Unbreaking news: Poverty [update 8]
Unbreaking news, i.e., news that never changes:
UPDATE: 23 percent of NZ babies born in 2010 were reliant on a benefit by the end of that year. In April this year, NZ children reliant on the DPB numbered 180,845--75% of them, around 135,600, living below the poverty line. If the Child Poverty Action Group is to be believed, as recently as 2008 (before the Great Financial Crisis began) at least one in five children in New Zealand was living in poverty while 185,000 were living with severe or significant hardship. Things now are, presumably, much worse. “The underclass is still growing,” admits the PM.
It’s said “The poor will always be with us.” Why?
It’s not like there hasn’t been plenty of money, yours and mine, thrown at the problem. Welfare, including Super, accounts for one third of government expenditure. In 2006 Treasury forecast welfare expenses in 2010 would be $18.975 billion. They under-forecast by over $2 billion.
If all of the expenditure that relates to working age welfare is totalled the sum last year was $9.379 billion. Divide that by the number of working age beneficiaries at June 2010, 300,000, to get an average sum of $28,165… Now I know I am labouring a point here but an average income of $519 per week does not describe abject poverty.
We have more people on benefits now that at any time in the country's history, more than 330,000 of them (largely due to the Welfare for Working Families package, which has suckered many middle class families into becoming beneficiaries). The welfare state, which was going to solve poverty, is bigger than it has ever been before. It has been spending like there’s no tomorrow now for decades, and it obviously hasn't solved poverty at all.
Not, at least, as poverty is defined by the advocates of the welfare state.
What's to be done? Beats the hell out of Paula Bennett, who massages new figures and re-announces old policies while judging her success by the extent her department keeps out of the headlines. Beats the hell out of Labour spokesthings who, under their previous watch, increased both the numbers on welfare and numbers under the “poverty line.” It beats the hell out of the Child Poverty Action Group themselves, who tell us every year (against everything history and research should tell them) that all we need to do to beat poverty is to raise benefits; it beats the hell out of alleged economist Susan St John, who (with a straight face) continues to blames the problem on policies that "promote paid work as a way out of poverty" which are, she says, "a major reason for the widening gap between rich and poor"; and it sure beats the hell out of the rest of the poverty industry who've been fighting this “War On Poverty” since Methusaleh was born, yet after all that time they still find the scoreboard against them.
Shouldn't they be asking themselves some serious questions about now? Or are the poverty industry and the politicians happy to accept that "the poor are always with us" simply because they're convenient voting fodder to keep the same old game going on.
Seventy years of just giving people more money has not made things better, it's made them worse. In the last ten years alone around $180 billion has been taken from taxpayers and spent in a war on poverty, that's one-hundred and eighty billion dollars on a war that no one is winning; not the government, not the taxpayer, not the 200-330,000 or so who've been the targets of this war over the last ten years.
That's $180,000,000,000 in ten years -- enough to have given every beneficiary in the country a massive half-million dollars each each to start their own war on poverty, and it still hasn't worked. And it won't. It never will. To paraphrase PJ O'Rourke,
the spending of this truly vast amount of money -- an amount more than half again the nation's entire gross national product in 2001 -- has left everybody just sitting around slack-jawed and dumbstruck, staring into the maw of that most extraordinary paradox: You can't get rid of poverty by giving people money.
When do we realise that government welfare doesn't work, least of all for those who it is supposed to help.
We are all worse off for this war—all worse off except for the politicians, for whom this massive sum spent on cheap lobby fodder amounts to very cheap and efficient vote-buying.
Let's try something else instead.
UPDATE 2: Comment by “Rebecca” at Red Alert:
“In 2006, $1.5 billion of Working for Families tax credits were paid out to 159,000 people. By 2009, this had risen to $2.7 billion paid out to 419,200 people. [Ref: http://www.treasury.govt.nz/budget/2011/fsr/b11-fsr.pdf]
In 2004 Child poverty was 23%. It dropped to 16% in 2007 then increased to 20% in 2008. All despite WFF. Any increases means it is not working. [Ref: http://www.everychildcounts.org.nz/]
There is only one reason for the majority of the poverty in this country: people have more children than they can afford to raise on their own merit.
The minimum wage is a liveable wage for a single person and the average wage most certainly covers the cost of living for the average person.
When people choose to bring children into the equation they choose to bring in children that they will not be able to provide the necessities of life for.
This is wrong….”
UPDATE 3: The poverty excuse is a cop-out – Lindsay Mitchell
UPDATE 4: How Prosperity Generates Poverty – Paul Trescott
“The occupants of the poverty cohort are a very diverse crowd. But there are two substantial components which, in very different ways, are in significant degree larger because the economy is more prosperous.
1. A significant fraction of the … poor are "in transition"… [Those with] a work ethic, look for work, and generally find work. As a result, most of them do not remain poor…
2. A very different component of the poverty cohort consists of the people whom Charles Murray has labeled "the underclass." These are people who make life-style choices which produce almost-certain poverty… The underclass are subsidized in many ways by our prosperous society…”
UPDATE 5: What’s Wrong with the Poverty Numbers – Robert Murphy
“There are dozens of plausible measures of income, each including some factors while excluding others, and differing in the treatment of medical expenses, child-care expenses, and so on. There is really no way to single out one of the measures as “correct,” and that’s the point: If one wants to paint a picture worse than the official statistics, one can construct measures that imply a higher rate of poverty…
”Perhaps our society would experience a tremendous reduction in poverty if only our government would stop spending billions of dollars subsidizing it. Currently the government tells its citizens: “Tell you what. If you agree to make under $10,000 or so a year, we’ll give you a bunch of money and other goodies.” As Murray Rothbard put it, we can have as many poor people as we’re willing to pay for.”
UPDATE 6: The Poverty Hype – Walter Wiliams
“Despite claims that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, poverty is nowhere near the problem it was yesteryear -- at least for those who want to work. Talk about the poor getting poorer tugs at the hearts of decent people and squares nicely with the agenda of big government advocates, but it doesn't square with the facts.”
“Poverty is not a mortgage on the labor of others—misfortune is not a mortgage on achievement—failure is not a mortgage on success—suffering is not a claim check, and its relief is not the goal of existence—man is not a sacrificial animal on anyone’s altar nor for anyone’s cause—life is not one huge hospital.”
- Ayn Rand, “Apollo 11”
“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded -- here and there, now and then -- are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.”
- Robert A. Heinlein