My default mood on politics is a kind of resigned irritation. But this – this makes me genuinely angry:
Welfare now has health warning
Doctors have been told that putting patients on welfare is akin to putting them on “an addictive debilitating drug … not dissimilar to smoking”.
Tough new welfare reforms that came into force yesterday include a new “work capacity” medical certificate that urges doctors not to put their patients off work if they can avoid it.
It says on the cover and again as a note at the top of the certificate itself: “The evidence is compelling: for most individuals, working improves health and wellbeing and reduces psychological distress.”
The Ministry of Social Development’s principal health adviser, Dr David Bratt, told general practitioners last year that the health risks of long-term worklessness were equivalent to smoking 10 cigarettes a day – a “greater risk than most dangerous jobs”. He said welfare benefits were “an addictive, debilitating drug with significant adverse effects to both the patient and their family (whanau) – not dissimilar to smoking”.
The social welfare safety-net is one of New Zealand’s proudest achievements. Historically we were world leaders, and the helping hand in times of need fit well with our egalitarian society and out “fair go” ethic. Since the 1991 Mother of All Budgets the safety-net has been under attack. The last Labour government did not do enough to repair it. And now National wants to tear it apart.
National want to re-frame the safety-net as “an addictive debilitating drug”. In their world beneficiaries are not ordinary people in trouble, in need of help. They are addicts, weak, to blame. In their world you are doing an addict a favour by kicking them off welfare. See how it works?
Like most effective lies National’s framing of welfare as addiction is wrapped in the garb of truth. It is true that work is good for us – of course it is! It is true that being out of work is correlated with many negative factors. The Nats’ lie is to deliberately confuse cause and effect. Welfare does not cause people to be out of work – welfare is where people go when they cannot work (or there is no work). Welfare does not cause negative factors – it is the inability to work that causes them, welfare is a protection from even worse outcomes!
OK – got it – here it is in fewer words. National are blaming the bandage for the wound.
Nats are constitutionally mean and they resent every cent spent on welfare. They want our consent to keep kicking people off it as fast as they can (though none of them can answer the question of what happens to the people so “culled”). They hope that they can get our consent by re-framing New Zealand’s social safety-net as a dangerous addiction. This is the work of very sick bastards indeed.