Killing Them Softly With…

Written By: - Date published: 10:24 am, June 11th, 2018 - 48 comments
Categories: benefits, capitalism, child welfare, class, class war, food, welfare - Tags: , , , , , ,

The 1991 “Mother of All Budgets” led to welfare reforms that are responsible for Aotearoa New Zealand’s growing poverty and inequality.  The reverberations of those reforms are reflected in our current negative statistics and the numbers of families living in hardship.

That hardship began during Labour’s reforms of the 1980’s, escalating in 1991, when the National government slashed welfare benefits.  These cuts averaged a loss of $27 per week per beneficiary. While that figure may seem minuscule in today’s terms, back then it was a significant portion of one’s food budget but the real value escalates when one factors in other living cost variables (see this inflation calculator to compare).  Graham Riches provides a good analysis of the rationale and consequences of those welfare cuts.

When deciding the new benefit rate in 1991, the government relied on the Otago University Department of Human Nutrition Food Cost Survey to set benefit rates. However, when using the Food Cost Survey, the economists did not inform the Otago researchers why they wanted the information, which would have altered the information they provided to the government (for reason outlined in the above link).  Not only did the economists take the lowest food budget costings (which could not be sustained over a longer period, and was not adequate to provide a nutritionally viable diet), they then slashed the amount by 20 percent to set the baseline amount for people receiving welfare benefits.

Those benefit cuts were set at a rate that ensured that beneficiaries could not sustain a healthy diet and led to a flourishing food bank industry. An industry which some writers argue not only entrenches food poverty/food insecurity but also creates co-dependency between food banks and food bank users.

New Zealand’s growing poverty and inequality (see Rashbrooke 2013 for example),  means more and more people live with the effects of significant food insecurity and are reliant on food banks to survive and those numbers are increasing year in and year out according to stats coming from some of New Zealand’s major  food banks. Those most affected are  beneficiaries, women, children, Maori and Pasifika families.

With a large number of families now reliant on food banks to survive, it is concerning that food bank parcels do not guarantee a nutritious or adequate diet for families (both in terms of quality and quantity). This  has been noted in studies both overseas and in New Zealand, showing families often received nutritionally inadequate food from food banks.

There is considerable evidence available showing the impact that poor diet has on people’s physical and mental health. Some of these health issues include chronic health conditions, cancer, heart disease, obesity (this contradiction is explained here),  depression and suicide. For children, the picture is very grim indeed, with impacts including, behavioural problems, poor learning outcomes as well as a myriad of health issues all of which have negative long term consequences.

Given what is generally known about nutrition and health, it is not surprising that the now regular use of food banks, on top of inadequate financial support over the long term is compromising people’s health. In fact, those people, unable to access adequate nutrition over the long term, are slowly but surely dying before they ought to.

There is no doubt in my mind that food insecurity in New Zealand is a direct result of the earlier mentioned economic and welfare reforms and those reformists knowingly cut benefit rates to a level that they knew could not adequately sustain anyone reliant on welfare benefits. Successive governments (supposedly on opposites sides of the political spectrum), have done very little to alleviate the plight of New Zealand’s poorest families. Given what we know about the link between those reforms, poor diet and health outcomes, I do not think it is unreasonable to accuse those Governments of deliberate but surrepticious genocide of the poor.

Meanwhile, we have a flourishing and expanding food bank industry, no doubt trying their best to alleviate the worst impacts of poverty, but making no apparent difference in changing the systemic causes of the problems they see day in and day out. It is unfortunate that through their kindness they may even be responsible for entrenching food bank use and devolving the government of  its responsibilities to our most vulnerable citizens. Sadly, while the food bank may be alleviating the worst effects of food insecurity, they may, through their kindness, also be complicit in supporting a system that is slowly killing people living in poverty.

48 comments on “Killing Them Softly With…”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    If the effects of these policies were sped up, they would be seen more clearly for what they are: a civil war.

  2. Gosman 2

    Once again with this idea that NZ has had increasing poverty and inequality over the recent past (i.e last 20 years). Both the poverty rate and inequality have been largely flat since the early 2000’s. There was a blip in inequality after 2008 but it has largely come back to where it was.

    • AsleepWhileWalking 2.1

      Dunno where these figures are from but unless you factor housing in you cannot properly assess equality.

      • Gosman 2.1.1

        I agree that housing affordability is a massive issue and one that needs to be addressed. However I have yet to see anything on this front that will help here. Even giving more money to those suffering the impacts of the housing supply issues won’t resolve those same supply issues. You just make the cost of housing greater.

    • koreropono 2.2

      Interesting you seem to think you know more about inequality than people who actually do know about it – not sure where you get your info or which measures you choose to use. As with all stats they can be misleading, misused or abused (for example: https://i.stuff.co.nz/business/money/100211825/Unfair-wealth-divide-hurting-middle-NZ . Thankfully we have other sources of information available to inform our thinking http://www.inequality.org.nz/understand/ , perhaps you need to do some more research? Meanwhile, homelessness is on the rise, food banks are handing out more food parcels than ever before and even working families cannot afford basic living costs. So maybe you should go tell them families how inequality has flattened out since early 2000 besides the little blip in 2008, but not to worry “it has largely come back to where it was” and then come back and tell us what kind of response you get.

      • Gosman 2.2.1

        Ummm… I think you will find the graph in there detailing the GINI Coefficient backs my point up nicely. Thanks for that.

        • Carolyn_Nth 2.2.1.1

          You don’t seem to have fully understood the details in the links KP provided.

          Yes income inequality rose in the 1980s and 90s, then flattened out – but did not improve, especially not for the lowest 10% who flat lined since then, while the incomes of the highest 10% rose. So we now have the poorest who have been struggling without needed increases in equality, since the 1990s – basically locked into inter-generational poverty.

          Meanwhile, the income inequalities set in the 1990s, fed into increasing wealth inequalities – especially in relation to property ownership.

          From the second link:

          In New Zealand, income (and probably wealth) was being shared out more and more evenly from the 1950s up until the 1980s – but for the next two decades we had the developed world’s biggest increase in income inequality.

          As the graph (at left) shows, in that time, the average income of someone in the richest 1% has doubled, from just under $200,000 to nearly $400,000 (adjusting for inflation). In contrast, the average disposable income for someone in the poorest 10% is only slightly higher than it was in the 1980s. (More details and the source of this graph can be found in Wealth and New Zealand, published by BWB.) That means many New Zealanders struggle to pay their bills and lead a decent life.

          From the first link:

          Income inequality – the measure previous governments have preferred to talk about – increased rapidly in the 1980s and 1990s but then held steady, though income was narrowly defined and did not include wealth derived from rises in asset values like land, homes, businesses and buildings.

          But in a bid to restart economies after the GFC, governments around the world slashed borrowing rates, which boosted asset prices, driving house prices, commercial property, and business values up making the rich richer, Rashbrooke said.

          Wealth inequalities are harder to decrease than income inequalities. Costs of rents are far outweighing rises in incomes.

          • Gosman 2.2.1.1.1

            No, I understand exactly the details int he links provided by KP. They show exactly what I have claimed and do not support the view that poverty and inequality is increasing. Inequality has been broadly flat for the past 20 years and poverty before housing costs has not budged or even slightly improved. It is housing costs that make a big difference to poverty in NZ and that is because not enough houses are being allowed to be built.

      • Tamati Tautuhi 2.2.2

        Gossie is an authority on every subject who pays him to sit on this site everyday prattling his shit ?

  3. AsleepWhileWalking 3

    And those rates COULD be adjusted. But they are not.

    I’ve been watching videos on social housing in Ireland and the UK.

    Shocking to see so many in need and then realise we modeled our system of theirs! In other words they are exhibiting our future.

    I just watched a video where it was pointed out Housing Benefit (UK) was just subsiding the landlords (parallel to Accommodation Supplement).

    We absolutely must stop following the lemmings over the cliff.

    • Gosman 3.1

      We did not model our social housing on the UK model. Their social housing is largely provided by local authorities not the State.

  4. Gosman 4

    Why the use of the term genoicide? There is no indication that the poorer sections of society are being eliminated or even that their life expectancy has fallen since the early 1990’s.

    • koreropono 4.1

      “Why the use of the term genoicide [sic]”

      Because it’s apt and I can.

      “there is no indication that the poorer sections of society are being eliminated or even that their life expectancy has fallen since the early 1990’s”

      Well clearly you are relying on the wrong data, my data is specifically in relation to food insecurity and health and no amount of manipulation of information will negate that fact. If you think you know more than some of the worlds foremost experts, then I look forward to seeing you on the world stage spreading your expertise and knowledge. Meanwhile carry on.

      • Gosman 4.1.1

        You provide the links then that supports the claim that a genocide is taking place then. You do know what genocide means don’t you?

        • McFlock 4.1.1.1

          If you’d clicked on the link, you wouldn’t need to ask. It’s in the post, should you desire further information.

          • Gosman 4.1.1.1.1

            Do you really think genocide is an appropriate choice of word to use in relation to poverty in NZ McFlock?

            • McFlock 4.1.1.1.1.1

              I think that if one wishes to emphasise the deliberate nature of how policies over the last thirty years were intended to make poverty an unsurvivable situation, it’s strong but reasonable.

              Sure, it’s not conducive to dialogue with tories who like to think of themselves as “firm but fair”, using punitive measures to shove people into a more successful life (putting the “kick” in “kickstarter”). But as much as gritting one’s teeth and sitting down with them might deliver minimal advances for the little kiddies, the fact is that the unhealthy and terminal nature of poverty is a feature of capitalism, not a flaw.

              ISTR that the life expectancy for poor people was comparable to smoking – even controlling for smoking rates. Poverty kills, even in NZ.

              • In Vino

                Well said McFlock. Gooseman’s tendency to be punctilious about some simplified point will not help him to cope with your reply.

        • Orlando 4.1.1.2

          1080 Poison is classed as 1A extremely toxic by the World Health Organization. 1080 alias Agent Orange/ Sodium / Mono Fluoroacetate is rated as one of the highest poison in the world. It can kill all breathing animals, birds, insects and is now poisoning up to 1000 year old trees. 1080 Baits contain the Poison Fluoroacetate. Fluoroacetate does not leave the Environment. It is absorbed by the sap of plants and the soil into the water table. It poisons everything that breathes air!! Our Food and Water resources are at risk! 1080 has gone through our environment and is now hurting human beings! An average 1080 poison drop has the potential to kill at least 20 cows, per hectare! Scientists estimate over 20,000 deer are killed by 1080 poison every year in New Zealand! For over 15 years, the NZ servant settler govt has been systematically dropping massive amounts of 1080 laced food over our forests. The killing of Possums by 1080 poisoning is estimated to be a loss of $NZD100 million annually. 1 teaspoon full is enough to kill over 100 people. A Match head’s worth is sufficient to kill one person. NZ drops into its forests about 4000kg of pure 1080 per year enough to kill 20million people! On a per acre basis , that is 350 times more 1080 than Australia and 22,000 times the rest of the world. Since ERMA (Environmental Resource Management Act) approved the continued use of aerial 1080 in NZ, the quantities released into our environment have increased. 1080 has no Taste, 1080 has no Smell, 1080 has no Antidote! Wipe out the natural food chain and feed our people shit! Monsanto/Bayer set up camp in Taranaki and the South Island…genetically modified food chain on its way! Whats the baby gonna eat ? Whats the toddler gonna eat? Whats our kids gonna eat 2-4-years time? Genocide is 1080! 1080 is Genocide eat that one!…Many of US subsistent dwellers live and survive on our lands, forests, lakes, seas. UNDRIP Article, 29 Article 32….etc

  5. Antoine 5

    Powerful and heartfelt argument.

    Could be strengthened a bit by using more up-to-date references. For instance you say “more and more people live with the effects of significant food insecurity and are reliant on food banks to survive and those numbers are increasing“. I suppose when I read that I expected that ‘increasing’ would be a link to a reference from the last year or two, but in fact it goes back to 1995. In fact none of the references in that para are more recent than 2015.

    A.

    • Gosman 5.1

      Exactly. However apparently he knows experts in this area so all good.

    • koreropono 5.2

      Oh A. It’s always good to be kept on ones toes, but I did not think more recent links were necessary given the wide press that food banks have been getting over recent months, perhaps you don’t read, or watch the news then? Never the less here’s some stuff just for you: http://www.salvationarmy.org.nz/sites/default/files/uploads/20180126tsa_annualreport17.pdf Salvation Army’s 2017 Annual Report shows a 3% increase in food parcel distribution. I have no doubt that the ACM food bank will also show increases (as it has done year in and year out for a number of years). Or there have been quite a few recent articles about increased demand on food banks, for example https://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/98585763/rising-living-costs-seeing-more-families-turning-to-food-banks or https://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/99034498/rise-in-working-people-relying-on-charities-for-food-as-living-costs-soar or this http://www.salvationarmy.org.nz/research-media/media-centre/business-news/demand-helps-online-foodbank-expand, perhaps you like graphs, this may help you http://nzccss.org.nz/publications/vulnerability-report/ – though it may irk you that their last report was in 2016. It’s not that hard to find this information, I am surprised you couldn’t do this yourself, maybe next time you could give it a try.

      • Gosman 5.2.1

        So your entire argument for increased poverty and inequality relies on increased use of Food banks does it?

        • koreropono 5.2.1.1

          So your entire reading comprehension is not as developed as others? You are so silly Gosman, surely even you know that what you are suggesting above is not what I have said. Are you making shit up in your head again?

          • Gosman 5.2.1.1.1

            Where’s your links to actual poverty statistics rather than just anecdotal accounts of increased usage of charities? They do collect data in this area you know or do you rely on your ‘experts’ to tell you everything?

            [Your bullshit is crossing a line Gosman. If you disagree with the OP, then argue what you have issue with – preferably with some coherence and not just with pointless sloganesque statements, and either way, without the snide.] – Bill

            • Gosman 5.2.1.1.1.1

              I’d be more than happy to stick to discussing facts and figures rather than having to discuss anecdotal accounts. By all means let’s focus on them please and then I won’t have to try and counter other people’s opinions.

            • McFlock 5.2.1.1.1.2

              Did you not see the links where food bank use was mentioned?
              Or did you choose to not click on them?

              AFAIK, most of your stupid queries are at least partially addressed by the links in the post where those subjects were mentioned, yet your demands for evidence and queries on the nature of reality give no indication that you’ve bothered to look closer.

              The post itself is self-contained and concisely written, but should you wish to explore any issue more deeply, the author has supplyied a copious amount of links.

              • Gosman

                One of the links was basically stating that the demand to provide stuff TO foodbanks was higher than expected. It seems quite probable that KP just did a google search on Increased demand for Foodbanks and dumped the results here.

                • McFlock

                  The other two, if we’re talking about the same section, were to annual reports, with at least one of those reports containing five year statistics of food bank use including by type of food parcel. Exactly what you were whinging about, in other words.

                  So it seemed quite probable to me that you’d made little to no effort to look at any of the links in the post and were just trying to disrupt a thread with a Cartesian Canter (like the Gish Gallop, but with irrelevant epistemiological questions rather than irrelevant doc-dumping).

                  • Gosman

                    My problem with his statistics is that is all around Foodbank use and not about any other statistics that are collected around this topic most of which is actually more useful.

                    • McFlock

                      For a post substantively concerned food insecurity, this should not be a surprise.

                      Again, seems that you didn’t really read the post, and yet a lack of comprehension has not inhibited your ability to waste time and space.

                      Not so much “Dr Who” as “Dr WTF?”

                    • Tamati Tautuhi

                      Reading your comments yesterday by B/S meter here at home was alarming regularly during the day, perhaps you need to do some editing of your comments b4 posting as you are starting to piss some people off on this site.

                      Why don’t you, Alwyn, Puckish Rogue, & Baby Gaga f off and set up your own Bog Site ?

                • Tamati Tautuhi

                  Gossie is your main line of work economic analysis or nutrition and sociology ?

      • Antoine 5.2.2

        Hey KP

        Those are some better links.

        My perspective is that the change in the last few years is largely about rents going up so that there is not much left for food. Let’s hope that fixes to the housing market, will spill through to the rental market, making all low income people (whether working or on a benefit) better off.

        A.

        • koreropono 5.2.2.1

          Rising house costs are of course part of the problem (which has been included in poverty analysis for years), but all of these problems (including increased housing costs) were triggered by the economic reforms of the 80’s and 90’s. That said, I think if you were to watch Bryan Bruce’s documentary of the topic you may get some more insight re the current ‘fixes’ to the housing crisis being proposed by Government – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzSAmOQuyjU&feature=youtu.be

  6. Ad 6

    Korero you clearly live in a world of which I know little, and do honourable work within it.

    Your writing is always heartfelt and full of essentially humane and reasoned arguments.

    Keep at it. It’s great to feel people like you are defending the rights and needs of the powerless. This site is all the richer for it.

  7. Draco T Bastard 7

    Poor People Have To Spend More On Toilet Paper Than The Rich: Study

    A study out of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business found that poor people spend more on toilet paper than rich people do. But the reasons behind the trend extend to other household items, and further demonstrate how it’s actually expensive to be poor.

    Low-income households typically spend more on toilet paper because they don’t have the cash to fork over to buy in bulk, which would save money over time, the study noted. So, instead of spending $24 on 36 rolls of toilet paper, an underserved person is more likely to spend $7.50 for eight rolls, even though it actually costs more.

    Not being able to stock up also means having to buy toilet paper exactly when the need presents itself. These consumers, in turn, can’t time their purchases to coincide with a store’s sale.

    “Our findings suggest it’s not that poor households can’t do the math or are financially inept,” Orhun told CNN Money. “They can be frugal. They take the better deal, when they can afford to.”

    I remember when energy saving light bulbs came out and they cost nominally $20 each. They’d save more over their lifetime but there was absolutely no way that the poor could afford to buy them. The same pretty much applies now as well. Energy saving light bulbs cost dollars whereas the old type costs cents.

    The poor are, quite literally, forced into living more expensively.

    Meanwhile, we have a flourishing and expanding food bank industry, no doubt trying their best to alleviate the worst impacts of poverty, but making no apparent difference in changing the systemic causes of the problems they see day in and day out. It is unfortunate that through their kindness they may even be responsible for entrenching food bank use and devolving the government of its responsibilities to our most vulnerable citizens. Sadly, while the food bank may be alleviating the worst effects of food insecurity, they may, through their kindness, also be complicit in supporting a system that is slowly killing people living in poverty.

    Yes. All indications are that charity is bad for society and ends up costing more. Thing is, this what all the suggestions of the rich right-wing do. We get less for more. The rich get richer though as they skim that ‘more’.

    Our system is legalised theft and it’s the rich stealing from the rest of us.

    • McFlock 7.1

      There are a couple of good descriptions of situation of poverty being more expensive than wealth – there’s Vimes’ “Boots Theory” (as written by Terry Pratchett) where, over time, the poor person spends as much as or more on low-quality boots as the rich person, but for much of that time still has wet feet while the poor person has dry feet;

      and there was an old Andy Capp cartoon where Andy is trying to roll a large barrel of beer through the door, while Flo is pushing back on the other side saying “we can’t afford to ‘save’ that much!”.

      Hell, I hit a new level of ease when I could finally afford to pay my power bill on time – and regularly received a 15% discount for doing so. As soon as I could afford the higher costs, they got cheaper.

    • Andrea 7.2

      On the delicate subject of toilet paper:

      if you buy the budget rolls (2 ply) it is likely you will get through the roll much faster than if you bought a posher product simply because (ewww alert) you have to use more to avoid a bathroom embarrassment.

      The rolls of more expensive and thicker paper actually lasts much longer because you can use less each time.

      Based on personal experience… so no link can be provided. 🙂

      • Tamati Tautuhi 7.2.1

        Can you please supply some supporting data to support the above statements I go for the Budget 2 ply in either the 12/24 or 48 pack, I think you will find that works out to be more cost effective. I will run some spreadsheets today to support this otherwise Gossie will pull me up on these unsubstantiated claims ?

      • Draco T Bastard 7.2.2

        Worked that one out a long time ago when working for a contractor that did the city’s toilets. The contractor, of course, bought the cheapest, thinnest toilet paper available and it was obvious that anyone would need to use screeds of the stuff for it to work and thus not saving anything.

  8. soddenleaf 8

    One way to hide inflation is to lower quality. An attack on regulation lowers the standards of food. Heat treatment, use of chemicals to turn rancid meat…

    Neolibs hate the poor, if they deny it, it’s because they just too stupid to care. As society runs much more efficiently with well fed people. When the food industry demands to remove regulation, not only do introduce species decimate herds, shit from herds reduce water quality, but food stays longer and has less value. win win win for financial sector, lose lose lose for farmers, society, and tax payers. Yes the strange nonsense of the Nats is that they save taxpayers by cutting regulation and losing taxes.

    Farmers who vote nAtional now that’s dumb.

    • Gosman 8.1

      Do you have any evidence that food quality standards have decreased in the past 30 years?

  9. Belladonna 9

    I have heard the daily allowance for elderly in Rest Homes is around $1.60 per person.
    How is this amount adequate to feed anyone? Is anyone able to confirm this is correct?
    Just ridiculous if this is the case.

  10. Belladonna 10

    Does anyone know what the daily food allowance is? My understanding is that it is not adequate for a nutritious diet.

  11. DB 11

    Why do you folks even bother replying to Gosman. Save us all the wasted effort having to read replies to his eternal prattle. This whole thing is Gosman vs everyone. Ignore him the Standard is fast becoming crap and you keep feeding into his obviously asinine trolling. I’ll try log on and reading in future but if it’s what I’ve been getting lately, I’d rather not.

    There’s debate, then there’s this dickhead.

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