- Date published:
10:36 am, August 19th, 2014 - 10 comments
Categories: benefits, election 2014, greens, internet mana party, labour, Left, national, poverty, unemployment, welfare - Tags:
Simon Collins in today’s NZ Herald, has done a pretty good examination of various parties policies on social security (aka “welfare”): Election 2014: voters’ choice between the carrot and the stick.
He mainly compares the policies of National and Labour, with a small comment on the policies of the Internet Mana Party, and the Greens. He also provides some historical, social and economic context to the changes in government policies over time.
The main element that is missing is any in-depth consideration of the importance of child care and raising children to society and the future of the country. This has become the standard way social security, parenting and solo parents have come to be treated since the “neoliberal” revolution. It’s all about immediate costs and getting as many people as possible into work. It focuses on narrow economic considerations and “balancing the books” now.
Collins makes some very good points and comparisons between Labour and National in his article:
Welfare and social housing policies have been turned upside-down in six years of National-led government, introducing an “investment” approach that puts the most effort into those who need the most help to get off welfare and into work or training – especially young people, sole parents, and people with mental or physical ailments.
The policy is successfully reducing welfare rolls.
But Labour believes that what Social Development Minister Paula Bennett once trumpeted as “an unrelenting focus on work” has been too harsh, driving people back to work when they are still sick or caring for children or other relatives.
Labour’s major initiative is its “Best Start” policy – a plan to pay an extra $60 a week to all parents earning under $150,000 a year from whenever they use up any paid parental leave until a new baby turns 1, and on an income-tested basis to parents earning below $50,000 until the child turns 3.
In effect, this policy would prioritise fulltime parenting rather than paid work for those first three years.
However, he doesn’t really explain why full time parenting is of value to society, socially, educationally, health-wise, economically and with respect to building strong communities.
The outline of Paula Bennett’s welfare changes, in attempting to be objective and giving credit to National’s stated intentions, gloss over the punitive elements of the reforms. I have posted a lot on this in the past. For instance, Auckland Action Against Poverty’s action impacts and WINZ offices provide a glimpse at the underbelly of Bennett’s reforms. In counting the cost – a long time dying, I quoted Sue Bradford on the experiences exposed by the AAAP actions:
What the welfare reforms have meant over the last year has been that AAAP and other beneficiary groups have been very very busy trying to help people it impacts. So many people are not being granted a benefit, or are having their benefits cut when they shouldn’t be or are on the wrong benefit.
The whole drive of Work and Income these days is to keep people of the benefit, or if they’re on it, to keep it as low as possible. And for many many people they simply do not have enough food to live on – enough to live on altogether from one week to [t]he next.
In comparing National and Labour policies, Collins points out that National has done nothing to restore the real value of benefits, that have been whittled away over decades. In contrast, Labour, and the Greens and IMP have plans to restore the level of benefits so that people are not struggling to survive.
Collins also implies that the whole system needs an overhaul.
But neither Labour nor National has any definite plans to ease the disincentive to work caused by our targeted welfare system.
A left wing approach to social security treats everyone as a valuable part of society, where our lives and activities are completely inter-twined. Creating the context for more livable and sustainable lives for the least well off benefits us all in both the short and long term. It’s all laid out in The Spirit Level: Why equality is better for everyone, and by NZ’s Max Rushbrooke in Inequality: A New Zealand Crisis.
Many unpaid efforts and activities are part of child care, parenting, education and the raising of children. These contribute towards the long term economic and social well being of society
Vote left for a society and community that strongly values child care, parenting, education and the raising of children.