Real and poor

Written By: - Date published: 8:12 am, August 9th, 2017 - 27 comments
Categories: benefits, equality, Metiria Turei, poverty, welfare - Tags: ,

Apparently the new right wing attack line is that Metiria Turei wasn’t really poor when she was a young mum. Because she was in law school, because she had a mother, because she was on speaking terms with the father of her child. Because there’s a photo of her on the internet with a ring on her finger. Something like that. Probably daring to have fun is part of it. There’s also some pretty fucked up insinuations based in fatphobia whereby poor people can’t have body fat, ergo if they are of a large body size they can’t really be poor. Yes, we are in the land of that degree of ignorance and prejudice.

So that’s the line up. I don’t even want to get into that stuff, because it’s the manipulative use of blatant bigotry for political ends from the people who brought us Dirty Politics. It tries to focus the conversation on random and judgemental speculation of what someone may or may not have done 25 years ago instead of on the real lives of people living in poverty and what can be done about that.

Of much more interest to me is using the opportunity to talk about what being poor is. As many have pointed out, the right, including the National government, have consistently refused to work with research-based definitions of poverty, and have instead run distraction lines about relativity, shifting the goal posts and dropping whatever pathetic excuses they can come up with to avoid taking responsibility for causing so much suffering.

What the Greens are doing is opening up this conversation so that we get to directly hear the voices of the people affected by poverty. It’s now ok to talk about what being poor means for poor people, who are no longer objects but subjects  bringing their own level of expertise to the debate.

This is radical and in the commitment to building a movement, the genie isn’t going back in the bottle. Poor people exist as real people whatever the bigots might say.

So here are some voices. In this outstanding video, Manurewa residents talk to RNZ’s Mihingarangi Forbes about their experiences of poverty and about Metiria Turei’s decision as a single mother to break the benefit rules to make ends meet.

27 comments on “Real and poor”

  1. esoteric pineapples 1

    Poor to me was having a job just above minimum wage and being so short of money that I couldn’t afford to go to the dentist when I had an abscess. So I had to try and put it off till had the money for a root canal. The side of my mouth blew up into a balloon and I had to borrow money for the emergency dentist on a Saturday morning which saved it getting worse in the nick of time.

    You can tell who is struggling to survive with the income they have – working or not working – by the state of their teeth.

  2. eco maori 2

    now letts talk about the past. In the 1990 you could servive on the unemployment bennerfit cars were dear food was cheap. Fast forward to now, my son works his partner was at home with the baby i encrouged her to find a job that you need to work hard an save provied a good futer for them.

    So she got a job with a frend picking kiwi fruit driveing from Rotorua tepuke daily. As it turned out they lossed income, there family support was cut so much that they lost money.

    So bill english trashing our young people so they can import more forners to please his busness mates and keep wages low. Now dont brand me as raceies as i respect all people but when they come from 3 world nations and make 10 times what they make in there country it is not fair on the local work force.

    Now has any looked into the billions that these people send home to there familys it will be better for the econnermie to employe locals and keep that money in our contry. I no about 30 people who were dairyfarming 10 years ago who are not now because of import workers. Does Bill English think our people are that stupied to go to work and lose money. I invested 13 years in the dairyfarming. Im mowwing lawns now.

    Back to the 1990 then had one higest standards of liveing in the the advizers from the USA said our health boards and systems were the best in the world we dont no why you want to change them they said our crime was low. But the Bussnes world of the west conned our leaders an said it is better to sell our assasets to them so the could sqweeze all the proffits out of them not maintane the assets and when they broke down run with there profits.

    The family support system is ok but its main out come keeps wages low ie a father working no family support what would he do he would ask for more money or find a higher paying job. Accomadation benerfit has a simerler afect on wages that is why im going to vote for Gareth Morgan money to help our youth flourish and reach there full peotencail and not get put down by dum Bill. We have the most natral natreal resoress in the world mild climet so no one shuld be starving or under the bridge.

    [I’ve added punctuation and paragraphs. Big blocks of text with no punctuation or capitals are very hard to read. In future please take some time to use fullstops, capitals at the beginning of sentences, and paragraphs. thanks – weka]

  3. Tamati Tautuhi 3

    How do families in Auckland survive when the average 3-4 bedroom house rental is over $500 per week ?

    • Molly 3.1

      I recall sitting with a friend several years ago and pondering the question on how people are able to manage on the average wages, with the average cost of living.

      She replied – quite succinctly – “They don’t”

      That is my reply to your question.

      Basic needs in those families are not being met, and they are likely getting further into debt.

      • KJT 3.1.1

        Two bedroom house rent in Whangarei. $280/week.
        Power $20/week.
        Food $120/week.
        Clothes $10/week.
        Doctor $2/week

        The car you need to get to WINZ appointments, or bus travel for same $40/week.

        SOLO parent after tax $372/week.
        Accommodation supplement. Maximum $160/week. Never seen anyone get near that. The example I am giving gets $55.

    • Karen 3.2

      If they are poor then they share with other families – 40 people living in a 3 bedroom house is not uncommon in the poorer parts of Auckland. That’s why we have so many third world diseases – skin infections, respiratory illnesses , rheumatic fever etc.

      You won’t get to see this on TV because people are scared they would be forced out on the streets if the way they are living is discovered, and at least they have a roof over their heads.

  4. eco maori 4

    sorry weka i was eddting my blog and i accerdently sent it

    • KJT 4.1

      Never mind. Totally agree with you.

    • Janet 4.2

      So true eco maori and for a change said directly from the “horses mouth”
      Why have the politicians not heard and acted on what
      eco maori and others in his situation in life are saying re the conflict between imported labour and our own labouring people for example. Its been the case for years now.
      UBI would be such a motivator for a lot of people on lower incomes in NZ. Had it been around when I first went into self employment it would have been such a help in building and developing my small business from scratch. I know this now because I recently became a superannuate , a self employed superannuate, and having that baseline in the last three years has made such a difference in building up and expanding this small business.

      • Why have the politicians not heard and acted on what
        eco maori and others in his situation in life are saying re the conflict between imported labour and our own labouring people for example. Its been the case for years now.

        Because then the businesses wouldn’t be able to make as much profit, wouldn’t be able to take ever more of the pie for the rich.

        UBI would be such a motivator for a lot of people on lower incomes in NZ.

        That’s the way I see it. People with enough support will be entrepreneurial. But that’s going to mean more competition and thus lower profits.

  5. greywarshark 5

    Metiria knows about poverty very deeply. She is such a good staunch person in helping herself to climb out of it so she could look after her child, and now she is thinking with concern about all the others who are struggling in NZ and the way that our country is held back by the poverty that the government encourages and then punishes. Unlike someone similar whose name rhymes with poorer, and indeed many in the seats of power have had difficulties and those have passed and so has the thought of policies to help others.

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/94763752/for-mum-and-dad-metiria-turei-set-to-unveil-welfare-policy-15-years-in-the-making
    From Metiria’s life:
    16/7/17
    Then the 80’s arrived, more specifically the “Rogernomic” reforms introduced by former Labour Prime Minister David Lange and Finance Minister Roger Douglas in 1984.Turei said labouring jobs became scarce for her parents, so travel was required to pursue work. “He found it very difficult to find, and he spent quite a lot of time unemployed on PEP schemes.”

    The Project Employment Programme (PEP) – a type of “work for the dole scheme” with extra pay – saw a number of unemployed given work carrying out public service projects. Anything from building public infrastructure like carparks and playgrounds, to research at some universities.

    For Turei’s dad, it was just like working a proper job.”So they were unemployed and we were poor, but they still felt like they had this constructive useful thing to do and were treated with some respect because it was managed like an ordinary work gang that you might find at the Ministry of Works.”

    Also here is the Greens bio of Metiria. https://home.greens.org.nz/people/metiriaturei

  6. greywarshark 6

    As in the post above:
    Yes, we are in the land of that degree of ignorance and prejudice. (and mean-spiritedness.)

    The definition of mean spirited is someone or something that is unkind, motivated by cruelty or intended to be hurtful. An example of a mean spirited person is someone who loves to see others fail.
    Mean-spirited dictionary definition | mean-spirited defined
    http://www.yourdictionary.com/mean-spirited

  7. Bill 7

    Poverty in NZ? In a word – “teeth”.

    Is there another OECD country where a person’s level of poverty can be reasonably ascertained by taking a quick look at their mouth?

    In contrast to NZ’s almost feudal feeling dental regime, I’m supplying the following from a country that has been operating under the constraints of imposed austerity. (emphasis mine)

    You can get free dental treatment if you:-

    Are under 18 years old
    Are under 19 and in full-time education
    Are pregnant or are a nursing mother.

    Unless you are in one of the groups entitled to free NHS dental treatment or help with the cost you will require to pay 80% of the cost of your NHS dental treatment up to a maximum of £384 ($680.36) per course of treatment.

    Examples of costs for some types of NHS treatment are shown in the table below . Fees are as of 1st Oct 2016.

    Please note that NHS fee structure is complex and varies considerably from patient to patient depending of the treatment required.

    Treatment Cost
    Examination – no charge
    Two small X-rays – £4.76 ($8.43)
    Simple gum treatment(scale & polish) – £10.88 ($19.28)
    Small amalgam (silver) filing – £7.40 ($13.11)
    Large amalgam (silver) filing – £19.00 ($33.66)
    Root canal treatment (front tooth) – £40.00 ($70.87)
    Single crown (front tooth) – £72.00 ($127.57)
    Simple extraction (one tooth) – £6.84 ($11.48)
    Complete (upper and lower)dentures £150.28 ($266.26)

    • “Is there another OECD country where a person’s level of poverty can be reasonably ascertained by taking a quick look at their mouth?”

      Yes – the USA

      • Bill 7.1.1

        heh – for some reason I tend to always over-look the USA when talking of social indicators in advanced liberal capitalist countries. I shouldn’t. It’s our direction of travel at the moment.

  8. ianmac 8

    A sad read about reality of being poor. There but for good luck go I.

    “Here Kiki Van Newtown, mum of two and musician, writes for The Spinoff about what it was like growing up on welfare, and the lessons she learnt from her mum about how to survive while poor.”

    “There’s a running joke in my family that my mum sent me to school one day with half a raw swede in my lunchbox. It’s a true story which wasn’t originally intended as a joke. Joking about it is something you do 15 years later as a way to rationalise growing up poor, where half a raw swede was all your mum had left to feed you….”

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11900760

    • Sabine 8.1

      this says it all

      Quote ” You learn about people’s values quickly when you’re poor. You learn that people are terrified of poverty. That rich people blame poor people for being poor because they desperately want to believe that their own decisions will keep them from ending up that way. People hold on to this because they can’t handle the truth, which is that material wealth is all just down to stupid luck.” Quote end.

      i had this discussion with a women a few years back, so happy with Working for families she was as it allowed her to have that ‘third child’ and then she would be done.
      She was also the same that said that women on the benefit are there because of wrong choices. (yes, evangelic prosperity type christian she was).
      So i asked her what would happen if your husband lost the job, or the physical ability to work, and then would her ‘third child’ also be a wrong choice? She very matter of fact told me that that was different.

  9. RedLogix 9

    I don’t even want to get into that stuff, because it’s the manipulative use of blatant bigotry for political ends from the people who brought us Dirty Politics.

    And there is the nub of it for me too … infuriating. Although in a cooler mood I might label it a manipulation of the human psyche. We all have these dark crawl spaces in our subconcious, some of us a bit more cluttered with crap than others, but inside our heads we all have these impulses and motivations which can be exploited.

    I doubt very much that it’s the role of politics to change people in this way, we don’t get to organise ‘clean up crews’ to sanitise the inner, core values and responses of the entire population. Not possible, highly dangerous to try.

    But we can call out on it when we see this kind of blatant exploitation; we need a consistent vocabulary to cast light on these dark ‘persuaders’.

  10. Over on NoRightTurn: Class and Metiria

    The overwhelming message from the political status quo has been that poor people have no place in our Parliament and no place in government. That’s been their message since the 18th century (hell, its been their message since fucking Plato). But if they want to overturn 150 years of democracy and go back to the C19th, then they are inviting the C19th response: pitchforks and guillotines.

    I’m pretty sure it’s further back than the 19th century – the capitalists of today, especially the ones in National, see themselves as the lords and masters. They want to take us back to feudalism.

    • Dspare 10.1

      DTB
      The Timperley Newsroom post, from which NRT quotes, is worth reading in full (eg from later on in the piece):

      Turei’s treatment highlights a lie in our claim to be representative. Censure on the basis of such experiences means valuable perspectives are sidelined in the halls of power… the response to Turei is not simply damaging to her own political ambitions, but also to future generations of Kiwis – both those who might otherwise seek political office and those who would benefit from legislation crafted by those who have been at the receiving end of such policies.

      https://www.newsroom.co.nz/@future-learning/2017/08/08/41668/the-metiria-debate-its-all-about-class

    • greywarshark 10.2

      Lords and masters, the desire to achieve prominence no doubt goes back to our earliest civilisation as soon as we could group together and gather belongings and food.

      Looking at ambition and lust for power and control, this from the last pages of Lustrum about Rome and Cicero by Robert Harris. Seven men are struggling for power in Rome, 63BC. Cicero, is consul, Caesar his ruthless young rival, Pompey the republic’s greatest general, Crassus its richest man, Cato a political fanatic, Catilina a psychopath, Clodius an ambitious playboy.

      Everyone around him has reasons to ask Cicero to stay with Caesar the coming man fresh from his victories abroad. His wife begs him to, but he says no he can’t:
      ‘[Why not] ally yourself with Caesar?’
      ‘Because if I did, I would cease to exist.’…
      ‘What’s wrong with making a temporary alliance with Caesar?’
      ‘There would be nothing temporary about it! Does no one in this city understand? That man won’t stop until he is master of the world – he more or less just told me exactly that – and I would either have to go along with him as his junior accomplice or break with him at some later stage, and then I would be
      absolutely finished.’
      [His wife] Terentia said coldly, ‘You are absolutely finished now.’

      In the book Cicero has to flee Rome, leaving his wife and son behind. He gives his slave Tiro his freedom. But that means that he cannot stay with Cicero without being charged with complicity in crimes Cicero committed under a law set up by Clodius. Tiro resiles his freedom, and instead commits himself to stay, support and flee with Cicero.

      Interesting what choices might be made when reality looms large and the mind has to think its way through to the best outcome in the circumstances. If two leaders can combine and compromise to reach a better, more secure future it should be tried. It is a loss of opportunity if there is a resigned acceptance of the system presented as a fait accompli.

      • Lords and masters, the desire to achieve prominence no doubt goes back to our earliest civilisation as soon as we could group together and gather belongings and food.

        Probably goes back father than that but our hunter-gatherer ancestors kept in check by excluding such people from the community. Greed destroys and this has been known for a long time.

  11. Dspare 11

    Poverty is being forced to choose between; staying in a toxic relationship, or; losing all contact with your children. Because there is no way to afford to maintain; two seperate residences, with a spare room for the kids to stay half of each normal week (and more flexibly during the holidays).

  12. Sabine 12

    poverty in NZ is young girls not going to school for lack of hygiene products.
    poverty in NZ is ripping teeth out as dental care is out of reach for many
    poverty in NZ is inter-generational depression
    poverty in NZ is staying in bed in winter as heating is to expensive
    poverty in NZ is drinking coca cola instead of milk
    poverty in NZ is girls/women using toilet paper instead of hygiene products
    poverty in NZ is kids not getting the education they should
    poverty in NZ is various illnesses due to undernourishment once all the teeth are lost cause dental care is out of reach for many
    poverty in NZ is living in a car and having Mike Hoskins tell ya that you should only have the children that you can afford
    poverty is kids going to school without shoes and telling others that they don’t like shoes
    poverty in NZ is kids changing school every few month cause they need to move house again

    we can play this game endlessly, sad, Innit?

  13. beatie 13

    As a long-term beneficiary with a disability, poverty is;

    buying ALL of your clothes from op-shops,

    never ever having a holiday,

    not being able to go to the doctor or pick up prescriptions,

    staying in bed because the house is 8 degrees and you can’t afford heating

    not being able to afford healthy food

    never, ever going out to the movies, pub, concert etc

    having bad teeth, because a Winz grant ($300 per year) only covers emergencies

    having to put up with intrusive questions and judgements from all and sundry re my source of income ( I’m actually glad that my disability is fairly visible)

    being permanently stressed out about paying for power etc, the internet is my big luxury

    I have experienced all of the above and more

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