Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Can't see the jobs.

Paula Bennet got called a hypocrite yesterday, for taking an axe to the welfare system that she took full advantage of as a solo mum. Her defence appears to have been two pronged, that the world is a different place now than it was 17 years ago when she took advantage of it and that she was forced onto the benefit after becoming exhausted from working two part time jobs. I'll give her the first one, the world is indeed a different place now. Largely, I suspect because people like her and her colleagues have decided that user pays is the way to go. The second part though? Seriously, of the hard core money grubbing national supporters out there, how many would tell a single mum exhausted from working two jobs to shut up, get back to work and to stop living on unwarranted handouts because it was her choice to have a kid and the state shouldn't have to pay for it. Very few I imagine. Though I would also lay a modicum of blame for this sort of thing at the feet of the soft core National supporters at the last election as well.

The major problem that I see with these welfare and housing reforms is that they are based on the assumption that jobs are plentiful. There's a piece in last weeks listener (I can't link to it sorry, it's behind a pay-wall) where Bill English justifies cutting housing support on the basis that low rents provide an incentive for low income earners to not get better paying jobs, thus trapping them in a low income rut. A point of view I can't help but find head bangingly stupid. Low rent is not going to stop a low income earner from taking a better paid job. losing a rent subsidy might mean that they would get as much benefit as one would immediately think, but they would be better off. A better paid job that doesn't cover a rent a rent subsidy is not that much of a better paid job. What I believe is stopping low income workers from taking better paid jobs is that there are very few of them around. I spent a bit of time on the benefit last year, I spent time talking to case managers who had numerous jobs (and not even particularly good jobs) that were getting hundreds of applicants. I could understand benefit and housing reforms if there was a huge job creation push running alongside at the same time. There isn't though, which makes this outright punishment of the poor for being poor. I'd go so far as to say that it also means that charges of hypocrisy against Bennett and John "I grew up in a state house" Key are not entirely unjustified.

Brian Rudman can see it. I can see it. Why can't our government see it? I'm guessing they don't want to see it.

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