An excellent piece by Brent Edwards on Morning Report today, looking at official advice to the government on poverty. Edwards requested these documents in May last year – naturally they were delayed until after the election. Some selections from the RNZ piece:
Govt advised not to spend more on poverty
Officials are recommending the Government not spend any more money fighting poverty, despite believing that would alleviate the problem.
Translation: officials give government the advice it wants despite knowing that it’s wrong. Here’s some background:
The documents obtained by Radio New Zealand also spell out how serious child poverty is in this country. Child poverty rates in 2011 were double what they were in the 1980s and are two to three times higher than the poverty rates for people aged over 65. The papers also confirm that, under most measures, child poverty rates got better in early 2000s but have not improved since 2007.
Working for Families – raising incomes – alleviated poverty.
Officials acknowledge spending more money can help alleviate poverty, in a paper dated February 2013. “If the policy objective is to reduce measured income poverty for families with children then clearly the incomes of low-income families need to increase (eg through higher employment income, reduced taxes or higher transfer payments),” the paper says.
This is the simple and obvious truth that Key’s government is desperate to deny. So why the advice not to invest more in alleviating poverty?
One of those who helped with the report, Otago University researcher Simon Chapple, is surprised by the advice from the Ministry of Social Development.
“The job of a government department is to offer free and frank advice to the Government of the day and my reading of it was that it was free and frank advice strongly tailored to the political preferences of the Government of the day. “So the notion that no more money should be spent, you know, seems a very political one.”
Quite. So what advice can these hapless officials give that fits the Nats requirements?
Ministry of Social Development officials have suggested that the Government give less money to poor families with older children and instead give more to those with young children.
Reshuffle the pie – rob Peter to pay Paul. How is that going to help?
From the constrained conclusion to the timing of the release it is clear that the Nats are still playing politics with poverty. The answer, the obvious answer and the only logical answer is clear to everyone, raise incomes. The Nats chose tax cuts for the rich instead.