Sunday, August 14, 2011

No Country for Young Men

After having a read of John Key's welfare speech to the converted, I consider riots in NZ more likely than yesterday. These Nat plans can only ratchet up public tensions further.

I'll get to the competent adult / young person support provider thing, as well as the food stamps, shortly. But first, I want to discuss John Key's dictionary definitions.

John Key certainly has a strange definition of government benefits. "Currently, 328,000 people are receiving a benefit – more than 10 per cent of the entire working age population," sez Key. The Super Gorilla in the room, National Superannuation, is not considered a benefit, even if it is a government transfer just like the DPB or Special Youth Benefit, which John Key is bashing here.

Either I'm thick or don't know the right question to Google or whatever, but I cannot find a direct answer to how many people are currently receiving NZ Superannuation. Not even a ballpark figure. The latest New Zealand Income Survey (June 2010) gives an indication of not only the size of the geriatric iceberg, but how skewed Key's selective benny bash truly is:

Of the 48,100 more people claiming a benefit in the year to June 2010, 36 percent of the new intake was over 65 years old. The 2009 Income Survey showed 41 percent of the increase in government transfer recipients was from an extra 13,900 over-65s. From 2009 to 2010 alone, that's a 25 percent increase in new Superannuation payees. It's going to get a whole lot worse as those Boomers retire.

To drive the point home further, there's always Dim Post's old Chart o' the Day from a while ago to remind you what Key's ignoring:

Now, Dagg bless Phil Goff's cranky old dad and all, still loudly ticking at 90. But unless Bruce Goff is an idiot, he would have been on National Super for the last 25 years. I don't wish him ill, it's just one example of how wilfully ignorant John Key is on the demographic nightmare NZ is putting off because Mr Smile and Wave is too chicken.

It's no wonder that John Key is cherry-picking from the Welfare Working Group's report, myopic as it was from ignoring those precious old person votes which John Key has promised not to antagonise.

But what lousy cherries he has picked. Targetting the 16 and 17 year old's Special Benefit is a case in point. Yeah, they're vulnerable and need support more than most. After all, if they can't live at their parents' homes for whatever reason, there's a certain natural level of distrust to authority figures to take into account.

The cure according to Key is to take the benefit off them and hand their basic budgeting to others. The Young Ones must be patronised:
They need a competent adult to help them manage their money. They need a competent adult to help them meet the obligations and responsibilities that come with receiving financial assistance from the State.

And they need a competent adult to help raise their aspirations above the here-and-now. That is why we are going to fund these support providers to be the competent adults in these young people’s lives – to provide intensive case-management and mentoring support.
These "support providers" haven't been quite worked through yet. It might be the local Catholic priest or an overworked WINZ case manager or a private sector corporate welfare scheme based on the Wisconsin model. Whatever. I reckon they'll be about as successful as John Key's boot camp experiment Fail.

It's not just the Young Ones who should be worried. The level of state intrusion in benficiaries' lives is set to worsen:
Instead, we will have a much more managed system of payments, with the young person’s support provider, or MSD in some cases, paying bills on their behalf and helping them manage within their budget.

While there is still a lot of detail for officials and ministers to work through, we envisage that:
  • some essential costs, like rent and power, will be paid directly on the young person’s behalf
  • money for basic living costs like food and groceries will be loaded onto a payment card that can only be used to buy certain types of goods and cannot be used to buy things like alcohol or cigarettes
  • and that a certain, limited amount will be available for the young person to spend at their own discretion.
You do not unleash infrastructure of such complexity unless you intend to test it before widening it to others.The Young Ones are guinea pigs for a new regime of Food Stamps for all beneficiaries (excluding the Super voters, no doubt). Alcohol and tobacco for poor people bad! Pies and ice cream good!

National's paternalism is more likely to fuel a backlash than inspire fomenting youth to comply with their minders. Because, no matter how much Key tries to hide it, the jobs just aren't there.

The Young Ones are easy fodder for the blue rinse brigands, in much the same way as farmers are Labour's current scapegoats. Farmers are predictable protesters though, always with a strong "Let the Tractor do the Talking" motif. The Young Ones aren't quite as constricted in their tactics, as the last week in London has shown.


Who is making hay under John Key? According to that Income Survey, it's not the average income earner:
Median weekly income from all sources fell slightly, down 1.7 percent to $529 (non-significant).
It's not the average wage slave:
Between the June 2009 and June 2010 quarter, there was a slight decrease in the proportion of people earning wage and salary income down 0.6 percentage points to 53.5 percent.

It's those bloody Baby Boomers:
Significant increases in median weekly wage and salary income since the June 2009 quarter were recorded for only two age groups:
  • 50–54-years (up $61 to $880)
  • 65 years and over (up $66 to $535).
Uh huh. As at June 2010, the median weekly wage and salary income is below that of the median Superannuitant. Needs based welfare indeed.