Is it really too hard for people to bother to feed their kids?

Last night in the debate David Cunliffe delivered a sermon about starving children and how was the messiah who could deliver them from starvation.

He ignored the fact that Labour was in government for 9 years before National’s 6 years and that it is doubtful that so-called child poverty is entirely the fault of National.

There is a letter to the editor in the Herald this morning that looks into these so-called starving children that their parents can’t afford to feed.

photo Read more »

Friday morning Mailbag – What do we look like to people overseas?

First, the obligatory “thank but no thanks” Herald letter

Dear Editor

I have now reached the point where I can no longer subscribe to a
newspaper that has sunk to such a low point in journalistic bias as
yours has over the last weeks.

Not content with publicising a left wing orchestrated media campaign
and actually setting aside a full page interview with Mr Hager, a
self-confessed user of stolen material, you have today allowed a
political campaign by the New Zealand Council of Christian Churches to
appear as an editorial item in the on-line issue under the spurious
headline of a survey on “How Well Off are You”.

Where is the balanced reporting that shows other statistics
demonstrating there has been no increase in the income gap since the
mid-nineties if this was indeed editorial? No, it is a political
advertorial that you have allowed on your “front page”.

Graham [redacted]

Read more »

Photo Of The Day

‚ÄúUnemployed men queued outside a depression soup kitchen opened in Chicago by Al Capone,‚ÄĚ February 1931.

‚ÄúUnemployed men queued outside a depression soup kitchen opened in Chicago by Al Capone,‚ÄĚ February 1931.

Al Capone’s Soup Kitchen during the Great Depression, Chicago, 1931

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The Number One Driver That Keeps People Trapped In “Poverty”

The Auckland City Mission has put out a report in election year (surprise surprise) titled “Speaking for Ourselves”. ¬†They have asked 100 high users of their services about what keeps people in poverty.

I have read the report and if it wasn’t for deep breathing and that I have a pilates class for relaxation tomorrow I would require medical attention from the rise in blood pressure.

The problem with the report is that even those of you less prone to outbursts against this sort of narrative will read it and face palm.

Apparently the eight key drivers that keep people trapped in poverty are:

1. Debt

2. Justice

3. Housing

4. Employment

5. Health

6. Food insecurity

7. Services

8. Education

However reading the report I will add a ninth that is I believe the most important driver keeping these people trapped in poverty (whatever that actually is). ¬†¬† Read more »

Lindsay Mitchell – The Greatest Risk

Lindsay Mitchell has written a fantastic piece and has asked me to publish it so it gains a wider audience. I am very happy to do so.

As Rodney Hide said in the comments, this should be pinned to every wall in Treasury.

Growing up in 1960s New Zealand, houses were smaller and families bigger. Paradoxically, overcrowding and child poverty weren’t a major issue. Most families had two parents and many could even afford a stay-at-home mum. A very small percentage of families experienced financial hardship associated with an absent father.

What changed?

In 1973, influenced by the Royal Commission on Social Policy’s urgings, the government introduced a statutory benefit for sole parents regardless of the reason for their single parenthood. In the following 20 years unmarried births with no resident father more than quadrupled from around 2,500 to 12,000 – 22% of all births – annually. The relatively generous DPB saw single mums dropping out of the workforce. (The Royal New Zealand Plunket Society partially attributes this development to the eventual non-viability of Karitane hospitals which had provided live-in employment for unmarried mothers.)

These births accumulated in the statistics. By the early 1990s around a quarter of a million (mostly) mothers and children were dependent on the state for their survival. But the benefit still kept them above the poverty threshold.

When the incoming National government of 1990 opened Treasury books, the news was bad. This is where the authors ofChild Poverty in New Zealand¬†pick their story up. They describe “benefit cuts of between 10 percent and 30 percent for many beneficiaries supporting children.” In fact, for a lone parent with one child, the cut was 10.7%;¬†for those with two, 8.9 percent. The universal family benefit was abolished, but half of the savings were reallocated into increasing Family Support for beneficiaries and low-income families.

Nevertheless, the drop in income was enough to push beneficiary households below the poverty threshold (though they had probably been barely over it prior). Compounding this was the high number of partnered jobless parents created by an unemployment rate exceeding 11 percent in 1992. From that time the proportion of children in poverty, measured at below 60 percent of median disposable household income after housing costs, has been flat to falling slightly.

Sixty nine percent of children in sole parent households are poor compared to 15 percent in two parent families. Today, a lone parent heads around 30 percent of all families with dependent children.¬†Long-term¬†dependent sole parent families aren’t typically the result of a marriage breakdown. They hail from very young mothers with no educational qualifications, work skills or regular partner.

Every year around one in five new-born babies will be reliant on their caregivers benefit by Christmas. This pattern has persisted from at least 1993. For Maori the number jumps to over one in three. ¬† Add to this Treasury’s advice to the Ministerial Committee on Child Poverty,

“…around 1 in 5 children will spend more than half of their first 14 years in household supported by main benefit. This group is at the highest risk of material hardship and poor outcomes across a range of dimensions‚ÄĚ.

The worrying aspect of this pattern is its persistence through good economic times. In 2007, when New Zealand had record low unemployment, the percentage bottomed at around 19%. Over three quarters will rely on a sole parent benefit, the remainder on either an unemployment or disability benefit. While some of the reliance will be due to unforeseen circumstances like are job redundancy, most could have been predicted by the parent.
In a recent¬†Listener¬†column Jonathan Boston wrote¬†“…it is worth pausing and considering how easy we would find it to raise children under such circumstances.”¬†The same¬†counsel should be put to those people who can actually change the pattern. Though too much emphasis on “personal responsibility” would give less weight to “fairness and compassion” according to the book. Why these societal attributes would be mutually exclusive is unclear. Read more »

Oh no, another of Labour’s mantras of misery destroyed

Labour continues to run a mantra of misery about New Zealand, despite their claims of a positive campaign.

I think they think that if they say it enough it will become a truism rather than the Nasty party reputation they have built.

Unfortunately for them their campaign is built upon problems that are slowly coming right as the economy grows and their mantra of misery is becoming tiresome in teh face of facts.

One area that they have harped on about, inequality is also coming right according to latest reports.

Child poverty has dropped back almost to pre-recession levels, as New Zealanders’ jobs and incomes finally climb out of a five-year downturn.

The Ministry of Social Development’s latest annual report on household incomes says the number of children in households earning below 60 per cent of the median wage fell by 25,000 to 260,000 last year, the lowest number since 2007 when there were 240,000 children in poverty. ¬† Read more »

Clare Curran prepping for pimping the poor

It looks like Clare Curran is recruiting some poor for a pimping the poor story soon about damp houses with flood risk.

pimpingpoor Read more »

Nashy’s pimped poor person makes the news, is a Mob associate and owns a pitbull

The other day Stuart Nash, the Labour candidate for Napier was calling on people from Facebook to contact him regarding an article on poverty for the Hawkes Bay Today.

pimping the poor


And wonder will never cease, today the HB Today has their story pimping the poor.

Solo mum Fleur Mitchell is on the verge of having her power disconnected and losing her house as she struggles to overcome mounting debt.

Ms Mitchell, 37, is a cancer survivor who still requires regular medical attention. She is on an invalids benefit and receives about $500 from WINZ per week.

However, the money isn’t enough to help her weather a spate of bad luck.

Ms Mitchell’s eldest son, Dallas, is studying at EIT to gain a diploma in computer programming.

As there was no room in Ms Mitchell’s Hastings house for Dallas, he is living in a rented cabin on the property.

Dallas wasn’t eligible for a student allowance because he technically lived at home. As a result, he has racked up more than $9000 in debt, which was discouraging him from continuing his tertiary study.

“This debt. It’s just killing him and it’s killing me, too,” Ms Mitchell said.

“Where is the help for people like us?”

Ms Mitchell’s youngest son, Oliver, had been gifted a $600 custom scooter by his grandparents.

Oliver’s scooter was stolen from outside Hastings Countdown last week.

After Ms Mitchell posted about the scooter on Facebook, Hastings District Council’s iWay programme donated Oliver a new scooter this week.

Ms Mitchell said she was extremely grateful for iWay’s generosity, but her circumstances remained dire.

Read more »

John Armstrong on the new wave of “fairness”

John Armstrong highlights one of Nationals’s major strategies:

What is noteworthy is that both major parties are starting to eschew the standard practice of targeting assistance only to those who definitely need it.

Universality is back in favour. It is all about getting more political bangs for the taxpayer’s bucks in middle New Zealand.

That is certainly the case with the free doctors’ visits – the joint initiative of Health Minister Tony Ryall and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, who is understood to have argued that measure along with the parental paid leave and the parental tax credit changes be sold to voters as a package.

Labour is unfazed by National’s claim to territory where historically it has made the running. It has piggy-backed on to the Budget, with David Cunliffe calling a press conference last Monday to try to neutralise English’s formal unveiling of his prized surplus on Thursday by reaffirming Labour’s commitment to also run surpluses in government.

He also tried to shift the economic debate by setting a target for his party of cutting unemployment from the current 6 per cent to 4 per cent by the end of its first term.

The Labour leader’s gambit failed to get much traction, but the jobless are another means for him to stoke the debate on economic inequality, one area where polls indicate that voters do not believe National’s assurances that the gap between rich and poor is not widening .

By providing an even hand and the perception of allowing everyone a fair suck of the sav, National is avoiding the pitfalls of being seen to micro manage the edge cases. ¬†It appeals to our innate sense of fair play. ¬† Read more »

Debunking the myth that poor will fail at school

The NZEI and PPTA aren’t going to like this news, neither are the naysayers in the Labour party, who all claim that it is poverty that is holding kids back educationally.

That, it turns out, is a myth.

There is nothing inevitable about the weaker academic performance of poorer pupils, says an analysis of Pisa tests by the OECD’s Andreas Schleicher.

Mr Schleicher, who runs the tests, says the high results of deprived pupils in some Asian countries shows what poor pupils in the UK could achieve.

The most disadvantaged pupils in Shanghai match the maths test results of wealthy pupils in the UK.

Mr Schleicher says it “debunks the myth that poverty is destiny”.

On Monday, Education Secretary Michael Gove said individual schools in England should take Pisa tests, so that they could compare themselves against international standards.

The latest Pisa – Programme for International Student Assessment – test results were published last year by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, ranking developed countries in terms of how well 15-year-olds performed in tests in reading, maths and science. ¬† Read more »