Monday, 9 August 2010

Asking the wrong questions

The Welfare Working Group has a discussion document out today (links to what they've released) and it shows they are still asking the wrong questions.

Paula Rebstock and co are very concerned, as the Government asked them to be when the WWG was established, about long term welfare dependency.  They've found, unsurprisingly given their brief and the backgrounds of WWG members, that the welfare system as it stands is out-dated and unsustainable.

Seems to me that they are looking at this the wrong way around.  All of the effort is going in to looking at the supply side of welfare - how people access benefits - as opposed to examining the more useful demand side - why do people need benefits in the first place.

If we look at the why then surely we will find that what is in fact out-dated and unsustainable is our approach to paid work, in particular the way we structure our society to make part time work impractical for many individuals and employers.

Sadly it seems the WWG will continue down the wrong path, and possibly enable this Government to make changes that take us in the wrong direction to resolving these issues.

Update:  For more nuanced analysis, rather than just my grumpiness, Idiot/Savant has excellence


Mikaere Curtis said...

Yeah, we've got a real problem with this government. Although they are naturally doctrinaire and ideologically driven, they are also determined to be populist.

This means that public opinion is an effective tool against them, as long as the MSM decide to deliver messages from both sides of the "debate" (how can you really have a debate with wingnuts who won't even consider the facts ?).

Anyone who was here in the 90s will have pretty strong opinions about the National agenda back then, and similarities can easily be made (unlike last time, when we had no historical precendence to call upon).

Also, Gordon Campbell does a good roundup as well.

Carol said...

Yes, I agree, Julie, the working party is asking the wrong questions. Gareth Morgan was on the Panel with Mora & had some interesting things to say as well.

He more or lees said the brief given to the working party was too narrow & would be most likely to result in ideologically-driven bennie-bashing.

Morgan suggested the government to take up some of Marilyn Waring's ideas about including things in the GDP calculations that are currently excluded: eg voluntary work, care for children and the elderly, that contribute to the economy.

This sounds like a good idea, but I'm not sure how it would work. The Panel discussion seemed to suggest that people doing such unpaid work should not be pushed off the benefit for not taking a paid job. However, I have concerns about such unpaid work being acknowledged as important to the economy, without providing an adequate payment for it.

I should imagine that Waring has a more sophisticated idea of how to make this work. Until I suss that out and form a solid view on it ... I like the idea of it being included in GDP, and acknowledged as being done by beneficiaries. But I also want fair pay for it. eg how about returning to higher tax on the wealthy & using the money saved to pay people doing necessary and productive (but currently) unpaid work a fair remuneration for it?

Although, I think this gets into wages for housework territory, and I know some feminists were strongly against it when it used to be discussed.

Hugh said...

Mikaere, there was definitely a precedent for what the Nats did in the 90s, it's just it was a precedent that came from the other party.

@ Carol: That's funny, I always thought Morgan was a bennie-basher of the first rank himself.

Carol said...

Well, Hugh, on past experience I certainly had the formed the view that Gareth Morgan leaned to the right. So, if he isn't impresed with the Welfare Working Group's narrow brief, how bad must it be?

I also was surprised he thought it was a good idea to include unpaid work in productive enterprises that contribute to GDP. But it may be necessary to look at the small print in terms of how Morgan relatres it to the finer details of policy.

Hugh said...

I dunno, Morgan does seem like a rather inveterate self promoter, so I wouldn't be surprised if his anger at the WWG was simply based on the fact that he wasn't appointed to it. Or he might just be saying anything to get the headline.

Perhaps I'm being petty but I have basically just stopped listening to what he said a long time ago. Not that these ideas are unique to him, though.

I'm not really sure how changing GDP calculations would change welfare policy, though. Those who see unpaid work as worthless would not change their minds because our official GDP was higher. They'd just claim the government was massaging the numbers.

Anonymous said...

Gareth Morgan is on the record as supporting a universal benefit(income) alongside tax reform:

Anonymous said...

Hi Stargazer,
if you look again at David Rovics' webpage the dates are right there on the home page you just have to scroll down on the side bar by his picture - he arrives in NZ on the 20th August and is here through till the 1st September - see also