Here we go – the DomPost offers advice to Shearer on welfare policy, based on a Guardian article by Liam Byrne, British Labour shadow welfare spokesperson. The editorial is a disguised invitation to good old beneficiary-bashing, using the frame of welfare dependency. Trevor Mallard, New Zealand Labour’s spokesperson for the America’s Cup, has also referenced the article on Red Alert as “slaying some sacred cows,” without specifying what that means.
The DomPost would like Shearer to drop any notion that payments to beneficiaries are not enough to depend on for a living. The DomPost says
No-one begrudges the assistance given by the state to the sick, the injured and those who, through no fault of their own, find themselves without a job. There, but for the grace of God, go all of us. However, the aim of welfare policy must always be to help those without work secure a foothold in the employment market. Schools, hospitals and roads are not built with welfare cheques. In New Zealand, as in Britain, the challenge for Labour is to reconnect the party with the working man, and woman.
A foothold in the employment market? With jobs the way they are? Toehold more likely, and who can live on that?
Writing in the New Statesman, George Eaton says Byrne’s argument could be summarised as:
Labour’s new approach to welfare reform could be summarised as WWBD – what would Beveridge do? Anxiously advancing behind Beveridge’s ghost, he writes that the great Liberal would “scarcely have believed housing benefit alone is costing the UK over £20bn a year” and that he did not believe in unconditional benefits for the unemployed… The necessary qualification, of course, is that Beveridge’s welfare state was designed for a system of full employment (hence the title of his second report in 1944: Full Employment in a Free Society), rather than one in which an average of 23 people are chasing every new job.
The DomPost equivalent is WWSD, what would Savage do? It concludes:
“They wanted workers to be fairly rewarded for their efforts, to operate in safe workplaces, and, if they fell on hard times, to receive support till they could get back on their feet. Labour’s proposal to extend to beneficiaries the “in work tax credit”, intended to compensate low-income workers for the extra costs associated with working, must have had them spinning in their graves. It is inconceivable that Savage and his colleagues ever viewed welfare as a valid alternative to work, as some of their successors appear to do.”
That is the purest crap. Savage and his colleagues came to government after the 1935 Depression, and one of their first acts was to replace the hated workfare schemes with sustenance payments, which were gradually increased to award wage levels. They also promoted vigorous job creation using the public purse.
As the world economy stands on the edge of another crisis, we need governments that address the need for jobs for all, not look to divide those with jobs against those who have little hope of finding them. IMHO, David Shearer would be better advised to follow what Savage and his colleagues did here after the Depression. Jobs were the key then – that would certainly appeal to the working man, and woman, now. Trevor Mallard would be better advised to look closer to our home tradition for ideas – how many jobs in the America’s Cup?