Written By: - Date published: 10:01 am, January 30th, 2014 - 53 comments
Categories: babies, capitalism, child welfare, class war, cost of living, david cunliffe, david shearer, education, election 2014, greens, labour, news, same old national, welfare - Tags: income inequality, infotainment
The infotainment, ratings/sales driven basis of our news media, results in the skewing of political news in various ways: whether or not such skewing is intentional. One of the things the MSM does with this “neoliberal”-supporting approach to news, is to focus on human interest stories. Following the party leaders State of the Nation speeches, inequality is currently the main focus.
So, in an apparent attempt at “balanced” coverage of the Labour Party’s Best Start policy, Simon Collins has compared the responses of two couples to the policy: article entitled ‘Labour’s baby bonus: a waste or a boon’. Simon Collins has written a lot of well considered, fair, and knowledgeable articles about social policies. However, this one provides a comparison, that while stark, skews the playing field in some unstated ways.
It looks like this is an attempt to compare a relatively high income couple with a couple on a low income, both with young children. The article doesn’t claim the two couples are representative of others in the same income brackets. Nevertheless, in the current context where the income inequality gap is center stage, they will most likely be understood as representative of all the “haves” and “have nots”.
However, neither couple is truly representative of either end of the income inequality spectrum.
The female half of the high earning couple is far from representative, although she may be representative of some of the 1%er wannabes: Jane Siloway Smith is a high earning woman in an economy where the average female income is lower than that for the average male; and she works for the right wing, anti-welfare think tank, the Maxim Institute. The last two posts on the Maxim’s website blog are:
20-01-014: Jeremy Vargo praising National’s (alleged) education policy, as mentioned in John Key’s State of the Nation speech last week.
24-01-14: Jane Siloway Smith giving praise to some minor statement from David Shearer – a long with a backhander to Labour. Ignoring Labour and the Greens’ SON speeches, Siloway Smith focuses on Shearer’s private members Bill aiming to feed children in schools. Siloway Smith refers to an op ed by David Shearer of 20 January 2014. She claims Shearer is doing a major U Turn with respect to his Bill. Siloway Smith claims that this means Shearer is agreeing with her that welfare is a bad thing. Shearer is NOT arguing against such welfare, but is saying this needs to be coupled with policies aimed at ending poverty in the long term.
In his op ed, Shearer says that his Bill is a start, but that he also wants to include some provisions aiming for long term self sufficiency. This will include education on nutrition and the acquisition of practical gardening skills.
Dr Jane Silloway Smith, research manager at the conservative Maxim Institute, and her scientist husband Dr Bryan Smith between them earn just under the $150,000 threshold that Labour has set for its proposed child payment for the first year after a new baby is born.
The Smiths, who came here from the United States in 2008, say they would be grateful for the extra $60 a week, but they could do without it.
Not suprisingly, given Siloway Smith’s views on welfare, she is opposed to Labour’s Best Start policy (though supports Paid Parental Leave). In the course of her comments she manages to get a few words in praising the fact that the economy is (supposedly) heading in the right direction.
There is a quote from Ardern saying that, if this couple is opposed to the Best Start payment, they don’t have to apply for it.
The second couple are are both of the middle class and part of the precariat: Dr Barnett has been made redundant from lecturing at UNITEC, and her partner, Francois Byamana, is an actor and musician. This couple, though well qualified and with skills and experience, are sometimes in need of social security payments.
The article does, however, show that they are huge differences in lifestyles in New Zealand, and describes the realities of low income living. However, it focuses on the struggles of a couple with more options than many who live on low incomes for long periods.
On the other hand, Bryce Edward’s Wednesday round up of articles and blog posts on the inequality, election focused debates, does give a pretty full coverage of the range of arguments. The round up ends with reference to Greg Presland’s “pushback” against the criticisms of Labour in two Standard posts.
These are among two articles, that show that Labour (and to a lesser extent, The Greens), have so far set the agenda for this year’s election.
The Maxim blogs in contrast, are doing their best to ignore this as Key tries desperately to regain his momentum through some flag waving.
Meanwhile, the majority of potential voters are more likely to read Collins’ article; that’s if they don’t just watch the even more highly infotainment skewed coverage of the 6pm TV news.