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The Standard

Beyond the middleclasses

Written By: - Date published: 8:29 am, December 16th, 2012 - 81 comments
Categories: benefits, child welfare, class, class war, employment, poverty - Tags: , ,

There is plenty of evidence that political parties tend to target their campaigns and policies on the middle-classes, while low income strugglers have become increasingly disenfranchised.  This is strongly influenced by the tendency of the MSM to focus on the middle and upper-classes, especially in  front page and prime-time coverage of political news.

An article on Stuff this morning, at first seemed to be following the standard middle-class focus.  But then, as it progressed it developed a critique of the relative impact of current economic realities on people in different class or income bands.  The impact of the GFC on the middle classes, may not be as expected:

So with a recession, spiralling inner-city house prices and a rising cost of living, is the Kiwi middle-class also feeling the squeeze? You might think so, but some economists reckon the numbers tell us we’ve never had it so good.

“They don’t know how lucky they are,” declares analyst Matthew Nolan of Wellington’s Infometrics.

The author/s refer to various theorists, studies and statistics, providing more evidence than I have time to analyse before I head to work.  But here are some extracts:

Jean-Pierre Du Raad, chief executive of the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, agrees. The middle-class squeeze is “a bit of an urban myth”, he says.

Since 2001, our middle-class median income has risen by 21 per cent. Yes, the recession has hit, but it’s arguable the middle class has suffered less than the poor and the rich. In part, that’s because of Director’s Law.

Named after the late American economist Aaron Director, it suggests the middle class will always have undue political influence because of its size and aggregate wealth.

“The middle class has political power, so the things they are concerned about are acted on,” says Nolan.

And this:

So where did the myth of the middle-class squeeze come from? Well, says Nolan, the middle class knows how to make a noise, everyone’s feeling the recession, and many have paid attention to the noises coming from America.

Of course, this is about statistics – the average. This isn’t you, living from pay cheque to pay cheque, scraping together the school donation, the football subs, the car repayment, the Sky bill, the rent for the bach this Christmas.

Department of Statistics figures show, in the past five years, substantial climbs in the cost of insurance (home insurance by 130 per cent, contents by 41 per cent and health by 43 per cent), most foods (by about a fifth), rates (30 per cent) and electricity bills (26 per cent).

But remember, says Du Raad, rising prices hit everyone, but reduced mortgage rates are more likely to help the middle class (if, crudely, you presume the rich own their homes outright and the poor rent). And house prices? That’s merely young middle-class people paying more to older middle-class people.

But here is the real crunch:

What all three economists do agree on is the growing level of inequality in New Zealand – it’s this chasm between our poorest and richest that’s probably the real issue.

Du Raad says the squeeze has actually come strongest on low-income households earning between $30,000 and $40,000 a year.

“There are social issues we should be looking at, not a blanket claim that the middle class are struggling – it’s not in the data,” argues Nolan.

“We’d be better to focus our attention and efforts on people hit by the recession – the long-term unemployed; child poverty.”

The article humanises the issues by presenting some thumbnail sketches of different individuals and families.  Some, like the unemployed 59 year old job seeker, and the quake survivors struggling in difficult circumstances.  However, the examples tend to undercut the main argument in the article, and re-focus attention on the middle-classes. It doesn’t include any people who are really doing it tough, like Bernadette Connell, contemplating Christmas on the breadline.

Nor does it include people who will be contemplating attending Christmas celebrations or foodbanks organised by the likes of the Auckland City Mission:

Each Christmas the Mission supports thousands of people who have no-one else to turn to. Throughout December we expect to provide 2000 emergency food parcels, distribute approximately 20,000 Christmas presents and host around 2500 people at New Zealand’s largest community Christmas Lunch.

Or the Christchurch City Mission.  These are the organisations that I know of.  You may be able to provide links to others.

And, given the amount of detail in the above Stuff article, you may have more time to ponder on it and provide some insights, than I do right now.

81 comments on “Beyond the middleclasses”

  1. Dr Terry 1

    Thanks Karol, lots to think about here. I am no longer very sure as to whom we are referring when we speak of middle-classes. There seem to be middle-classes and middle-classes. Some of these (a majority still) are “comfortably off, thank you”, others (still the minority) are hit by the recession and punitive measures. Plenty are left, regrettably, to assure the Tories of their vote (the “I’m all right Jack” type and the Nat’s take great care not to offend (too much) these wealthier middle-classes persons (when it came to offences against teachers or mining conservation land, for example, the government pulled in its horns). For all the very real problems, sorrows, even despair, that the country is experiencing, in the end this remains a reasonably prosperous country if only by a small margin. The Nat’s count upon it. The thing to notice, however, is that currently the government IS beginning to make inroads on upsetting its customary supporters, thus there is hope on the horizon yet (of being shot of it)

    Don’t know that I am making much sense – hard to express it clearly.

    • just saying 1.1

      Comfortable urban professional/business people have come to sense a degree of entitlement previously only seen in farmers and the gentry.
      The griping and sense of aggrievement we see expressed by them – memes such as: impossibly, unsustainable x number of taxpayers supporting x number of bludgers; the Maori grievance industry robbing taxpayers blind, the idea that they are the backbone burdened with supporting everybody else and deprived as a result, these to me smell of a a preemptive strike against the dirt-poor, the struggling, Maori, assorted other oppressed. –   They know in their hearts that they have for than is fair, oftentimes more than they themselves actually expected to have compared with the more modest middle-class they grew up in.  They know in their hearts that the many luxuries and freedoms they enjoy must inevitably be somewhat curtailed.  They know that there comes a point in which suffereing inflicted on large numbers of less fortunate others will reach a critical mass and that they will have a fight on their hands.  They know all this and they are still getting in first and belligerently declaring that they are entitled to everything they have and more.  And they aint compromising one jot.

      • Neoleftie 1.1.1

        Urban professional and business types are not inclusive terms,  urban professional covers range of jobs etc that might lend itself to a social conscious and awareness whereas business types usually imbedded into the neolib investment capital constructed systeURL

        • just saying 1.1.1.1

          Of course Neolefite, I expressed myself badly. There are no homogenous groups obviously.  I was trying (unsuccessfully) to describe members (and not all of them) of a group of particular asset wealth, disposable income and social resources.
           
          A friend of mine used to send me emails circulated amongst her middle-class friends-friends in Auckland. God knows who originally wrote them.   The emails bitched about all the things I mentioned and made out they (the prosperous middle class) were some kind of precious endangered species under imminent threat.  They were in an unattributed, apparently authorative newspaper column-type format, but full of untruths half-truths and other kinds of deception.
           
          My friend found the emails offensive but fascinating.  There were a massive number of names on the mailing list.  When she finally said what she thought about them she stopped receiving them.  It was amazing how hard done by such wealthy people felt in regard to others so much less advantaged.  How angry they were.
           
          I came upon similar ‘newsletters’ via wealthier friends and acquaintances down here in the South Island.  I assume they are the sorts of things that are informally distributed quite widely.  That famous quote from the US tea party that Mallard recently posted on his facebook page about the middle class slaving away to pay taxes to enable bludgers to loll around doing nothing (I paraphrase, I can’t remember the exact words) was of a similar genre.
          I wasn’t suggesting all of the middle class think similarly.   I’m not actually poor myself.

          edit: I don’t think most middle class professionals are liberals though I know many who are.

          • Neoleftie 1.1.1.1.1

            I remember two brothers one new off the boat from Auckland , the other a dunedinite conservative local councillor and business suit type. The Aucklander was rude classist and devoid of any respect or understanding for those perceived as his inferiors by earning of position, his brother had to take him to task and state that it’s not the done thing in the deep south.
             

  2. Descendant Of Sssmith 2

    For me it can be put quite simply.

    I’m not wealthy and still have a reasonable mortgage which I’ll pay off by the time I retire.

    I can pay all my bills on time and have a reasonable spend on luxuries or choose to pay a bit more off my mortgage.

    I’m in a similar position to my grandparents generation who simply aimed similarly to have bought a house and paid their mortgage off before retirement.

    I don’t change my house cause I bought it to live in and I’ll never own a rental property. I raised my kids rather than chasing the dollar and am happy with that choice.

    Did I need tax cuts – no.

    Am I happy for my tax to be increased – yes.

    Am I happy for those increases to be spent on poor people absolutely.

    Do I think non-judgemental societal welfare via taxation is better than charity via benefactors – by a country mile.

    Do I wish Labour would off anything like this – yes

    Do they – No.

    • Neoleftie 2.1

      Me I want a progression to a state where mega corporation no longer and either co ops or SOE with all their profit retaimed, bye bye ruling class, no entity is more powerful than the state.
      The Fabian society has some intersting articles on the next way outa the more we are in and face so very very soon.

  3. BM 3

    NZ is well down the path to becoming a meritocracy.
    People expect others to make an effort, just giving money to poor people, annoys most people intensely.
    Like the Americans, if you’re not making enough money, get educated, work harder, don’t just sit around with your hand out expecting some else to provide.

    You may not like it but this is modern NZ.

    • rosy viper 3.1

      How about you tell that to the person who cleans your office toilet. Who has a low status job because s/he had to leave school at 14 due to being kicked out of home after s/he was being beaten up by parents or something?

      • BM 3.1.1

        Well if she’s moaning about not making enough money I’d say.

        Get educated, work harder, don’t just sit around with your hand out expecting some else to provide.

        • Foreign Waka 3.1.1.1

          Good morning BM
          I belief your answer is a bit too simplistic. As everything in life, there are a great number of variants playing a part in income levels. I would say, that the greatest number of people that our society could call lower class or poor are women with their children. As long as there is no pay parity they will stay poor. Or would you say that cleaning a toilet is less worth than cleaning your desk? Most of these manual nondescriptive jobs are filled by women and it is too easy to say that they sit around. Far from it! It’s just that they work and work and get nowhere for the sake or their kids. At the same time, yes there are some who use the very benefit system to take advantage. But I also know people who have finally landed a job only to say after 2 months they are now enttitled to far far more. One has to be carful not to lose perspective. The few are not representitive of the many. It is sooo easy to make blanket statements as these are the best defence to keep the status quo. So please look closer, make sure you understand the human circumstance before your judge. Have a great Christmas.

        • NoseViper (The Nose knows) 3.1.1.2

          BM
          You and people like you are the main reasons why NZ can’t get ahead and isn’t developing strategies to maintain adequately paying jobs and reasonable standard of living.  You breakfast, lunch and dine on your own stupid ideas all day so they are an integral part of you and so you can’t understand the wide society outside your little cave and shopping patch and echo chamber where you sit with your chosen companions listening to each other’s prejudices and slogans critical of practically everyone.

        • rosy viper 3.1.1.3

          Obviously you’ve been in a similar situation and know how simple your prescription is.

          Btw as an accidentally middleclass person I have no problem at all paying people a decent wage for performing the lowest status jobs. Including those jobs that improve the working environment of office workers who have never been toilet-trained.

        • QoTViper 3.1.1.4

          It’s a great piece of propaganda, the “meritocracy”.  It allows people like BM to assume that people doing shit jobs like cleaning toilets don’t deserve anything better, because hey, if they just tried hard enough they wouldn’t have to clean toilets.
          “Meritocracy” thus involves the assumption that people who clean toilets are scum.  Otherwise questions like “so who the fuck cleans your toilets when we’re all bootstrap millionaires?” would be a bit tricky.

          • Colonial Weka 3.1.1.4.1

            You’re forgetting there are no toilets on Planet Key,

            • xtasy 3.1.1.4.1.1

              Hence there are also no guts and stomachs in people living on Planet Key, as the “shit” that is made through there simply does not get created on his planet, so they all live off nectar and ambrosia, leaving nothing to pas through, as the body will fully absorb it all and only sweat out tiny residual stuff, aye?!
               
              Or would we not believe that Planet Key, if it was more “real life” is covered in shite and piss all over, as there is no special, organised place to put it, when it comes out of the body?
               
              Not a pleasant place to be in, I must say! Too smelly and slippery for my well being.

            • rosy viper 3.1.1.4.1.2

              ahh, Weka, you found the fatal flaw in my example.

        • bad12 3.1.1.5

          You just don’t ‘get it’ do you, perhaps you don’t ‘get it’ because you have not the intellectual where-with-all or perhaps you have for too long been availing yourself of sucking the scum from the trough of priveledge and you no longer care to ‘get it’,
           
          Your whole pathetic argument falls over at the first hurdle of the unemployment figures, 170,000 unemployed in New Zealand means just that, the economy is short of 170,000 jobs, so, even if every jobless person in New Zealand educated themselves to university degree level there would still be a New Zealand economy with a shortfall of 170,000 jobs,(unless you are laughably suggesting that there are 170,000 people out there wilfully avoiding employment),
           
          Your argument, pathetic as it is, falls at the second hurdle in that someone has to do the jobs of Labor where the burgers get flipped, the trash gets taken out, and, the gas gets pumped, should the 170,000 unemployed and the 400,000 low waged workers avail themselves of the education system and all become degree graduates WHERE EXACTLY do you think that would leave them or an equal number of degree graduates currently in employment at a level that goes some way to express due respect to the degrees they have sought and gained???
           
          What we would have is a highly educated workforce clamoring to be rewarded for their personal educational qualifications without having an economy capable of meeting such expectations, in other words university qualified burger flippers….
           

          • BM 3.1.1.5.1

            Nobody gives a fuck that people clean toilets or do any other menial job, I’ve done a few in my time.The issue is when people don’t live within their means and moan that they haven’t got enough money.
            You cannot live the life of an accountant,scientist,programmer etc, if you’re a cleaner, that’s the facts of life. if that’s all you can do learn to live a fairly basic existence,you’ll be a lot happier.

            • QoTViper 3.1.1.5.1.1

              Nobody gives a fuck that people clean toilets or do any other menial job, 
               
              You probably should, those jobs are kind of vital to all the “important” jobs which you think deserve big money.
               
              Not to mention that it often isn’t actually possible to “learn to live a fairly basic existence” on minimum wage, unless you think food and electricity are luxuries only accountants should be able to afford.

              • BM

                Have you ever had to?, I have, it’s hard but it’s acheivable.
                If you have very little money you need to learn to budget, look at ways to cut costs,It’s all about controlling your expenditure
                 
                 

                • QoTViper

                  Oh, well, if you managed then I’m sure the countless people living in poverty who literally cannot make ends meet just aren’t trying hard enough!  Anecdata is awesome!

      • anthony bull 3.1.2

        So, Rosy, does their life end at 14 then?  Are they incapable of upskilling or choosing a career or working hard from that point onwards?
         
        I know people who have made career changes at the age of 60 after being made redundant after working for firms for 30+ years, and then being laughed out of interviews for being too old – and they managed to completely change their careers and start new professions without prior training or skills in that profession.
         
        So why, can’t someone who is a young adult do the same?  Because their parents kicked them out of the house at some point in the past?  Is that their story for the rest of their life?

        • rosy viper 3.1.2.1

          So, anthony bull would you suggest a young person who leaves school with no qualifications, and a who had dysfunctional relationship with parent/s starts would start a working life on an equal footing with someone who finished school and has learned the communication skills they might need to make their way successfully in the adult world?

          Further, would you suggest that someone who might be unaware of how to make the most of life’s chances e.g. the aspirations the parents for the child is zilch, would have the same chance of making successful life choices as people who followed supported educational routes?

          Would you suggest that all young people who start out with such disadvantage will all have the same set of skills to successfully negotiate it?

          Do you suggest that a person with 30+ years work experience is at the same disadvantage as someone who didn’t learn any work skills at all, and that someone brought up in a violent home has the same communication skills and positive outlook as someone with 30 years work experience? Don’t you think the chance of a slip-up in a life plan is a little greater for someone with this background, so that person might require a little more input from ?? to make it happen, and that input might just reduce that chances of that person costing society a whole lot more in the long run?

          Even the Nats profess to believe in equality of opportunity.

    • Descendant Of Sssmith 3.2

      And you somehow think people don’t do that?
      You somehow don’t think that people work when work is there?
      You somehow think that moving GDP distribution away from wages to profits has made things better for people.
      You somehow think that those increased profits are being used to create innovate businesses that light up the sharemarket?
      You somehow think that those reduced taxes are doing the same?
      You somehow think that if tomorrow you had a car accident and suffered a brain injury that meant you could never work again that you would be OK.
      You somehow think that people on benefit is a fixed group of people who stay there forever?
      You think that some of those people you despise already work hard often holding down 2 jobs to just get by?
      You think everyone has the same capability, skill and circumstances – that no-one has disabilties, that employers aren’t racist or sexist, that men don’t beat and abuse their wives or suddenly leave them for no reason.
      You think get your shit together is the ONLY solution?
       
       
       

      • Descendant Of Sssmith 3.2.1

        btw a true meritocracy would have all people starting off with nothing. I look forward to your promotion of 100% death duties.

    • vto 3.3

      BM “People expect others to make an effort, just giving money to poor people, annoys most people intensely”

      You need to think that it may be possible your lenses are a particular shape and your view is a result of that lens.

      You see, you assume that the reason poopr don’t have enough money is because they are not educated enough, don’t work hard enough, don’t get off their backside enough. You have expressed this view many times before.

      Has it occured to you that the reason poor people do not have enough money is because the parameters around the distribution of society’s wealth (and make no mistake – all money is “distributed” or “redistributed” by way of rules and regs and systems and settings. It has little to do with work or “earning”.) have been adjusted away from the poorer workers? Example: tax cuts for the upper income earners. Another example: lack of a capital gains tax means businesses aim for “earning” their wealth by way of capital rather than income. Example: a minimum wage that is less than slave wages (it costs more to keep a slave than to pay minimum wage. Did yo know that BM?)

      • BM 3.3.1

        I used to be on the dole with no money.

        Everyone that I got on the piss with every Thursday never wanted to work, took too much effort.Most enjoyed the dole life style, lack of money sucked but not been answerable to any one out weighted that and there were other ways you could make an extra bit of coin.

        Wasn’t until I applied myself learnt some skills, that life started moving forward.

        Most of the people I run into from this time, were the same.

        • vto 3.3.1.1

          Fair enough BM, and there are without doubt those types around. But they always will be around. They used to be on the railways and wharves in the 70’s, now they sit on te dole (generalisations taken).

          But your post there confirms my point above, namely that your lens is shaped to too great an extent by your own life’s circumstances. You should stop judging through your own lens and try the others that exist out there. The distribution of NZ’s wealth has little to do with hard work and education and most to do with the current distribution settings. It is these settings which need adjusting so that hard working poorer people get a greater share – like they used in the good old days…..

          Here is another related question – NZ is at its most wealthy today, yet we cannot adequately look after all our brothers and sisters. Why is that BM?

        • Descendant Of Sssmith 3.3.1.2

          And that everyone was what 10-15 people, 20-30 people, 500-600 people?
          And at what point did you decide you wanted something different, at what point did you decide to stop behaving in the same way? And what made you change?
          Some of us make decisions that others don’t make. What makes me more resilient that others who had similar enviornments to myself? Is it genetic is it enviornment? Is it an individual that inspires me? Is it a lifechanging experience? Is it the depths of despair or a change in medication? Is it an opportunity that came along out of the blue?
          There’s multiple answers and multiple solutions. One size cannot fit all.
          Simply thinking that all you have to do is get off your arse is not either realistic or pragmatic.
          Creating opportunty is much more likely to be successful particularly for those who are disadvantaged in the labour market to start off with.
          You’ll note one of the points of meritocracy is to identify young people with intelligence and talent and to develop them. This would mean you would go to a bright as a button school because you were bright as a button and you would go to a thick as pigshit school because you were thick as pigshit.
          The notion of meritocracy that you think we are moving to would have lots of poor ( and Maori and Pacific Island ) people at Auckland Grammar and lots of wealthy children somewhere ese. IQ geniuses they are not.
          Who you know would no longer be important and we’d have a much larger public service amongst other things.
          I’m not sure how you think we are moving to that.
          Here’s a good view of such a party.
          http://gmpuk.ucoz.co.uk/ 
           
           

    • Neoleftie 3.4

      Funny that unemployment in real terms is over 10 percent in America the land of the free. More like the land of the slaves to coportations.

  4. Colonial Weka 4

    Defining the middle class is difficult now. I know people with working class backgrounds who live middle class lives. Is class socio-economic or cultural or both.
     
    I wasn’t aware that a big deal had been made in NZ about the middle class squeeze, I thought NZ had gotten off quite lightly compared to other places in the world.
     

    Since 2001, our middle-class median income has risen by 21 per cent. Yes, the recession has hit, but it’s arguable the middle class has suffered less than the poor and the rich.
     

    Well duh, of course the poor are the worst off. Not sure about the rich, I guess he is talking purely in financial terms. The median income… isn’t that just the mid point? Doesn’t tell us how many people below that point are struggling compared to before.
     
    My upper middle class family don’t appear to have been affected by the recession in any noticeable way. But I do know people who I would have thought were well off who have no cash. All their income is tied up in debt repayment (including mortgages and increased rents) and increases in the cost of living. Some of those people are losing ground and/or using savings for daily living costs. Their incomes haven’t gone up by 21%, so me thinks there is something off about the measuring.
     
    I think Chch is an important part of the picture. Living in the South Island, it’s hard not to see people whose fortunes have changed in various ways.

  5. Coronial Typer 5

    I would not dare decry the virtue or necessity of one strata of society over another. I would only stress how important a middle class is to New Zealand.

    Some typical markers of being middle class are this:

    – Home ownership. Declining consistently and substantially in New Zealand.

    – University degree. Young people now think hard before taking on that scale of debt.

    – A career path into a good salary. New Zealand is too hollowed-out in both public and private sectors to see this too often.

    – Savings, for income to retire with, even after a health scare in mid-60s. Perhaps in a rental property, in an accelerated Kiwisaver, bonds, shares, or shares in a business. Whole sectors of society spectacularly shunted down-market by the mezzanine finance wipeout over 5 years.

    – Holidays with travel. Check out the pressure of our local tourist sector

    As Deng Xiaopeng, China’s greatest Premier famously said: “To be rich is glorious”.

    People with the above attributes are the people that keep the New Zealand economy going, because they spend locally, they raise debt, they aspire and are often aspired to. They are attractive as prospective mates. The don’t own much of the economy, but they are at the core of New Zealand.

    It is smug. It is comfortable. It is tidy and hygienic. It is its own regime, so finely calibrated you can see it in every property rating table. You know where you are, and that’s precisely part of its neurosis and its definition.

    There’s a really good reason Labour and the Greens need to regain more of the middle class in New Zealand, and why they need to focus the economy on building more of them: they are the definition of getting a fair chance in life, and National presumes they have a lock on them. They generate aspiration and dynamism.

    I am middle class. I will never be bottom 10% or top 1%. Probably the only thing that makes me stay in New Zealand, rather than leave and come back to retire, is it’s hard to get the same strata of career for my partner in one shift. No party yet compels me to want to stay.

    • just saying 5.1

      No other reason you would want to live in NZ? It’s all about getting more money?
      <i>There’s a really good reason Labour and the Greens need to regain more of the middle class in New Zealand,…</i>
      These two attitudes always seem to together.
      just saying.
       
       
       

      • Coronial Typer 5.1.1

        “Career” is different from “more money”, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that mere patriotism will span the difference between the two. There’s a minor segment here of real outsiders whose lives can do without either, but they are by definition not in the middle class.

        • just saying 5.1.1.1

          Who said anything about patriotism?
          For me its about the land itself, the wildlife, the people (esp my people), and on a day like today – the weather.
          Thought you said you had a career – but that you could make more money at it oversaeas?
          Of course power usually comes into the mix with the more money.

          • Coronial Typer 5.1.1.1.1

            Sorry patriotism is my shorthand code for all of that stuff. Land, 100% Pure, etc etc, whole Hobbiton mythology. Totally buy it.
             
            Yes I could make more overseas, and provided a clear explanation why I was still here.
             
            And yes the greater available power would naturally also be attractive. 
             
            Plan is to retire to Wanaka. Haute-bourgeoise enclave of The World’s Chosen.

            • just saying 5.1.1.1.1.1

              Stop putting words in my mouth.
               
              100 percent pure – what a load of bollocks.  I suspect you might be getting a little defensive with this sarcastic nonsense
              Patriotism – loyalty to one’s state and its institiutions.
              I’m no patriot.  Love of particular land and people – quite different.
              Had to laugh about your Wanaka plans.  I know a few people who have gone to live there.  You’ll fit right in.

    • Neoleftie 5.2

      Nice definition of middle class. Inho the middle is extremely wide now. Bottom 20 or so percent classed as poor, middle class make up the bulk and the top few percent is elite class who rob the rest.
      As a left wing labourite it’s time we reconnected to more of the middle and the bottom class, the young, the non voter and solidified our position as the party to bring about meaningful change and betterment.
      Sure labour take a bit from the elite, a lot from the middle to give to the poor, talk about equality but true equality come about when the imbedded power structurethat we call investment capitalism ipost the mega corporation entities are controlled and harnesses by the state for the betterment of the people and not just the few.

      • Coronial Typer 5.2.1

        In true Robin Hood fashion, as a policy setting that’s just fine, bur as a means to power it simply sucks. Home ownership is a great feint towards aspiration and equity. And it’s mighty good if Labour really can find the Minister who can pull it iff. I don’t think they’ve got one.
        But that’s only one appeal. Reagan and Clinton had a whole suite of policy directions to get them back. In 2014 Shearer will probably scrape in just by being Not-National. But to get more than one term, he will need a whole bunch more in the tank for the midle class to pop into the voting booth with a happy wallet or handbag.

    • Populuxe1 5.3

      Well said. I’m bourgeois and proud. Also it’s the middle class expectations of a civil society that  reinforces the freedoms of our liberal democracy. All this hating on the middle class, whatever “middle class” means anymore, and indeed the whole archaic notion of “class”, is primarily ideologically motivated and doesn’t accurately reflect our society – the vast majority of whom would consider themselves middle class.

      • just saying 5.3.1

        I’m bourgeois and proud. unquote
         
        …indeed the whole archaic notion of “class”, is primarily ideologically motivated and doesn’t accurately reflect our society. unquote
         
        So, it’s only an archaic concept when it comes to the working class demanding their share?
         

        • Neoleftie 5.3.1.1

          Then again most if not all of us are working class…apart form the very few elite owner class who treat the rest of us as slaves to their profit…labour is now simple a commodity with few rights and fewer protections.
          Time for a paradymal shift.

          • karol 5.3.1.1.1

            “class” is difficult to pin down, because of the factors that can have an influence: money, status, power etc.
             
            Marx mainly had 2 classes based on differences of power, control and access to the means to own a business, compared with workers having to sell  their labour to the owners.
             
            Most official state  research has tended to use a more Weberian influenced division of classes, based on occupations and their relative status: manual (worker) and non-manual (middle-class).   But these were based on the notion of one male breadwinner per household.  Women didn’t fit neatly into such classification systems.
             
            And these days, a skilled manual worker (bricklayer, motor mechanic) can be better off than some lower middle-class office workers.  Then there’s the whole thorny issues of households with 2 breadwinners, compared with single parents;  the increase in part time, casual and precarious work.
             
            To me, the significant class differences relate to income level, security of income, and access to power or powerful networks – beneficiaries not able to negotiate the system, without networks of contacts to help them etc. – lack of social capital.

            • Bill 5.3.1.1.1.1

              Ruling Class….some owners, capitalists, certain bankers or whatever (powerful)
              Co-ordinator Class….various managers, bureaucrats, doctors, lawyers and other recognised ‘professionals’ essentially in the service of the ruling class (empowered)
              Working Class….subject to the directions of co-ordinators (disempowered)

              • felixviper

                Exactly. 
                 
                Arguments about what hourly rate is the cutoff between different classes of workers is a red herring. It’s all about power.

        • Populuxe1 5.3.1.2

          You are a sad humourless little thing, aren’t you. What is “working class” except someone who works – something most of us do or have done. Aside from a tiny minority who are very rich, categories like “working class” and “middle class” are utterly meaningless.

          • just saying 5.3.1.2.1

            So what exactly are you “proud” of?  Expressing it in french doesn’t change the concept.
             
             

            • Populuxe1 5.3.1.2.1.1

              It’s a joke, you poor humourless bore, but as I don’t feel particularly ashamed of a status I had not control over being born into and contributes quite a lot, it’s not exactly inaccurate.

              • Neoleftie

                You are the bore , silly and dumbed by youR status in society.
                My house income is over 140 k I have 30 millionaire in the extended family, my uncle was COO of contact, lawyers, high court judge and also  GovGeneral in the family, for good measure my mum had a nanny, a cook and a housekeeper but this is meaningless.
                Time for you and your kind to grow up, look around you and see people. You’re a elitist snob silly silly person, shortsighted a mole nothing more or less.

          • VindowViper 5.3.1.2.2

            While I agree that it’s probably a meaningless distinction, nonetheless snobbery being what it is most people can immediately tell the difference when they see it.
             
            These days it’s not primarily an economic distinction; it’s more of a cultural one. 

            • Populuxe1 5.3.1.2.2.1

              Snobbery is a funny thing – everyone does it. You see it here an awful lot, especially when a National government gives any support to anything populist, or god-forbid anyone should mention reality television, and the number of people who seem to exist only to show off how well they’ve internalised various aspects of social theory is itself a form of snobbery. 

            • karol 5.3.1.2.2.2

              I think there is both a cultural and an economic element in class distinctions, along with power and status – but it is primarily economic/financial.  Why else is there such a smearing of beneficiaries by our current government?

  6. geoff 6

    The best way to divvy the country up is into pre and post rogernomics.

    NZ before getting Rogered:
    – low unemployment
    – cheap housing
    – free tertiary education
    – proper apprenticeship system
    – job security
    – not drenched in advertising and cheap credit

    NZ after getting Rogered:
    – everything the opposite

    Even most of the fuckups I know, who reached adulthood pre-Rogering, are usually so much
    better off financially than the most switched on people I know who got Rogered.

    Roger.

  7. xtasy 7

    The “middle class” is breaking apart, and it has done so for years. Many only still count themselves “middle class” out of false pride, not wanting to admit, they are dropping into the working poor category.

    Yes, a fair number in that better off part of the “middle class” are still managing, and some are happy with lower interest rates on mortgages, even if that gets neutralised to some degree by increases in living and other costs deemed essential.

    The “middle class” as such is the prime focus of Labour and the Nats, because they know that they are more vocal if unhappy, and they have their expectations to keep their living standards.

    It is a fact that neither National Party nor Labour do really care all that much about beneficiaries and the real poor, as they are considered an element on “the fringe”.

    Many beneficiaries do not even bother to vote (sadly), as they have been disappointed so often, feel betrayed and not listened to, they have NO more hope at all. They are struggling to survive week to week, and they are totally disenfranchised, so most of them do not even consult advocates, who could help them, as they really trust almost nobody anymore.

    Take a drive or busride from Meadowbank down to Glen Innes one day, if you live or are in Auckland, you will seen that within a hundred metres you will travel from the first world to more or less the third world, all within NZ.

    I do on a benefit live from hand to mouth, I cannot even afford to buy a pair of needed new shoes, although WINZ and MSD tell us, that the benefit is enough to do so also.

    My clothes are largely what I brought with me from overseas a few years back, where life was easier. Living in a country blessed with natural fertility and much agricultural and other products being grown here, one has to bloody wonder, why so many food products here cost much more in more densely populated places in Europe and elsewhere.

    So I do not have much time for “middle class” concerns, as that is not the world I live in, and if they feel they are hard done by, many driving around in gas guzzling SUVs and able to afford take away food and new gadgets, I have NO time for them. Sorry, but that makes me a non voter when it comes to Labour!

    Greens or Mana are my only alternative left!

    • Descendant Of Sssmith 7.1

      I have little sympathy for my middle class concerns either. Life’s not tough for me at all.

      It was tougher when I had three kids with disabilities and paying 22.5% on my mortgage but even then when I was getting my power and phone disconnected and cooling my milk in the bath cause I had no money it wasn’t as tough as people on benefit would be finding it right now.

      Any party who has any concern for those worse off would have as the first part of their platform an immediate increase in benefit rates effective the day they come to power.

      Not as a cynical vote catcher either but because they actually genuinely believe people are in poverty and struggling.

      Yeah and they can put my tax up to pay for it.

      A Muldoon rent freeze for two years wouldn’t go amiss either and would take some of the heat out of rising house prices.

      • xtasy 7.1.1

        DOS – I must thank you for putting some thought onto these issues, and also for bearing thoughts about the plight of some!
         
        I get a bit worked up on what I experienced, and also what others have experienced, hence I raise my voice again and again.
         
        It is encouraging to receive some support and sympathy, I just wish to say!

    • Neoleftie 7.2

      Xtasy it’s time for real meaningful change…it’s not right or fair that you can’t afford shoes, I don’t know what to do anymore….I vote with my feet, I’ve contributed, I donate , I give my effort but am still a slave.
      My family income put me in the top five percent of income but we are tight tight? 
      ThiIsis to right at all, time for a new direction real change and action.
       
       

      • xtasy 7.2.1

        Actually, I know a fair number of people even much worse of than I am. I do at least have a landlord that does not charge me the now common “market rent”, as I believe, to her this flat I live in is not so much a “cash cow”, but more of a longer term investment. Also does she appreciate me looking after the place and grounds really well. So with a good landlord it can work both ways.
         
        Others living just up the block pay about 30 to 50 per cent more rent for the same size flat!
         
        Also I have a mate who got evicted from his rented home for 9 years last year, by a new buyer and developer. He was the quick “slap on the paint job” guy there are many of. He sold the units in the block off, one by one, for a great profit.
         
        My mate has a nightmarish fight with Housing NZ to get a place, as he was also ill and on a benefit. It took us meetings at top level, and then certainly the step to involve the NZ Herald to make a story of it, to finally, suddenly have Housing NZ back down and give him a (run down) home.
         
        I know many who had to get food parcels. I had to also  a couple of years back, and WINZ must give you a letter to even get the foot into the door to a food bank, Sallies or else. For getting a letter you must make an appointment, after your special needs for food has been exhausted.
         
        This is so common now, even the Citizen Advice bureaus now are doing the job of offering food parcels, and serving as a gap filler for WINZ.
         
        Now Bennett and co want to lay the blame game on beneficiaries, suggesting it is “attitude” and commitment, that is the problem. How disgusting.
         
        I just read this today, that AAAP (Auckland Action Against Poverty) are having a public meeting at 03:30 pm on Wednesday, 19 Dec. 2012 at their new 86 Princes St address in Onehunga, Auckland. Sue Bradford and Chris Zack will be talking to interested persons about benefit issues. I suggest that those interested and affected consider going there, as they may be able to give good info, advice and support to you.
         
        See info on their website:
        http://aaap.org.nz/
         
        It is time to take action, for sure, or you will be steam rolled by the monster brigade of Nat ACT in government, the biggest wheel in the heavy rolling machinery being Bennett.

        • karol 7.2.1.1

          Thanks, xtasy.  I’d be interested to hear what happens at that meeting on Wednesday.  I wanted to go, but am working. 

    • Coronial Typer 7.3

      Crikey that sounds an increadibly harsh life. Completely understand why you prefer Greens or Mana as your political home. 
      Withoug a full essay, what are the standout things it would take to switch your vote to Labour, both in basic policies and in personalities?

      • xtasy 7.3.1

        a) Vote Shearer out as “leader” in February;
        b) have someone hammer out a resolute, clear, well based and balanced policy program for the party in the early to mid of next year, being inclusive of all , of course;
        c) Jancinda Ardern to adress the REAL issues of beneficiaries for once, rather than go on about kiosk privacy and information leak issues at WINZ (e.g. fair deal and proper services for beneficiaries);
        d) to develop an economic plan that is not just based on words, but offers a real agenda, to create jobs by smart, future proof, sustainable and value added business promotion, rather than sell more of the same, while ruining the environment;
        e) run a recruitment drive for new memberships, based on true democracy and to stop the “Stalinist” type suppression of criticism and dissent, as we witnessed here on The Standard;
        f) increase the minimum wage to a liveable wage of at least $ 15 an hour;
        g) make apprenticeships the standard path of qualification for school leavers apart from tertiary education;
        h) abolish the present, suppressive, harsh, unjust benefit system by bringing in a universal base income, allowing top ups based on real needs, and also paying benefits at a level that match real living needs and costs;
        i) present a state housing program alongside Kiwi Build, while Kiwi Build must be improved to ensure that land for sections are available, and to consider also to “nationalise” certain lands not used appropriately by speculators, only wanting to gain maximum profits on sales at high market rates;
        j) Put more money into mental health care to offer services that actually work and assist sick, rather than have doctors mass prescribe medication;
        k) stop and partly reverse asset sales of power companies and the likes;
        l) stop foreign nationals – some of whom not even being residents – from investing in real estate purely for personal gains and profits;
        and so forth.
        This is just a selection of what I would expect, and there could be a fair few points added, but I will refrain from being too pushy here.

        • xtasy 7.3.1.1

          I may add: Free milk, fruit and real lunches for school kids, not just private enterprise promoted basics, which are rather a marketing strategy used by Fonterra, and not just toast and jam for nourishment, as that is poor diet.
           
          The Swedes can offer this (REAL cooked lunch), and they are a comparable country by geographical and population size, why can prime agricultural NZ not deliver such basics to their future citizens? It is an appalling state of affairs we have here!
           
          Best quality produce goes overseas, and consumers in Central Europe can buy Kiwifruit cheaper than it is often sold here. NZers get second rate food made here. What a bloody disgrace this society has become!

        • Coronial Typer 7.3.1.2

          Yup love all of that.

        • Neoleftie 7.3.1.3

          Very well said xtasy.we need more voices like that as members. Roll on feb and the show downfinally the members demand the caucus show the and help the people and not jufew bangout a few vote catching poppy policies, we the people are starving, most don’t even know it.
          Add a few more.
          Print money don’t borrow it.
          Tobin tax.

    • BM 7.4

      How come you can’t find work?

      • xtasy 7.4.1

        “BM(W)” minded person, if you asked me, my answer is: Serious, ongoing health issues. No employer is interested in hiring a sick and incapacitated person. But this government thinks they are happy to do so, and they blame the attitude of sufferers, rather than inform themselves about the real world.
         
        Read the bloody submissions to the Social Services Committee on the Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment bill, all freely available via the website of Parliament, please, and you may start to get an idea about what is going on!
         
        http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/SC/Documents/Evidence/?Custom=00DBHOH_BILL11634_1
         
        But let me guess, you have already made your mind up and could not give a damn, right?
         
         
         

        • BM 7.4.1.1

          That’s no good, must be very frustrating.

          • xtasy 7.4.1.1.1

            It is, but I am not alone. Thanks for your acknowledgment.

          • NoseViper (The Nose knows) 7.4.1.1.2

            BM
            You sound as if you are thinking and getting informed about various problems being aired on this site.   Surely your greater understanding is an illusion that will show up as a temporary blip when your later posts return to your default position of septic sceptic.  It is so annoying and time-consuming having to change one’s mind – I have you down as an ignorant, sour soood so don’t make me do the brainwork to change my ideas about you.

  8. bad12 8

    Just as we can list a number of reasons why Government have created a class of poverty in the beneficiary class of New Zealand we can also widen that list to show how such poverty has been, with deliberation in some cases, spread to the working poor,especially those with children,

    We can also in the same time frame list a series of initiatives from Governments both National and Labour which have deliberately favored the ‘middle class’ of New Zealand over both beneficiary dependent families and especially in the latter case of National’s tax cuts deliberately leaving the working poor with families no particular gains 3 years on,

    The worst examples of such pandering to the middle class while creating poverty lower down the Clark Labour Government and it’s Working for Families tax credits, given a blank canvas these tax credits could,(and should),have started with those with children at the bottom of the economic heap, those receiving welfare benefits,

    The fact that that Labour Government refused to include children of beneficiaries as the recipients of these tax credits while allowing the children of the upper middle class to benefit is a depressing reminder of just how far to the right Labour has positioned itself, Clark Herself losing much of the respect She had among the activists of the left over Her statement that not allowing beneficiary families to share in the largesse of Working for Families as this would encourage them to ‘get a job’,

    National of course have continued to feather the nests of the middle class with both its tax cuts and it’s State Owned Asset sell-off….

    • Coronial Typer 8.1

      IMHO Clark lost the 2008 election by pandering to haute-bourgeoise moral panics. She needed to focus on my wallet.
       
      We need the new Structural Adjustment towards new equity. Equity that makes more people rich, fast. Housing is a start. But we need a Capital Gains Tax with laser-like accuracy on propoerty speculation. A much cheaper dollar (great for exporters and really tough on the whole transport economy). And a Financial Transaction tax to focus the minds of the fund managers, both public and private, local and international. 
       
      Structural Adjustment towards a new equity.
      Would need a really really tough Labour leader to do it. Ah well…
      Soak the 1%-ers. The middle class, and the public sector, will then employ a whole bunch more of everyone else. Gung-Ho!

      • Neoleftie 8.1.1

        That’s a start….now for 2015

      • NoseViper (The Nose knows) 8.1.2

        Coronial Typer  8.1
        Santa are you listening?   You will need to bring your bag of various tools for fixing things along with the one with the usual cuddly toys, DVDs, sports equipment, nice consumables and on line games. We’ve got other, serious requests for action here.

  9. xtasy 9

    To really change things I do not want to go as far as Che Guevara, but seeing a great documentary on him and background info, also knowing about revolution in Europe (e.g. Rosa Luxemburbg), he was RIGHT all the way. He stoody up for justice and fairness, but we have nobody of such calibre bother to look after NZers interests.

    It is cowardice, wankerism and division running the show here, I am afraid. Sorry, I hate to upset, but I cannot resist telling the truth!

    1

  10. felixviper 10

    John Key puts it in slightly different terms. He simply refers to the ‘quality’ of people, as in “a good class of person”.

    But then he is a complete fucking dropkick, so there is that.

  11. NoseViper (The Nose knows) 11

    I was talking yesterday to someone who knows about social welfare problems. One woman she knows has been turned away from DSW or whatever its called now, when she needed money for a bond which she was told to meet out of her benefit, (meagre already). When the benefits were cut in 1991 there was a follow-on of a grant of say $200 that could be applied for each year if there was need. This is being denied beneficiaries at this time of great need by them with prices going up, rents etc. and even if the country’s budget is strained, controlled distribution is still required. The politicians don’t decrease their earnings in hard times, citing the well-known peanuts getting monkeys cliche.

    A woman with no money or food was turned away from DSW when she asked for a voucher for the foodbank. The foodbank did help her but she needed an advocate to go with her as she was so demoralised. People on the raw rough end of societal levels can get so screwed. The speaker didn’t have a good word to say for Poorer Benefit and the climate that pervades in the department’s premises is chilling and peremptory. It can only get worse when they don’t even have to face up to people and the onus is on those begging to have the techno means of contacting them and cash to meet the expense of the call which will be at their expense. Or have I missed an announcement that 0800 numbers will be provided in sufficient multiples so that there is only a three minute waiting period at most times. Can anyone advise if this is the case. I may have missed this information of this service at a level which a well-run department would no doubt have provided.

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