Written By: - Date published: 11:06 am, August 30th, 2013 - 75 comments
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Last Night TV3 showed a very important documentary by Bryan Bruce: important because it put before the general population the damaging impact of income inequality in a clear and straightforward manner. Preview:
At the moment the documentary, Inside New Zealand: Mind the Gap:A Special Report on Inequality is available onemand on TV3’s website.
The doco didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. But I think it’ll be news for a lot of Kiwis. It’ll be news many Kiwis will either not accept, or forget about once they get back to their daily activities.
However, it’s the steady drip that changes cultural attitudes. The doco explained the issues clearly and in terms that are easy to understand. It supported the argument with visual images that are more likely to stay in people’s minds than words alone: the family living in tents, the guy keeping a record of his household’s budget, the graphs of wealth being sucked upwards while the middle-class is under pressure, the figures of benefit fraud compared with tax evasion, etc.
The doco needs to continue to be widely available so people can continually be reminded of the reality of a large income/wealth gap, the damage of a “me” society, and a need for a “we” society.
A 1 hour TV programme cannot present all the facts and evidence without sending people to sleep. The experts interviewed and stats presented indicate solid evidence behind the claims made in the programme:
Closing the Gap (NZ) on the evidence and claims in the book The Spirit Level.
Last year, Te Papa hosted a couple of forums on closing the gap between rich and poor.
Forum 1 September 2012:
At the beginning of Forum 2, Kim Hill summarises the ground overerd in the first forum October 2102:
A quick recap which Max Rashbrooke will flesh out in a moment. It’s simple really. The rich have got much richer, the poor have got much poorer. All the panel at the last session, traced the expansion of that gap back to the 1980s. The directory of the Downtown Community Ministry Stephanie MacIntyre explicitly blamed what she called Rogernomics and Ruthanasia and she spoke about how complicated managing life is when you are poor.
Phillipa Howden Chapman health researcher reckoned that former Telecom head Paul Reynolds earned (and I haven’t checked these numbers) 342 times the average income. In Japan CEOs earn, she said, around 4 times the average income there, hence they have a more egalitarian society. [?] Political journalist Colin James identified the problem as inter-generational and embedded disadvantage and he suggested considerable investment if needed to enhance social mobility.
Hill quotes a British columnist, Caitlan Moran, who said being on a benefit means you are always scared: scared that that your benefits will be cut or taken away. Kaplan explained the main difference between being poor and being rich, which Hill quotes, thus,
When you’re poor you feel heavy: heavy like your limbs are full of water. There is a lot more rain in your life when you are poor, she said, cheap [?], cheap houses go moldy, your cars break down you’ve got to walk, But really the heaviness comes from what she called the sclerosis of being broke, because when you’re poor nothing ever changes. for generations passed down, like a drizzle or a blindness.
Forum two looks at solutions:
Professor Nigel Haworth, economist, (41 minutes) covered ways to address labour-market driven inequalities: beginning with the fundamental issue of economic policy settings that underpin a fairer labour market policies. He ended talking about the need to (re)build a broad consensus to underpin a more social democratic solution to poverty.
Associate Professor Mike O’Brien (begins 53 minutes) from the University of Auckland, stressed the need for a shared community solution, especially in ending child poverty. He looked to policies of Nordic countries and said it was especially important to mend poverty for families on benefits.
The solutions clearly need a shift away from Rogernomics, towards policies that support, not undermine workers, as with the fairness at work campaign: to strengthen not undermine collective bargaining. They require a more progressive taxation system. And they require a reconstruction of the social security system, based on the notion that we are all responsible for those struggling in our society.
Both Grant Robertson and David Cunliffe commented on the Mind the Gap documentary on their Facebook pages:
Did you watch Inside New Zealand tonight? Inequality is holding us back socially and economically. Our economy must start working for all. That’s not a platitude – that’s a promise.
Cunliffe (focuses on work and wages):
Who else is tuning in to watch Bryan Bruce’s doco ‘Mind The Gap’ at 7:30 on TV3?
Remember the days when families could live off one income?
The graph shows a market failure which has made this near impossible for most families. We’re working harder and longer than ever before, but wages have remained flat. The failure of wages to keep up has meant many families are living in poverty. It hurts me to think that 270,000 kids live in poverty in this country. Part of the solution is a Living Wage for all Kiwi workers, and fairer workplace laws.
I’ll lead a government that is prepared to tackle this injustice head on.
Green MP Denise Roche blogs for the Fairness at Work campaign.
Metiria Turei leads the Green Party on their major policy plank: Mind the Gap. This focuses on:
Fair Tax, Addressing Energy Poverty, Income Support (changes to, but not a massive overhaul of benefits), and Housing (including increasing state housing).
The main focus of the Mana Party is on improving the lot of those on the lowest incomes.
Of all the possible solutions, I think building a new broad consensus is one of the main underlying ones, and the Mind The Gap documentary is one step in that direction.