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Sticking it to the underclass

Written By: - Date published: 9:30 am, April 7th, 2010 - 39 comments
Categories: benefits, class war, john key, welfare - Tags: ,

Remember “the underclass”? They were briefly fashionable in National circles in 2007. John Key expressed his oh so sincere concern at their plight in his state of the nation speech “The Kiwi Way: A Fair Go For All“. He paraded about the place with the photogenic young girl from McGehan Close. He promised fresh thinking:

Addressing the problems of the growing underclass involves tackling serious and interconnected issues of long-term welfare dependency, crime, illiteracy, poor parenting skills, social exclusion, malnutrition, drugs, and lost hope. In all areas of social policy, I am tasking National’s spokespeople to come up with policies to address the deep-seated problems in some of our families and communities.

It was all very successful political theatre, but the mask is discarded now. The Nats real attitudes to beneficiaries are ugly. Key referred to solo parents “breeding for a business”. Welfare is “a lifestyle choice”. Beneficiaries need “a kick in the pants” because “the dream is over”. Now that they are in government, National’s plans amount to nothing more than good old fashioned beneficiary bashing. They are pursuing this with an urgency that we don’t see in any other policy area…

Winz moves early to bring in tough stance on benefits

Work and Income has quietly started bumping dozens of people off the invalids benefit, months before tough new work tests officially come into force, say beneficiary advocates. They say people with long-term mental illnesses, some of whom have been on the invalids benefit for years, are being bumped down to sickness benefits because they may be capable of part-time work or study within the next two years. …

But advocates say the new hard line is ineffective in pushing people into work at present because of the recession, so the main effect is to cut the beneficiaries’ incomes by $49 a week, from the adult invalids benefit of $243 to the sickness benefit of $194. … “There’s a nationwide campaign to kick them off the invalids benefit already. They are practising the new law even before it has been changed.”

…but with their usual integrity and generosity of spirit:

$20 ‘carrot’ not for all

Unemployment and sickness beneficiaries will miss out on the main “carrot” offered in last month’s package to get people off welfare into work – a higher allowable income before benefits are clawed back.

The increase in allowable income, from $80 to $100 a week, was promised in the National Party’s 2008 election policy for all beneficiaries. But the small print in last month’s package, unnoticed at the time, says the increase will apply only to people on the domestic purposes, widows and invalids benefits and veterans pensions. …

Beneficiary Advocacy Federation spokeswoman Kay Brereton said the decision would mean a “double whammy” for people on the invalids benefit who are being bumped down to the sickness benefit by tighter enforcement of the work capability test.

Yup, that ought to sort out the underclass all right. Way to “tackle serious and interconnected issues” John! Way to “come up with policies to address the deep-seated problems in some of our families and communities”!

39 comments on “Sticking it to the underclass ”

  1. just saying 1

    I was watching an tem about this on Te Karere last night and went to bed feeling physically sick.
    Where is the labour opposition on all this??

    oh, that’s right, Phil’s too busy getting back to Labour party ‘roots’ representing the working man….

  2. Pete 2

    Though I remember being pretty damn cautious when the ‘Fair Go For All’ speech came out I naively thought that maybe the leopard was considering changing its spots.

    Shame really that it was all electioneering babble to get the punters in behind the blue team.

    One thing I can say is that the Crosby/Textor machine and the corporatised and ever-reducing (quality and actual staff) media are working damn well for our current government (and former opposition when they sniffed the wind – excuse the pun). So kudos to National for their work on this, they have done bloody well.

    Shame about the government’s record on the real issues facing the public outside the levels that influence the blue team (ie anyone alluded to in the ‘Fair Go For All’ speech).

  3. Addressing the problems of the growing underclass involves tackling serious and interconnected issues of long-term welfare dependency, crime, illiteracy, poor parenting skills, social exclusion, malnutrition, drugs, and lost hope…

    Can i add post traumatic colonisation stress disorder and institutionalised racism ?

    And on the flipside, cashed up iwi really need to be seen to be supporting their weakest and most vulnerable instead of their strongest and most privileged.

    Seems theres even more riding on ‘whanau ora’ now to deliver the goods given the underclass is mostly Pasifikan inclusive of Maori.

    Oh yeah sorry, it’s not for the cuzzies just the bro’s at the mo, we’re still invisible. As you were…

    • The Baron 3.1

      I’m sorry, are you raising post-traumatic colonisation stress disorder as a serious point here?

      What a load of buuuuuuuuuuuullsh*t.

      • pollywog 3.1.1

        Sorry, but who are you again Baron…Some self styled eurocentric cyber aristocracy and what the fuck would you know about it ?

        So you dont think the negative effects of traumatic colonisation are passed on intergenerationally and cause stress and dysfunction in successive generations ?

        • The Baron 3.1.1.1

          No, I don’t. Usually for things to be classified as a “disorder” the way you have presented it are accompanied by a body of medical research that classifies and qualifies the “disorder”.

          I look forward to the journal articles that you have to back up this claim. All of those other points listed have a body of evidence against them. I don’t like them, but I accept that they play a part.

          Otherwise, I stand beside my call of BULLSH*T on PTCSD.

          By the way – my family’s move, 150 years ago, to New Zealand was pretty traumatic too. We left our home, familes and cultural background. Could be some merit in exploring the impact of that, on the same grounds – no?

          • pollywog 3.1.1.1.1

            By the way my family’s move, 150 years ago, to New Zealand was pretty traumatic too. We left our home, familes and cultural background. Could be some merit in exploring the impact of that, on the same grounds no?

            No…you weren’t colonised by force, your folks chose to come here, brought your cultural background with you, instituted culturally biased policies which dispossessed and disempowered native Pasifikans and have continually reaped the benefits since . The impact over 150 yrs is that eurocentric non Pasifikans have lesser unemployment, crime and higher education stats.

            All those points, with the body of evidence against them, are a direct result of colonisation and are symptomatic of people with post traumatic stress disorder.

            What’s your reason for why Pasifikans are the virtual underclass ?…lazy brown stupid fuckers yeah ?

            • The Baron 3.1.1.1.1.1

              I don’t know why “pasifikans” are the underclass, Polly – I don’t think anyone can really explain the full answer to that. Those other factors that you put down certainly play a part.

              But to make up mystery bloody syndromes with no basis in medical fact is just ridiculous. Again, since you’re the one claiming a disorder, I’d love to see some research to back this up. Otherwise, I can only assume you’re another person that is more interested in sensationalism than actually exploring the problems and solutions here; and stand beside my call of BULLSH*T.

              • pollywog

                I think we all know why we’re the underclass and i pretty much said so in no uncertain terms. Its just that no one really wants to face up to the fact.

                History has shown that no matter which party was in govt since govts began here, they’ve always shafted Pasifikans at the expense of promoting their own culturally appropriate policies. Its only a matter of who allocates more to the funding go round as some sort of pay off to keep quiet.

                If you keep legislating to disadvantage a peoples, sooner or later they just stop trying to pull themselves up and accept they’ll always be second class citizens, especially if the only other option is to sell out their culture to become part of the over class.

                Key’s speech…

                Addressing the problems of the growing underclass involves tackling serious and interconnected issues of long-term welfare dependency, crime, illiteracy, poor parenting skills, social exclusion, malnutrition, drugs, and lost hope. In all areas of social policy,

                …shows he knows exactly what the problems are, how they’re connected and who suffers the most from these problems. It’s just he lacks the guts to tackle anything head on and prefers to side step the issues now he has the power to implement change.

                Instead he’s using that power to enrich his eurocentric mates by way of taxcuts that will further exacerbate the problems among the underclass and now it looks like he’s going to gut ‘whanau ora’ to satisfy his redneck voter base at the expense of resourcing it to the extent that it may solve the problems he charged his spokespeople to tackle.

                As for calling bullshit. What do you think of this if you substitute Native Americans for Pasifikans ?

                http://www.tribalcollegejournal.org/themag/backissues/spring06/spring2006rg.htm

              • Descendant Of Smith

                Can i add post traumatic colonisation stress disorder and institutionalised racism ?

                Yep you can add both – the former whether it is a real disorder or not.

                It’s seems obvious to anyone who takes even a cursory look at New Zealand post colonial history – which by virtue of it’s recentness that Maori were often confused, traumatised and alienated by some of the concepts bought from overseas. Much of this activity resulted in the theft of land by direct or indirect means.

                The 1894 Validation of Invalid Land Sales Act is an interesting piece of legislation to start with. Landowners who had obtained land unlawfully prior to the Treaty in 1840 were having their land returned to Maori owners as even under pakeha law it was seen by the courts that the purchase was not lawful. So what happens is the government of the day passes legislation to make those sales, already ruled by the court as unlawful, lawful again as well as many other unlawful purchases that had not reached the courts yet.

                Those families still suffer from the loss of those lands while those who obtained them unlawfully have prospered.

                Too often pakeha want to deny their own history in this land.

                At the same time not all Europeans were here by choice – there were Irish for instance who were press-ganged and dragged over here to work as serfs on the English estates that the second and subsequent sons wished to set up – the first son got the estate back home in England you see.

                The early institutions in New Zealand were set up for the Irish Catholic kids – nary a Maori in site – who also had a loss of culture and connectedness and suffered from lack of employment and open racism in the English post colonial world.

                The optimism for Maori is that if you follow the Irish Catholic traits through four or so generations you see a resurgence in Irish culture and identity in New Zealand – albiet somewhat borrowed and fake where it sort of became cool to be Irish and suddenly everyone had Irish ancestry.

                Urbanisation in the 60’s and 70’s to work in factories and freezing works created other significant problems.

                I see the same thing happening in Maoridom with young people wanting to understand their identity, understand their language and culture. It will never be set at a frozen point in time say 1840 for cultures must and will adapt but there is much more ingrained in my kids education and understanding than there was in mine. Sometimes you have to wait for the old buggers to die before you see the real progress.

                It’s also worth noting that much of Maori unemployment has little to do with being Maori – the real issue for many is rural unemployment and unless we find solutions to that then the red herring of Maori unemployment will remain.

  4. Living the Dream!! 4

    The tactic is working the thinking of “bash the beneficiary” and “ensure there is an underclass” is being implemented by employers.

    I had a job interview a couple of weeks ago. The employer, of course, did not notify me as to offer of appointment in a timely fashion as he said he would do. Once notified a week after he said he would, I phoned to ask the perennial question “Why am I unsuitable?”

    His response was that on entering the interview I was the preferred candidate but on disclosing I was unemployed I instantly became the least prefered candidate and in fact I was wholly unsuitable.

    The work of Key and Bennett is being up taken by their minions and admirers.

    Once stuffed into the underclass, stay there.

    The matter is with The Human Rights Commission.

    • Lanthanide 4.1

      In other places being unemployed would be a count in your favour, due to immediate availability, and possibly also the belief they could get away with paying you a bit less.

  5. toad 5

    But the small print in last month’s package, unnoticed at the time…

    It was actually noticed at the time, by Metiria Turei, who put out this media release at the time, which the MSM, including Granny Herald, promptly ignored at the time.

  6. Rob M 6

    Someone needs to tell the middle-classes that jumping up and down on the poor bastards at the bottom isn’t going to raise them up any higher, and that they’re only a misstep away from being trampled in capitalism’s mosh pit themselves.
    As someone else pointed out here the end game is lower wages with the added benefit of shoring up the redneck vote.
    Thinking back to the early to mid 90s the going cash rate for labouring was $10/hr. I’m getting leaflets in my letter box every other week from the desperate offering their services for similar rates. Even using the flawed bundle that is the CPI (the weightings in no sense represent what the average low-income earner spends – housing 23%??) goods & services costing $10 in Q4 2009 would have cost you only $6.94 in Q4$ 1993.
    Like my Gen X mate said the other day, it’s just like the 90s only the music is shit.

  7. Jim Nald 7

    indeed … a double tongue within the mask

  8. just saying 8

    Again- where is the Labour opposition on this issue?

  9. big bruv 9

    Hang on a moment, according to Helen Clark the underclass does not exist.

    • lprent 9.1

      Link?

      Knowing you, and her, I’m pretty sure she didn’t exactly say that. That is just how the wingnut mythology has it.

      • big bruv 9.1.1

        There you go Iprent

        http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10421881
        http://forums.pcworld.co.nz/showthread.php?t=92991
        http://www.nzcpr.com/weekly70.pdf

        Of course, as the self confessed worlds best PC geek you could have found them yourself.

        • lprent 9.1.1.1

          Ok. You’re wrong.

          Link 1 was a news article, in which it was NOT reported that Helen said there wasn’t an underclass. Why – because she didn’t say it.

          Link 2 was wingnuts in the process of making up the ‘fact’ (actually making a myth) that she had said it.

          Link 3 was Muriel Newman being her usual self, and discussing from her peculiar perspective her opinion on what Helen had actually said.

          It was interesting that you didn’t actually find a link to a news article where Helen was in fact addressing the issue of the ‘underclass’.

          Helen said that the underclass was not flourishing in NZ. At that time (2007/8) it wasn’t. But now we have a NACT government, they are trying to rectify that and increase its size as fast as possible.

          Basically big bruv, you’ve failed….. again…. must be disheartening to be a miserable failure. Why don’t you start talking about what people actually said rather than repeating idiotic myths all of the time.

          • big bruv 9.1.1.1.1

            How many more do you need Iprent?

            You guys really do like to try and rewrite history don’t you.

            • r0b 9.1.1.1.1.1

              How many more do you need Iprent?

              Ahhh – we’re still waiting for the first one BB.

              You guys really do like to try and rewrite history don’t you.

              You’re a funny guy.

            • Sam 9.1.1.1.1.2

              Good, that’s it, but louder and more often, you’re almost there! It’s almost the truth!

              Thing is, he’s exactly right – you’ve made a claim about Helen Clark saying something and then have failed to provide evidence to support this. Which is basically a polite way of saying “you’re lying through your fucking teeth”.

            • lprent 9.1.1.1.1.3

              You haven’t provided anything that supports your assertion about what Helen said yet. We’d like to see if you can back your assertion.

              To be precise, I suspect you just uttered another wingnut lie – like virtually all of the assertions of this type that you make. They are almost always incorrect.

              (big bruv + bold assertion) == lie

      • r0b 9.1.2

        Thanks for the laugh BB. None of those links has HC saying that the underclass does not exist. What else ya got?

    • Bright Red 10.1

      big bruv is living in the past. he like sit there. he can rail against helen and dream of a birghter future under Key.

      It sure beats the present, where the brighter future, the light at the end of the tunnel, is just a freight train coming our way, and Key is too lazy to do anything about it.

      • big bruv 10.1.1

        Red

        We agree on that, however, I suspect our views on how to fix things differ wildly.

  10. Ms X 11

    Like some of the writers above, I’ve been really disappointed in Labour’s reaction to this. Is it horribly unfashionable to defend the weakest, poorest and most vulnerable of our society? Yes, the mining IS an issue, but like the response to jenny shipley’s cutting of benefit rates, the silence on this is deafening. Where is the anger? Isn’t this just bullying in another form?

    • I am even more disappointed in Goff when he said something like, “you can’t punish the children for the SINS of their parents”!!! I was totally floored to hear this come out of his mouth when he was supposed to be shooting down Bennett’s plagerised ‘policy’ changes.

  11. JAS 12

    I am disappointed that nobody seems to be reacting to this in parliament. Not enough to be noticed by the general public anyway.

    I have lost count of the amount of threads I have read on boards everywhere recently (the last few months, but predominantly the past 2wks) full of nasty vitriol about sole parents. As a sole parent, it does nothing to boost my confidence in my own abilities, something much needed in this frustrating job market. It does nothing but increase my self doubt. How many others are feeling the same I wonder?

    Personally I am becoming disgusted with the general population of this country and their hatred for others in less fortunate circumstances.

  12. just saying 13

    Ms X
    I’m relieved by your response.
    Yes there are lots of important issues discussed on this forum, but I feel that even though the beating up of the weakest, sickest, and poorest is often raised, the issues involved never seem to get the traction that other issues do. Instead of a deep gut reaction it’s all resigned sighs. It’s almost as if this is a sacrifice Labour is already making and it speaks volumes about what they will be prepared to do about these ‘unpopular’ situations if they get back in.
    These are real people and they were already only just hanging on.
    The Labour Party is reminding me of the Catholic Church right now – turning a blind eye is indeed another form of bullying.
    And if this lack of moral fibre does help win an election, what then?

  13. belladonna 14

    And not a mention on Red Alert – what are the Labour Party thinking!

    • Bill 14.1

      Labour are probably quietly applauding the substance of this welfare policy and are only in disagreement with the style of delivery and some of the rhetoric surrounding its introduction.

      It was Labour, afterall, who initiated the biggest welfare cuts since the 90s when they ‘replaced’ Supplementary Benefits with Temporary Additional Support.

      And it was Labour who kicked single parents in the teeth with Working For Families insofar as (sinful?) jobless families continued to be consigned to poverty.

      Under Labour there was a softening of the general culture of WINZ ( in my experience) but the actual policies…the rules and regulations were still designed to constrict the beneficiary as though their gasping for air in the grips of a bureaucratic vice would lead on to sighs of thankful relief at picking up even the most woeful piece of employment.

  14. Agatha 15

    “Personally I am becoming disgusted with the general population of this country and their hatred for others in less fortunate circumstances.”

    Have to agree on that one. Ozzie is looking better every day. I no longer respect kiwi’s very much and have utter disdain for the pitifull loosers here who subscribe to the reinvented revived sexist culture in this country that has demonised Helen Clark for not having a penis while being in a position of power.

    I can tell you all that Phill Goffs secretary Terry Law is extemely rude and condescending and I can tell you he refused to give me his name. The only way I got was to call back.
    That suprised me as Phil Goff comes accross as a nice guy. So maybe Mr Law can be very nice to “the right people”. I still prefer Labour to National but I can tell you my dealings with them have been horrible. Many officials are just so nasty. Over the years I have defended them calling the media etc in opposition to National’s policies etc because National is much worse and I still think that. But many Labour party officials are just rude beyond belief and don’t deserve defense. I still do it because I’m so worried about just where the Nats are taking us.
    The press core are mostly cringing sycophants who are looking after their well paid jobs and even our main unions are just holding tight and looking after themselves. The people that head these organisations need jobs if they loose their union jobs and I think this keeps them fairly tame in their representation of members.

  15. r0b 16

    Ozzie is looking better every day

    I understand the sentiment, but someone has to stay and fight for NZ…

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