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Budget 2013: Child poverty, food in schools, and National’s response

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Maria and the children of the poor - "Metropolis" (1927)

Maria and the children of the poor – “Metropolis” (1927)

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There is a problem with National’s response to child poverty and meals in schools…

First, to re-cap, there was no announcement made in the Budget on 16 May regarding meals in schools,

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Key tight-lipped on food in schools

Acknowledgment: Fairfax Media – Key tight-lipped on food in schools

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Finance Minister Bill English was adamant that any announcement would be  weeks away,

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food in schools

Acknowledgment: NewstalkZB – Budget 2013: No food in schools programme

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Interestingly, whilst National is luke-warm on the idea of feeding hungry children in our schools, they have little  hesitation in throwing our tax-dollars at private, profit-making businesses such as Charter Schools. What next – state subsidies for farmers to produce fatty sheep meat and a butter mountain?

National – the self-professed champion of the free market – throwing taxpayer’s money at private enterprises?

Regarding food in schools, Bill English had this to say about the subject on Maori TV’s Native Affairs last night (20 May),

Mihingarangi Forbes prefaced the interview by reminding viewers of a statement made by John Key with he was leader of the Opposition in 2007,

MIHINGARANGI  FORBES: ” [John Key]… from the Opposition benches, promised, a Food In Schools programme.  Back then he said he wouldn’t wait because “kiwi kids deserved better (see: National launches its Food in Schools programme). So earlier today I asked Bill English why, after six years, thousands of  kids still wait.”

BILL ENGLISH:   “[…] but I think we should keep it in perspective. In the budget there was a wide ranges of measures that are going to have a positive  impact on the complicated problem of children and families who suffer from  persistant  disadvantage.”

MIHINGARANGI  FORBES: “Can I ask, do you personally support, believe that central government should be providing food for children?”

BILL ENGLISH:   “I think we have to deal with the reality that children turn up to school unable to eat, we believe that it’s parent’s respons-,  unable to learn.We believe it’s parent’s responsibility to feed their children. And I think we would find that where children are turning up hungry, there’s probably any number of other issues in the life of that family that are difficult and need resolving. But we need these kids to learn, we can’t punish them for the circumstances that  they’re born into or living in and so that’s why we support feeding them so they can learn.”

When asked when National would implement a plan,  Mihingarangi reminded English that Key had stated that it  was just a “couple of sleeps away”, he responded,

BILL ENGLISH:  “Well, look, I think you should just wait for the announcements in a couple of weeks.”

Acknowledgment: Maori TV – Native Affairs (20 May 2013)

So what is  the  problem with National’s response to child poverty and meals in school that I referred to above?

Firstly the Nats appear to having some kind of internal crisis on this issue – leading to Bill English   delaying any announcement for two weeks after the Budget was released.  (Some have suggested that there is a ‘power struggle’ going on behind the scenes in Cabinet? It has been suggested that an announcement was going to be made on Budget Day – but was pulled at the last minute.)

But the real problem of any food-in-schools programme?

National has not budgetted for it.

The Mana Party “Feed the Kids” Bill is estimated to cost $100 million to implement (see: Mana Party – Fact Sheet). Any plan from National – unless it is half-hearted and watered down – will also require considerable resourcing.

Where is National’s Budget allocation for implementing any meaningful food in schools programme?

There does not appear to be any.

As National continues to dither and delay on this problem (I refuse to call it an “issue”), there is a feeling of  growing dread within me that National ministers are going to deliver the biggest cop-out to the country since… whenever.

No food, no money, no solutions.

Message to John Key & Bill English

Prove me wrong.

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Leaving the Rich untouched

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References

Mana Party: A MANA Analysis of the 2013 Budget:  Increasing Poverty, Not Reducing Poverty

Scoop: National launches its Food in Schools programme ()

Radio NZ: Labour criticises ‘funny money assumptions’ on surplus (20 May 2013)

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Budget 2013: petrol taxes

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National is not going to be raising GST. National wants to cut taxes not raise taxes.” – So saith Dear Leader at a 2008 press conference. (see: Key ‘no GST rise’ video emerges)

Sure enough, in April 2009 and October 2010, National cut taxes.

As Key said in 2009,

“…The tax cuts we have delivered today will inject an extra $1 billion into the economy over the coming year, thereby helping to stimulate the economy during this recession. More important, over the longer term these tax cuts will reward hard work and help to encourage people to invest in their own skills, in order to earn and keep more money.”

Source: NZ Parliament -Tax Cuts—Implementation

Bill English and Peter Dunne issued a joint statement in 2010, which said, in part,

“Lower personal tax rates reward effort and give people an increased incentive to up-skill, develop new products and services, and get ahead under their own steam. This has strong benefits for the economy…

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… A person on the average annual wage of about $50,000 will get a weekly income tax cut of about $29 a week. Even after the increase in GST is taken into account they are more than $15 a week better off if they are paying an average rent or mortgage.”

Source: Beehive.govt.nz – Fact sheet – Personal tax cuts

Except… it was jiggery-pokery, and with a sleight-of-hand trick, National recouped much of the tax cuts by raising taxes elsewhere.

2010

– GST was raised from 12.5% to 15% – despite Key promising in 2008 that it would not be increased. (see: Key denies ‘flip flop’ over GST increase)

– tax increases for property investors (see: BUDGET RELEASE: Property tax changes increase fairness)

2011

– Cuts to Working for Families and increase in Kiwisaver payments (see: Budget 2011: Battlers asked to give back)

– Tax exemption removed for employer contributions and halving of  member tax credit (see: Experts stunned by KiwiSaver tax grab)

2012

– Children earning less than $2,340 per year to be taxed. (see: Young workers out of pocket)

– National announces Road User Charges to increase (see: Petrol, road charges hikes are ‘bad news‘)

– Student loan repayment rate increased to 12% (see: Budget 2012: The main points)

– Prescription items increased from $3 to $5 each (see: Budget 2012: The main points)

– Holiday home tax deductions cut (see: Budget 2012: The main points)

– Three tax credits dumped (see: Budget 2012: The main points)

2013

– 3 cents per litre increase in the price of petrol (see: Govt to hike petrol taxes and road user charges 9 cents over three years)

2014

– 3 cents per litre increase in the price of petrol

2015

– 3 cents per litre increase in the price of petrol

 

The up-shot?

  1. National pretends to be the Party of low taxes. It is not.
  2. National won an election in 2008 on promises of low taxation. It lied.
  3. National’s tax cuts benefit the top 1% whilst increases in other covert-taxation has less impact on them. This is true.

Moral of this story #1;

When National promises tax cuts, ask yourself,

  • Who pays?
  • What other taxes will be quietly  increased?
  • Who really benefits?

Moral of this story #2;

When Labour, The Greens, and Mana promise a new tax – eg; Capital Gains Tax – at least you know what you’re voting for.

Moral of this story #3;

On a scale of 1 to 10 – one being the most world-wise and street wise person on the planet, and 10 being that you hold shares in the Wellington Harbour Bridge – how gullible are National voters?

Just something to remember next time you’re filling up your car.

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Young workers out of pocket

Acknowledgment: Fairfax Media – Young workers out of pocket

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Budget 2013: Student debt, politicians, and “social contracts”

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budget 2013 - education - tertiary education - student debt

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The problem of student debt – now at over $13 bllion – continues to be a thorn in the side of successive governments. Labour tinkered with it by cancelling interest whilst student were studying; National has taken a ‘stick’ to the problem  by threating to arrest so-called “loan defaulters” if they dare return to New Zealand.

If National’s aim was to force New Zealanders to stay overseas and never return, it’s a fantastically clever plan. No one in their right mind would come back to New Zealand if they faced a risk of arrest.

Even conservative media have jumped into the fray with this anonymously written editorial in today’s (20 May) Dominion Post,

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Dominion Post Editorial Loan defaulters break 'social contract'

Acknowledgment: Dominion Post – Editorial – Loan defaulters break ‘social contract’

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Part of the unattributed (are editorial writers so frightened of public back-lash?) editorial stated,

“After all, if the people concerned had a low income and found it genuinely hard to repay, they were free to argue the point and try to make a deal with the tax-gatherer. Others could easily repay their loans but simply ignored the Government’s inquiries.

Those who have refused to do anything now face the threat of the bailiffs and, if they persist, of arrest. It’s hard to know what else the Government could do. Those who refuse to respond are breaking the social contract.

Students, after all, do not pay the full cost of their tertiary education. Even with the loans, they are being subsidised by the taxpayer. In return for that aid, however, they must make a contribution themselves.”

Acknowledgment: IBID

This demanded a response to the anonymous author of that piece;

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from:     Frank M <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to:     Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date:     Mon, May 20, 2013 at 12:03 PM
subject:     Letter to the editor

 

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The Editor
DOMINION POST

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In your editorial, “Loan defaulters break ‘social contract”you state, “Those who have refused to do anything now face the threat of the bailiffs and, if they persist, of arrest… Those who refuse to respond are breaking the social contract.” (20 May)

There is no such “social contract”.

The original social contract was for taxpayers to fund education; allow students to graduate without massive debt; get into good careers;  earn good salaries, and then pay it forward for the next generation to gain a free education.

That was the social contract.

And considering the numbers of politicians who got a free education in the 1970s and 1980s (John Key, Steven Joyce, Peter Dunne, Judith Collins, Bill English, Nick Smith, et al), it worked very nicely for them.

How much have they paid paid of their tertiary education?

Not one bean, I’ll wager.

Perhaps Key and English should set an example and make a “contribution” (plus interest for delayed payment) for the free tertiary education that was paid by taxpayers at the time.

It’s called leading by example.

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-Frank Macskasy

(address & phone number supplied)

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Previous Related Blogposts

Budget 2013: How NOT to deal with Student loan defaulters

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Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

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state housing new zealand

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Housing NZ Current waiting list

As at 30 April 2013 there were 4,568 people on the waiting list. Of this:

  • 1,172 were Priority Eligible – A

  • 2,207 were Priority Eligible – B

  • 728 were C (assessed before 30 June 2011)

  • 461 were D (assessed before 30 June 2011)

Acknowledgment: Housing NZ – Waiting list

Some facts;

  1. As at 30 April this year, Housing NZ had 3,379 people on it’s Category A and B waiting lists (Categories C and D are so low priority that their chances of getting into a state house are next to nil). (see:  IBID)
  2. According to Housing NZ, they had 69,400 properties in the 2011/12 financial year (see: HNZ –Addressing housing demand).  This has probably reduced significantly as many rental properties – such as in Pomare, Lower Hutt – were demolished in June 2011 (see: Pomare housing demolition begins).
  3. Child poverty in New Zealand has increased;
    In 2006/07 230,000, or 22 percent, of New Zealand children were still living in poverty. That is, in households with incomes below the 60 percent median income poverty line, after taking housing costs into account. This is more than the entire population of North Shore City (205,605) or the Manawatu-Wanganui region (222,423) and means one adult and one child were living on $430 a week before housing costs. (see:  Brief Statistics on Child Poverty in New Zealand 2004-2008)By 2011/12, approximately 270,000, or 25%, of New Zealand children were living in poverty. (see: Solutions to Child Poverty)
  4.  A recent UNICEF report placed New Zealand amongst the worst in developed countries for child wellbeing, ranking us 25th out of 34 developed countries.  We are  now behind Australia and Britain also for homicide rates, child health, and safety.  (See: NZ ranked poorly on child welfare)

In the past, one of the principle means by which  New Zealand has attempted to ameliorate the  destructive effects of poverty is for the provision of State housing, where tenants pay 25% of their household’s net income (See:  HNZ –Income-related rent)

For thousand of low-income New Zealanders, this has meant the difference between this,

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state house new zealand nz

Acknowledgment: NZ History Online – Inside a state house

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Or this,

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homelessWoman

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Unfortunately, too many New Zealanders have a narrow view of life and society in general, and cannot accept that in a civilised society there is a dire need for the State to provide housing for those who cannot manage, or, have fallen on hard times – especially during the Global Financial Crisis. But that need exists, and it is the price we pay for living in a decent society where beggars do not line the streets.

Even those who grudingly admit that social housing is a necessity still  hold to the belief that State housing is for “short term emergencies”, and not for any longer period.

This writer thoroughly disagrees and disputes that notion.

The principle of  housing is not just to provide a roof  over people’s heads and give them warm shelter from cold and rain.

Social housing – as the name ‘social‘ implies – is  where those on the lower socio-economic scale (ie, the poor)  can  create communities; offer mutual support; perhaps grow food for themselves in their backyards; and where children can put down roots and attend their local school on a steady, uninterupted basis.

The last thing we need now is those on low incomes (or vulnerable in other ways) being evicted from their state homes and  forced into a life of transience – or trapped in high-cost rental accomodation, leaving little aside for food, medicines, clothing, etc.

This is precisely what National appears to be planning;

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State tenants face 'high need' review

Acknowledgment: State tenants face ‘high need’ review

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National’s 2013 Budget proposes;

Reviews of state housing tenants will be phased in from next year. Housing New Zealand estimates the reviews will lead to 1000 tenants moving out of state houses in 2015-16 and a further 2000 in 2016-17. About 10,000 tenants are already subject to reviews, if they signed an agreement after July 2011.

Assessment for housing will also be carried out by the Ministry of Social Development and integrated with other services.

Acknowledgment: IBID

Bill English described it with words that belied the misery that such a policy could create,

It can become a trap for those whose circumstances could improve.  We want to ensure people are in the most appropriate houses for them.

We will be looking at when tenants’ circumstances change and when they no longer have higher needs and will help to move them into other housing.”

Acknowledgment: Budget 2013: All state house tenancies to be reviewed

Only a Tory who has never know deprivation, hunger, and hopelessness could call a decent chance for a warm home as a “trap”.

It’s the same weasel words that National uses for welfare payments that can put food in unemployed person’s belly.

It’s not a “trap” – it’s a lifeline for survival.

English refers to “moving tenants into other housing“.

What housing? There is a critical shortage of low-cost rental housing in this country.

Moving a tenant on a low or fixed income into a $300-$400/week rental will achieve nothing except push the poor further into poverty.

It will also inevitably  increase transience, as tenants fall behind in market rents and have to move on a regular basis. This uproots children from their school.

And it eventually leads to shocking incidents like this;

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child poverty - social housing

Acknowledgment:  CYF lost track of neglected children

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Welfare minister, Paula Bennett acknowledged the obvious,

Because of the family’s transience, living in a number of regions, I am unable to give detailed information and an actual number [of social worker visits] at this time.

What I can say is there has been previous Child, Youth and Family involvement and notifications over many years, but Child, Youth and Family was unaware that they were at that [Lower Hutt] residence until January 4, when the police were involved.”

Acknowledgment: IBID

So, let’s be clear about this: forcing low income people from their homes is a pointless excercise in futility that achieves nothing except exacerbate poverty.

It creates unnecessary stress in already stressed families.

We will see ghastly consequences of families pushed further into poverty and unable to cope with financial pressures.

And, as usual, it will be the children who suffer the most.

All for what? What possible purpose or benefit is there in pushing people out of their homes and out of their local community?

Remember the stats above?

As at 30 April 2013 there were 4,568 people on the waiting list. Of this:

  • 1,172 were Priority Eligible – A

  • 2,207 were Priority Eligible – B

National has never been a Party to promote  socially proactive programmes. At best they tolerate what Labour governments have built up over decades (like social housing).

The waiting list – 3,379 people on it’s Category A and B waiting lists – is obviously an embarressment to National ministers.

But instead of building an extra 3,400 houses or flats (which is doable), National has tackled the waiting list in a novel way; displace existing tenants into private accomodation, and re-tenant with those 3,379 in Caregories A and B.

It is a cynical manipulation of people’s lives so National ministers can, at next year’s election, claim that they have “eliminated” the state housing waiting list.

A “revolving door” of poor tenants is National’s cunning plan to solve the state housing shortage.

In the meantime, we will see more and more stories like this in our media,

The parents, a 25-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman, have pleaded guilty to failing to provide medical care, food and nutrition to the children, aged 4, 3, 2, and 7 months.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said in Parliament yesterday that her staff had been aware of the family for many years, but the agency lost track of them when they moved from Whanganui towards the end of last year.

Acknowledgment: CYF lost track of neglected children

A Message to John Key & other National clowns

In an op-ed piece in the Dominion Post on  17 May, former-Labour President, Mike Williams wrote that National policies – especially relating to poverty and housing – would hand “the Labour Party a golden opportunity to win the general election next year“. (see  Budget: Stirring state house voters)

Williams further stated,

Budget 2013 gives a very large group who don’t turn out to vote on a regular basis a very good reason to cast their ballots next year. These are state house tenants.

What we all know is that there are just under 70,000 state rental houses in this country. What Labour discovered in 2004 was that there are between three and four enrolled voters per household and that a large majority of these potential electors do not bother to cast a ballot on a regular basis.

The threat to state house tenants planned for election year by National is a gift to Labour in a tight contest. Nearly everyone in a state house will have their tenancy reviewed and 10 per cent of these people will be moved on. That nice Mr Key has grown teeth.

On September 17, 2005, Don Brash was denied victory at the last moment by increased participation in South and West Auckland, north Wellington and east Christchurch – just where you find lots of state houses.

Acknowledgment: IBID

A bit of simple arithmetic: nearly 70,000 state homes times three or four enrolled voters per household equals 210,000 voters (conservative estimate).

Considering that the 2011 election yielded the following voting results,

National: 1,058,638

Labour: 614,936

Greens: 247,370

Add 200,000 votes to Labour and the Greens – and National will be  out of office. And Key is out of a job.

Make no mistake, Mr Key; Labour, the Greens, and Mana will work in concert to target every single state house and flat  at the next election.  Every person will be made aware of National’s intentions. Every single state house tenant will be warned that their continuing tenancy will depend on National being voted out of office.

National has just made 200,000 new enemies.

Nicely done, Mr English – a political suicide note dressed up as a “budget”.

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References

Fairfax Media: Parents accused of neglecting kids (11 Jan 2013)

Fairfax Media: Neglected kids back home in days (15 May 2013)

Fairfax Media: CYF lost track of neglected children (16 May 2013)

NZ Herald:  Budget 2013: All state house tenancies to be reviewed (16 May 2013)

Dominion Post: State tenants face ‘high need’ review (17 May 2013)

Dominion Post: Budget: Stirring state house voters (17 May 2013)

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Previous related blogposts

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Budget 2013: Suffer the little children… to starve

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Emmerson insects meals in schools

See:  UN urges: Eat more insects! (Seriously)

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As the growing crisis of child poverty continues to dominate the country’s attention (and so it damn well should!), National  raised  expectations by dropping  more than a few  hints,

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Poverty, housing key Budget features

Acknowledgment:  Poverty, housing key Budget features

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But National’s 2013 Budget yielded no real  solutions to the growing problem of hungry children in our schools.

With 275,000 children living in poverty, John Key and Bill English could not come up with any initiatives to combat this shameful problem,

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child poverty - hungry children - budget 2013 - bill english - john key

Acknowledgment: Key tight-lipped on food in schools

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Key’s response was that  feeding children was an important issue but was also “somewhat the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff“.

I’m sure that hungry kids in schools throughout the country will understand that  this rotten government (aided and abetted by John Banks and Peter Dunne) refuses to offer even a simple bowl of weetbix and milk or toast and butter because – god forbid – it might be an “ambulance at the bottom of the cliff“.

Using such logic, we should offer not offer any medical assistance to half the people in our hospitals. Many are suffering from obesity-related diseases; cancers caused by tobacco use; alcohol-abuse related injuries or diseases; etc.

Are we prepared as a nation to bar people from hospital just in case they contributed to their own misfortune?

Before anyone thinks we should, they may want to review their own lifestyle before passing judgement on others.

Meanwhile, our well-paid and well-fed (courtesy of tax-payers) elected leaders were doing very nicely for themselves at post-budget events,

As Prime Minister John Key and Finance Minister Bill English tucked into post-Budget meals, they kept their mouths closed over the Food in Schools programme.

Providing breakfast and lunch to needy kids was discussed as part of the Government’s plan to tackle child poverty, but the details weren’t included in yesterday’s Budget.

The programme was expected to involve extensive partnership with companies and community groups already involved in providing food to hungry students.

Following a post-Budget breakfast of bacon and a chocolate muffin, English today said an announcement would be made in the next couple of weeks.

Acknowledgment: IBID

Well, I think we can all be relieved about one thing. At least our beloved politicians are eating well.

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John Key - no starving children here

Acknowledgment: Getty Images

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A Conversation with  JONS  (Judgemental & Opinionated National Supporter),

Frank: “We have a real problem in this country with children going to school hungry and without food.”

JONS: “It’s the parent’s responsibility to feed their kids. They need to lay of the booze and baccy!”

Frank: “Only a minority are wasting their money on alcohol and tobacco. For many families, there’s just not enough left over from a minimum wage of $500 a week Especially after $300 in rent or mortgage, $50 for electicity, plus phone, plus medication, plus car costs, etc are all taken out.”

JONS: “So, they shouldn’t have kids then!”

Frank: “Really? So only those on higher incomes should have children?”

JONS: “Yeah. Can’t afford’em, don’t breed’em.”

Frank: “Is that the kind of society you want to live  in? That parents who earn below a certain income shouldn’t have kids?”

“JONS: “Sure.”

Frank: “Ok. So let’s extrapolate from that. Let’s say it takes a household with children about $70,000 a year to live on.

Does that sound about right?”

JONS: “Yeah, sure.”

Frank: “Ok, In the year ended December 2011, there were 61,403 (live) births in New Zealand”

JONS: “Ok…”

Frank: “The number of households with kids in New Zealand earning over $70,000 is 26%.

26% of 61,403 is about 15,965…

So if only families who earn $70 grand or over can have kids, the next question is; who is going to pay for the superannuation for a couple of million baby boomers in retirement? Because 15,965 children growing up into tax-paying adults is not going to be enough  to pay the superannuation bill, is it, JONS?”

JONS: “Ummm…”

That’s right, my dear National supporters. You can put aside your blind prejudice against the poor. The kids that are hungry at school today, are the future taxpayers of tomorrow. They will be the ones paying for our retirement.

So we better take damn good care of them, eh?

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Previous related blogpost

Why Peter Dunne won’t “Feed the Kids”

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Citizen A: With Martyn Bradbury, Keith Locke & Matthew Hooton

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– Citizen A –

 – 16 May 2013 –


Keith Locke & Matthew Hooton –

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Citizen A: With Martyn Bradbury, Keith Locke & Matthew Hooton discuss the following issues:

  • Budget 2013, what should the Government spend money on?
  • How good is John Key’s poker face when dealing the Sky City Convention Centre deal?
  • Was the Aaron Gilmore fiasco an engineered distraction?

For in-depth analysis of this broadcast, go to The Daily Blog and see  Was Aaron Gilmore an inside political hit job?

Citizen A screens on Face TV, 7.30pm Thursday nights on Sky 89


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Acknowledgement (republished with kind permission)

The Daily Blog

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