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Friday, July 14, 2006

GUEST BLOG: The playing field is level

Consumer culture is all about selling people's insecurities to themselves. Our path to enlightenment is lipsticked, latest model, nose jobbed, me-podded so much so that we have to believe THE PLAYING FIELD IS LEVEL, to fully enjoy our inflated sense of 'success'.

When we are confronted by the reality that the playing field is NOT level, it makes a ME generation question their own successes. This is a challenge to our own perceived beliefs in the system and as such makes the white majority viciously defensive and resentful towards any progressive movement that attempts to redress the innate injustices within a rule system that is written by the rulers.

The public reaction to the report showing beneficiaries are living in grinding poverty has embarrassingly let loose an avalanche of racist stereotyping already rubbed raw from the same venting over the Kahui case. So intent are we to blame the victim for being a victim we ignore our own outright bigotry towards beneficiaries.

The solution to the problem is simple, we need to increase the amount we pay beneficiaries, this combined with a rise in the minimum wage will do more for the betterment of an entire community within NZ than any other social policy.

But there is a problem: the puritanical streak that runs deep through NZ demands suffering as a solution to get people off welfare. There is a mentality that if people are suffering they will change their priorities and get a job. This mentality is childish and beneath adult conversation in the 21st Century. How hungry and cold children will be able to obtain an education so that they are able to lift themselves out of poverty is fucking beyond me - and WHITE New Zealanders who argue this position need to take a good long hard look at themselves and their views of brown people.

The well worn counter that if we increase benefits, there will be no incentive for people to get a job only goes to show how entrenched our bigotry is. What is the second question you ask ANYONE after asking their name - "What do you do?" We are so focused on our placement within the social strata, we automatically ask one another what job we do - the shame of being a beneficiary is all the incentive in the world to take a job and earn more than welfare, and people are more successful at education to lift themselves out of poverty when they have warm homes and are well fed.

I also find the cry of, "I can do it why can't they", tedious and painfully dumb. It's like swimming the Tasman Sea then jumping out at the end, proclaiming "I can do it why can't they!?". Everyone is different, self-achievement should be an example for others to follow rather than a rod to beat those who are weaker. The fact I have to point that out shows how defunct public debate has become.

The right wing media, talkback radio in particular, has allowed stereotypes to exist which supports and confirms the fears of the majority. People at the bottom of the heap are suffering, and at a time when NZ is richer than it has ever been, we still as a culture refuse to accept the reality of that suffering with solutions that only seek to punish.

Martyn "Bomber" Bradbury


At 14/7/06 2:08 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi , I'm actually a white beneficiary not particularly affiliated with any sense of 'european identity'. I like your comments here.. life as a beneficiary is hard for people of any ethnic origin. There is alot of stigma and just to get a job to not be in that category is true for me, but i have difficulties with that... so i'm left in that feeling of inadequacy, socially speaking about being unemployed.

I feel that the government encouraged immigration from asia for that reason, to difuse the polarity of tensions between pakeha and maori. It's almost as if Racial issues have been made rediculous by their presence. Because of their diligence and committed perseverance in the path to professional/business success.
Everyone must look at them and hope to compete; as opposed to the old "comfortable and casual sociable tension" which used to exist between pakeha and maori as a political/social issue which can no longer be seen as the main 'racial tension' in new zealand.

I don't know if people are better or worse off, now... with P around and other imported drugs, as well as a lack of one or two only cultural 'centers' in new zealand there are more options for individuals to 'find themselves' perhaps it is the increasingly competitive environment which is making new zealand harsher for the poor and kinder to those who find success.

Certainly sentimental ideas don't go far these days, such as my comments.


At 14/7/06 2:11 am, Anonymous deano said...

Isn't this exactly the same thing you said two days ago?

My family were working class. Both my parents left school at 15. I had part-time jobs as a child, worked in the summers, went to uni, got a couple of degrees, and now I do reasonably well. I was the first person in my family, extended, to ever go on to tertiary education. 'I can do it, why can't they?'

At 14/7/06 2:23 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

err isn't what what who said two days ago?

At 14/7/06 8:36 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

rather than increase benefits & minimum wages, why not remove benefits & make it easier for employers to hire & fire employees? That way, there will be NO incentive to not work (no "dole"), & no reason for employers to not employ folk, cos if they (the employee) is shit, just fire him and get a new one, easy as that. As it currently stands, employers stand to loose too much if they hire a doofus, and thus the incentive to employ someone is small due this risk. WMFL (wayne mapp for life)

At 14/7/06 9:04 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You make life on the dole more comfortable and people will be less likely to want to work. Your argument is completely flawed and would not solve anything. I admit that, whilst I certainly agree benefits need to be paid to others to help them, I really resent paying for people WHO DO NOT WANT TO WORK. That is natural, that is my trait and you can do all the labelling that you want Bomber (and that is why your arguments are always so weak - you give in to boring labelling e.g. whities, rednecks etc - utterly dull).

At 14/7/06 10:59 am, Blogger JamesP said...

Increasing the minimum wage means pricing people out of the job market especially the low skill / experience workers who are more likely to be unemployed. My solution would be to scrap both the existing welfare system and the minimum wage (Tim - scrape Bomber off the roof please). Then I would implement a negative income tax system where everyone gets paid enough to live off but where there are absolutely no disincentives to do as much or as little extra work as you want to make yourself better off. And funded by one of those evil right wing flat (but not necessarily low) tax rates paid from the very first dollar.

At 14/7/06 11:37 am, Anonymous bomber said...

I think my point that there is an innate bigotry towards beneficiaries and an anti-intellectualism aimed at context of historic realities that have contributed to the situation of Maori has been proved by many of the posts here which have shown most of the opposition to what I have written is your garden variety racism wrapped up in right ring economics. Many punters who visit this site but don’t leave comments must get a sense that the basic lack of compassion drives the point from the others and it is this basic lack of compassion for our fellow countrymen that we have to fight. It is a challenge to all of us to open our eyes to the vested interests of the elites within our societies and communities, and to overcome our fear and selfishness to try and understand how it feels to walk in someone else’s shoes. Let us hope that there is more to the solution than the self interested posts left here by our right wing friends, it is our challenge to find those solutions, even if there is some personal cost to us.

At 14/7/06 12:29 pm, Blogger JamesP said...

LOL. You talk about anti-intellectualism yet dismiss the opinions here as "garden variety racism wrapped up in right ring economics". Did you arrive at this conclusion by reading minds? It couldn't possibly be that we actually believe that these measures will be beneficial for poor people because we agree with cogent arguments made by the likes of Friedman could it? Nope, it's all about bigotry and a "basic lack of compassion". Well I have some news for you: all the compassion in the world means precisely buttkiss if you insist on implementing a poor solution.

Take my position on the minimum wage for instance. I have pretty much zero self interest in this matter because the type and nature of my work means that I'm never going to be earning or hiring anyone who works for anything close to the minimum. Yet I shook my head out of frustration when you said it needed to be increased because I honestly believe that in doing so you would actually hurt the very people you are attempting to help with your compassion. A compassion I do not doubt BTW regardless of what you think about mine.

I come to this precisely blog because I'm interested in finding solutions even when they exist outside the so called "right wing". Even though I don't always agree with him, Tim's posts are generally informative, well argued, balanced, focussed, and mercifully free of this accusatory crap about other peoples dark and dirty motivations. If I wanted more of your insults and boilerplate argument I could visit any old "left wing" blog.

At 14/7/06 1:57 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

how can removing benifits be regarded as racist? in assuming that this would affect a particular "race" any more than anyone else, are not you the one who is being racist? or do you just dismiss any point of view you dont agree with as "garden variety racism"

At 14/7/06 3:29 pm, Anonymous deano said...

Sometimes tough love is the most compassionate thing you can give someone, Bomber. A plethora of benefits hasn't helped Maori increase their standard of living. Benefits should be for the truly needy who are physically unable to work. Another solution would be for the unemployment benefit to have a time limit, say three months, after which you are ineligible. You would look pretty hard for a job in those three months, wouldn't you?

One of the other posters made a comment about Asians and their industriousness. While some arrived with money and qualifications many did not. I've taught some lazy Asian kids but in general most study very hard and work hard, too. Many have the English language as a barrier but they still succeed. Why? Their cultures value education and industry. It's a shame Maori culture does not.

You make a comment about racism. I don't consider myself racist because I believe there is nothing inherent in Maori DNA which causes them to fail. Maori culture, however, has struggled to adapt to the modern world. It doesn't value education and hard work. It doesn't condemn crime as harshly as it should. I will say, however, that Pakeha NZ does need to meet it half-way, and respect and cherish the good in Maori culture, and make Maori feel more at home in schools and workplaces. But the bottom line must always be: your future success or failure is in your own hands. Study. Work. Don't commit crimes.

At 14/7/06 4:15 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

>Why? Their cultures value education and industry. It's a shame Maori culture does not.
Too bad we colonised this place then, they should simply fit in wih our way of doing things, since ours is obviously the correct way, and the fault must lie with them in some way.

*tongue in cheek*

At 16/7/06 4:45 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The main purpose of the minimum wage is to have (or at least close to) a fair days pay for a fair days work for all workers. The minimum wage also helps reduce income inequality and the reliance on tax payer funded income support.

It is commonly said that the minimum wage causes unemployment. That statement is an over-simplification.

Most workers on the minimum wage are doing the sorts of jobs where the labour demand is rigid. Take for example workers at fast food chains. There would people a worker at each till, several cooking, someone at the drive through and someone cleaning.

Adding more labour to capital won't raise production levels nor will it raise profit. Each of the jobs mentioned are needed in order for the fast food place to function. Removing the minimum wage would have little or no effect on the number of workers hired in those sorts of jobs.

The minimum wage can be set up to some level which has little or no effect on the level of unemployment. If the minimum wage is raised past this critical level, then it starts to have an effect on unemployment.

At 17/7/06 4:12 pm, Blogger bomber said...

James I love your 'boilerplate' comment', so get ready for another one. When people are focused on the immediate, with no desire whatsoever to look at the innate historical circumstances – THE WHY – people are in a situation, they allow those small whispers of the stereotype to start to justify why the playing field is level. "If only people worked harder" (immediate suggestion that the other is lazy), "They are like that" (there is something innate in the other that doesn’t do anything to stop the present problems), "Life is cheap" (which is why it doesn’t hurt so much when their babies die young in the third world), etc etc. I admit that I write to confront people about the way they think, to challenge a mindset that defends the status quo because they are tethered wage slaves to the status quo. I apologise if you were offended by my words James, but sometimes one needs to be shaken to define their opinions.

There is a mentality in NZ that says those on Welfare must suffer, I totally disagree. Raising the minimum wage (while cutting our corporate tax rate to a cent under Australia) would free up cash to allow such a rise and probably get a greater tax take as PAYE taxpayers are less likely than companies to hide their earnings through Accountant tricks. Wages not taxes are the main difference between Australia and NZ, getting higher wages should be our focus. This would lift the level between the benefit and the minimum wage to allow you some extra increases with welfare. Such a move would console those who argue that there is no incentive to work if you have a higher welfare to wage ratio by simply increasing both amounts, funded by a lower corporate tax rate.

Welfare amounts could increase allowing those who need it the extra ability to live without suffering – it is a step that could only be considered if people were willing to be more compassionate to those on the bottom.

At 17/7/06 8:47 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Raising the minimum wage (while cutting our corporate tax rate to a cent under Australia) would free up cash to allow such a rise and probably get a greater tax take as PAYE taxpayers are less likely than companies to hide their earnings through Accountant tricks."

Lowering the corporate tax rate would free up cash but most of that cash would just flow towards shareholders, many of whom are foreigners. Very little would go towards hiring new workers. Corporate tax cuts are highly unlikely to raise the level of employment for the low socio-economic groups for similar reasons mentioned in the minimum wage post. Lowering the corporate tax rate is likely to make the current account deficit worse and could result in a drop in real GNP per capita.

Here is an idea to discuss: A lower corporate tax rate for local investors and a higher one for foreign investors.


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