Other day, Curran asked what they should do with Red Alert. Now, Mallard’s again using it, in conjunction with Pagani on his blog, to try to do an end run around his own party to promote benefit ‘reform’. Leaving aside the fact it’s the employment system, not the backstop, that’s broken, this is more strategic idiocy.
First things first. Mike‘s already done a good job explaining why Mallard’s wrong to be promoting welfare reform in practical terms.
The welfare system isn’t broken – unless you count the 40% of 65 and 66 year olds who are getting a pension while being employed. The point of the welfare system is to do what any civilised society ought to do: provide some basic support to those who are unable to work due to sickness or injury and to those who want to work but find none is available. It does that at a cost of $5 per day each.
The system works because when there are jobs to be had people go off the dole and into work. Employment growth under Labour dramatically reduced the number on the dole to just 17,000. Long-term unemployment recipients numbered a couple of thousand. The numbers on other benefits only rose in line with population and demographics. Overall, Labour got 100,000 people off benefits. Now, its gone up 60,000 under National. Why? Not because anything’s changed about benefits. Because there’s no fucken jobs.
How would expensive welfare ‘reform’ fix that? Wouldn’t.
Either it would be a whole lot of fuss changing nothing because no-one would actually be kicked off without a job to get. Or people with no other income would be left destitute with neither a job or a benefit.
How does beating up on the jobless do anything to fix poverty and the long tail of educational, health, social, and economic costs it causes? Doesn’t.
But sounds good.
Which is why Mallard and Pagani have decided that Labour should be on board. They will be thinking that Labour will look irrelevant unless it jumps on the bene-bashing train as well.
Unfortunately, the strategic minds that brought you Labour’s worst election result in a life-time (you know Pagani’s been on Labour’s payroll this whole time, eh?) haven’t thought it through. They don’t appear to have any actual policy to match the rhetoric. Besides, they are never going to outbid National on benefit reform.
All they are going to do is. A) make benefit reform seem like a more valid and important issue (it’s not, the extra annual benefit spending under National is similar to the amount they’ve spent on corporate bailouts). B) Make Labour look like it has no answers and National does. They’re just helping National manufacture a crisis. They are buying National’s framing and repeating it without being able to win the argument, which is basically page 1 of ‘Don’t Do what Donny Don’t Does’ when it comes to political strategy.
If Labour’s going to win, it needs to own the discourse. Not pathetically say ‘me too’ to whatever National says.
Shearer should ignore these clowns and get serious. We know what the solution to the benefit ‘problem’ is – not enough jobs. Create the jobs and the benefit numbers will fall. Costs the government at least $18,000 a year to have someone on a benefit rather than in work. A full employment policy can easily be self-funding.
If Labour were coming out with a well thought out policy to create 100,000 jobs and, for all practical purposes, eliminate unemployment, I would even consider voting for them. Instead, we have strategically inept rhetoric with nothing to back it up. Only serves the interests of the Right.
Brings me back to what to do with Red Alert. The RA concept’s great. But it has been hijacked by 2 MPs who are the last ones who should be fronting for Labour in the blogosphere. Both are constantly putting their foot in it. They seem to lack that burning feeling in the back of the neck that tells you what you’re writing is stupid and going to get a whole lot of people pissed off. That’s bad enough. But using RA for running up shit that they can’t get through caucus is worse. Undermines Labour’s democratic processes. Makes it look divided.
Shearer needs to either create rules that make RA a place for all Labour MPs not just 2 (1 post per week per MP rule?) or shut it down.