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Won’t Somebody Think of the Children?

Written By: - Date published: 10:20 am, June 8th, 2010 - 24 comments
Categories: class war, education, health, housing, human rights - Tags:

According to a new report:

New Zealand is a great place for children if their parents have a good income, live in a warm dry house and are well educated.

However if you’re not born into a privileged household, then death and disease

is worse than that of all but two [developed] countries, Mexico and Turkey.

So what is this government doing about it?

– They’ve raised GST and rents to increase the hurdles for the poor to reach a “good income”.
– They watered down the Green’s insulation programme so the hand-outs and “warm dry houses” will largely be for the middle and upper class.
– They killed ACE which gave parents a second chance of becoming “well educated”, and cut ECE which will limit the social mobility of the next generation when they become parents

What could they do about it?

– Pursue policies to promote greater equality of income, rather than increasing regressive taxes like GST and decreasing the progressiveness of our income tax.
– Subsidise all insulation retrofits – those done by home handymen as well as approved installers; and create house WoFs for rented properties to ensure that landlords don’t rent out homes that are slowly killing their tenants with cold and damp.
– Invest in education, particularly preschool and primary to get children off to the best start, and ACE to give parents a second chance.

But they won’t.

So in the meantime – if you’re rich, welcome to paradise, there’s nowhere better in the world; if you’re not… well, you better make sure there is a better government next time around.


24 comments on “Won’t Somebody Think of the Children? ”

  1. PK 1

    ***Pursue policies to promote greater equality of income, rather than increasing regressive taxes like GST and decreasing the progressiveness of our income tax.****

    I agree that homes need to be better insulated, but income equality per se isn’t necessarily the problem. Hong Kong & Singapore are near the top for income inequality, but best child wellbeing levels.

    In terms of education they probably should invest more in vocational training & efforts to stop businesses outsourcing their work overseas.

    ***What could they do about it?***

    Make contraception a condition of welfare – this would protect against pregnancy in those most likely to have low future time orientation and have dysfunctional homes.


    • Bright Red 1.1

      ah, a rightie espousing eugenics. How refreshing.

      • PK 1.1.1

        ***ah, a rightie espousing eugenics. How refreshing.***

        Encouraging birth control isn’t an exclusively right wing idea. Fabian socialists like George Bernhard Shaw & planned parenting founder Margaret Sanger encouraged it to limit poverty.

    • Bill 1.2


      “Make contraception a condition of welfare this would protect against pregnancy in those most likely to have low future time orientation and have dysfunctional homes.”

      What is dysfunctional? Fairly common dynamics in poor households that don’t exactly fit with preconceived notions of normality or functionality from an establishment or middle class perspective?

      Or the society that fosters or brings into being such common dynamics?

      My money is firmly on the latter.

      As to why the society generates undesirable behavioural dynamics might have much to do with the market forces that hold our societies to ransom, don’t you think?

      • PK 1.2.1

        *** Bill wrote:
        What is dysfunctional? Fairly common dynamics in poor households that don’t exactly fit with preconceived notions of normality or functionality from an establishment or middle class perspective?

        Or the society that fosters or brings into being such common dynamics?

        As to why the society generates undesirable behavioural dynamics might have much to do with the market forces that hold our societies to ransom, don’t you think?***

        Undesirable behavioural dynamics have been around since homo-sapiens emerged. Generally, behaviour and living conditions are improving (see Steven Pinker’s essay ‘A History of Violence’).

        That said, market forces & globalisation have significant downsides with jobs being outsourced or replaced by improved technology. I’m not sure what the answer to that is, although I agree with the suggestions in the OP about ensuring homes are well built/insulated, pre-school education etc

    • Draco T Bastard 1.3

      Hong Kong & Singapore are near the top for income inequality, but best child wellbeing levels.

      Got anything to back up that assertion?

      • PK 1.3.1

        *** Draco T Bastard 1.3
        8 June 2010 at 12:39 pm
        Hong Kong & Singapore are near the top for income inequality, but best child wellbeing levels.

        Got anything to back up that assertion?***

        In terms of income inequality they were the top 2 according to this recent U.N. Development Program report.


        In terms of infant mortality they are amongst the lowest (Singapore 2nd & Hong Kong 6th).


        • comedy

          DTB is one of those that likes to quote ‘The Spirit Level’ and its argument that all of society’s problems are caused by inequality because it supports their worldview – t’is unfortunate that it tends to ignore anything that doesn’t support its suppositions.

          • Draco T Bastard

            Actually, I have a tendency to believe fact. Amazingly enough, fact tends to support my world-view. This is anathema to RWNJs such as yourself because fact always goes against what you want to be true.

        • Draco T Bastard

          IMR != wellbeing

          There’s a number of other factors involved as well such as poverty and, as you pointed out, the amount of poverty in Hong Kong and Singapore is some of the worst in the world.

    • Sam 1.4

      Yes, because what we need is more snobby rich white kids running the show.

      Excellent idea, Dr. Science of the 1930s.

  2. Bill 2

    But if all the poor get a hand up we will all fall off the cliff of unsustainability. See, those warm and dry houses need resources and building materials. And that all contributes to climate collapse.

    So what would we rather have? ‘Haves’ (us) and ‘have nots’ (them) but we all get to be alive? Or that we all die because we tried to give the ‘have nots’ what the ‘haves’ have?

    Keep them in shit houses with shit health and shit food and low life expectancy. It doesn’t have to be done without compassion. Look on it as that moral dilemma where the lifeboat cannot accommodate all of those people in the deep water.

    We could always award the poor a medal for services and sacrifices to ‘our’ society…a bit like that George Cross that the Maltese got in WW2 (arguably) as compensation for being left to it.


    • just saying 2.1

      Do you really think this is the scenario we face within NZ Bill? That the haves will perish along with the have-nots if we serioulsy attempt social and economic justice?

      I ask the question seriously. I know it’s what many believe. I feel like its something that has been fed to us explicitly and implicitly since the eighties. It’s something I wonder to myself at times. It’s very hard for me to swallow.

      • Bill 2.1.1

        I guess I’m still pissed off at that UN report that was linked to yesterday in the open mike post.

        That’s what it was saying (preserve the rich and starve and deny the poor) but in reference to ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ nations. So my comment above is deliberately caustic because it is based on a fleeting acceptance of – for the sake of the comment – the assumption that there is some scenario whereby the profit seeking capitalist production system can carry on in the face of resource depletion and climate collapse.

        Social and economic justice have never been invited into Capitalism boudoir. They get assaulted and done over in the street, not invited home.

        It’s back to that big elephant in the room. If there is to be social and economic equity within and between nations, Capitalism must go. If there is to be any chance of avoiding climate collapse, Capitalism must go.

        If, on the other hand, you seek to retain it in some form or other, then it can only satisfy the desires of an ever decreasing percentage of the human population.

        And that’s the game plan of today’s elites. To save Capitalism. And for individuals of the existing elite, it will soon be to make sure that they secure their place among that shrinking, massively privileged minority.

        Meanwhile, the increasingly coercive and intrusive apparatuses of the state will attempt to keep us all in our proper place for their continued benefit.

        And it’s all our fault you know. We, as consumers, demanded that industry trash the biosphere. Industry was only doing as we told it. ( So says the UN these days) So it is only right and proper that we, the guilty consumers suffer while the innocent industrialists get to enjoy the final and ever lasting fruits of capitalism as reward for their entrepreneurial expertise and labour.

    • Lanthanide 2.2

      “Or that we all die because we tried to give the ‘have nots’ what the ‘haves’ have?”

      Or the obvious solution, where the Haves lose some of what they Have, and give it to the Have Nots, so that everyone is Equal.

      The idea of private residence and transport is going to go the way of the donkey if no technological solution is found to Peak Oil, because the other solution is to reform our communities into those that can make do with much less available energy input, which is primarily achieved through greater population density (that is the entire impetus for creating cities in the first place).

      • Bill 2.2.1

        Aye, that’s obvious, but not allowed. And anyway, wouldn’t work. What amount of redistribution would have been necessary to secure food and shelter for everyone on the planet all these years? Not a lot.

        But has it happened? No, of course not.

        And why? Well, it’s that thing called Capitalism…it gives away nothing except to those in positions of privilege and power. And then all those fabulously, ridiculously rich pricks strut around the absurd and crass arena of competitive philanthropy.

        That’s the ideal of our elites and the closest they have to it is the US.

        I know, I know. There was that experiment with Social Democracy and welfare provisions outside of the US…that compromise when the elites felt threatened enough by the appeal we, the great unwashed had for ‘other’ ways of doing things.

        Anyway. All that roll back that’s been going on this past 20 odd years and the ‘End of History’ and all that other T.I.N.A. shit that is sucked up by apologists and too many liberals means that redistribution isn’t happening. It’s Capitalism. And it’s unchallenged. And it’s all there is. End. They say.

        Way out on the periphery there might be people thinking it’s kind of urgent that these bastards get dispossessed so that the likes of the oil can be used in meaningful and relatively sparing fashions such that would offer us a breathing space to get some sort of post oil shit up and running.

        Way out on the periphery there might be people thinking it’s time to produce the highest quality products that we possibly can in order that we don’t constantly dip into diminishing resources for no good fucking reason beyond the generating of profit.

        Way out here on the periphery there might be people who think that it’s time the people who produce and consume took firm control of the production and distribution system and simply ‘switched off’ frivolous and or wasteful processes.

        Way out here on the periphery to where the ape like creatures in their party hats and cool attitudes point and laugh…

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    Subsidise all insulation retrofits

    Personally, I’m at the point where I think the government should just be paying for the retrofit anyway. The benefits of doing so far outweigh the cost of not doing so.

    and create house WoFs for rented properties to ensure that landlords don’t rent out homes that are slowly killing their tenants with cold and damp.

    This is a definite necessity.

  4. Olwyn 4

    @ Bunji; I would add stability of housing to that list. We have reached the point where many people, including middle class people, will never be able to afford a house without some radical change of policy. At the same time, landlords are not constrained by the realities of human need – if the house is at all decent, they seek the prof. coup. no kids and no pets, who will pay the mortgage in exchange for a street address, otherwise it’s a dump so who cares as long as the rent keeps rolling in. This is not universal, but it is all too common, and deprives people of any stability upon which to build a life. Yes, there are a number of European countries in which home ownership is not the norm, but they provide stability in other ways – you might rent your house, but it is effectively yours. You are not merely sitting on someone else’s nest egg until they claim it back.

    @ Bill: Against the Current posted a piece by John Pilger, taken from The New Statesman, in which he praises the Greek protests. What interested me was his noting that the same credit rating agencies that have given high ratings to the purveyors of ponzi schemes gave Greece a junk rating, despite its deficit being no higher than that of the US. This makes me wonder if policies leading to impoverishment are deliberately pursued and endorsed, and perhaps hard to escape if a country is in the position of having to borrow. Link below:

    • Bill 4.1


      The principle product of Capitalism has always been poverty. Is it deliberate? It’s a dynamic that’s an intrinsic part of the system. It’s how Capitalism generates comparative wealth …by creating widespread poverty.

  5. Olwyn 5

    Bill: I did not mean to say that it was deliberate in any general sense, only that lending institutions seem to take the reduction of the state and the attendant generation of poverty as the default position. If this is true then it is something we need to address in various ways if we are to seriously tackle poverty, rather than just wring our hands occasionally. You are probably right about capitalism, but we are not really in the position to disband it, whatever we think. Chesterton said, “The rules of a club are occasionally in favour of the poor member. The drift of a club is always in favour of the rich one.” You are talking about the drift, I am concerned about the rules overly coinciding with the drift.

    • Bill 5.1

      I’d argue that both the rules and the drift favour the powerful…not the rich per se. If we exercise our democratic muscle…on the street as we did in the 60’s during the likes of the civil rights movement in the US, then the drift and the rules will still favour the powerful…and the powerful will be us.

      As far as tackling poverty, we cannot do any more than hopelessly round off some of the sharper self sharpening edges until we commit to getting the fuck rid of Capitalism. And if we want equity, then we have to also commit to not adopting any form of democratic centralism as a replacement.

      Maybe the Greeks are making an attempt at a first step? Or maybe Venezuelans are? Or maybe small pockets of people setting up fundamentally different modes of production within the present confines of the market are the ones taking the initial step? Or maybe they all are?

      And did Goldman Sachs deliberately and cynically set the Greek government up with dodgy ‘invisible’ junk loans and cash in on the inevitable collapse? Yes. That’s what they do. Use the rules to generate profit.

      • Olwyn 5.1.1

        I admire your optimism and hope you are right. I heard on Morning Report this morning that there is a general strike in Spain.

  6. Marco 6

    How about not only subsidising insulation but also making it law for Landlords to prove a warm dry house. The subsidies would be paid back by the decreased health related costs in the future.

  7. jcuknz 7

    I’m sure that if the ‘poor’ learnt to limit the size of their families they would be a lot richer financially, though I admit maybe less well off in family grouping terms. The ‘powerful’ industrialists do not need a huge workforce so it makes sense not to provide one for them to work their wage lowering selection policies on. The world would be a better place if for the next few decades the replenishment rate was one or a little higher per couple …. that’s not eugenics but survival, assuming we will survive global warming..

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