- Date published:
10:25 am, January 16th, 2016 - 40 comments
Categories: class war, journalism, poverty - Tags: child poverty, jamie whyte, journalism, lizzie marvelly, poverty, yes we can
An excellent piece on poverty by Lizzie Marvelly in The Herald this morning:
The only debate is what to do about child poverty
Kiwi children are suffering right now. Believe it.
In a country where an unacceptable number of children live below the much-debated poverty line, we are becoming accustomed to hearing the lives of Kiwi kids and their families being thrown around as political hot potatoes.
While we can argue about poverty, its definition, origins, and how it is conceptualised until we’re blue in the face, such meaningless politicking does nothing to show people the reality of poverty. It certainly does nothing to feed the thousands of children who are going hungry.
Blaming parents living in poverty does absolutely nothing to put food into the tummies of hungry kids.
The idea that people living in poverty are somehow to blame for their fate is attractive if one wants to absolve oneself from any sense of responsibility, but it is a notion that I find deeply sad. When did we become so hardened and self-centred that we began to believe that those poorer than us deserve their suffering? When did we become so divorced from our own communities that we stopped caring about the families around us?
There are so many things we could do to make the lives of Kiwi kids better: feeding kids in school, bringing back a means-tested child benefit like the one scrapped in the “mother of all budgets”, requiring a warrant of fitness for rental properties to prevent children growing up in cold, damp, leaky houses, and simply helping out in our neighbourhoods.
The first step, however, is for us to look out into our communities and really see other people, to realise that even in the most privileged areas, poverty is just five minutes down the road. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s real.
Thank you Lizzie Marvelly. The headline to that piece poses a question – what to do about child poverty? In fact we already know the answer, and the answer is simple:
Giving cash to the poor is the best way to fix poverty
“Unconditional Cash Transfers work better than almost anyone would have expected. They dent the stereotype of poor people as inherently feckless and ignorant”.
This is the conclusion reached by The Economist in a feature on giving cash to the poor. It neatly summarises the evidence regarding what works best to improve the lives of the poor and strikes at the heart of the prejudices we hold about those in poverty.
The only time in recent years New Zealand reduced child poverty was when we gave cash to some poor via Working for Families. The fact is that everyone would be better off if we just gave poor parents the money. …
Giving poor people money alleviates poverty. Amazing! So let’s raise taxes on the rich and get on with it.
Footnote (I’m an academic, I love footnotes!) on a suggestion to the media. Almost everything you publish is a piece in isolation. There is a better way.
Take The Herald for example. You publish Marvelly’s piece on poverty today, just a week after (re)publishing Whyte’s excerable nonsense. If you had any kind of overview / foundation of established fact / ongoing context on the topic of poverty you wouldn’t be publishing such wildly inconsistent pieces (the Whyte article would have been rejected as the nonsense that it was).
Take climate change as another example, no responsible media should be publishing denier nonsense these days.
Now you (the responsible media) might say that you’re offering a range of opinions. But when some opinions are clearly and provably nonsense that excuse is just an abdication of responsibility. It’s laziness, clickbait, and harmful.
I guess I’m asking for context and sanity checking in the media. Fact-based narrative instead of isolated and inconsistent snippets. Harder work, but much better for everyone.