One of the most enduring, irrational, and hateful myths constantly spat our by various right-wingers is that solo-mothers (but never solo-dads) are “breeding for business“. It is a cliche that rolls of the tongue easily; requires no evidence; and ignores simple realities of life such as women who escape violent relationships or are deserted by their partners for the blonde office-colleague.
Whether it is John Key referring to women as “breeding for business“, or anonymous redneck bigots parroting their cliches via on-line fora – solo-mums (but never solo-fathers) make for easy targets. As one ignorant, right-wing bigot said on his blog,
“It seems like a good start but incentives really need to be focused on making it harder for Mums to pop out kids on the DPB and easier if one chooses to be honest with others and themselves and work for a living to support themselves and their family.”
Prejudice requires no justification. It just panders to negative emotion rather than critical thought.
The myth of the “breeding solo mum” (but never “breeding solo dads”) is based on misogyny and enduring patriarchal punitive attitudes.
After all, when is the last time solo-fathers were targeted by right wing bloggers; beneficiariary bashers; or this government. Answer – practically never. If ever.
Equally pernicious is the right wing blogger, commentator, or self-proclaimed “expert”, who mis-uses statistics to prove their point, but which, upon closer analysis, debunks their case entirely.
The rationale for prejudice is fairly simple.
It absolves right-wing governments from adopting constructive, but costly policies such as the Training Incentive Allowance, which allow solo-parents (mums and dads) to gain an education and re-enter the workforce when family committments allow. This is how the current Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett, obtained her university degree – the Training Incentive Allowance.
In July 2009, Bennett scrapped the allowance altogether. And when two solo-mothers criticised Bennett’s actions, the Social Welfare Minister reacted with the full power of the State at her finger-tips, and released their personal details to the media. It was a frightening, sickening, display of abuse of State power unseen since Rob Muldoon’s reign of fear.
Three years later, despite the Director of the Office of Human Rights Proceedings, Robert Hesketh, upholding a complaint again Bennett, the Minister was unrepentant and said she would do the same thing again after “taking advice”.
Two years ago, as the economy stagnated and unemployment soared to 7.3%, National ramped up it’s brutal and destructive campaign against those on welfare. Key and his cronies needed a scapegoat to deflect public attention from daily bad headlines, and welfare beneficiaries were targetted.
Bennett launched a public campaign advocating that solo-mothers and their daughters should be “encouraged” to take contraception. National and ACT both supported this draconian, Daddy State policy.
For two erstwhile liberal parties committed to getting government out of peoples’ lives, they were very, very keen to get into the bedrooms of women.
But not middle-class women who were either independent via employment or a part of their (male) partner’s hegemony. This was directed at women who were single, poor, abandoned, and reliant on State support. In other words, vulnerable women.
And as we all know, bullies, rapists, misogynists, etc, prefer their intended targets to be as vulnerable as possible.
That allows their bodies to be owned and controlled.
So National and it’s lap-dogs, in the form of serial-liar, John Banks, and “Mr Sensible”, Peter Dunne, supported moves to control women’s bodies.
All of which was carried out with the sub-text that solo-mothers (but never solo-fathers, remember) were reckless breeders. “Breeding for business” as John Key put it.
As unemployment skyrocketed to 7.3%, and awkward questions were being asked of National’s economic plans for growth, Bennett was lighting the torches for the mob to ferret out; hunt down; and deal to, women who were “breeding for business“.
Of course Bennett denied that women would be coerced to take contraception;
“It’s not compulsory, it’s just something to add to them trying to plan their family so they’ve got choices. It’s completely reasonable.”
Of course it was not compulsory. It was not meant to be. That was never the point of National’s on-going demonisation of beneficiaries – especially solo-mums (but never…) as a multitude of anti-welfare headlines hit the media in 2012, courtesy of National.
It was all part of National’s covert strategy to divert public, media, and political attention from economic problems confronting this country. National’s hands-off ideology was not working, and a very dramatic distraction was needed. A distraction that jerked all the right visceral responses. A distraction that National’s rightwing sycophants, cronies, and malcontents could pick up and promote.
A distraction that was too much for the powerless to fight back.
Solo-mothers… Reckless “breeders for business“… Young sluts… Dropping babies for cash…
The National Government would sort out these wanton women of loose morals.
Cue; two years later, this recent editorial in the Dominion Post. As far as editorials in a conservative newspaper went, it was quite extraordinary, as it exposed and laid bare National’s manipulative, self-serving policy of vilification against those on welfare. I repost the entire editorial, rather than just the headline and first couple of paragraphs, as I usually do;
The Dominion Post – not normally renowned as the champion of the underdog when it comes to social welfare issues. So for the un-named writer to denounce National with such vehemence speaks volumes that the media was no longer buying into the “bene-bashing” narrative.
What is more, ACT’s latest leader, Philosopher/Libertarian, Jamie Whyte – in response to a point made by Green Party co-leader, Russell Norman – let slip on TV3’s The Nation on 10 May;
“Do you really think people only have children because you flick them a few bucks?”
.Oh, really, Mr Whyte?
So people do not have children just “because you flick them a few bucks”?
Money is not a motivator?
Well, bugger me. Who’d’ve thought?!
Of course not. “Breeding for business” is a fiction.
But for certain right-wing politicians, it suits their agendas to demonise the poor; the powerless; and the marginalised.
Fortunately, though, every so often the truth will out.
Thank you, Mr Whyte, for going on the record.
NZ Herald: National takes aim at solo parents on DPB
Political Animal: National’s Welfare “Reform” : Is that it?
Waikato Times: Furious mum rejects ‘bludger’ tag
NZ Herald: Unemployment up to 7.3pc – a 13 year high
Fairfax media: Beneficiary contraception plan ‘intrusive’
NZ Herald: Business NZ sees no economic plan
Dominion Post: Editorial – Dole scheme redundant from start
Previous related blogposts
Above image (slightly altered) acknowledgment: Kirk
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 May 2014.
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A recent Roy Morgan poll had some very disturbing news for National and it’s shrinking support-base;
The poll results;
National: 43% (down 2.5%)
Maori Party: 1.5% (down 0.5%)
ACT NZ: (0.5%, unchanged)
United Future: 0.5% (unchanged)
Conservative Party of NZ: 2.5% (up 1%)
Labour Party: 32% (up 0.5%)
Greens: 13% (down 1%)
Mana Party: 0.5% (up 0.5%)
Internet Party: (0.5%, up 0.5%)
New Zealand First: 5.5% (up 2%)
The polling – which includes phoning respondents on cellphones – shows party/bloc support much more evenly divided than other polls. Any election night result is simply too close to call, and will depend on “wild cards” such as NZ First; how many Maori electorate seats will be won by Mana, at the expense of the Maori Party; and will the Nats cede an electorate seat to the CCCP (Colin Craig’s Conservative Party).
(Despite the closeness of the Left/Right bloc, this blogger still maintains that we will see a change in government post 20 September.)
No doubt all this information was already available to National’s own party strategists, and, rather predictably, they were prepared to distract public attention with Default Strategy #2;
Note the dates on the two stories above; 3 April. Coincidence? Not very likely. All political parties are aware of when Roy Morgan polling results are made public and this particular result would have come as no surprise to National’s back room strategists and spin doctors.
National and Labour both conduct their own internal polling and are acutely aware that public opinion of decided voters is evenly balanced between the Left and Right blocs.
To rebuild flagging public support, the Nats are focused on reclaiming “soft”, low-information, swing voters – especially those susceptible to dog-whistle politics. And you can’t get more “dog whistle” than beating up on welfare beneficiaries, as Bennett did;
“The new rules recognise beneficiaries should be ready and available for work – not prioritising travel. Every day we hear stories of how people cannot live on the benefit. Today you’re hearing that literally thousands can not only live on it but can afford to travel overseas as well.”
This is precisely the despicable tactic used by ex-National leader, Don Brash, during his infamous Orewa Rotary Club Speech in 2004, when he railed against a “government-funded culture of welfare dependency“, “racial separatism in New Zealand“, and the “development of the now entrenched Treaty grievance industry“.
Considering that the Maori Party is one of National’s few remaining coalition partners, and rely on their support for Supply and Confidence, slagging of at Maori and the “entrenched Treaty grievance industry” is a no-go area.
Which leave… beneficiaries. They are the “New Jews” of 21st Century New Zealand – blamed for an alleged “poor work-ethic”; “wasting tax-dollars”; and living the “high life” whilst the rest of us have to work for a crust.
It is noteworthy that, in the main, the mainstream media published Bennett’s media release without question. There was no in-depth analysis by journos wanting to know who these “21,000 beneficiaries” were, or their circumstances. No questions were asked. No delving behind the reported statistics was carried out.
In fact, not one single journalist, newspaper, TV current affairs programme, etc, actually even bothered to report what the unemployment benefit was ($210 per week, net).
Instead, the Herald – which seemed to be the main media outlet for this “story” – published an editorial five days later, supporting and endorsing the official Party Line.
Never since the days of the Soviet state-organs, Pravda, Izveztia, etc, have news media been so utterly and completely compliant as mouth-pieces for government policies, statements, and naked propaganda.
If this is what the msm such as the NZ Herald call “freedom of the press“, then I suggest to them that their much-vaunted independence is a fiction. When government ministers’ media releases are reported almost verbatim, then any pretence of media independence , press freedom, and investigative journalism flies out the window.
Interestingly, when James Coleman on RadioLive interviewed Labour’s Sue Moroney on this issue, he started of by asking;
“Well I wonder how you can afford to travel overseas while on a benefit?”
Unfortunately, except for Julie Moffett on NewstalkZB, who made some effort to present an alternative to the official “Party line”, that line of questioning was not followed through.
Ms Moroney did, however, make this interesting point;
“I think that people will have questions about why there so many people travelling overseas. And I think it tells us a story about how bad the job market is in New Zealand. I think that quite a number of these people, and many of them are travelling to Australia in desperation, because they’ve run out of the opportunity in New Zealand to get a job. They’re sick of sitting on the scrap heap here, and getting rejection letter after rejection letter after rejection letter and are going to Australia and are trying their luck over there instead.”
Ms Moroney’s assertion would seem to be confirmed by Paula Bennett, when she stated,
“Since the changes 4,880 peoples’ benefits were cancelled because they failed to reconnect with Work and Income eight weeks after their departure from New Zealand.”
If someone on an unemployment benefit (now referred to as “Jobseeker”) has left New Zealand for longer than eight weeks, that implies they have left this country for reasons other than a so-called “holiday” or family bereavement. As Sue Moroney suggested, they have left this country for good.
So why not phone WINZ’s 0800 number to inform them that they are travelling overseas?
Anyone who has recently had cause to phone WINZ (0800 559 009) will have their question provided. Waiting to speak to an operator on that line can take anywhere from ten to twenty minutes. Sometimes longer. And there is no guarantee that the information provided by a welfare recipient will be accurately recorded or passed on to the relevant WINZ Branch, or acted on.
This blogger is aware of at least one beneficiary who followed proper procedures to advise WINZ of a change in his/her circumstances – only to have that information disregarded and their benefit cut. Only when WINZ was contacted on subsequent occassions and questions asked why that information (earning an income through a casual job) was not accepted, was the recipient’s benefit eventually reinstated. S/he had done everything right; carried out their obligations; made full disclosures – and was still penalised.
How often is this happening to others?
And if a beneficiary is leaving New Zealand (often paid by loans, friends, or family) to seek work in Australia – why should someone utterly frustrated with the system bother to contact WINZ, which is time-consuming, stressful, and when that information is not always passed on?
Who would bother?
I submit to the reader that most would simply give the one or two fingered salute to this country as they departed.
However, such questionable “statistics” serve this government’s interests very well. They have a ready-made scape-goat to point the finger at – meanwhile distracting the public from the very obvious fact that there are simply not enough jobs to go around for everyone. Certainly not the 170,000 new jobs promised by National in 2011;
In turn, the media has ready-made, simplistic, tabloid-style headlines provided to it on a plate, to sell their advertising.
Whilst the majority (hopefully) of New Zealanders understand that this is red-neck, dog-whistle politicking in action, National need only appeal to one or two percentage points of voters who unquestioningly digest this kind of prejudice – and John Key is assured of a third term in office.
Unemployment is working – for National’s re-election.
A bit of background into Paula Bennett’s life before she came to Parliament…
- Paula Bennet was a solo-mother, at age 17
- Just two years later, she got a Housing Corporation loan to buy a $56,000 house in Taupo.
- All of this while on the domestic purposes benefit.
- Paula Bennet was a recipient of the WINZ Training Incentive Allowance, which she scrapped in 2009
- Paula Bennet obtained her degree at Massey University, through the TIA – a taxpayer-funded benefit
Perhaps I spoke too soon. There appears one journalist willing to buck the National Party Line, it seems. Colin Espiner stands out from the maddened crowd of media sycophants…
NZ Herald: Travelling beneficiaries’ payments cut
Roy Morgan: 3 April 2014 Poll
NZ Herald: National down as NZ First gains
Scoop media: “Nationhood – Don Brash Speech Orewa Rotary Club”
National Party: Benefits cut for 21,000 overseas travellers
Fairfax media: Beneficiary bashing just too easy
Previous related blogposts
Against The Current: Mike Hosking says Bash A Beneficiary Day!
The Daily Blog: Paula Bennett’s racist beneficiary flying hatefest
The Little Pakeha: Wrestling with the narrative
The Standard: Poverty denial – NZ Herald editorial
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 April 2014.
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FROM: "f.macskasy" SUBJECT: Letter to the ed DATE: Sun, 12 Jan 2014 15:56:11 +1300 TO: NZ Herald <email@example.com>
.The Editor NZ Herald . Only 22 people have drug tested positive out of the thousands sent to 8,001 job vacancies which required drug testing, reported David Fisher in his story, "Minister claims low drug result as victory" (11 January). Social Welfare minister, Paula Bennett, says that "It's great so few people failed tests in the first six months of this new policy, that's partly due to the strong signalling effect of this policy where many people reported quitting marijuana use before it was even implemented, but we're also giving people the opportunity get clean before they're tested." Or, as is most likely the case, those who are unemployed are ordinary fellow New Zealanders who've been made redundant since 2008 and the on-going recession, and are no more likely to be using drugs than their fellow workers who've not been made redundant. Redundancy does not automatically lead to drug taking. It seems that National's demand for drug testing welfare beneficiaries stands revealed for what it is - a waste of taxpayer's money that does not create jobs (except in the drug-testing industry, maybe). The policy achieves nothing except cater to the ill-informed - those who are prejudiced against the unemployed and other welfare recipients as a matter of course. It is a form of scape-goating those who cannot fight back against such character slurs. Tellingly, Bennett's office cannot answer simple questions such as how much the drug testing costs; how much it has saved the taxpayer; how many of all the unemployed sent to those 8,001 vacancies were drug tested; nor whether in fact the policy is indeed affecting drug usage at all. Her office simply has no information on these questions. But I have a question for the Minister; when she was on the DPB herself as a solo-mother, how can we - the taxpayer - be reassured that she was not a drug-user and smoked the odd joint or three? Can she reassure us that she did not take drugs? Was she drug tested at the time? If not, why not? . -Frank Macskasy (address & phone number supplied)
NZ Herald: Minister claims low drug result as victory
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