Labour leader Phil Goff has called for a temporary relaxation of the rules for getting the dole. Too many Kiwis on low and middle incomes are losing their jobs but are not able to get any assistance from the Government (despite having paid taxes for years) because their partner has a modest income.
John Key ruled out any help out of hand. In his mind, you losing your job is just a “lagging indicator”.
His Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett, rather than addressing the issue, lustily attacked a strawman saying she didn’t think a person whose partner is on $200,000 (less than 1.5% of people are on more than $150,000) needs the dole. Farrar tries the same distraction – waffling on about a theoretical family where both adults were on $100,000 before one lost their job (less than 10% of households have a total income over $143,000).
As they did with Working for Families, the Right indulges in meaningless rants about a few well-off families getting assistance. This overspill into higher income is meant to be justification for not giving much needed assistance to low and middle income families at all. It’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater stuff.
The stupid thing is that these objections, marginal as they are, could easily be addressed by imposing a household income cap or a sliding scale on any relaxation of dole rules. It says a lot that the Nats would rather dismiss the policy out of hand than find a way to help these families.
Because the fact is tens of thousands ordinary Kiwi families on low and middle incomes are losing their livelihoods and being denied any government assistance.
If your partner has any income, it decreases your dole. If your partner is on $534 a week you can’t get the dole at all. That means if your partner is on just over the minimum wage and you lose your job, you can’t get any dole. You and your family have to make do on a total income as low as $534 a week. That’s a major drop in your income and financially devastating for a family trying to service a mortgage.
It’s good to see Goff coming forward with these constructive ideas. It shows the distinction between Labour, which is looking for ways to help ordinary Kiwis hit by the recession, and do-nothing National, which can only think of the rich.