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The Standard

I wish it could be Xmas every day…

Written By: - Date published: 11:10 am, December 21st, 2012 - 27 comments
Categories: david parker, economy, employment, equality, labour, national/act government, poverty - Tags:

… then maybe more attention would be given to the increasing numbers of people struggling to get the necessities of life.  And then maybe people would be pressuring for solutions other than the short term band-aid of charitable giving.  I’m glad charities are doing some very caring work, and that many people are donating to them.

But as Anthony Robins has been posting about every week: our government is not doing anything to put an end to poverty or the social destructiveness of large income inequalities.

This morning the NZ Herald reported record levels of people queuing  for packages outside Auckland City Mission:

Fuelled by the highest rate of unemployment in 13 years, the queues snaking along the pavements outside the Auckland City Mission have nothing festive about them.

“I keep saying every year it’s unprecedented … but I’m almost beyond words when I look out there,” said missioner Diane Robertson. “This is nothing to celebrate.”

More than 100 people were lined up on Hobson St and round a corner into a neighbouring lot yesterday, some since 5am, to receive charity – Christmas food parcels and donated gifts for children.

The majority did not want to appear in the newspaper. “Maybe if I had won something or it was something lucky,” a woman said.

Ms Robertson said the mission’s clients were struggling with unemployment and entitlement cuts. “They’re losing options.”

And the continuing recession was adding people to the queue as those on low incomes fell into the same poverty cycle as beneficiaries.

“As an agency we really try to get people off benefits and employed – make life better than it’s been,” Ms Robertson said. “But right now we’re just alleviating poverty, because there’s no place to go.” …

A woman in the queue, who did not want to be named or photographed, said she had left her Papakura home at 4.30am to get some gifts for her children. Her sister had driven her into the city. She said this year had been particularly difficult.

“It’s been hard. Really hard.”

She was thankful for a bit of help to put on some kind of Christmas for her family, she said.

Another woman said it was her first time at the mission after hearing about it through a friend. Rising prices at the supermarket had been crushing, she said.

Maybe it’s time to revisit the ground breaking book The Spirit Level, which has been the focus of several Standard posts in the past.  It provides detailed evidence of the destructive impact on society of high levels of inequality. There was this post from Anthony Robins, Equality of Opportunity; and this one from Bunji that was the 6th part in a series: Digested Read – Spirit Level 6: Future Options.

Meanwhile, today we have learned that NZ went into a double dip recession in 2010.

New Zealand suffered a double dip recession in the wake of the global financial crisis, with the second leg coming in late 2010, new data has revealed

Statistics NZ today released gross domestic product figures for the September quarter showing the economy grew by 0.2 per cent, slightly below most economists’ picks.

Back then Bill English, John Key et al were trumpeting their policies as ones that would begin the economic revival to a brighter future. But as Labour MPs remind them today, those policies just benefited the well off at the expense of those on the lowest incomes.

Labour finance spokesman David Parker said the double dip recession came at the same time that National’s ‘tax-switch’, that raised GST, came into force.

“National has trumpeted its tax switch as a boost to the economy. But the truth is it kept growth negative and held the economy in recession,” he said.

“National’s tax switch was not only unequal and unfair, it choked off demand and the economy shrank.”

Finance Minister Bill English today said the economy remained on track for moderate growth over the next few years, “despite growth predictably easing a little in the September quarter”.

Annual growth – from the September quarter 2011 to the September quarter 2012 – came in at 2 per cent, after the revisions English said.

Brighter future: always on the way, never arrives for those on the lowest incomes.

27 comments on “I wish it could be Xmas every day…”

  1. xtasy 1

    Christmas is not celebrated much by me, due to the over-commercialisation of the event, and as I have too little time for the unfounded reasons stated by Christians for the event to be celebrated. Father Christmas hopefully gets proved nothing but fairytale nonsense to kids by even those parents trying to “sell” that story to the very little ones at first.

    Anyway, you posted another good comment story there, Karol, and I take note that your skills in writing pieces in this forum seem to be improving and achieving a very great standard day by day.

    I was grateful for an organisation providing me with a bit of a food parcel, and I will not name them for various reasons. It was a very nice gesture by someone there, who appreciates the difficulties I have recently experienced. So this is something I will not forget.

    But charity is only the last resort, emergency, and in some ways ‘bandaid” type of solution to poverty and the facts that benefits are for most impossible to live off in dignity these days. This was all started by the ruthless cuts that were made under Shipley and Richardson (her policies fittingly named “Ruthanasia”, given her first name is Ruth) in 1991 or so.

    Since then benefits have not been increased substantially, and as Mary points out in another thread, it was even under a Labour led government, that the much needed Special Benefit was being phased out. Only few still get it, those who received that benefit component without interruption since.

    Temporary Additional Support was the replacement, and it is capped. I learned through the experience of a mate, that he was totally unable to survive on his sickness benefit, as WINZ said to him: “That is all you are entitled to”. He was struggling to pay rent for a flat, not being able to pay utilities on time, and basically faced looking for alternative accommodation, which may have been years in a boarding house, had he not been able to get formidable support to finally get a Housing NZ home.

    That though has not improved his income at all, as the accommodation supplement is not paid to Housing NZ home renters. So he pays less rent but also gets less. He lives on borrowed time, as his home is in an area where Housing NZ want to sell properties. Consequently the day will come, where he will be shifted, like the ones are in Glen Innes.

    Many people have lost jobs this year, and so queues at food banks and the Mission are longer yet again.

    The government wants to bring in even more harsh benefit rules, so more will fall through the cracks, as they are already under NatACT’s regime. There will be more homeless, more depending on friends and families, more desperate, more prepared to commit crimes and to also engage in prostitution.

    Thank you John Key, Paula Bennett and gang, you are so “caring”, we will bear all this in mind over Christmas and the holiday season!

    • bad12 1.1

      Befor Shitly/Richardson came Mouldoon who added income tax to benefits where no tax was paid by beneficiaries befor,

      The Clark Labour Government then added the icing to the cake of poverty by not allowing benefit dependent families to be included in the Working for Families tax credit scheme claiming this would be a spur to them getting a job…

      • Murray Olsen 1.1.1

        Are you sure Muldoon introduced tax on benefits? As far as I can remember, it was Douglas, but I may be wrong. I remember protesting against it at the time, on the basis that it was stupid and inefficient, but can’t remember the exact year.

        • bad12 1.1.1.1

          Am pretty sure it was Mouldoon, it’s not a question to die in a ditch over and i am happy to be proved wrong,

          Have had a few digs with Google to try and tease the answer out of the ether, no joy there so i am obviously not asking the right question,

          Perhaps someone else can spread a little light on the subject…

          • Descendant Of Sssmith 1.1.1.1.1

            Well after Muldoon.

            Giving the partner half was a positive move and done first and that would have been around 85/86 but making taxable is really just a way of clawing some of any benefit paid back through the tax system once you get work if it is in the same tax year.

            It is also not widely known except to those actually on benefit that when tax cuts are given benefits remain the same. Instead of paying more net to those on benefit less paye is paid to IRd.

            It’s another area in which the poorest are disadvantaged. If benefits are to be taxable then they should also benefit from tax cuts when these are given at the bottom end.

            Look forward to Labour increasing benefits to make up for this disadvantage as well.

            NZ yearbooks may be useful in pinning down date.

            • Descendant Of Sssmith 1.1.1.1.1.1

              1087 yearbook says benefits taxable from 01/10/1986.

              • Descendant Of Sssmith

                Should also add that Muldoon did not support Ruth Richardson’s benefit cuts and abstained from voting.

            • Mary 1.1.1.1.1.2

              I think the idea of taxing benefits was to allow any part-time income earned on top of a person’s main benefit to be taxed at the secondary rate, i.e. because the benefit is primary income – marking, of course, the very beginning of Labour’s ongoing assault on the poor. The next was Michael Cullen’s introduction of “standdown periods”. Who could’ve imagined how far Labour was prepared to go with those attacks? Unbelievable.

    • Mary 1.2

      Hi Xtasy. I think HNZ tenants do have a slight advantage over non-HNZ tenants because while HNZ rents are set at 25% of a person’s income, the accommodation supplement is paid as a 70% subsidy of the difference between a person’s rent and 25% of the person’s income up to stated maximums. I do agree with your general sentiment, though, which I think goes back to how basic benefit rates haven’t increased in real terms since the cuts in 1991. Labour promised to restore those pre-cut levels but reneged on that promise pretty quickly, just as they opposed the Nats trying to axe the special benefit in 1995 then turned around and did it themselves in 2004. Labour also opposed introducing income status into the tax system when Bill Birch did it in 1996 then adopted the idea itself but in a way 100 times worse with its Working for Families. I have never seen or heard one Labour MP ever facing up to that hypocrisy before, which must tell us something about where they’re planning to take social security, that is, of course, if we’re ever dumb enough to give them the chance. Unfortunately I think we are.

  2. bad12 2

    The village idiot from Dipton is of course talking with the same tongue as Slippery the Prime Minister has been using this week when He commented on TV3 that ”wages have begun to close the gap with Australia”,

    The language they both,(Slippery and English), talk is Bullshit mostly inherited from an ancient race of miserable two faced pricks called ‘Scum’,

    The Slippery little Shysters wages might have taken a jump toward parity with an Australian used car salesman but for the average low wage worker engaged in pushing the heavy wheels of capitalism the year has shown no gains, (the Reserve Bank saying that the spend on public servants was not as great as expected so that sector is obviously going backward),

    The village idiot from Dipton claims ‘modest growth’ and borrows most heavily of the language of that ancient civilization previously known as scum in doing so, what the village idiot calls ‘growth’ is in fact no such thing, the economy out-side of that of Christchurch has in fact for the year contracted by a massive 2%,

    The Christchurch earthquake rebuild may help the village idiot hide the Depression that is occurring in the wider New Zealand economy but the unemployment numbers won’t, by March 2013 i expect unemployment to be at 200,000 and on the move, (fast), toward 250,000,

    Meanwhile, Slippery and the village idiot from Dipton seem hellbent upon re-building Christchurch while keeping inflation inside the target band when it is my and other’s opinion that the Christchurch rebuild is in fact NOT ‘growth’ and therefor should not appear in the GDP figures as that….

    • @Bad12, the village idiot from Dipton comes from my neck of the woods, i came across
      him in a place i worked in at the time, i then thought to myself this idiot is running nz’s economy,
      it took all my strength not to say something to him.
      I am also struggling financially because of health issues and having to survive on a benefit,
      i have decided what is important is health costs,a roof over my head,electricity costs,car
      costs,(i need a car for medical visits and hospital visits), telecomunications are via skinny,
      which cost $4 pw, and $4pw for a t-stick, then food costs which are whatever is left
      usually $25-$30pw, Bills that followed me from not being able to work are down the bottom
      of the list, that is the reality, it’s called survival,there are only so many ways to spend
      $12.000 a year.
      Christmas time only emphasizes the fact that life in the hard lane of the benefit system
      is living below the poverty line,there are also others who on low incomes are following
      close behind.
      I have genuine sympathy for all of those who are struggling this christmas.

      • bad12 2.1.1

        Cheers vivaciousviper, yeah they took one look at Bill and thought we can’t let Him run the family farm into the ground,(and the rest is history),

        You have tho a great back yard as a consolation of sorts ae, i managed to spend part of my mis-spent youth in what was then the Borstal down there and later spent a couple of interesting and enjoyable years in Ohai,

        It’s not Wellington tho and this place always drags me back….

    • Brooklyn 2.2

      And anyway 2% is just population growth so we are only treading water even counting Chch.

  3. vto 3

    If it was merry xmas everyday then most all of us would all end up overweight I’m sure.

    And yes personally I am disappointed in these people in government. They have most definitely made things harder for those in the bottom half. Taxes are up, levies are up, car registrations are up, petrol tax is up, wages are frikkin stuck on ice, all whilst ……

    for the upper half
    Taxes are down, handouts are frequent, environment is up for grabs, assets are coming your way, and acceptance that you aren’t required in this society to think about helping those less fortunate is acceptable.

    Great year thanks John Key, you wanker and arsehole.

  4. Rodel 4

    by mistake I listened to a few seconds of Laws on radio retard (sorry ‘live’) today. …talking about overweight polynesians queuing up at Auckland city mission. He is so sick that man.
    New Zealand’s got talent but with Laws, Hide; oe or two others & they used to have Banks, radio retard hasn’t.

  5. fabregas4 5

    I wish that people would stop spelling Christmas Xmas. It’s not a big wish.

  6. rosy viper 6

    Arrgghhh, Karol. Now I have the song by Wizzard going around and round in my head 😉

    This whole process is like a slow moving car crash. Willful ignorance on behalf of the government since it’s first day in office. It’s not like it wasn’t warned back in 2008.

  7. Well National has single handedly destroyed the welfare system, raised taxes on the middle and lower class and made the country into a Pinochet style neo liberal paradise. Don’t dissent or the police will beat you up, just like the good old days of the waterfront strike.

  8. Descendant Of Sssmith 8

    No National haven’t done this single handedly. They have been aided and abetted by successive Labour governments. Parties such as Act, the business round table and so on.

    As I noted in another thread Muldoon wouldn’t vote for and spoke against Richardson’s benefit cuts.

    He was miles more left than the current Labour government in many areas.

    Things that were normal when I was 18 are now seen as extreme left positions.

    Communism was extreme left not a decent rate of benefit. An 8 hour working day, government work for young people and those with illness and disability, more GDP paid in wages than profit, control over banks, standardised pay rates so competition was based on quality of product and serviceratherthan who could pay the lowest wage and so on.

    It’s easy to forget how far to the right we have gone.

    • xtasy 8.1

      DOS: Yes, I remember well, the last few years of Muldoon’s life. He seemed to have gone through a process of internal change, not uncommon of ageing persons of whatever background. He ran his Radio Pacific weekly political “talk back slot” and at times sounded like a real old “socialist”.

      He had NO time for the new extreme right economic and social policies.

      Naturally he would have felt criticised by Richardson, Shipley and Bolger for his own failed policies, and he certainly got flak from the senior Labour politicians in the 1980s for that also.

      But his own party turning against him, that was a bit much for him, I suppose.

      Also did he work with the gangs at times, trying to get them sorted and into doing something more constructive, by creating work schemes and the likes, as far as I can remember.

      In his last years he was naturally still a grumpy old fellow, but he had mellowed a lot from his earlier years.

  9. Nick K 9

    Brighter future: always on the way, never arrives for those on the lowest incomes.

    Inequality and those on lowest incomes are different things.

    If those on lowest incomes could nevertheless lead a comfortable life, what would it matter if someone else had more money? And if those people can still lead comfortable lives, but they’re not multi-millionaires, so what?

    If the Left truly wanted to help those in need, you would focus on raising incomes from the bottom through economic growth, rather than trying to make the poor rich by making the rich poor.

    • felixviper 9.1

      “If those on lowest incomes could nevertheless lead a comfortable life, what would it matter if someone else had more money? And if those people can still lead comfortable lives, but they’re not multi-millionaires, so what?”

      If your auntie had balls she’d be your uncle, Nick, and people on low incomes are not living a comfortable life.

      Shit is fucked up Nick. People are really struggling. People can’t even afford to go to work, Nick. The wages are not enough to live in a house and eat food and buy clothes and electricity and water and go to work without government subsidies such as WFF. Have you thought about what that means? I mean really thought about it?

      People. Can’t. Afford. A. Job.

      And you can be fired at any time. And when you are, you can’t get the unemployment benefit for 13 weeks. 13 fucking weeks, Nick, because you’re expected to be saving money from the job that doesn’t pay enough to live on so you can provide for yourself and your family when you get fired.

      And all that’s if you’re one of the lucky ones who has a job at all.

      Comfortable life? Fuck off with your comfortable life Nick. Fuck right off.

  10. bad12 10

    Nick K, you seem a little thick but i am prepared to waste a few minutes of my day in what is probably a futile attempt to enlighten you,

    We have as a country been forced fed the myth of ‘economic growth’ for the past 30 odd years, meanwhile those very same people who have been spoon feeding us all with such crap along with ‘smart and knowledge economy’s’ have busied themselves trading away any chance of actual real and sustainable growth occurring by signing us up to a myriad of trade deals based upon nothing more than access for New Zealand dairy products,

    The trade off made has been at the expense of manufacturing in New Zealand where the cheaper economy’s have been given free access,

    Pray tell us Nick K, where can growth in the economy occur….

    • Descendant Of Sssmith 10.1

      The problem is mainly not that we haven’t had economic growth or productivity increases but that the workers on low incomes who have created that growth have not benefited from it.

      In fact that have not only not benefited they have deliberately via legislation and policy had their previous benefits eroded via lower wages, longer hours and lesser working conditions and job security.

      If the share of their productivity even returned to 50% of GDP in wages and 50% in profit we would see significant improvement in those at the bottom.

      It used to be that 70% of GDP went to the workers – 70% now goes to the owners.

      That’s quite a significant reversal in the last 30 years.

      It might be different if that change had actually resulted in innovative businesses that grew the economy in some way but it hasn’t. Most of the money in the business owners hands has been used to buy previously state owned businesses, to purchase properties and to store as cash / assets / transferred overseas.

      Lowering wages to increase profit doesn’t lift productivity unless you consider people having to work longer hours to earn the same amount of income. That’s a piss poor way to increase productivity and simply reflects the piss poor quality of managers and business owners in this country.

      If your way of increasing profit is simply to lower wages you’ve got a shit product or service and it’s an exceedingly lazy approach.

      Because we’ve gone down that road however we have little innovation in this country. Add to that the other lazy way of doing business by buying state assets.

      We could have had many more innovative businesses here if we had not taken these lazy approaches – we wouldn’t have tied up so much resource and effort in managing things the public sector was already managing for one thing.

    • Nick K 10.2

      Pray tell us Nick K, where can growth in the economy occur….

      I can’t answer that question because I am thick.

      • bad12 10.2.1

        I unreservedly apologize for the unfounded accusation inherent in alluding to your state of intelligence as ‘thick’,(even tho you have belatedly admitted to a state of thickness of mind broader than an obese elephants arse),

        In my opinion you are now an economic genius of world renown so answer the f**king question you thick b******d…

  11. SPC 11

    On the minimum wage? An increase from $13.50 to $13.75 is coming. Key will say it compensates people for the CPI change – but this excludes housing and also note for the fact that cheaper imported goods for the middle class that lower the CPI level are not in play for the poor. How many buy a cheaper car because of a high dollar?

    Those who pay pay rent (may have been a 10% hike in Auckland or Christchurch) and power (up 10% next year?) and food – don’t notice a 1% rise in costs.

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    2 weeks ago
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    2 weeks ago
  • Making business tax more flexible
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