I’m not going to waste a lot of time on the Welfare Working Group’s report. It follows the Brash-esque formula of mis-representing the issue as some massive problem and then presenting ‘solutions’ that have failed overseas. Like the Brash reports, it will be used by the Nats for bait and switch, making their actual cuts seem moderate by comparison.
The report harps on about 338,000 working age people getting benefits as if these are all fit, young people who just can’t be arsed getting a job.
Of course, we know the truth is different:
85,000 are invalids, meaning they have severe physical or mental disabilities
58,000 are sick and are required to have medical certificates to prove it (if people are getting certificates they shouldn’t be, that’s not a reason to get rid of the benefit, it’s a problem with GPs)
112,000 are raising young children alone
65,000 are unemployed and required to be looking for work to get their benefit. And we know that, if the jobs are out there, unemployment beneficiaries are more than willing to take them. Before the recession there were as few as 17,000 on the dole and 70% of them got it for less than a year as they transitioned from one job to another.
In fact, when there were jobs for nearly everyone there were just 1,700 long-term unemployed who had been on the dole for over 4 years. If there are any bludgers they are a subset of those 1,700. Hardly worth turning the lives of 338,000 people and their families upside down over.
A good proportion (I think its 50% from memory) of beneficiaries actually work a bit as well, and take a reduced benefit as a result. The marginal tax rate for beneficiaries is enormous, at least 80.5% due to benefit abatement and income tax for people getting over $80 a week from work income, but they still want to work.
And let’s not forget that our society manages to support, via the benefit system, 12% of the working age population and their families by expending less than $5 billion on those benefits. That’s less than the income of the wealthiest 13,000 New Zealanders.
So, having misconstrued the problem, the Welfare Working Group presents all kinds of extreme solutions:
work for the dole (where’s the work going to come from?)
time limited benefits (what happens to families who can’t find work during the recession?)
individual unemployment insurance (shifts the cost on to low-income workers, who are most likely to lose their jobs)
forcing solo mums to look for work even earlier (who will look after the kids?)
Surprisingly, a universal minimum income is also among the proposals. And that’s the one good idea there is.
As with Brash’s reports before it, this paper will be dumped in the bin without being read and be used by National to make its next round of benefit cut backs appear moderate. That’s all this expensive game is really about. The suckers are those, on both sides, who think that the paper is anything other than a neoliberal fantasy.