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Poverty Watch 3

Written By: - Date published: 8:55 am, September 15th, 2012 - 36 comments
Categories: education, national, poverty - Tags: ,

Welcome to Poverty Watch, a weekly update on the National government’s lack of response to the urgent and growing issue of poverty in NZ.

National used to talk about “the underclass”, but talk is all they ever did. During their four years in power poverty and inequality have increased (a Waikato University professor says that poverty is our biggest growth industry). Report after report after report has condemned the rate of poverty in this country, and called on the government to act.  In a recent summary of the government’s targets and goals John Armstrong wrote: “Glaringly absent is a target for reducing child poverty”…

In relevant news this week: Labour re-ignited the debate on child poverty when David Shearer gave an excellent speech on education, including the promise of free food in low decile schools. The Greens started Champions for Children – check it out and sign up.

National responded with complete denial of the issues, saying that “the government is already doing enough to help families feed their kids”. If that is the case then why are 40,000 kids fed by charities and up to 80,000 going to school hungry? Organisations working with the poor say that Key is in poverty ‘la la land’.

Poverty Watch always ends with the following list, the National government’s response to rising poverty in NZ:

• National has not yet set any target for reducing poverty
• ?

36 comments on “Poverty Watch 3 ”

  1. The whole point of the NACTs campaign is to create a permanent ‘underclass’  made up of ‘hopeless cases’ who have to be treated as a separate sub-citizen category and ‘forced to be free’ from lives of crime, benefit fraud, serial breeding, substance abuse and general moral turpitude. Of course the NACTs will never act to create the social conditions that will allow the ‘underclass’ to be full citizens. That would mean paying a living wage, providing free health education and housing when the cost of these are a drain on capitalists profits. By setting up a category of sub-citizens you create a scapegoat for the social disaster of capitalism so the ruling class can parade itself as caring and sharing ‘winners’ and ‘heroes’ and laugh all the way to the banks.
     

    • BernyD 1.1

      Exactly, with grade scaling in schools, a minimum of 40% of kids are guaranteed to fail.
      (Without scaling it’d be 60%)

      Therefore they will be in lower income jobs, and without any kind of union backing they’ll be earning minimum wage regardless of how hard they work.
      The employers have the perfect excuse of “You can’t get blood out of a stone”.
      For anyone that falls into this category joining a union is their only hope of having fair workplace representation.

      Thet’s the New Zealand dream as it stands today.
      What a future, and we wonder why 60% of NZ gets drunk every night.

      People who don’t do well in standardised education systems used to learn on the job using Trade Unions and mentors, these days the capitalists rub their hands in glee, another slave at their mercy.

      • Heidi 1.1.1

        We don’t have scaling in schools.

        • QoT 1.1.1.1

          [citation needed]

          We certainly did when I was there (7th form 2001).

          • Colonial Viper 1.1.1.1.1

            Exam results have been scaled for at least a decade before that. And at university too.

            Heidi – why are you claiming we don’t scale results in schools? Heidi?

          • lprent 1.1.1.1.2

            Did when I was there – 7th form 1977

            They still do now in NCEA. Understand the process is moderated and scaled across the whole country from the couple of people I know who moderate in various subjects

    • just saying 1.2

      Well said Dave

  2. fatty 2

    Key response to the free food in schools was predictably lame. Firstly concerning fruit in schools.
    He said fruit was already provided, however this is a programme that was implemented when the hungry kids issue was not so bad. It was never an adequate programme, and is not even close now. The opposition needs to remind everyone that if this Government had their way the fruit in schools programme would have been gone in 2010.
    In response to Labour’s policy announcement, Key claims that the Government should not be providing breakfast, and he then claims that state schools are providing breakfasts already, so there is no need for further intervention. Unfortunately it is true that breakfast is being provided in many schools, so we must ask ourselves how good is this policy announced by Labour? How different is it from what is already happening?
    From what I can see there is not much difference in what Labour is proposing, compared to what is already happening. Just a few million dollars a year to have a better equipped ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. Or have I missed something?

    • BernyD 2.1

      It may indeed be happening, but we still need to hear them endorse said policies.
      They aren’t/don’t need to promote change they should be promoting civilised directions for society.
      You are stuck in a reactionary cycle, because all Nat does is rip up precedents and start again.

      • fatty 2.1.1

        “They aren’t/don’t need to promote change they should be promoting civilised directions for society.
        You are stuck in a reactionary cycle, because all Nat does is rip up precedents and start again.”

        I think if you look at the state of our society Labour does need to promote change…and they have needed to for years.
        Promoting civilised direction just sounds like an excuse for Labour being useless since the 1980s. A reactionary cycle would be better than giving into the tories and accepting their policies. Labour needs to rip up National’s precedents, rather than accepting them and softening them.

        • BernyD 2.1.1.1

          True

          • fatty 2.1.1.1.1

            I know what you mean about a civilised direction, but I think in order to create that, there needs to be a strong change from Labour. The food in schools is a good direction, but they should be throwing a lot of money into it and really standing behind it. Not only does that differentiate Labour from the Nats, but it also puts the blame firmly onto the neoliberal/thirdway ideology.
            Its OK to claim that schools should be a place where we feed children. Its OK to challenge and oppose the individual/parental responsibility mantra. Its OK to promote collectivism. Its OK to come out and say they will tax the rich to feed the kids.
            I can’t remember the last time Labour said it would tax the rich to pay for social services…maybe I’m not listening.

            • BernyD 2.1.1.1.1.1

              Ae, which is why I say they have to speak it, they can’t talk detail without direction.

              • fatty

                true…I am not one of those people that demand well detailed policies now, because I realise how tactical policy release is in winning an election. And I realise detailed policies must be announced at a precise time, and in a precise manner.
                It is that underlying direction of Labour that worries me…we’ll have to wait and see, in the meantime I would like to see some attacks on National, well planned attacks.

                • Colonial Viper

                  Sure, you don’t release policy now, but you must generate the political-economic discourse in communities now. You must frame real ideas, values and options so that the electorate understand the context when you do finally release the detailed policy.

        • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1.2

          I think if you look at the state of our society Labour does need to promote change…and they have needed to for years.

          But they won’t because, lo and behold, they believe in the system that is preventing us from making the best of ourselves. They believe in capitalism and so all they’ll do is manage capitalism so that things aren’t quite as bad as what it is under NACT.

    • mike e 2.2

      Labour Stealing Shonkeys promise of 2008 election campaign funny that!
      How dare they!

  3. IrishBill 3

    The nat’s political nous seems to have deserted them this year. They could have just pinched the food in schools policy and run with it. It costs bugger all and would’ve made them look a) like they were able to act in a bipartisan manner b) have seemed like they cared (and helped shore up the female vote) and c) taken the (albeit limited) wind out of Labour’s sails on the issue. It’s exactly the kind of thing Key would have done a year ago.

    Instead we saw them resort to a cynical and transparent “taniwha” attack on Shearer that has given him increased credibility in the beltway, and let Paula off the leash with a policy that’s gone down like a cup of cold sick with the electorate outside of the talkback minority. I wonder if if this increasingly clumsy politics got anything to do with Phil De Joux leaving Key’s office or if it’s just a sign of the increasing weakness of Key’s control of his cabinet?

    • fatty 3.1

      I don’t see this as being clumsy, or a loss of political nous.
      Instead, this is just the natural pattern of MMP. John Key is just doing what Helen Clark did. To become PM, you have to be centrist, then over a period of 2-3 terms you inch your way to the left or right. Clark was very centrist to begin with and by the end policies had become more leftish…we are now seeing Key move to the right.
      Thats why Shearer has been playing the middle ground, and hoping Key becomes as disliked as Clarke was in 07/08…it still may work.
      It sucks, we have a political system which almost demands third-way ideology. We are stuck in the mud and slowly sinking

      • IrishBill 3.1.1

        For just a few million dollars a year National could’ve bought themselves some space to move further right elsewhere.

        • fatty 3.1.1.1

          True…it would only cost a few million, but that would be pragmatic and I don’t see Key as being a pragmatic leader anymore. In the first term he was, and everything was considered on that money vs votes ratio (thirdway). National has now moved into ideology vs votes, and as a result ideology will now drive their policies (neoliberism).
          National no longer feel the need to buy votes and will now push individual responsibility, or in this case parental ideology. As time moves on it looks as though National have a real chance of gaining a third term by stigmatising the poor.
          Personally, I think (or hope) that this will cost them the next election, but National will look at the opposition and think that its worth the risk because even if they fail, this current centrist Labour Party will not reverse the damage to any great degree.
          At the moment National can move quicker to the right than they should be able to, they would be silly not to take this opportunity.

  4. Reagan Cline 4

    King’s College parents like the Keys pay big money for the school to feed the kids who board there.
    They then complain about paying for kids at public schools to get a school breakfast.
    The State pays or the kids parents or caregivers pay, what does it matter so long as the kids get a decent meal.
    It looks like in government policy it is more important for rich kids to be fed than poor kids.
    Fine if a few thousand kids are malnourised if in the long run the poor are weened off state dependancy.
    Socoliogists have shown that long term policy outcomes are not predictable.
    So the government should respond to what is happening right now and provide school meals.

  5. seeker 5

    Even 8 year old children from wealthy families are so concerned about the poverty of other children in our ‘pleasant for some’ land, that they have thoughtfully written to john key and David Shearer.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/7682600/Pupils-take-concerns-to-top

    One little girl who wrote to the prime minister said, “I wrote it because John Key should be giving kids breakfast in school because I can’t focus without the most important meal of the day. Some kids would be very happy to have food on their plates.”

    Another child was shocked that Kiwi kids went to school without breakfast. “I thought it only happens in other countries. I think children should have free breakfasts at school because sometimes they can go hungry and not focus.”

    “Out of the mouths of babes” I think the saying goes..

    However there is a jarring note to the article:

    “The Dominion Post forwarded the notes on to Mr Key’s office.

    A spokesman said: “Our standard practice with correspondence is to do the courtesy of responding directly to the writer, which we will do so in our usual way in this case when the correspondence is received.”

    And going by Grace’s experience with john key’s office from the thread under yesterday’s post by Eddie “Banks’ story coming apart; Key too weak to act” (hope you don’t mind me quoting you Grace)

    “I have written to MPs for many, many years and have received a reply to each and every letter I have ever written…

    This is the first time I’ve received a ‘thank you, f….. off’. In over 20 years of written correspondence.

    I felt moved to mention it, because it’s the first time it’s ever happened. That’s all.

    I still do not believe it’s hubris to expect a reasoned reply from a Minister of the Crown when writing to them. What else are their staff for?

    I do hope key’s office will not ignore children, and will respect and engage with them in a wise, well reasoned and considered way. Adult responses are an important way for our children to develop and learn from the environment they have been born into. What they make of it is a different matter!? We can only, as I said, hope.

    • Plastic Tolstoy 5.1

      He may well simply ignore them, because by the time they are old enough to vote he will be living in Hawaii already so what would he care? Or perhaps he will send a fluffy reply telling them how nice it is that they care about others, before politely explaining that they don’t understand yet that money doesn’t grow on trees.

      Whatever his response, it is heartening to see this kind of empathy from such young ones, many older New Zealanders could learn a thing or too from these kids. I only hope that, as these kids grow, they stick to their principles and don’t allow others to shame them into silence for their beliefs, as happened to me. It took years for me to realise that I actually was entitled to an opinion just like everyone else, that I wasn’t stupid or soft for believing people are more important than money.

  6. AC 6

    How about the schools getting closed down in CHCH. Most of which are low income areas. Some parents can’t afford to run a vehicle let alone pay for buses. To top this off if their child does not get to school they risk losing half their benefit. This could well lead to extra tension exerted on parents who are already struggling with the economic climate this government has created and with the aftermath of some destructive earthquakes (this could lead to more child abuse???) Things seem to be getting worse and worse with this National Government. Their secret agendas and lies are well below the standard of a third world dictatorship. They lack any sort of integrity and are only providing for the rich.

  7. Labour needs to start talking more about “fairness”. I think this something that resonates with most people – and goes to the heart of this poverty issue. If you look at the difference between the two parties, they both live a country of inequality, they just differ as to how they percieve it:

    Nats: It’s not fair, well, life’s not fair, work harder.
    Lab: It’s not fair, so lets even the playing field, and help those falling behind.

    That sums up the core philosophies. Fairness is what NZ is about, and Labour (should) speak to that better than National. That’s where the rhetoric has to go, if they want traction with this: Poverty is simply unfair, and that inequality is not good enough for New Zealand. We know cbild poverty is a terrible problem in NZ, now what are we going to do about it?

    • QoT 7.1

      Labour has been talking about “fairness”, TPM. Unfortunately it’s in the context of “you work hard, unlike those bloody beneficiaries who paint their own roofs, aren’t they scum.”

  8. National has not yet set any target for reducing poverty.

    You/they can set as many ‘targets’ as you want, everyone is going to fall way short of reality.
    And that is from now on, unless about 5 billion people exit this planet overnight, we are going to see more poverty and way less of everything we would wish to have.
    About the only thing we are not running out of at the moment is cadavers (+ 80 ish million a year) and stupidity.
    Everything we need to ‘lift people out of poverty’ is running out, including a stable enough environment to feed ourselves. We are fast running out of clean water, and if this insane species is going to survive for the foreseeable future, then ‘we’ are going to have to grow as much food in the next 50 years as we have grown in the past 10,000.
    Poverty is something we are all going to have to get use to, picture the per capita energy level of 1880 and divide it by 7 billion.
    We can’t have a planet full of billions of ‘middle class’ consumers (if that is the flip side to poverty?)
    Don’t get me wrong – poverty sucks, but it is just one more step on the road to extinction, or at least a step on the road to a population reduction …. Call it Human Colony Collapse.
    We are on the gradual downward slope, and starting to gain momentum. we need to understand that those were ‘the good old days’ and that was ‘as good as it gets’.
    We really are very stupid, we would much rather believe bullshit over facts nearly every time. It wouldn’t matter if we had Jesus H Christ and Mother Teresa running the world, our goose is cooked, we’ve dumped several epochs of crap into the atmosphere over the pasted 200 or so years, we are like a slow motion comet, or more accurately, we are now like the aftermath of a comet strike, like chlorine gas, oozing along the ground.
    And just to make sure we are totally screwed we are dragging out another epoch worth of crap via fracking.
    If we could grasp the facts, then poverty would look like a good thing.

  9. M Schwartz 9

    The Nat’s are making some progress by introducing some further obligations in exchange for entitlements. I would like to see more provision of contraception and family planning education for those who are unable to look after themselves, let alone kids though.

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