Welcome to Poverty watch, a weekly update on the National government’s lack of response to the urgent and growing issue of poverty in NZ. A lot of background issues and links are set out in Poverty Watch one two and three.
In related news this week, yesterday was a national “day of action” against the Nats’ punitive welfare “reforms”. There was a modest turnout in several centers, our very own Karol summarised the media coverage. Lunchbox Day donations are not over yet (video link), you can donate via KidsCan Charitable Trust: ASB BANK 12 3026 0348180 03.
Poverty and race are inextricably intertwined in this country. This shaming piece highlights one dimension of the problem:
Pacific Island workers languish in poverty
Pacific Island families imported to a small Waikato town with the promise of work and hopes for a better life are reportedly winding up living in poverty. The Government and local authorities are investigating reports of Samoan families living in mould and flea-ridden houses and struggling to pay for food, rent and healthcare. …
Samoan woman Lola Taulofa, 30, who works as a cleaner at Crusader Meats, has been living in a house with her sister, brother-in-law and their three young children since June, the Waitomo News reported. The ceilings and walls are covered in mould and the family have been sleeping on a pull-out couch in the lounge because of a water leak in the main bedroom. “It is very bad for our health,” Mrs Taulofa said. “The children are always sick.”
Following on from Lunchbox Day, Anne Russel published this excellent and challenging piece:
Child poverty and Lunchbox Day: philanthropy in New Zealand
… Perhaps, in an ideal world, citizens would be able to self-regulate enough to run their society entirely by charity in a gift economy, and no one would be deprived. But it has been clear for a long time that the wealthiest in our society tend to hang on to their money; poor people are in general more likely to give to charity than their rich counterparts. The areas of the brain which respond to winning and losing money are the same as those that respond to cocaine, explaining why gambling—or the stock market—is addictive. There are two sides to ending poverty; poor people need to be drawn out of it, and the rich need immediate intervention and rehabilitation.
While Lunchbox Day is careful to skirt around outright accusations (“whoever is to blame, it certainly isn’t the children”), child poverty is not something that was always as inevitable as the slow crawling passage of time. However, the pertinent question is not so much who, but what is to blame for the emergence of child poverty. John Key The Individual is neutral in the effect he can have on the world; he’s just an affable guy, as he might like to put it. However, John Key The Prime Minister is a different case. Likewise it’s National Party The Government that allows big business to wreak havoc on the economy, worsening unemployment and welfare dependency, not National Party The Morris Dancers. Institutions are to blame for child poverty; the people who fill the respective roles—be it John Key or Helen Clark—can be blamed for their complicity in perpetuating them, but many if not most of the institutions in question will outlive their careers. …
Two important ways of thinking are missing from the Lunchbox Day and Live Below The Line dialogue: contemplation and systematic analysis of inequality, and absolute fury. As far as my personal emotions are relevant to this article, ‘sad’ doesn’t feel like the right word. Child poverty makes me extremely angry, and then upset. I am furious that this society hems and haws over spending $4 million to ensure children aren’t half-starved, while defence spending clocks in at a whopping $3.4 billion a year and one-off sports events receive $300 million. I am angry that cuts to both rich taxes and the public sector go on unchecked, and that banks who fail get $1.7 billion bailouts, while mass unemployment drives parents into deeper poverty yet shames them for taking the benefit rather than starving their children. I am angry that New Zealand builds non-insulated houses to match a Western form of family, causing overcrowding and poor health among minorities, and then uses racism to explain the poor outcomes. And I am angry that privileged people are using the media to air their own stories of Poverty Lite, rather than working out ways to bring the poor forward to speak for themselves.
Click through and read the whole article – there is plenty more to think about.
Poverty Watch always ends with the following list, the National government’s response to rising poverty in NZ:
• National has not yet set any target for reducing poverty