- Date published:
10:39 am, January 2nd, 2016 - 306 comments
Categories: benefits, class war, Economy, john key, national, national/act government, poverty, same old national, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, welfare, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:
Remember our beloved leader saying this?
John Key says drug dependency is a major contributor to New Zealand poverty.
The latest Child Poverty Monitor suggests poverty is much worse that it was in the 1980s.
He said issues like drug dependency were key factors that locked people out of the labour market and in poverty. …
Well it appears that there is a slight problem. He is completely wrong. Not only does his government’s own flagship programme disprove the notion that drug addiction is a significant problem for beneficiaries but further research suggests that the opposite is true. From a recent article penned by Jess Berenson Shaw, a researcher with the Morgan Foundation:
In 2016, the Morgan Foundation will release the findings of our investigation into families and children in poverty in New Zealand. In our previous article we discussed our simple conclusion: that we should give them money.
Of course the response from middle New Zealand will be predictable: if we give the poor money they will spend it on alcohol and cigarettes. This is a myth. Instead we know that when the poor are given money they use it to improve their children’s lives.
Firstly, we know that the poor and the wealthy spend their money in much the same way, and all parents try and prioritise their children’s needs.
For example Statistics New Zealand reports that rich or poor, New Zealanders spent the same proportion of their weekly income on alcohol: about 2 per cent. That means rich people actually spend more on grog than poor people do: for the poorest that is $8 a week and the richest around $41. Those in poverty actually spend more of their weekly income on food compared to the wealthy: 18.4 per cent versus 15.3 per cent.
To give context to these figures, we can also look at what parents say about their income and spending. Almost all parents from low income groups in New Zealand who were spoken to in a recent study “mention that their primary motivation is to do the best for their children” but that they needed to prioritise spending on the basics (food, transport, accommodation). Going without to cover these basics was common.
We all hear anecdotes of a poor person deciding to buy cigarettes instead of bread at the shop counter. Some people will always make poor decisions, but this is not the norm for families in poverty.
She augmented this with research from a UK study that showed extra cash in the grant to low parent single income families was used to close the spending gap on children. More was spent on clothing, footwear, books, and holidays and spending on alcohol and tobacco was reduced.
Her earlier article suggests that the best way to address poverty was to actually give the poor money. That this should be contentious speaks volumes about the current political discourse. In her words:
So like many before us, we asked “what is the single most effective action we can take to improve the lives of families and children in poverty in New Zealand right now?” The answer from the evidence is clear and conclusive: we should give them money, no strings attached, especially when the children are young.
Boost the incomes of the poor with no conditions attached? Cups of tea will be spat onto the newspaper across New Zealand. However, when we brought together the highest quality evidence, the science was clear. Many will claim there is no silver bullet for fixing child poverty, but the evidence suggests they are not quite right. The best evidence we have tells us that boosting the incomes (without strings attached) for our poorest families will close about half of the gap in health, education, and employment between the haves and the have nots.
This is not the first time that right wing prejudice has been used to counter reality for political purposes. The whole incident reminds me of this apparently satirical column that appeared recently in the New Yorker. Although aimed at climate change deniers the comments equally apply to other areas of right wing prejudice:
Scientists have discovered a powerful new strain of fact-resistant humans who are threatening the ability of Earth to sustain life, a sobering new study reports.
The research, conducted by the University of Minnesota, identifies a virulent strain of humans who are virtually immune to any form of verifiable knowledge, leaving scientists at a loss as to how to combat them.
“These humans appear to have all the faculties necessary to receive and process information,” Davis Logsdon, one of the scientists who contributed to the study, said. “And yet, somehow, they have developed defenses that, for all intents and purposes, have rendered those faculties totally inactive.”
More worryingly, Logsdon said, “As facts have multiplied, their defenses against those facts have only grown more powerful.”
It is a shame that our political system continues to support the cynical manipulation of prejudice which is at odds with reality.