Home > Social Issues, The Body Politic > Child Poverty: Labour on track

Child Poverty: Labour on track

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1. National

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Sad to say, these are the headlines that have  been commonplace in our newspapers for the last few years,

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Youth jobless rate soars to 19.4%

A poverty of ideas

Unemployment ‘alarmingly high’

Warnings for Government in inequality report

Kiwis still flocking across Tasman

Unemployment rises to 6.8 per cent

Agencies fear Govt will chop vital child services

CEO pay packets 9.9pc fatter

New welfare law a ‘war on poor’

Growth slows – GDP up just 0.3pc

Fear of dangerous rift from wealth gap

UN urges Govt reforms to not target beneficiaries

NZ rich-poor gap widens faster than rest of world

Low income households less likely to move up scale – study

Govt has caused ‘incredible shift of wealth’ – CTU

No food, no shoes and kids kept home

Playing politics is not helping kids

Struggling families borrow to buy food

Family struggle on minimum wage

Hungry kids scavenge pig slops

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National’s response to this obscene -but preventable –  crisis  has been,

  • to “reform welfare” (as if welfare needed “reform – which it does not)
  • implement purchase cards to prevent 16 and 17 year old beneficiaries from buying booze and ‘baccy (despite the law already preventing retailers from selling these items to young people)
  • paint unemployed and solo-mums (but never solo dads) as lazy; drug-addicts; criminals; kidnappers, etc.

Even National’s election pledge last year, to create 170,000 new jobs is drowning in a wave of ongoing  redundancies, day after day,

Quite simply, National is struggling to address any of the inter-connected socio-economic problems currently besetting our country.

Why? Because National is trapped in an ideological paradigm of its own making.

National is heavily reliant on The Market delivering jobs – not central government – as John Key and his Party has maintained over the years,

Nothing creates jobs and boosts incomes better than business growth. For New Zealand to build a more productive and competitive economy, we need more innovative companies out there selling their products on the world stage.”

See: Agenda to help Kiwi businesses

Key may have a point. Sort of.

In good times, when the economy is strong, it is mostly business growth that delivers job growth. The two go together, hand in hand, as they did in the early 2000s,

See: Labour shortage holds back growth

See: Skills shortage delays building

See: Skill shortage restrains firms

See: Wellington short of skills

But in bad times, when the economy falters and stagnates, it is the role of central government to step in and take up the slack. It is central government that can implement policies to keep people employed; small to medium businesses turning over; and keep workers off welfare, until the economy picks up.

The alternative is recession; mass unemployment; businesses going under; and people on welfare.

It should be fairly obvious to all  but the most ardent National/ACT  ideologues that society benefits from keeping people in work, rather than allowing them to be made redundant and unemployed. This blogger sees no social good or business gain in permitting high unemployment to blight our society.

National’s abandonment of any responsibility toward actively creating jobs during an economic downturn – as has been ongoing since 2007/08 –  is an indictment on our Prime Minister; his leadership; and his Party’s ineffectual policies.

An ideological faith in the  Marketplace is not a sound basis on which to grow a modern economy and generate new jobs. An ideological faith in the Marketplace is simply grown-ups indulging in  “wishful thinking”.

The result of which is,

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2. Labour

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Problem: child poverty is resulting in children going to schools hungry.

Labour’s solution: feed them.

It’s that simple.

Cost to taxpayers to do this: up to $20 million dollars a year.

Cost of doing nothing (National’s option):  3% of GDP (NZ$5 billion per year)

See: Stop debating and feed the kids, says Shearer

$20 million to fix a problem vs $5 billion to do nothing. Most common sense people would agree that this is a no-brainer. (Hardline National and ACT supporters  would probably opt for the $5 billion cost to our GDP to do nothing,  but then again, extremist National/ACT supporters are not reknowned for common sense.)

The next argument used by the Selfish Mob is, that it’s the fault of parents for not feeding their own kids; that it’s no one else’s responsibility; that they shouldn’t have had kids; stop drinking and smoking, blah, blah, blah.

Which is all simply a way to say, “It’s too big a problem and I don’t want to deal with it”.

Let’s cut to the chase;

  1. It’s not a child’s fault which family they were born into
  2. Not all families are druggies, alkies, smokers, etc. That’s playing the Blame Game, and it is dishonest.
  3. We either spend a few hundred or thousand dollars now, on each child in poverty, or we spend $90,000 per annum on them – when they end up in prison. Your call.

As Shearer said,

I hear people argue that this is the responsibility of parents. We can debate that endlessly, but it won’t change this reality: tomorrow morning kids will still turn up to school hungry.”

See: Stop debating and feed the kids, says Shearer

Labour leader David Shearer has found his mojo and reacquainted himself with Labour’s heritage; caring for people at the bottom of the socio-economic heap, and not just the braying middle classes.

His announcement of a bold plan to feed every child in the bottom Decile 3 schools –  650  primary and intermediate schools – in our country, is gutsy. It flies in the face of the current fad of Individualism and playing the Blame Game which has infected our society since the late 1980s, when Rogernomics decreed with chest-thumping triumph that ‘Greed is Good’.

No more.

Several media reports, political commentators, professional experts, et al,  have stated that child poverty has been increasing in the last 30 years. By ‘coincidence’, Rogernomics and the Cult of the Individual began thirty years ago.

We all know that is no coincidence. It is an unspoken truth that child poverty has increased these last 30 years because of the unforeseen (?) consequences of free market policies; loss of jobs to overseas low-wage economies; de-regulation; undermining of trade unions; seven tax cuts that transferred wealth upwards to the upper- middle class and 1%;  other right wing socio-economic policies, and the pre-emininence of Individual selfishness over Community good.

The consequences were indeed predictable, and a few lone voices like ex-Wigram MP, Jim Anderton, tried warning us where we were heading. (Anderton predicted in the mid 1990s that increased student debt of dentistry students would push up dentistry fees and make oral healthcare unaffordable for many. That prediction has come painfully true. See: Costs of dental care hurting.)

Shearer has promised that a Labour-led government would pledge,

  • One meal a day for every child in a decile 1 to 3 primary or intermediate school. Cost: $3m-$19m a year.
  • Extend Reading Recovery programme to all schools and put 5000 more 6-year-olds on it annually. Cost: $20m a year.
  • Plain English report on schools.
  • No class size increases.

Good stuff. This is  a fine start to un-doing 30 years of neo-liberal damage and to wind back the jungle-like mentality of me-first Individualism.

This blogger supports 100% the concept of meals in schools. And why not? Our cuzzies in Europe, America, and other nations do precisely this. Not only have their societies not collapsed – but their standards of living are measurably  higher than ours.

It is common sense really. Who could say ‘no’? Well, sycophants to National can.

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3.  National

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A cursory check of some commentary opposing Shearer’s announcement is based on costings; where will Labour get the money from?

Interestingly, the same questions are very rarely asked of National, when they engage in big spend-ups on “must have” things.

For example, there seems to be plenty of cash to spend on “consultants”,

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Full story

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Plenty of cash found by National, to spend  on the Rugby World Cup last year,

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Full story

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Plenty of taxpayers’ money on plastic wakas  –  a real “must have”, according to National. Why not spend up $2 million on another Rugby World Cup project? Money seems to be no object when it comes to our national past-time,

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Full story

See previous blogpost: Priorities?

And who can forget this  expensive little fiasco,

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Full story

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National can also spend millions on subsiding businesses  when it suits them;  ETS subsidies for farmers; millions on Ministerial travel; and much more.

It is not so much a matter of whether or not we have enough money to spend on our children, so much as prioritising.

A reader should ask him/herself, what is more important; investing in children and lifting them out of poverty?

Or spending on sports tournaments, Ministerial travel, consultants, business subsidies, etc?

What on Earth can be more important than the children of our nation?! And why the hell am I even asking a question like this in 2012AD?!?!

Once upon a time, even John Key advocated for a Food in Schools programme,

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Full story

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To repeat what  John Key said in 2007,

We all instinctively know that hungry kids aren’t happy and healthy kids.  I want this to be the first of many schools and businesses that we put together.

I’m interested in what works and I am humbled by the support this idea has received already.

We are going to put together the package while in Opposition. We are not waiting to be in Government, because all our kids deserve better.”

What happened to John Key’s wonderful idea (no sarcasm intended)?

Simple. He became Prime Minister. And that was the end of that policy.

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4. Labour

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If  Labour is to be the new government in 2014, it cannot rely simply on National dropping in the polls. There are too many unforeseen events that may work in National’s favour to rebuild their public support.

Shearer and his colleagues must give the Voting Public a new reason to turn away from John Key and look  at Labour instead.

There must be a “brand difference” between National and Labour – something that gives the punters a very real point of difference to consider.

I offer this to Labour’s strategists; the public are starting to sniff the wind blowing from National, and there’s a definite “odour” wafting down  from the Ninth Floor.  Too many things are rotten in the National Party; too many things don’t add up; John Key’s smile and wave has worn thin; and his promises are amounting to nothing.

Even Bennett’s beneficiary bashing is starting to look for what it is; an attempt to deflect public attention from National’s failure to create jobs.

Because despite National’s slavish adherence to free market dogma, even Key  slipped when he admitted,

We agree with you, it’s the government’s responsibility to do everything within it’s powers to try to get people jobs.”

See: Key and Goff Q and A Creating jobs

And they’ve failed miserably.

Which leaves a vacuum.

And as any High School student can tell you; Nature abhors a vacuum.

To the Labour Party I say this, don’t try to be “National lite”.

In fact, don’t even try to be something you’re not. Return to values upon which the New Zealand Labour Party was built.

Stay loyal to those values.  Except for a group in our society  of die-hard self-centered bastards who couldn’t care less about their fellow kiwis,  most New Zealanders are decent, fair-minded, and long for a society that we can be proud of,  because everyone gets a fair go.

If Labour stays confident and loyal to it’s true core values, then it need not pretend to be something it’s not. People will recognise that dedication and there will be no need to try to pander to the lowest common denominator to win votes.

That kind of self-confidence is what will win you votes. Lots and lots of votes.

Labour’s policy on child poverty is where we, as a country, turn the tide on selfish Individualism and the creed of  “Greed is Good”. This is where we start saying that we can do better – but we have to change the road upon which we are travelling.

The road of the free market is leading us into a mire of income disparity; poverty; hopelessness on the part of the Have Nots;  selfishness on the part of the Haves; and a general sense of feeling that… something is not right with this country.

People are leaving New Zealand in droves – but it’s not just the money. This blogger senses a feeling of ‘disconnect’ from many families and young folk departing our shores. It is as if they no longer feel a committment to, or from, this society.

The road to the Free Market has failed.

We need a new road. We can start with feeding the poorest children in our society. Because, goddamit, it we can’t – or won’t – do a simple little thing like that, then we are not a society any more.

As TV3’s Lachlan Forsyth wrote on his blog,

… For too long we, as a country, have done nothing.

If you don’t think the issue of child poverty in New Zealand is a problem, you’re dreaming.

And you’re part of the problem.

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Previous related blogpost

Priorities?

Greed is good?

Additional

Sccop.co.nz: National launches its Food in Schools programme

Radio NZ:  Listen to more from Hekia Parata on Morning Report

Radio NZ:  Feeding school children important for nation – Shearer

NZ Herald: Child poverty costs NZ $10b a year – expert

NZ Herald: Free meal policy good, but more needed: KidsCan

NZ Herald: Blowouts push public Rugby World Cup spending well over $200m

NZ Herald: Illiteracy a yearly $3 billion cost – report

Office of Child Commissioner: Solutions to Child Poverty in New Zealand

Other Blogs

Tumeke: Days after Pagani goes – Labour steps to the left with MANA Party ‘feed the kids’ policy

The Standard: A decent policy

The Dim Post: The Big Lie

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= fs =

  1. 11 September 2012 at 12:02 am

    We can do this.

    And David, while you’re there, you might want to consider doing something about getting their parents a job, and a decent wage too. ‘Cos children don’t go hungry for no reason. Just sayin’.

  2. Paula Fern
    11 September 2012 at 10:45 am

    Hi Frank. Brilliant as usual.

    Just thought I’d share with you something read in the free paper this morning, although this is the full version from ” Backing the Bay”. How National is selling fracking to Hawkes Bay and the East Coast, the promise of jobs and dollar signs. Hopefully the majority see past the short term gain for some to the potential long term suffering for all of contaminated aquifers. Who would set the “strict environmental criteria” I wonder?

    New report shows benefits of ‘second Taranaki’

    31.8.12

     Craig Foss, MP for Tukituki and Chris Tremain, MP for Napier welcomed a new report on the economic benefits of future oil and gas discoveries released by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) yesterday.

     “The report shows benefits of a “second Taranaki” and Chris and I are asking “Could this be the East Coast?” This is exciting stuff for our families and for those looking for job opportunities in the Bay,” said MP for Tukituki Craig Foss

     “New Zealanders want to better understand what benefits development in the sector might bring. This analysis comes at an important time. It provides constructive input into the discussion. The expansion of the sector in a region could bring up to 5,500 new jobs, and stimulates growth in other sectors in that region when the development occurs. This is something we as a region need to think seriously about,” said MP for Napier Chris Tremain.

     “We are in favour of any industry that helps our families by boosting exports, stimulating economic growth, and creating jobs. It would be fantastic if our community could enjoy some of the benefits they’ve had access to for some time in the Taranaki region. However, we are not in favour of oil and gas exploration at any cost. Strict environmental criteria must be satisfied before any company is given permission to carry out oil and gas exploration,” Craig Foss said.

     The Economic contribution and potential of New Zealand’s oil and gas industry report is available from http://www.med.govt.nz

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