So now we know how child poverty was affected by the Global Financial Crisis.
Our tory friends have taken their annual two-pronged approach, with distraction arguments about whether individual poverty measures measure poverty and the old stereotype that poor people are poor because they do drugs (wrong), and smoke and drink to excess (wrong-h/t:LostSheep). Arguing that less than half of beneficiaries aren’t the “deserving poor” still means that we are letting down tens or hundreds of thousands of thoroughly deserving NZ citizens. But whatever helps tories avoid thinking about the kids (“victims of “parental choices” or not), I guess.
Well, income poverty is one measure, and material hardship is another. Both say something is wrong with our peaceful, productive land. So do our child health stats, and our housing affordability stats. The data which goes back to the fourth Labour government shows the strategic rot in our society began with them and Ruthenasia, and the GFC was a shorter term spike in the overall wasteland.
So, what would be some normal human ways to address this situation?
The Office of the Children’s Commission has come up with some ideas, including microfinancing and making child poverty a legislated issue with targets to address.
A rental housing “Warrant of Fitness” is gaining traction as an idea, with the Greens pushing it quite strongly. This might not address poverty as such, but it could well lower the worst health consequences of poverty – similarly targeted medical interventions for Rheumatic fever and jabs for anything that can be vaccinated against can help those at the bottom (while leaving “the bottom” where it is).
General benefit increases to pre-1991 levels would be good, and a living wage would help the working-poor who remain after Working For Families did its bit.
But is the focus on child poverty too narrow? Can we rely on single adults experiencing a sort of “collateral assistance” while we pander to the tory desire to focus only on the “deserving poor”? Focusing on child poverty enables us to bypass most of the “poor choices” brigade, but does it come at the cost of leaving people behind when successes occur, and would it even make it harder to help those people once child poverty is sorted (we can but dream)?
I’ll be watching the Finnish experiment with Universal Basic Income carefully. Even if it eventually falls short of a true UBI, it promises to be a significant step towards addressing the long term issues of labour and capital in a post-industrialial world.