, not to mention horrendous expense). Producing fewer of them in the first place would be a good thing, but CPAG also seems vehemently opposed to any measures along those lines.

    …education, support and finance… what I got back in the ’70s when I was a 16 year-old single mum with no adult support.

    No doubt you are living proof of the benefit of that, just as I’m living proof of the benefit of providing free university education. Thing is, both those things are only sustainable when the numbers involved are small. When you were a single mother and I was a student 30-40 years ago, the numbers of others like us were in the thousands – now in each case the numbers are in six figures and taxpayers are less able to provide the lifestyle to which we were able to become accustomed. When people like us become the norm, instead of a tiny minority, the number of people working for a living to pay for it all just doesn’t cover it any more.

    • Tat Loo 4.1

      Child poverty rates and youth unemployment could be halved by spending approx 0.5% of GDP.

      It’s an easy fix, PM. People who want a full time job should be provided with one, and they should be expected to perform it to a high standard.

      Problem solved.

    • karol 4.2

      This sounds like a kind of eugenics argument.

      Having children is not always planned.

      People often have children prior to going on benefits – life circumstances are not always that predictable.

      Why not stop the wealthy having children. They just pass their wealth onto their children who have actually done nothing to deserve it. Many develop an entitlement attitude, contributing to the demonisation and disadvantaging of those on low incomes.

      Show me the jobs.

    • miravox 4.3

      So still nothing, just wailing about stopping ‘them’ breeding.

      “No doubt you are living proof of the benefit of that, just as I’m living proof of the benefit of providing free university education. Thing is, both those things are only sustainable when the numbers involved are small”

      Sorry. I just find it really weird that you recognise the problems of people languishing on benefits began in the ’80s yet you don’t seem to recognise that more of the same medicine will only increase the number of dysfunctional families. Economic and social conditions are the greater drivers of dysfunction, that individuals (i.e. individuals will behave differently in different conditions), imo.

      As long as there is poverty and alienated people these dysfunctional families will exist in numbers that reflect those social norms. All that the benefits have done in this sense is made it easier to count them. I’ve yet to see a count of the kids of the working poor living in dire, dysfunctional conditions and likely to produce a new generation of the same – those figures would be a bit to hard for some people to take, I reckon. Of course, I agree that there are the utter bastards and the totally careless, but they are few in relation to those who would be able to make better decisions for their kids (even not having them) if the world was a lot more inclusive and equitable.

  5. Having children is not always planned.

    It’s never planned if you regard it as just shit that happens.

    Why not stop the wealthy having children.

    Because their kids aren’t 13 times more likely to suffer abuse? Anyway, nobody mentioned stopping anyone having children.

    • greywarbler 5.1

      PM
      It’s never planned if you regard it as just shit that happens.
      People who can use that sort of language about women having babies about whom they express concern are not the sort that should have anything to do with solving any problems. It’s a callous mindset and inhuman, more economic man or woman than hu-man. And the branch is neo-liberal, moralistic, utilitarian economics at that.

      • Psycho Milt 5.1.1

        People who can use that sort of language about women having babies about whom they express concern are not the sort that should have anything to do with solving any problems.

        We have a significant number of people for whom children are exactly that, and who produce a significant number of children each as a consequence. Describing the circumstances of these children using only self-delusional euphemisms might make you feel better, but others aren’t compelled to join in.

        • greywarbler 5.1.1.1

          PM
          I say again.
          It’s a callous mindset and inhuman, more economic man or woman than hu-man.
          And the attitude does not enable any pro-active reasonable action, just simple-minded reaction often behaviour that diminishes our perceived status as highly intelligent beings.

        • ak 5.1.1.2

          We have a significant number of people for whom children are exactly that,

          You poor beggar. When the need to hate is this strong, it’s usually terminal. Get help, lad.

          • Psycho Milt 5.1.1.2.1

            It’s a callous mindset and inhuman, more economic man or woman than hu-man.

            It is indeed. How people can be like that I don’t know, but that’s no reason to pretend it doesn’t exist.

  6. greywarbler 6

    Thinking about the way that this government is behaving to one group of children which they would not consider with another group. This reminds me of the stories that have come out about Britain I think mostly after WW2. Children were sent out in thousands to Australia some of whom were told their mothers were dead, untruthfully.

    There is an attitude amongst adult society in many countries that denigrates children of ‘broken’ or non-conforming homes., including here. A little blonde girl was taken on by a Gipsy couple, now in Greece. They say they were given her by a woman in Bulgaria who couldn’t look after her. Now she has been taken from them and they are automatically viewed with grave suspicion of mistreatment. No doubt she considers them her father and mother and if they have been caring, will be in distress and bewilderment feeling abandoned.

    The authorities can be worse than parents with all their faults, either biological or in loco parentis.
    Government needs to clean up their act more than parents. Support parents to do a good job, steer them the right way, and half of the nation’s ills will vanish.

  7. Sable 7

    I’m sorry but I have little more faith in Labour than National. The current mess we are in is down to both of these parties and I really think its time for then to go. This is starting to happen with the Greens but I hope we will see others come about that replace these old, corrupt, complacent parties.

    • greywarbler 7.1

      Sable
      Throwing all the toys out can’t be done. It implies that more and better will come along as replacements. This is what the Right Wing Labourites thought and did with their policies. They personally may have been satisfied they did good but the replacements were not a universal fit.

      Good things take time, they do not appear out of the hat when the magician waves his or her stick. There have been years of hard work building policy and controls to overcome the greed and self interest that abounds in those who have acquired power and resources for themselves.

      Trying to create something entirely new now is out. There isn’t time!!! Work with what we have. Rummage through the political op shop and look for treasures that will stand alteration and suit the new conditions. Seek out past examples of quality and find people who know how to use the old tried and true techniques to create, patch or mend an entity for today’s needs. One that will endure against ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’.

      • finbar 7.1.1

        But Warbler,the Nats are taking us back to the bad old days, where working rights were non existent,taxation of the wealthy was frowned upon,health, education, housing, and a healthy diet was only afforded to those better off,and that regress of social progress seems to be working for them,as they cry, we are a progressive 21st century realist capitalist government.

  8. Mike S 8

    “A Herald-DigiPoll survey of 500 Super City dwellers found 43.8 per cent ranked transport as the biggest issue facing Auckland.”

    Sorry, but that’s either wrongly reported or the poll results were somehow wrongly counted or even deliberately altered.

    Everyone I’ve talked to and no doubt a large majority of us rank berm mowing as the biggest issue facing Auckland. I mean, after weeks and weeks, there’s still letters to the herald appearing almost daily regarding berms, berms have been on the main current affairs news hour as a headlining story, on the front page of the National newspaper.

    I have a friend who 20 years ago arrived here as a refugee from Iraq. Watching him trying to explain to his relatives on skype how berms are such a major issue for us Aucklanders puts both of us into such hysterics that it physically really really hurts!

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