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Re-run: Benefits, wages and anger

Written By: - Date published: 8:28 am, December 29th, 2009 - 46 comments
Categories: benefits, capitalism - Tags:

The recent furore about benefit levels has brought a lot of comments along the lines of “I don’t get it why should they?” out of the woodwork along with a lot of hardluck stories from low wage earners such as this one from Phoenix on Colin Espiner’s blog:

I am 6 months pregnant with my first child. 6 weeks into my pregnancy, my prick of a boss decided to make me redundant, forcing me into a position paying $5 an hour less than my normal rate of pay, I had to move to Chch from Auckland to keep my job, and whats more, he replaced me with someone else about 2 weeks after I had moved! (changed the name of the position of course, but it is the same blinkin job)

I have a partner, he got a job paying $38k a year (before tax), I now earn a pathetic $30k a year, and because of our two incomes, we are not eledgible for any government help.

I felt like I had to stay employed with this company as it would be very difficult to find a job when you are pregnant, especially at the moment with the recession and the lack of jobs out there.

What annoys me here, is I am battling to stay afloat, will be taking the least amount of maternity leave owing so we dont lose any income, and will have to put my child into child care to go back to work while these ladies earn a heck of a lot more than I do for sitting on the benefit.

Perhaps I should have a couple more kids and pretend I am single, to get more money?? Oh yeah, and I did 3 polytech courses, and have already paid back my student loan. No freebies there either….

Apart from the fact Phoenix would clearly have a strong case for a personal grievance which should include reinstatement and maternity leave (join your union!), this comment and the hundreds like it are a constant reminder of how low wages are in New Zealand.

The dark irony is that by calling for beneficiaries to have their entitlements cut, these low paid workers are effectively asking to have more pressure put on them to work harder for less because if they don’t there will be more people lined up to do their job for less. In fact in the 1990’s a constant refrain from bosses during negotiations was “if you don’t like the wages there’s hundreds of people who will.”

What astounds me is that so many people with these hard luck stories are willing to attack other people at the bottom of the pile rather than the people and policies that are oppressing them both.

I guess it shows how effective the New Right’s individualist agenda has been in that rather than see themselves as part of society these people see themselves only as individuals in competition with other individuals.

And while I’m at it there’s a second strain of comment that has come through during this debacle – the one where the commenter talks about how proud they are they are toughing it out and working for SFA. There’s a name for that kind of person and apparently there’s one born every minute.

46 comments on “Re-run: Benefits, wages and anger ”

  1. “…the commenter talks about how proud they are they are toughing it out and working for SFA. There’s a name for that kind of person and apparently there’s one born every minute.

    People who take pride in working, being self-reliant and contributing are fools? It’s called having a work ethic. But that’s OK. Just so long as someone else has one you don’t need to. Your brand of morality explains why the welfare system is systematically abused.

    • felix 1.1

      Geez Lindsay if you’re going to make shit up and attribute it to someone else it’s probably best not to quote what they actually said or you’ll just look like a moron as well as a liar.

    • BLiP 1.2

      Where’s the morality in sneering at those in receipt of a benefit?

    • roger nome 1.3

      and swoosh – there goes he point, at stratosphere level over lindsay’s head. to bring it down to our level, the people that don’t have the politcal analysis to realise when they’re being systemically shafted are suckers. i mean, good on them for working hard, and making an honest living. you may be a good person, but you’re still a sucker.

  2. Ms X 2

    Well I dont think that $272 for a sole parent and $158 for a single person under 25 (sickness or unemployment benefits) is much. Frankly, I’m amazed anyone can survive on those levels. The supplements, Family Tax credits etc are add-ons and a lot of people not on benefit are entitled to one or more of those. I’m one of them. if we could separate fact from fiction just long enough for these people who are apparently prepared to forego their dignity, independence and chances of earning more for a “freebie” each week, they might have some surprises. Unhappily, the readily accessible facts of levels of benefits are never as good as a good headline-hitting whinge.

  3. The fruits of fucking up at school coming to fruitition here chaps, cry me a river and use contraception instead of whinging.

    • Roger 3.1

      As Phoenix mentioned about her education and qualifications, “Oh yeah, and I did 3 polytech courses, and have already paid back my student loan. No freebies there either”. Is this fucking up at school?

    • roger nome 3.2

      JR you punative idiot – how about i kneecap you and call it the fruits of your nasty rhetoric? bet you’d enjoy that.

  4. swimmer 4

    It’s just more beneficiary bashing. Those people should be grateful that they have jobs and get on with their lives and stop whinging about the people who are in the unfortunate position of having to live off a benefit.

  5. Anne 5

    It would be interesting to know how many of the beneficiary bashers who made comments on Espinor’s original blog (28 July 2009) have since been made redundant and are currently on a benefit.

  6. lenore 6

    I also don’t get it. Someone on a benefit has no connections, doesn’t have mummy and daddy to bail them out, give them the connections to the right job … oh and pay for them to go to uni while putting their money in a family trust so that it doesn’t get touched like the average worker paying taxes. I live in a suburb where the self employed get working for families tax credits to pay for their cleaner and where people know how to use the system legally to pay less. That is the way of the world and why the rich get richer etc. If I was phoenix, I would be more pissed off about how there are a few wealthy people out there who manage to worm themselves out of paying their share, rather than a few poor buggers who manage to cling onto staying on a benefit where lets face it, you are treated like shit.

  7. jcuknz 7

    It is a typical case of attacking others becuase you think they are getting more than you. But the basic point here is that a couple shouldn’t let the woman get pregnant if they cannot afford to have the child and maintain the standard of living they wish to have. Quite apart from arguments about the world has too many people already and bringing another life into the world is immoral.

    • BLiP 7.1

      Compulsory contraception until you are rich enough to have children?

      • Zorr 7.1.1

        One rule for the rich. Another rule for everyone else.

        Where have you been Blip? 😛

        • BLiP

          Heh! No doubt I’m still suffering a little culture shock. See, I’ve just got back from Planet Humanity – a strange and mysterious place where the members of society extend financial support to its weakest members yet withhold the right to pour scorn upon them, a place where providing as far as possible for the equitable distribution of health, education, and opportunity to children is dispensed by the state where required yet the recipient caregivers are still granted the respect due to those growing the future. Crazy, eh?

      • jcuknz 7.1.2

        Blip …. That does make sense, although I’m not sure that it should be complusory but rather intelligent choice. I have supported the concept of a responsible society for many decades now but mankind is swamping the world and to me it is preferable that the solution is by self discipline rather than by war and famine.

        So it is ‘not until you are rich’ but rather until the world population has stabilised at a sensible level to be self supporting in terms of its resources. There is nowhere else for mankind to go for all of NASA’s efforts.

        • prism

          jcuknz – These people are being people, following the human behaviour traits and you blame them? This is what people tend to do in a society that doesn’t have strict controls like China, they have sex and have babies. It’s traditional in more ways than one. Families where children have just come along without much attempt at birth control, tend to follow the same approach as their parents. It is quite an effort to control conception, and society often makes it quite hard also by putting various barriers in the way.

  8. jcuknz 8

    Zorr …. it has always been and always will be different if you are rich. But richness can come from satisfaction with what one has, contentment with what one has achieved in life.
    They choose for her to get pregnant, one way or another, an obvious lack of self discipline and appreciation of what it involves. Her rather stupid slagging off at her employer gains her nothing in my view. Why should the employer carry the bag for the couple’s lack of common sense. If the country wants another child then it should be our collective responsibility through state aid … but of course really the world doesn’t need yet another mouth to feed.

    • felix 8.1

      I totally get your point about overpopulation, and also about intelligent choices being far and away the most ideal means to tackle the problem.

      However the ability to make such choices presupposes a level of education and awareness which we as a society have failed to extend to the vast majority of the population, preferring instead to adorn ourselves with wasteful trinkets and casual luxuries.

      Where is the moral authority now to decide the fate of the mass?

    • Roger 8.2

      How is two full time workers deciding at a reasonable age to start a family a lack of self discipline and appreciation of what is involved. Are you saying that having your job taken away in dubious circumstances is a normal consideration of what is involved?

    • roger nome 8.3

      grinchnz: nz is not overpopulated – in fact if it were left to the rich we would b experiencing depopulation – and a higher ratio of retired people to working age people. anyhow – i don’t think the child should pay for their parents’ mistakes – none of us choose to be born in to poverty. so get off your high horse and come down to reality – where most of us live. that’s why we choose to live in a society that has a welfare state. i hear somalia doesn’t have much of a welfare state. perhaps you could move to that free-market paridise if you don’t like the way we do things in new zealand?

      • jcuknz 8.3.1

        It is possible that NZ is not overpopulated at the moment but just as with greenhouse gases what we do affects the world and what the world is doing affects us, so we should be doing something, perhaps like China with a one child family for a start, and ignore the foolish religious concepts that this violates..

        It is the parents decision, often becuase of ignorance, as to how a child is born.
        Th responsible parent ensures that they have enough to not only feed the child but raise it with some expectations. Otherwise the child and the parents are victims of the blind drive of nature to procreate. Nature does seem to be driving us to starvation and extinction and mankind fortunately has the brain, somewhat lacking in this forum I suspect, to do something about it. That the ‘rich’ are having small families merely illustrates that they have the brains to make their money and keep it, and in turn give their children a start in life.

        As I see it the problem in countries such as Roger Nome wishes to consign me is that without a welfare system the only hope for parents to enjoy their reitrement is to have plenty of children to look after them. If they were assured of an adequate superanuation they wouldnt need to have so many children. and they and the world would be a better place with a better future.

  9. jcuknz 9

    I would suggest that you lefties lift your heads out of the class war and get a glimpse of what is going on in the world with the mad march of capitalism, which you reflect with your desires and comments. For the responsible society [ Dr Bill Sutch] to work the people must act in a responsible way on a personal, national, and world level.

    • Roger 9.1

      In regards to acting responsibly, this case above shows that Phoenix has been acting responsibly. She was made redundant AFTER she was pregnant. If she works full time, a loss of $5 per hour down to $30,000pa suggests that when she was pregnant, she was earning $40,400pa, living happily in Auckland, and a partner on $38,000pa. She had 3 tertiary courses paid off so she is responsible with her money. Rather than telling us lefties to lift our heads out of the class war, you should join our ranks since it appears that dickhead bosses like the one above are the ones acting irresponsibly. On a personal level they do so by making people redundant through legally dubious avenues, on a national level through political parties that bash beneficiaries and help unscrupulous employers by eroding workers rights, and banks that evade tax, and a world level by outsourcing labour to places where workers can be exploited.

      • jcuknz 9.1.1

        If you but knew it I have been in your ranks for decades serving on staff committee etc at times, likely ever since I read Dr S’s book which made so much sense, but that was fifty years ago and while I still believe in a responsible society I have come to see that for it to work one must have a responsible populace to support it.otherwise it will not get off the ground. The left are largely dreamers trying the share out the cake before it is cooked. It didn’t work in the village society and it still doesn’t in our modern industrial world. The crops have to be harvested before food can be made.

        From what I learnt when I was on the dole for a short time I believe that the beneficiaries have to fight for every cent they get and the departments job was to try and see through the lurks and fiddles the bene’s tried to put over them … a form of warfare with a lack of responsibility on both sides. That was around 20 years ago when I was made redundant shortly before retirement age, I hope things are better now. Shipley and Richardson not running things now.

    • prism 9.2

      I think Dr Bill Sutch had more heart and humanity than you do jcuknz.

  10. prism 10

    This is having a work ethic? Have you any ethics at all – how would you know? People being worked into the ground and never able to improve their lot because they are only receiving survival wages, that is a recipe for a handy underclass to exploit. Especially if they accept the propaganda that they are superior to those out of work – working even for peanuts is heroic! Reminds me of an old story where pre-legal prostitution they in this city had a pecking order, the inside girls looked down on the street girls. In the end it is just a small degree of difference – they are exploiting themselves.

    George Orwell wrote about this problem in Down and Out in Paris and London after he was working in Paris as a plongeur – a low-paid kitchen hand working long hours in poor conditions for minimal pay. He made an interesting comment – that it was the sort of work that women would normally be given except they didn’t have the stamina for this job. It is interesting that this pregnant woman is trying to do paid work as well, she cannot prepare for her baby’s birth, and is not being paid the high wages that some women have as a reason for not relinquishing work at this time. She should be able to get assistance from a government that had any idea of how to support citizens and give parents and babies a good start in life.

    One of the ploys Orwell and his companions used as a survival technique after losing their jobs was to get out of a boarding house without paying rent due by lowering a suitcase out of the window so they could leave with the weemingly intending to return. Being on the edge can drive you into criminality so easily. Nothing superior and wonderful in being poor whether you are working or not.

    • prism 10.1

      Just remembered another bit from Orwells Down & Out – he said about working as a plongeur that there was a sort of pride in the men who did the job. It was such hard work and it sorted out the stayers and the others and they felt a pride in being such hardworking beasts who could survive in that work environment.
      Of course it was written in 1933 and was about the conditions of the Great Depression. That’s the period they made the film They Shoot Horses Don’t They – referring I think to when horses were worn out with work they got shot, and people going into marathon dance competitions for money often danced till they dropped like worn-out horses.

    • jcuknz 10.2

      Just to prove my heart and humanity PRISM I would tell you that I am glad to live in a country where prostitution is a legitimate and legal form of emplyment rather than as in the States and similar uncivilised countries where the women are hounded by police and crims with nobody to help them better themselves with the talents they were born with. Everybody ‘exploits’/ uses the skills they were born with/ learnt to earn their living. You demonstrate a rather limited concept of life and humanity with that comment..

      • prism 10.2.1

        Didn’t say that prostitution shouldn’t be legal. Its a hard business though, dealing with the public is always tiring, retail assistant, taxi driving for instance, but prostitution involves selling yourself for short periods and you would have to watch that you didn’t sell yourself short, and that there was something of you left over when you could live your own life and wanting to make your own emotional partnership. That applies to girls or rent boys I think they call them. If they can find the other talents that they were born with, and everybody has many just not realised, and then exploit those instead they are likely to be much better off in the long run.
        That’s the reality and can’t be denied. The truth can’t be glossed over by a veneer of superiority and liberal talk jcuknz.

  11. randal 11

    this person phoenix, if it is a real person and not just a figment of espiners imagination
    (has he been interviewing his own typewriter again) sounds just like a paula bennet impersonator.
    they will probably stand for national at the next election.

  12. prism 12

    It is possible that phoenix can rise out of the ashes, but when I looked on the IRD information online I find that it is short on direct answers. What is the income level for in-work tax benefit?? The top amount they will pay is stated but not the top amount that you can earn. Anyway mothers to be should be getting a maternal benefit – don’t they have one in Australia? They do in lots of other go-ahead countries. But of course we treat human pregnancy as a sort of farming activity.
    Then there are about three other benefits which you have to wade through details about. One has an abatement at about $36,000.
    You have to enter your info and the site will calculate it. IN the old days, there used to be pages of tax tables where you found out exact details by running along two columns, like you do with a road distance chart. Seeing is believing and understanding, not the doling out of information through a fog of words is needed.

  13. JD 13

    I sometines wonder if you’re a real person Randel as its hard to fathom how anyone could be so stupid.

  14. Jum 14

    – Did Phoenix vote for National in the last election? If so, serves her right; she obviously approves of that sort of treatment. NActM talked about the 90day probation bill. Surely everyone would know that’s NAct speak for ‘the employer has all the advantages’. Surely everyone knows what National and Act stand for. Many NZers voted for National against a female Prime Minister and now are suffering for their misogyny.

    Let’s see if by 2011 these now-suffering people have learned any lessons from voting for the National/Act/Maori/United Future parties that believe in cheap, desperate labour and growing the privatisation pie for the corporates.

    – Even an Act supporter I know admitted that the reason Working for Families existed was because employers were getting away with paying pittances for all these ‘hardworking’ New Zealanders the far right political parties are exploiting.

    Do I sound bitter – of course. New Zealanders are and have been selfishly inclined since the Douglas 80s and Richardson 90s. Clark tried to turn the tide but this country of men folk who hate strong women ruined a return to some form of civilized future for NZ. Now it’s all about privatisation and mining and brutish lives for animals and people, not necessarily in that order.

    • prism 14.1

      capcha – if
      jum What you say could all be right. But Labour now has a chance to rethink its priorities and get man and womanpower into action.
      The trouble with Helen was that she was omnipresent and appeared authoritarian without understandable explanation. If we as a country could have a two-term limit on Prime Ministers we would stop this concreting in of someone who is losing vision and value and allow for fresh and experienced replacements to come forward, without having to chuck out a whole government just to get the required change of leadership.

      • felix 14.1.1

        …omnipresent and appeared authoritarian without understandable explanation.

        I think Jum offered a pretty simple explanation actually.

  15. prism 15

    felix Do you mean jum saying that NZ hate strong women?

    • felix 15.1

      I think it’s more of a case of a small, vocal, and creepy minority of NZ men who hate strong women, and that their sentiment has been given a voice by the National and Act party, their bloggers, and their PR people in quite a strategic manner (at the higher levels) resulting in mindless repetition by the like of the drones who post here and elsewhere.

      I don’t recall regular people talking about Clark being “authoritarian” or “omniscient” for the past decade but reading the blogosphere and the newspapers you’d think that that was the generally held perception of her.

      It’s a top-down meme, not a bottom-up one. They chose a few years ago to attack Clark on her strengths rather than her weaknesses. As Karl Rove says, if you attack their strengths and do it right they have nothing left. Or something like that.

  16. Olwyn 16

    Well said Felix

  17. Sanctuary 17

    felix, whilst i agree with what you say, it should be remembered that it still important for the National party to keep up it’s laundered attacks on her. If these were to stop then the danger would be she would be seen as possibly our greatest PM since Fraser. That in turn would diminish the stature of the John Key. The formidable shadow of Helen Clark willl terrify the National party for a while yet.

    Oh yes and the righties are petrified she’ll end up the first President of the Republic of New Zealand, and with good reason IMHO. She would be a fantastic president after she finishes her stint as secretary general of the UN, around ten-fifteen years from now…

  18. prism 18

    Helen Clark was good but should not be canonised and criticism of her performance is as relevant as for other politicians. Don’t be paranoid, the Nats nicknamed her Helengrad which was unfair and unreasonable but leader worship should not get in the way of reasonable analysis.

    • prism 18.1

      capcha interests
      Why is a simple comment I made at 11 am/ish still awaiting moderation? And why, there’s no bad language or anything offensive in it. Just fair comment.

  19. al zhiemer 19

    Rodger ,Somalia has a welfare system,it’s called piracy and it pays a whole lot more than bennets benefit.

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