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Tory welfare bashing

Written By: - Date published: 7:30 am, August 10th, 2010 - 98 comments
Categories: benefits, class war, welfare - Tags:

If the political world can be split into Left and Right, is there any issue which is better at dividing us than welfare?

Here’s a triplet of facts. 1) Every “developed” country needs a welfare system to take care of those who are, for whatever reason unable to support themselves. 2) The majority of welfare recipients are exactly the cases of genuine need that welfare systems are designed for. 3) A minority of welfare recipients are lazy bludgers who game the system to try and extract benefits when they could support themselves.

I don’t think anyone seriously questions point 1 anymore. The Left won that argument. What still separates us clearly into Left and Right today, it seems to me, is how we respond to 2 and 3. A Lefty will generously support a comprehensive welfare system to provide a decent quality of life for those in need (they accept the minority of bludgers as a cost of doing business). But nothing shrivels a Tory heart like the idea of sharing their wealth. While unable to deny the need, they become so obsessed with the small minority of bludgers that they can’t help but attack the system, and in doing so they attack the support for the overwhelming majority of perfectly genuine welfare recipients.

And so it begins (again) in New Zealand. I was going to write on the Rebstock report, but others have already done it far better than I could. Gordon Campbell:

The government’s welfare working group has dutifully delivered the findings the government wants to hear. To Paula Rebstock and her colleagues, being on welfare is primarily a failure of attitude by beneficiaries and has little or nothing to do with failures by government or business to create jobs, or with cutbacks to Social Welfare staff, or with any other structural factor beyond the education system which gets a few lumps for not providing business with the kind of drones it needs to fit into the job slots available, assuming such slots existed, which they currently don’t.

There is a peculiarly airless quality to the working paper, driven as it is by ideology and not by any discernible engagement with New Zealand, 2010. Because the panel pays so little attention to events in the real world newsflash : the job market has not yet recovered from the worst economic recession since WW11, and that global recession seems about to recur it could have been written at any time over the last four decades.

The scare scenario that it offers to justify change in welfare policy is bogus: if nothing is done, the working paper says, the welfare system that currently costs $6.5 billion could end up costing $50 billion which would be unsustainable. Duh. But that would only happen, it also concedes, if everyone currently on a benefit stayed on it for life. Yet that doesn’t happen. The vast majority of those on the DPB use it entirely as intended as a temporary shelter until they find work. The $50 billion scare number is a dishonest attempt to get headlines by libeling people on the DPB, and on other benefits.

The reality is far less dramatic. Elsewhere within the working paper, the level of those reliant on welfare is predicted to rise from 13% now to 16% in 2050. That’s only a three per cent rise spread over 40 years, in the context of an ageing population that will inevitably generate more people on sickness and invalids benefits. So, where’s the crisis? In that sense, there isn’t one. ‘Crisis’ is a word that I would reserve for the health system, under Tony Ryall. A ruckus over welfare is merely a political diversion from the debacle unfolding in health.

The driver here is ideology, not reality. The Key government seems to believe that being on welfare is caused by a failing in the person concerned, and by their enablers in the medical and education system. This is a ideologically blinkered approach that sees society as essentially individualistic one looks in vain in the working paper for any recognition that getting people back into work involves a triangular partnership between the individual, government and the private sector. … this working group is not engaged in a genuine consultation. It is on a journey towards pre-determined solutions.

And at No Right Turn:

If public service cuts, mass-unemployment, and health cuts weren’t enough to convince you National was taking us back to the 90’s, they’ve moved on to the next component in their recipe: beneficiary-bashing. Their right-wing “Welfare Working Group” has dutifully reported back that the welfare system is “unsustainable”, complete with a scare figure of $50 billion to manufacture a sense of crisis to drive “reform”. But delving into their extremely shallow working papers, their big findings seem to be:

  • the welfare system has become more generous since the 1960’s, when we dumped sick people on their relatives and left solo parents destitute;
  • people are likely to stay on the unemployment benefit for longer at the moment due to the lack of jobs;
  • people with longer-term problems (such as solo parents, those with long-term illnesses, and those with permanent disabilities) tend to stay on benefits for longer;
  • people who are unable to work don’t get pushed into it by WINZ;
  • people who spend long periods of time on benefits are poorer (but because benefit adequacy was excluded from their terms of reference, they can’t talk about why that might be).

For most of us, these “discoveries” are so obvious and banal as to cause us to question how much these “experts” were paid (or indeed, why they were paid at all). For the Welfare Working Group, however, it is apparently a reason to dismantle the entire welfare system and replace it with an insurance-based model which will deliver less, and leave more people in poverty.

I guess the government got what it paid for then. But the rest of us should demand a better justification for such radical changes affecting so many people than the usual right-wing kneejerk of “benefit bad! Poor lazy!”

Meanwhile, if the government is serious about reducing the welfare bill, here’s a few suggestions:

  • If the government is concerned about too many people on the unemployment benefit, it could do something to create jobs, rather than simply expecting them to magically appear if it makes people desperate enough;
  • If the government is concerned about too many people on the sickness benefit, it could ensure they get treated for their conditions, rather than left to rot. Sickness benefit numbers represent a failure of our public health system, not of the sick;
  • If the government is concerned specifically about the number of people receiving the sickness benefit due to mental health or addiction issues, it could reduce inequality. These problems are strongly correlated with inequality (and for good reason), and more equal societies have less of them.
  • If the government is concerned about solo parents not working, it could provide better access to childcare and further education, rather than cutting both.

But somehow, I suspect the government will do none of these things. They would rather demonise the poor and grind their faces further into the mud than actually do anything to help. …

These are the real issues that distinguish governments of the Left and Right. As times continue hard, and could well get harder yet, the country may just wake up and remember these facts by the time 2011 rolls around.

98 comments on “Tory welfare bashing”

  1. Bored 1

    How utterly predictable, I was lucky the TV got muted during the News last night as the deplorable Rebstock and the poisonous Key warbled on about “welfare”. Their earnest expressions spoke for them, their faces screamed “poor little us, we wealthy really think you could be like us too if you would only create your own welfare consultancy, or start a steel mill…and we wont have to part with our ill gotten gains to prop you bennies up”.

    Make no bones about this, National are the party of class warfare, Labour need to harden up and start serving it back in a meaningful way.

  2. RedLogix 2


    Brilliant post. I’m both impressed and slightly envious. One of the best points is surely the dog begging question of who the hell paid these so called experts to waste taxpayer money delivering up this bleedingly obvious dreck? That strikes me as a at least one worthwhile line of attack.

    • Bored 2.1

      Good point. An obvious question, which is why I said Labour need to harden up and demand answers to this, and in reality score some points by anticipating the answer. Who went public and stated that this was going to be the end result of such a sham BEFORE it came out? If somebody did I did not hear it.

      • Tigger 2.1.1

        Of course we all know they need this ‘dreck’ as legitimacy for making radical change. National are proposing or discussing these ‘expert’ think tanks in several areas that they want kick right on.

        Labour can harden up all they like, but if the media will insist on swallowing the Nat spin it will prove a difficult task turning this Titanic around.

        And we are on the Titanic now. Icebergs ahead but no one seems to care – the rich get the lifeboats, the rest of us get the icy water.

        • Carol

          And not just happening here – similar attacks on the welfare state in the UK and all sorts of public provisions in the US:

          The rich across the developing world seem to be acting in concert, with Key & co. being right in there with them.

          • prism

            The English disease Carol? “The rich across the developing world” – it is mainly the English speaking one that NZ turns to for guidance, does it trickle out from the anti-‘commonwealth’ of USA to Britain and then on to Canada, Australia, NZ or does it ricochet between the USA and Britain? If we could learn other languages what would be better – French or Scandinavian or Dutch…? Where could we look for more sensible economics with a human face.

          • Draco T Bastard

            The rich have always acted in concert against everyone else.

    • r0b 2.2

      Cheers RL. I’m always impressed with the thinking in others’ posts and comments (frequently yours) much more than my own. But that’s why we all get together to share our ideas here I guess!

    • Cnr Joe (withasparemoment) 2.3

      You what? They were paid for this?Are they not beneficiaries (as they merrily benefit from the public purse) ?.
      Then this is a money go-round in a sideshow of shadowy puppets and vicious clowns.

      Trickle-down has turned to Swirl-around.

  3. RedLogix 3

    And of course there is no serious analysis of WHY sickness benefit numbers have trended upwards;

    1. The closing down state mental health and disability sheltering institutions diectly transfered these people onto benefits.

    2. The raising of the retirement age to 65 has created a gap for many older workers, too old to sustain the physical or mental demands of their line of work, and too young to qualify for superannuation.

    3. Increasing incidence of crippling depression and anxiety illnesses … again the result of an unequal, stressful society.

    This report is really an appallingly narrow and vile bit of victim bashing and needs putting down. That we have a Prime Minister willing to endorse and defend it is even more chilling.

    • regstalin 3.1

      There is no serious analysis in the tediously predictable WWG report. MSD’s “Growth in numbers of Sickness and Invalids Benefit recipients19932002” does however offer some insight into this; In respect of the IB “The independent effects of the four factors explain 88% of the actual change in inflows, with the net effect of interactions between them explaining the remaining 12%. Between 1993 and 2002: population growth accounted for an estimated 11% of the growth in inflows, population ageing accounted for 6% of the growth, increased rates of entry among those aged 6064, largely attributable to the rise in the NZS age of entitlement, accounted for 20% of the growth and increased rates of entry among those aged 1559 accounted for 52% of the growth. (pg 20)
      – i.e. 37% of the growth appears fairly inevitable given the demographic and policy changes that occurred.
      Of the growth in inflow rates among those aged 1559, 60% is explained by the increase in direct transfers from other benefits (pg 24) – I take this to be in part the logical progression of some from SB to IB and in part the kind of administrative sorting that dumps anyone that can be dumped off UB rolls onto SB and IB (even if they want to be classed as unemployed)

      • ZB 3.1.1

        A bit of history, under Labour unemployment fell, Labour put money into the hands of employers to take on those with ‘problems’. Now the economy has turned those workers often were the last in, and are flowing back onto the dole.
        And now for some economic geography, Australia pays better, so those who can move, are likely to get work do so, leaving behind the less capable and less employable (who self-eliminate themselves).
        Third ‘insight’, mental illness – from my own experience and those of family, is typically (as a pure amateur) a identity crisis. Basically a person will build themselves a identity, but the world changes and shows the individuals identity to be false, this causes a ‘identity crisis’ leading into depression and mental instability. Some key factors, are loss of job, loss of home, loss of status as breadwinner, politicians tell you you’re scum by being on the dole and you believing it because the whole time you were in work you looked down on the scum.

        Key is evil. Key would rather not target unemployment and despite the obvious changes in the economy, in the debt and oil economies, continue the same tired old slogans that may have had merit 5 years ago when jobs were available and economies were working. I think Key has broken a fundamental taboo in a Democracy, he is living in a fantasy world where anything in his way is wrong and should be cut. And anything he wants to cut he can.

        We have a dictator ruling us people. No linkage to reality. The great recession hasn’t come to them yet.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.2

        Yes, the 4th National government caused a huge amount of social stress as can be seen by “Growth in numbers of Sickness and Invalids Benefit recipients19932002″ – the years most directly affected by their ideological mismanagement of the economy.

    • RobertM 3.2

      Red Logix your stupidity and predjudice is blinding. The institutions were largely closed down 20 years ago and had been reducing since the l960s. It is no explanation for the increase in invalids and sickness beneficiaries over the last 20 years. These days people in their brief spell in the bins stay on the benefit it is simply reduced for the few who stay longer than 6 weeks.
      There are 4 problems with the lefts arguements re welfare.
      (1) In most advanced western democracies women are expected to return to work after one year off for a child not five like here
      (2) In Australia and the UK physical disability tests for benefits are far more stringent than here.
      (3) The modern psychiatric drugs introduced since about l995 should have allowed most sufferers to return to employment or full time study if the health dept, psychiatrists and health teams used intelligently. In New Zealand there was a complete refusal to accept the new drugs were entirely different and changed everything. They have been applied in too high doses for sedation and control like the old drugs frequently requiring old dangerous and disabling drugs like Lithium to be used for balance. The main cause of welfare dependency in New Zealand is the militant recalcitarance of psychatrists who refuse to admit they are largely wrong. The psychatrists pine for the return of large hospitals and refuse to accept or hear andy evidence to the contrary. Now they are determined to break away from American psychiatry which sees mental illness as a continum of degrees of fragility and resilience a continum which we all are on and would widely describe psychiatric drugs to the general community to boost confidence and sex lives. Our psychatrist favour the British eEuropean model which is hopelessly out of date and reactionary which regards people as either one thing or the other mental or sane and favours large hospitals.
      The attitude of psychiatrist mean a significant people with degrees, intelligent and beautiful are denied the chance to work and thrive. Psychaitry is one of the main causes of the welfare problem because it refuses to accept people can be cured or capable of work. To work or not work should be everyones right.
      The welfare, social work industry is largely an employment creating racket for a certain type of people who would be better employed as beauticians, sex workers, factory workers and in retail. To the community and public the purpose of social and mental health work is revenge and control. Similar comments could be made about much of the health workforce which could better be replaced as in America with the abolition of pharmac and more emphasis on spending on modern drugs rather than hospitals and a low grade health and social workforce .
      I have spent time on most benefits, been a university student for many years, worked full and part time and are now have a modest private means to live for pleasure becasue my family were reasonably well off, Oxford university educated and lower upper middle class.

      • NickS 3.2.1

        The modern psychiatric drugs introduced since about l995 should have allowed most sufferers to return to employment or full time study if the health dept, psychiatrists and health teams used intelligently.



        At present the mechanisms of how antidepressants work in the brain more conjecture that theory, we know they work, and some of the biochemical and gene regulation changes, but at present there are no indicators that are easily usable to figure out whether or not a particular antidepressant will work for a person without them trying it out first. And the testing period for a drug is usually about a month, then there’s mucking around with dosage measure , meaning that finding a antidepressant that works can take up to a year, or otherwise finding out they don’t work at all.

        And even then, it takes time to overcome depression symptoms even with help, case in point while my concentration (and grumpiness) has dramatically improved since starting on citalopram, motivation however is pretty dead for long term stuff such as assignments. Despite the annoying fact I can now think and weave evidence and arguments much more smoothly since last year, and can get high marks when the motivation is there. And it took till the end of last semester to notice this, leading to a late course withdrawl and a drop down to one course for this semester. All of which, seems to me from my doctors and counsellor’s responses to be a rather normal occurrence. Fun fun.

        Which leads me to believe that your knowledge of antidepressants is based not off any mucking about in the literature, let alone science blogs or articles in reputable science mags, but rather pop media. So please, shut the fuck up and go at least read wikipedia you ignorant fuck.

        Secondly, psychiatric drugs for conditions other than depression aren’t a panacea either, and dependant on other factors can have anything making a condition next to unnoticeable, to only barely managing it. And then there’s all the lovely side effects. Meaning that for some, they need considerable support to get into work, ontop of understanding employers and co-workers, otherwise they’ll be in and out of work constantly. Not to mention, a disabled person generally comes off second best when applying for jobs, unless the employers not a dickwad.

        Is the metal health system working properly? Probably not, but besides that, it’s so abundantly clear that drugs, counselling and behavioural therapy take time not just to do, but figure out which ones will work. Even if it was working properly. So again, the claims you make ascertaining to other mental illnesses appears to be a giant load of shit. To put it bluntly.

      • Puddleglum 3.2.2

        RobertM, there’s something quite appalling about your position on psychiatric drugs and your argument about welfare dependency. Let me try to explain what I mean.

        First, the literature on the efficacy of psychiatric drugs is very uncertain and has recently been rocked by studies that have revealed the widespread suppression of publication of the results of many pharmaceutical company sponsored trials that show no effect or negative effects of many standard issue drugs – and this is true of the incidence of reports of these studies in the most reputable medical journals. Hence, any ‘meta-analyses’ based on peer-reviewed studies have themselves been skewed towards signs of effectiveness.

        Second, recent advances in our understanding of neurodevelopment and general psychological development (including the ‘Dunedin Study’) are making it increasingly clear that what exposes people to psychological ‘risk’ is the dance between the conditions within which development occurs and DNA activity (regulated by itself and by input from external processes).

        Think of the process of becoming ‘mentally ill’ like this: people are on different rungs of a ladder (by analogy, a rung represents some genotype developmentally expressed via the environment as some phenotype). Then, a tsunami is created by external factors. Those lower on the rungs get swamped and drown.

        The much-used phrase ‘predisposition’ for X or Y mental illness is basically a ranking of where you are standing on the ladder. Hence, those lower on the ladder have a ‘predisposition’ for mental illness X which, in this scenario, is a predisposition for drowning (i.e., predisposition is tautologically defined in relation to the condition of interest).

        Fortunately, some researchers are beginning to realise that actually that’s an odd way of putting it. The alternative is to realise that the tsunami is the primary cause of drowning, not where you stand on the rungs. Why? Well, imagine if, instead of a tsunami, a hurricane came along. Then, all of a sudden, it would be those on the higher rungs who would be most vulnerable and who would cop the most damage. They would have a predisposition for being blown away. Those on the bottom rungs would cope relaatively well, thank you.

        Third, it’s now well-established that rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, etc., etc. have been increasing in developed societies over recent decades – especially, but by no means solely, with youth. That is, oddly, more and more people are now predisposed to these so-called illnesses. A tsunami has come – lots more people are drowning.

        RobertM, our society is the tsunami so, frankly, it’s a bit sick to then suggest that drugs are the answer to get people back into a life that has caused them so much pain. The alternative, of course, is to change how we all live and organise ourselves. But who is going to accept that or even believe it is possible?

        The practice of prescribing psychiatric drugs for those with no problems but who want to ‘improve’ their psychology is a brilliant example of how markets must always expand and commodify more and more rarefied phenomena. Previously, making money out of people’s concerns about their psychological state was the province of psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors and, for the ‘sub-clinical’, the plethora of ‘self help’ books. Now, it seems, commodification of the mind has gone hi-tech – it’s all in the pill, you know.

        Fortunately, the hype over this kind of cosmetic psychopharmacology is principally bluster – but it clearly shows the agenda. The late consumer capitalist ‘ideal’ is a world where we won’t even think a thought, remember a memory or feel a feeling without someone ringing the till.

        Paradise! Soma for every possible psychological want or desire. Who needs a society?

        • just saying

          Superbly well said Puddleglum!

        • loota

          Frak you’re clever. Suppression of evidence is only part of the story, don’t forget about the child psychiatrists in the US who were found to have pushed the use of ADHD drugs for children throughout the US health system in the 1990’s – never once revealing they were providing highly paid services to the big pharma companies at the same time.

        • Pascal's bookie

          Nice one Puddlegum, thanks.

        • Bill

          Wonderfully clear and precise comment.

          Nothing to add except a response to the following sentences :- “The alternative, of course, is to change how we all live and organise ourselves. But who is going to accept that or even believe it is possible?”

          Me, for one.

        • RobertM

          Puddlegum I’ve read the literature you refer to, with social scientists and dissident psychiatrists claiming the modern serotonin based SSRIs and the similar serotonin based anti psychotics, do not induce a real improvement and are really no better than the old drugs.
          I don’t agree from my own experience and from the life experiences of many put on these drugs whose life experience were revolutionised by the new drugs. People feel a glow of confidence and can often move house, move to a new city, go back to varisity or even get a job. Scientific proof is rare in psychiatry. In a hospital setting and remembering many patients in the UK and Europe will still be long term hospitalised the new drugs might well be only marginally better, but out in the real world I believe they result in a hugely better life particularly if the patient has control of their own medication.
          With many diagnoses the attitute of the specialists, GPs and social teams usually remains so negative and the expectations so low, that few probably have the opportunity to attempt to go back to work- but in many cases it is an option that should be given. And I’m not talking about basket weaving or makework. I believe there are those who are schizo effective, asbergers or autistic who could succed in any walk of life if given the chance/ In most cases I’m not arguing people should be forced to work or even that it will necessarily be good for them, I’m saying people should have the chance.
          Generally a significant number of people out of the workforce could be efficient in paid work and many in work not efficient. So we need a GMI and a somewhat different system and option for all people.
          In terms of why there are more mental illness diagnoses and beneficiaries, one reason may be we have more psychologists and therefore more diagnoses. Possibly more people are interested in being treated with more attractive drugs.
          For good mental health people have to be happy and often they need good sex and the opportuntiy to socialise which in NZ means the option of drinking should not be precluded. In my view relatively low doses are highly desirable because they reduce weight gain and diminished sexual performance and sperm count. What the dissident psychiatrist David Healy says that the modern serotonin drugs give the patient the ability to tune there sex drive and performance up and down is true. Even drugs like Risperidine are used recrationally in the US as kickers, smoother, relaxers and sexual extenders to increase sexual endurance without ejeculating.

    • Deborah Kean 3.3

      “2. The raising of the retirement age to 65 has created a gap for many older workers, too old to sustain the physical or mental demands of their line of work, and too young to qualify for superannuation.”

      That’s sort-of where I find myself RedLogix, not because I can’t sustain the demands of my job, but because I had the bad luck to work for a crazy unethical bitch who drove her comany into bankruptcy and me on the dole. Then – guess what? It appears that the “tits and teeth” Janet Wilson talked about are actually requirements for office work! I can do the job, but I am an “older worker” and men my own age would rather look at someone sexy when they see the view from their corner offices. (And yes at least one guy who interviewed me actually said so!)

  4. roger nome 4

    aww – i could have cooked up a more in-depth and insightful report commissioning the work out to the street kids that hang out down the way from my business. Would have given them something to do aside from skating and handing out those little bundles of tin-foil too.

  5. wyndham 5

    The exaggerations used by the review panel ( “unsustainable”, “50 billion” etc. ) are exactly the same tactics used by Nick Smith in his attacks on ACC.

  6. roger nome 6

    lol – the report reades like an ACT Party porn script –

    Featuring “Rod Hide” and “Panty Wong” in:

    New Zealand gets it hard in the under-class, part two.

  7. Olwyn 7

    If you look at the poll on stuff you will see that about 65% of respondents think that either the welfare state should go or else be radically reformed. What the hell do these people think they might replace it with? Return to a policy of full employment? Certainly no promises there. The workhouse? Marauding hordes? That they all just disappear somewhere but everything else remain as it is? It is not just the lack of compassion that is silly, or the cowardice of lashing out at people who are not in the position to punish you, but the assumption these 65% must have that they themselves are invulnerable to the vicissitudes of fortune.

    • roger nome 7.1

      Yeah Olwyn – ‘cos we all know that on-line polls are a fair representation of NZ’s class strata. What with all those shift workers reading the internet news on thier lap-top with a cappacino before heading infor the daily grind…

  8. vto 8

    Agreed that this report is simply a shallow piece of politically driven drivel. To be honest I dont think anyone other than pollie-hounds will take the slightest bit of notice of it. It all just sounds so similar to so many other of these things which crop up from time to time. blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda. It is all rather boring while we masses attend to the more exciting and pressing requirements of life.

    But one point of yours must be taken up r0b ” But nothing shrivels a Tory heart like the idea of sharing their wealth.”. In my experience that statement belongs most definitely with the left-voting middle (and upper if we have one) class liberal. Not with the classic tory-voting conservative. This is my experience in too many years on the planet.

    And I see that experience is supported by a recent survey showing that the most philanthropic were the poorest, followed by the right end of the spectrum. The left end of the spectrum trundled along at the end as the “least keen to share their wealth”.

    Ideology spectacles ay. Not always useful.

    • roger nome 8.1

      VTO – could that be because left-leaning people believe in a systemic solution to social problems rather than the right’s case-by-case “deserving poor” ego-boosting patronage approach?

    • r0b 8.2

      Be good if you could find and link to your source vto. It’s true that I was being deliberately contentious with that comment, but there is much truth in it. And I agree with roger nome – there is a style of Tory giving that likes to “pick winners” and judge the undeserving, likes to be ostentatiously seen to be doing (occasional) “good works”, makes it too much about it’s own ego and not enough about systemic need. Tory Charity. I have very mixed feelings about it.

      Alas, I can’t hang about and chat in this thread until later this arvo.

      • vto 8.2.1

        Well Mr Nome that could be a factor but I suspect it would be minor. “Systemic solution” is one way of describing it, but the left’s addiction to a gummint solution for all of society’s ills is not healthy in the bigger picture imo.

        And being “philanthropic for ego reasons” is still way off the mark. Most tories go to great lengths to hide their philanthropy. The fact you think the opposite indicates a significant misunderstanding of tories. And that cannot help when you fullas go into battle with them.

        Tried to find link but couldnt r0b

        • felix

          Appreciated v, but the old fashioned tories you describe are fairly thin on the ground these days.

          Most of the battle is with the post-baby boom generations of selfish ego-dwelling “me first and fuck anyone else” mentality cretins.

          • Rex Widerstrom

            I agree. But vto is right, that mentality increasingly crosses (major) party lines. It’s blindingly evident in Australia, less so at this stage in NZ but I suspect it will become more evident.

            You’re also right, felix, about the dearth of old-fashioned, philanthropic, traditional tories. But it is they (and the really poor, as BLiP cites below) who prop up the voluntary sector, not the middle classes who’d rather add to their haul of big screen TVs and jetskis. And large numbers of them vote Labo(u)r.

            Such people claim to be egalitarian and are happy to see government money spent on the less fortunate, as long as it doesn’t in any way affect their spending power. When Labor announced the “mining tax” there was some initial support from these people till the mining companies ran a TV campaign appealing to self interest by claiming that they would get “whacked by the tax. Sentiment changed overnight and Labor has been back-peddaling since.

            Self-interest is the primary driver for these people, and vto is right that r0b’s characterisation of them as “tories” falls well short of reality. With no principles other than personal benefit, they’ll vote for whoever offers them the most. And their numbers are growing.

            • Gosman

              As you state Rex, acting in ones self-interest is not ‘class’ dependent.

              The whole idea behind the Roman concept of ‘Bread and Circuses’ is evidence of how it manifests amongst a broad cross section of society not just the middle and upper classes.

      • BLiP 8.2.2

        The poor are the most generous.

        The lowest-income fifth (of the population) always give at more than their capacity,” said Virginia Hodgkinson, former vice president for research at Independent Sector, a Washington-based association of major nonprofit agencies. “The next two-fifths give at capacity, and those above that are capable of giving two or three times more than they give.

        • Rex Widerstrom

          Nice link, BLiP. And since I stole it to advance the debate on Kiwiblog, I’d better restore my karma by offering up another one (pdf file):

          The personal wealth of Australia’s richest people has grown at a much faster rate than their charitable giving, according to a QUT study. Charitable contributions by the rich rose to just under a half per cent from 0.36 per cent in the last decade despite their average household income rising by 36 percent, research by The Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies shows.

          Researcher Dr Kym Madden said while many of the wealthy were very generous, a lot of others gave little if anything to charitable causes and some who did give did so at a lower level than the rest of the

          “Australia’s affluent continue to give at a lower level on average than their counterparts in the UK, USA and Canada despite comparable wealth levels,’ Dr Madden said.

          The World Wealth Report of 2007 estimates that the top 17 per cent of ultra rich donors globally give away about 10 percent of their assets annually. Dr Madden said only about six in 10 of the wealthiest Australians claimed deductions for their charitable giving.

          “This indicates 40 per cent of the wealthy appear to be engaged in minimal if any giving,’ she said.

          • prism

            Surprising RW that there has been so little rise in charitable giving. A point to remember is that ‘charity’ may mean funding art or sports or the needy in another country whose privations and difficulties seem more deserving than those of the strugglers close at hand. In short there deesn’t seem much trickle down between the class levels.

  9. “Here’s a triplet of facts. 1) Every “developed’ country needs a welfare system to take care of those who are, for whatever reason unable to support themselves. 2) The majority of welfare recipients are exactly the cases of genuine need that welfare systems are designed for. 3) A minority of welfare recipients are lazy bludgers who game the system to try and extract benefits when they could support themselves.”

    1/ Yes, but NZ is unusual in how it funds its system and the report explores this
    2/ Other welfare systems have different rules eg they work-test single mothers when their children are very young, particularly Nordic countries. So the definition of “genuine need” varies across jurisdictions.
    3/ The number of people who “could support themselves” but receive welfare has grown disproportionate to the population. You characterise them as “lazy bludgers”. I don’t. They are merely people who the current system allows to stay on welfare long-term.

    “A Lefty will generously support a comprehensive welfare system to provide a decent quality of life for those in need (they accept the minority of bludgers as a cost of doing business). But nothing shrivels a Tory heart like the idea of sharing their wealth. While unable to deny the need, they become so obsessed with the small minority of bludgers that they can’t help but attack the system, and in doing so they attack the support for the overwhelming majority of perfectly genuine welfare recipients.”

    For a great many people wanting reform isn’t about meanness. It’s about wanting a welfare system that doesn’t drag more children into poverty; that doesn’t damage the constructive inter-dependence between individuals;that doesn’t teach learned helplessness. The report is about long-term welfare dependence, what drives it (unemployment is only one factor and not the most important) and what effect it has on the beneficiary and their children.

    One of the most important factors identified is that teenagers (16,17,18) entering the benefit system have the greatest risk of staying there long-term and they swell the numbers at any point in time. I would argue that an expectation of eligibility for a benefit leads to educational under-effort and the failure to acquire skills or qualifications. Just going into denial about what the report uncovers isn’t going to improve the circumstances of young New Zealanders or increase their potential to lead more fulfilling lives.

    • millsy 9.1


      If you want the poor and single mother to live on the streets, then I suggest you and your ACT mates fuck off to somewhere like the UK, the USA, China, or India. You know, where single mothers, the sick, the lame and the old have to go and live on the streets, in alleys, under bridges, and in their cars.

      Like that place you go on about, Wisconsin. Heaps of single mothers living in their cars there, but of course, your solution is to take their babies of them and still leave them in the streets.

      You want to smash the welfare state, then be prepared for homelessness on a grand scale.

      The Welfare state may not be perfect, but it give people a roof over their head and a decent standard of living,, something that I have no idea why you begrudge single mothers.

    • Ag 9.2

      The very fact that you wring your hands about the welfare system “dragging children into poverty” demonstrates that you have no understanding of why we have a welfare system. The market system we have now, which we have adopted for good reasons, does not guarantee full employment and does not guarantee that incomes will be distributed in a way that avoids creating obvious public bads.

      Just go away and get yourself an education. Your post is embarrassing.

      • prism 9.2.1

        Our economic system guarantees we will always be confused about employment levels. Because it states that full employment is reached when the economists say it is, ie under an actual and considerable percentage of registered unemployed which is some figure that does not have wage inflation consequences.

    • bbfloyd 9.3

      lyndsay.. as usual, an apologist has managed to couch their ignorance of economic realities as they apply to humans in excessive verbiage. just once, i would like to see conservative commentators showing, or at least making an attempt to show an understanding of the REAL reasons that young people end up on welfare. if it is acceptable to point to the end result, then maybe we should try to stop playing silly partisan word games, and take a mature view of what creates the need for welfare in the first place.
      simply pointing at the recipients of said welfare and criticizing their motivations, or assuming greed, laziness etc do no more than move the debate further from where it needs to go.

    • NickS 9.4

      For a great many people wanting reform isn’t about meanness. It’s about wanting a welfare system that doesn’t drag more children into poverty;

      Easy, provide targeted benefits that are only for clothing, shoes, books, hell it could even be just a voucher system, while better budgeting skills and education make being poor less of a day by day struggle. Especially when the benefit amounts is increased regularly to match CPI and inflation.

      that doesn’t damage the constructive inter-dependence between individuals;that doesn’t teach learned helplessness.

      [Citation Needed]

      lolwut? Most of the poor I’ve known (and observed) rely on friends, family and neighbours for all sorts of things, from small things to a shoulder to lean on and vis versa. A benefit only isolates people if there’s bigots around, or there’s underlying mental health issues/neurological variations that make connecting to people more difficult. Sure there are some that are hopeless, but in order to say the “benefit” caused it you need to actually show some fucking solid research that controls for all the other numerous little fuck-ups life provides to show that the benefit alone was the causative agent of their behaviours.

      Anything less is only useful for figuring out what methodologies are useless or show possible promise. Of course though I fully expect you to quote some RW Christian “research” on this as evidence, which will lead to the merry lands “lets see just how fucked up their logic is?”. TO which I have a bottle of whisky waiting to help me with.

      The report is about long-term welfare dependence, what drives it (unemployment is only one factor and not the most important) and what effect it has on the beneficiary and their children.

      Why exactly aren’t unemployment levels so important? Because often during times of peak employment that only people typically left on benefits are those with significant disabilities, or those who due to the lack of free child care have under 14’s to take care of*. Then there’s the geographic areas where you do get high levels of unemployment, however the problem is, is that moving them to Auckland, with it’s lack of accommodation, or other major centres needs to be balanced against the cost of fostering local jobs and business development to see which solution(s) will give the best result. It might even only need a small push, or an initial seed funding to get off the ground and provide long term jobs, r.e. the iwi-started kiwi fruit farms in the historically poorer parts of the Bay of Plenty.

      *note, solutions which force an individual to stay with an abusive partner, or someone they’ve kicked out for being a douchebag (my dad was kicked out not stopping smoking pot lawl) generally lead to future problems, not to mention either, they tend to regard women as property and tread all over the individuals human rights…

    • Deborah Kean 9.5

      If you are the Lindsay I believe you to be, the woman with a huge hate-on against the DPB, (Lindsay Mitchell) then you are being very disingenuous!
      I believe you are forgetting why the DPB was brought in – which was so that women could have a means of raising their children in safety, instead of creaing a bunch of latch-key kids whilst Mum was raising the kids and scrubbing the floors of the upper crust!
      When I was on the DPB, I took raising my kids as my job. A job I took very seriously. As a result, I have sons with tertiary qualifications, responsible jobs and stable lives and relationships. (The baby I had as a teenager, pre-DPB who was adopted out to a middle aged married couple is a P using truck driver! Turns out Child Welfare as it was at the time, weren’t too fussed about the fact that middle class Daddy was an abusive unfaithful alkie…)
      Ms Mitchell, I fear you really have no idea! Are you perhaps the second or third wife of a man who has always claimed that his Liable Parent Contribution stops him buying the house and the holidays to which you feel entitled?

  10. KJT 10

    Yeah we should be doing something about those on State welfare.

    Banks and finance companies who fail with Government guarantees.
    Employers who can pay low wages because the state takes up the slack with WFF and childcare allowances.
    Poor employers who drive good ones out of business because labour laws are so slack.
    State owned companies given away to corporates.
    External subsidies from ratepayers to dirty Dairy.
    Employers given handouts to employ people who then get rid of them when the subsidy ends so they can get someone else who is subsidised.
    Banks getting windfall profits when the OCR is raised.
    Currency speculators who short the NZ dollar.
    Gravy train of committees on welfare reform getting thousands per day to come up with such obvious bunkum.

    Yep we really do need to cut welfare.

    • Olwyn 10.1

      Not to mention the accommodation supplement, which has helped to make landlording lucrative.

      • bbfloyd 10.1.1

        olwyn.. you probably shouldn’t have mentioned it then.(accommodation supp). i have had the displeasure of reading some obnoxious, ignorant statements coming from the nact apologists lately, but i would characterize that statement as coming from a total lack of understanding of economic realities coupled with rabid bigotry. i am hoping this was an attempt at irony. if so, then well done, you got me. if not, then i think you need to consult a professional mental health practitioner

        • Olwyn

          Not sure what you are getting at bbfloyd. I am far from being a right-winger, and cited the accommodation supplement in the belief that it is (a) a benefit that goes straight to a landlord, briefly mediated by the bank account of a beneficiary or low-income wage-earner. (2) a benefit that bridges the gap between overpriced property and under-priced workers.

          When right wingers bleat about getting rid of welfare, they do not consider that one, because if it was not there they would have to face up to either a reduction in what they can charge as rent, or if they are employers, an increase in what they would need to pay their employees.

          • KJT

            WFF families and the accommodation supplement etc are not often recognized for what they are. A subsidy from the taxes of those in well paid employment to those whose employers do not pay a living market rate. A subsidy from good employers to poor ones if you like!

  11. Ag 11

    The WWG was obviously and predictably thick, but everyone knows it’s a political group, not a genuine research group.

    But stuff like this doesn’t help:

    Every “developed’ country needs a welfare system to take care of those who are, for whatever reason unable to support themselves.

    The whole notion of “supporting themselves” is seriously misleading. It buys into the right’s dubious evaluation of welfare as an entitlement. It isn’t.

    The real reason we have welfare is that a market system does not distribute incomes in an efficient manner. The market is not able secure our needs for streets free of homeless lunatics or supermarkets where we don’t have to endure feeling sick at the sight of old people buying dog food because they can’t afford anything else. Doing something about it is therefore an improvement to everyone’s quality of life. Because these goods are non-excludable, the market does a poor job of supplying them, so we must be compelled to pay for them the same way we are compelled to pay for the police and fire service.

    Talking about welfare as entitlements obscures the fact that welfare is a really good deal for most of us. Altruism is not the guiding principle. Welfare is in everyone’s interest.

    If the government won’t run a policy of full employment, then we will need more welfare to deal with the social problems that unemployment causes. The WWG seems content to let these problems multiply and negatively impact everyone’s quality of life unless we live in a gated community, which most of us do not.

    Again, welfare is not primarily a system of moral entitlements it is a means of securing goods that a market system cannot efficiently secure.

    • roger nome 11.1

      The market does a poor job of providing people like DPF and whale oil any fashion sense too. I have to wince every time i see an image of them. IMO they are a drain on the aesthetics of society. They should be publically lampooned and hauled into a state-run fashion class at least once a moth. Why should those of us who put some effort into the way we dress have to put up with these sartorial slackers?

      • Ag 11.1.1

        Alas, the negative externalities generated by conservatives’ fashion sense and general demeanour are not preventable at a sufficiently low cost.

        Having said that we need a NZ version of the North Korean hair cutting reality show.

    • loota 11.2

      Talking about welfare as entitlements obscures the fact that welfare is a really good deal for most of us. Altruism is not the guiding principle. Welfare is in everyone’s interest.

      Maybe the elite want their kids escorted to Kings in bullet proof Humvees under armed guard?

      Have the rich and wealthy not figured out that their kids are also heavily impacted by increasing crime and drug activity spurred on by social inequality?

      The real reason we have welfare is that a market system does not distribute incomes in an efficient manner.

      Ah yes, it is well recognised that a so-called market system is typically skewed by the ‘market makers’ to generate outsize benefits for themselves, quaint concepts like ‘fairness’ and ‘income equality’ be damned.

  12. roger nome 12

    Lindsay –

    So in the Nordic countries there are lots of people on the streets ‘cos they were kicked off welfare huh? Nah – the system doesn’t work like that over there. People are provided with options. i.e. In Sweden, after recieving 75% of the average wage (in NZ it’s about 35%) for 6 months, people on welfare are provided with training, and solo parents are provided with fully subsidised child care etc. Your story is always the same (i.e. the Nordic countries have better welfare states because they work test, and the benefit has a time limit) and you only tell half of it (the half you like).

    You should stop doing this. It makes you look dishonest.

  13. regstalin 13

    Here is an explaination for at least part of the rise in IB you won’t here from the WWG
    “Growth in IB inflow rates was more rapid for those aged 3039 and 4049 than for those aged 1519 and 2029. There is something different about the cohorts that experienced the economic restructuring of the 1980s and early 1990s in their early to middle years compared to those that entered the labour market either during or after the restructuring.” (Wilson, M., McLeod, K., & Sathiyandra, S. (2005). Growth in numbers of Sickness and Invalids Benefit recipients 19932002: Cohort analysis technical report. Ministry of Social Development, Wellington. pg 104)

    • roger nome 13.1

      That squares with the fact that the youth suicide rate trippled from 1988-1996. The Nats just made it that much harder to enjoy life for for the hundreds of thousands in John Key’s “under class”. That’s what can happen when you get a coup led by a bunch of ideological nutters who use the shock doctrine to impose thier seriously warped world-view on everyone else. All with only 35% of the popular vote. So glad that FPP’s gone.

  14. MikeG 14

    I would like to know how many hours Rebstock et al have spent in a WINZ office or a City Mission soup kitchen interacting with the people who form the statistics they are so concerned about.

  15. BLiP 16

    You gotta admit its a pretty nifty way of reducing the number of beneficiaries: no benefit = no beneficiaries. Simple, really.

  16. loota 17

    You treat people like dregs, with disdain and disrespect and surprise surprise, they act in ways to fulfill your expectations.

    You treat people wit respect, with dignity, let them hold their heads up and give them the means to reach their best expectations of themselves, and surprise surprise, they act in ways to fulfill that too.

  17. Bill 18

    So the government is attacking beneficiaries.
    And workers.( eg fire at will)
    And the environment. (eg mining and drilling)
    And the integrity of health system (eg Dunedin surgeons)
    The integrity of the education system (eg standards)

    And I’m sure there is more. But the point is a simple one.

    We can have (minimally) five separate sets of coalitions, with all their inevitable internal warring, fighting on five or more separate fronts…reducing complex matters to slogans, shutting out discussion in favour of preserving and presenting false fronts….and ultimately gouging one another for the sake of boosting their own participation rates etc.


    We can begin to build a movement that encompasses all the above and allows debate/discussion, thereby giving expression to the rich diversity of thought and analysis that naturally flows from large numbers of people.

    • loota 18.1

      We can begin to build a movement that encompasses all the above and allows debate/discussion, thereby giving expression to the rich diversity of thought and analysis that naturally flows from large numbers of people.

      They’ll put you away if you carry on with this kind of talk.

      (Where do I sign up?)

  18. prism 19

    Great post. Nothing shrivels a Tory heart like having to share their wealth and then finding that some creeps are gaming the system, they then target and want to destroy the whole system that is supposed to be supporting society. “Why should I pay for some other blokes kid” mentality.

    Anybody with any rational thought would know that for sure some beneficiary will play the ‘game’ – it’s part of human behaviour and probably mentioned in the list in book ‘The Games that People Play’ by Eric Fromm I think. How come we don’t go into extreme angst at the financiers who game the business system and rip off all that individuals have. Both types of trickster deserve scorn and be guarded against.

    There is a term that right-wingers like to use in denigration of welfare beneficiaries, that of ‘learned helplessness’ which does exist. It can happen when someone can’t see a clear way out of the problem of trying to climb out of poverty or whatever. But the system despite all that is shouted about it ‘getting people back to work, supporting families’ etc often does little to help the beneficiary who has the ability and desire to work, and the parent who needs part-time work so they can be good parents as well.

    And the government often despises what they are achieving in their lives as unpaid workers. Volunteer work a la Marilyn Waring is not yet recognised as work, and child raising is not, even family care of invalids or elderly may not be. There could be specified guidelines on how such work should be conducted to register as ‘work’ but the present attitude is too prescriptive for that – it’s reducing names on lists and ticking off boxes rather than recognising useful work that aids society.

    • Bored 19.1

      Nothing shrivels a Tory heart like having to share their wealth and then finding that some creeps are gaming the system,

      Now there Prism, no exposing Tories underwear! They actually dont like anybody else but themselves “gaming the system”…..how else did they get their ill gotten gains if not by “gaming” their employees etc?

  19. prism 20

    Bored – a bit too sweeping for me. I know that employers make profit from workers production but all wealth doesn’t come from having ‘gamed’ anyone. It just often has.

    I think that the trouble with Tories is another human characteristic like the one of gaming and that is to not admit that often they have just been lucky, and to have an addiction for acquiring money and power, and for the plotting to acquire. And there is such self-satisfaction and hubris in them.

    The elegant money-making scheme is a work of art in many ways, and when one project finishes the money machine rolls on carrying its addicted Tory with it. The idea of sharing some of the product of their art and skill with others who are part of the society that enabled their wealth-making is anathema to them.

    • vto 20.1

      Why do so many of you think that heaps of business people “game” the system???

      In my experience that is a very small minority, which usually comes unstuck somewhere along the line due exactly to the “gaming” of the system.

      Most people in the wealth creation ‘game’ recognise that there are only 3 ways to make money – inheritance, hard work and luck. Usually it is a combination of the second and third.

      Talk about tories gaming the system is no different to talk about beneficiaries gaming the system – and I bet those bene’s who do that also come unstuck at some point. There is only one shortcut in this world and that is the shortcut to ruin.

    • Draco T Bastard 20.2

      I know that employers make profit from workers production but all wealth doesn’t come from having ‘gamed’ anyone. It just often has.

      In reality it’s actually worse than gaming the system as it is, quite simply, legalised theft. The political right, and even some on the left, consider workers to be an expense of the administration (and the capitalists (which is why Jonkey wants wages to drop)) when, as a matter of fact, the administration is an expense on the workers. The worker s create the wealth – not the administrators and certainly not the capitalists.

      • vto 20.2.1

        Yes well Draco tax has long been regarded as the biggest “legalised theft” in the land. It is at the top of the list above poor regulations and the like that Fay and Hotchina and Watson have taken advantage of.

        In fact there are probably countless things people would regard as criminal but are yet legal – prostitution, alcohol when compared to drugs, trespass (police and taxman and etc), assault (arrest),kidnapping (incarceration) the list goes on.

        And workers create the wealth???? wha …? That surprises me but it sounds good. If so then you lot should stick the big finger to the capitalists. Get those ideas and wealth creation activities underway. If you are right the funding will follow and the relative positions of power between workers and capitalists will be reversed.

        • Draco T Bastard

          The administration is needed, I don’t dispute that, I just dispute that they’re worth more than the people doing the work. Of course, over the centuries, the administrators are the ones who wrote the laws.

          PS, Tax is only seen as theft by the psychopaths on the right – the rest of us realise that it’s a necessary cost to maintain a civil society.

        • Draco T Bastard

          That surprises me but it sounds good. If so then you lot should stick the big finger to the capitalists.

          We would – if the capitalists didn’t control the wealth through the laws that they’ve written.

          • Gosman

            Well you say you want a revolution…

          • Bill

            It’s not Capitalists who write laws.

            Veritable armies of well rewarded and utterly co-opted legislators, bureaucrats, lawyers, politicians and such like do that.

            Then there are the well rewarded police forces and armed forces should the status quo become threatened by any worker upstarts ignoring said laws.

            As an aside. Any western nation where the army hasn’t been deployed on to the streets to crush the demands of said nation’s citizens ?

            • Gosman

              How about you change that slightly to in the past 60 years.

              You can’t really compare our society today with what it was pre 1960.

              You might as well ask what Western nation hasn’t outlawed homosexual acts between consenting adults.

      • Gosman 20.2.2

        I do love your old school hard core leftist thinking DTB.

        It is so refreshingly old fashioned that I sometimes expect Joesph Stalin to pop out of the woodwork and threaten to purge everybody.

      • Deborah Kean 20.2.3

        Your absolutely right Draco! “The workers create the wealth not the administrators and certainly not the capitalists.”
        Quoto al 100%!

    • Bored 20.3

      Prism / VTO, I exaggerate. As a “business” person, I have long understood where profit comes from, in short its the difference between the combined sales cost you buy in at and the sales price you sell out at. One of the sales costs you buy in is labour….the old Marxist surplus value issue. Thats where my tongue in cheek sweeping statement about “gaming” fits in….my profits rely upon my exploitation of somebody elses hard work (as well as my own). Its a bastard of a strategy as Draco notes.

  20. Draco T Bastard 21

    Well, reading that, all I can say is that it probably would have been cheaper to buy everyone a copy of the Spirit Level. The data in it is more accurate as it’s been accumulated from decades of research and it actually shows the problem (although not directly) – capitalism.

  21. roger nome 22

    Maybe our rightists cold do with listening to more of the music that expresses problems to do with poverty, alienation and the stress and istability that it causes (it’s pretty much the only medium where you get genuine artists breaking through the class-relation of the spectical). This is what were taliking about. No amount of market discipline is going to get the 10-15% of clinically depressed people in NZ to go looking for a job that isn’t there. But rightis just don’t get it. Thier experience is too limited. Thier hearts and minds are too small.

    Something to chew on maybe.

  22. roger nome 23

    Here you go Gos:

    In the UK, according to the SAD Association, 500,000 people experience some form of winter depression, while in Sweden doctors have estimated that 20 percent of the population — almost 2 million people — are affected.


  23. roger nome 24

    In answer to your question, yes Gos. I wouldn’t want to live there – i find Dunedin winters hard enough to cope with.

    • Gosman 24.1

      So if your theory held true, countries with a similar climate AND social welfare systems would have a similar rate of mental illness prevalent in society.

      Does Ireland and the UK have a similar rate to NZ?

      • roger nome 24.1.1

        It’s a major cause Gos – not the only. I’d say conservative repression of sexuality (queer people are far over-represented in suicide, drug and depression stats) fear of pergatory in Catholic countries, childhood abuse and drug abuse account for a fair amount of mental illness as well. In Sweden you don’t get to stay on the dole for long anyhow – only 6 months then you have to train or work, so it’s not like people are left with long periods of time without anything to do.

        I’ve learned that a lot of what keeps people happy is hope for a good future – it’s hard to think like that if you’re stuck alienated from mainstream society with lack of funds, and a lack of confidence and self-esteem (part of depression) means you’re discouraged from looking for more demanding work

        In this situation it’s easy to spiral downwards. That’s why it’s self-evedent to me that the destitute state the market ensures for those that fall between the cracks leads to depression – and the deep the hole, the harder the cimb.

        In Sweden they have shallow holes. Ours are significantly deeper.

        • Gosman

          I’d say you are essentially making a lot of what you are writing up. Not that it doesn’t have a certain amount of logic behind it but it smacks of someone inserting their personal bias into deciding what does or doesn’t cause mental illness.

          Your theory should be easy to validate though. Places where unemployment rates have increased by a lot, say Greece for example, should have an explosion in cases of mental illness.

          Do you have any evidence that this is the case?

          • regstalin

            There are myriad studies on the link between mental ill health and unemployment, as well as huge debate over the direction of causation, however recent meta analysis (237 cross sectional and 87 longitudinal studies) of the existent evidence (Paul, K. I., & Moser, K. (2009). Unemployment impairs mental health: Meta-analyses. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 74(3), 264-282.) concludes that “The average number of persons with psychological problems among the unemployed was 34%, compared to 16% among employed individuals. Moderator analysis demonstrated that men and people with blue-collar-jobs were more distressed by unemployment than women and people with white-collar jobs. Linear and curvilinear moderating effects of the duration of unemployment were also identified. Furthermore, the negative effect of unemployment on mental health was stronger in countries with a weak level of economic development, unequal income distributions, or weak unemployment protection systems compared to other countries. Meta-analyses of longitudinal studies and natural experiments endorsed the assumption that unemployment is not only correlated to distress but also causes it.”

            • Bill

              Call me a contrarian, but I’ve always found that having a job is less than optimal situation for my mental health as compared to not having a job.

              See, I reckon it’s not the unemployment per se that’s the problem but a couple of related factors such as the fact that we are told that to be out of a job makes us somewhat less than useful as a person and tends us towards worthlessness.

              As a result of the need to perpetuate the mentality behind that myth, we deny ourselves and each other the opportunities gifted us in the absence of the need to regulate and prescribe our activities as we would need to were we in a job.

              And then there is the simple reward/punishment/addiction dynamics of jobs. You get a job and you get yourself dependent on the money and materials that might flow your way from having a job. And then when you don’t have a job you get a package deal of withdrawal symptoms.

              Where were we? Yup. The sense and sensibility of having a job. Way to go.

              Godley and Creme or whatever kind of summed it up with their wee ditty that ran…

              “Here boy, there boy.
              The boss’s got you running everywhere boy.
              You got no money and you got less sense,
              And you ain’t going nowhere.”

  24. Rosy 26

    I’d love to see a ‘Stuff’ poll asking what level of street-begging is acceptable after a restructure of the welfare system:
    10-19 people on the main street every day?
    Any number as long as they’re over 16?
    Whatever it takes?

    It’s something that’s starting to bother me. A few years ago I was relatively sure the homeless in NZ could access at least some form of benefit. Now I’m not at all convinced that they can – and the numbers, although still small, appear to be growing. Do people who support get tough welfare realise they may pass by the people they reduce to penury every day whereas at the moment most are conveniently hidden in the ‘burbs?

    • loota 26.1

      I see a report recommending the strictly enforced banning of street begging as the solution to this problem.

      Works in many areas of asia to solve the problem of street begging.

      Move street beggars far enough into the country side so by the time they make it back into the city the Olympics will be over etc.

  25. roger nome 27

    Gos – it’s true that there’s no scientific consensus as to what causes depression (by far the most wide-spread mental illness in the western world with 1 in 4 people suffering from at least moderate depression at some stage in their lives). It’s difficult to really grasp what it means to be depressed unless you’ve gone through it yourself. A depressed mind doesn’t think like a healthy mind. A depressed mind appears to be irrationally pessimistic to people who haven’t experienced it. In non-physiological cases (i.e. SAD, or brain damage), it’s basically a person’s mind attempting to self-destructive, strangely enough, to adapt to the circumstances it has become accustomed to.

    In the past this meant a subordinate primate lowering their own self-esteem to adapt to a position of low social status, as challenging the alpha male/female could well mean not “living to mate another day”. That’s it explained in evolutionary terms anyhow, and i think it’s a fairly rational hypothesis (this “social rank” theory of depression is also supported by the statistics which show younger siblings to be much more prone to depression than the first-born – in a competitive environment people often adopt a depressive/subordinate state as a survival instinct).

    Now you probably see where i’m going with this. In a competitive capitalist economy low income means low status. If you’re not “rewarded by the market” you are seen to be a “loser” and of low-status (money is the overwhelmingly important social metric by which status is measured). So, cetrus paribus, the poorer you are, the lower your status, and the more likely you are to suffer from depression (this is also supported by the stats, which show that people from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to suffer from mental illness).

    “Of nine studies, eight provide evidence of an association between one or more markers of less privileged social position and higher prevalence of common mental disorders.”


    So, a necessary part of combating this social disease is limiting income inequality – because its correlation with depression is compelling.

    (incidentally – sunny socialist countries like Spain and Greece have very low income inequality, and very low suicide rates) – suicide is the most useful metric here, because of reporter bias in studies involving other indices).



    • ZB 27.1

      So tripping a blind person so they fall to their death is wrong, but bullying a
      depressed person by making them less secure – facing up to their social lower status –
      so they commit suicide is not wrong. Because if it was Bennett and the whole
      culture of WINZ would be…. …what was it Bennett said ‘living the dream’.

      Kids bullied ruthlessly by their peers and commit suicide – should teachers,
      school principles and the bullies themselves be facing charges of manslaughter?
      Should schools be better targetting those who are likely to be bullies and
      doing some behavior management with them.

      Oh, wait, Schools look to government for leadership, and our present governments
      of left and right find it all too easy to attack the weakest poorest to get an extra voter.
      Their eating your taxes on their fat behinds, lets all be nasty to the bludgers –
      finance companies lose hundreds of millions but wait if we push sickness benefitaries
      back on the unemployment benefit and spend money on them that’ll save money!

      Income inequality is the budgetry problem – billions in debt are accumulated and
      National give the wealthy a tax cut that fuels further inequality. Good Job all round.

  26. roger nome 28

    Oh – and here’s another uber-talanted musician that uses song-writing to express thier experience of poverty, alienation, abuse and depression. Will probably just go over the top of the heads of our right-wingers.

    • Gosman 28.1

      And here’s one just for you from a mildly talented pop band from the 1960’s which probably will go over your head.

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