Remember the “underclass”? John Key pretended to be concerned about them for a while as a gimmick for the 2008 election. Since then his government has managed to increase their number.
Rodney Hide was part of that government for a while, and without a trace of irony he writes about the underclass in today’s Herald. The piece is yet another reminder of the “depth” and “quality” of thought that characterises the ACT Party, and is responsible for their political demise. In short, it’s a blithering mess:
The underclass have no hope
Matt McCarten bellyaches every week that successive governments don’t care about the poor and downtrodden. He’s correct.
But the problem is far greater than Matt recognises. The dirty secret of New Zealand politics is that government programmes are perfectly engineered to embed and eternalise an underclass. It’s politics, not economics, that creates the massive hurdle the poor must leap to prosper.
Well I don’t know about “perfectly engineered”, but yes, of course the issues are political. Hide goes on to list his ten examples of how government “blocks upwards mobility”. These are a mix of the usual right-wing fantasies, ACT’s habitual racism, and observations so cryptic and general as to perfectly useless. To choose just one example:
Small business must now stay small and under the government radar. The prospect of starting a business is now just too daunting for the unskilled and out-of-work. There are too many legal hoops and risks to bedevil simple tasks like hiring and firing, building a shed and excavating a little earth.
In the real world of course survey after survey ranks NZ the best (or one of the best) countries in the world to do business, for reasons including “a lack of red tape”. So much for Hide’s fantasies. I’m sure that Standardistas could come up with a much better list of the ways in which government entrenches the status quo.
Hide saves the worst for last, in the conclusion of his piece:
Matt is right to see the problem. But he’s wrong to be looking to government for the cure. It’s politics and government that created the poor and downtrodden and rendered the underclass inter-generational.
If we don’t look to government (politics) for the cure then I can only assume that Rodney has lost it completely and is advocating revolution? Our current system doesn’t do enough to break the inter-generational cycle of poverty, but the problems are political and the solutions are political too. We need to become more engaged with politics, not less.