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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The infestation of Poverty

Poverty is the worst infestation. It doesn't just infest physically, as this weeks Lancet report shockingly shows,

The study, published in international medical journal The Lancet, reveals that infectious diseases increased by 51 per cent in New Zealand between 1989 and 2008.

, but also infests into the generation after the next. It visits a terrible price on those already on the fringes. As a Nation we are creating un-people. NZers who become invisible to the State's definition of unemployed, slip beneath the veneer of an equal society into a poverty ridden zombie waste land whose reality explodes as child abuse headlines nestled between Master Chef food porn at 8.30pm.

With 200 000 NZ children living in poverty, is it cruel to play food porn to a hungry nation of kids?

The reason we can't address these problems is because we have a Government that empowers the wealthy, not the poor. National borrow for tax cuts to give the rich a break. Their wedded to the free market trickle down justification and have shrunk the ability to generate taxation to spend on the social infrastructure which is now groaning at collapse with inequality widening further than ever before.

This is a political decision. When it would only cost $30million per year to feed every kid in a decile 1-3 school. When we could be helping state house tenants buy their home and join the ownership society. When we could be investing in Community Economic Development. When we could be empowering Auckland City Council to lift it's demand for more social funding to tackle this poverty with local solutions.

When there are so many clear cut strategies and tactics for poverty reduction, we have a Government blindly following free market ideology as a default setting instead of any actual plan. 'Less Government' is not a social policy. The Cabinet has rapidly declined into a private school boy frat club clique, with a view of first world poverty that is as narrow as it is shallow.

68% of the enrolled electorate didn't vote for this direction.



At 21/2/12 8:22 am, Blogger SteveO said...

How can you blame National for these figures when the report goes up to 2008? Labour was last in power in 2008, do you have any figures from 2008 to the present, the dates that National has been in power?

At 21/2/12 12:22 pm, Blogger Mike Barker said...

Much of the poverty in NZ is self inflicted in one way or another. Poverty is more often the result of poverty mentality then of any other cause. To constanly harp on about any political party as being the cause for yours, or anyone's, misfortunes is to miss the point and fail to recognise the solutions.

At 21/2/12 1:27 pm, Blogger Bomber said...

SteveO - I refer to the 9 years Labour was in power as the 'lost decade' - my point is that National have exacerbated this inequality.

Mike - ahhh, 'luck egalitarianism' doesn't hold much chop with me. 'Blame the poor' isn't a social policy.

At 21/2/12 1:51 pm, Blogger Mike Barker said...

Point taken Bomber, and understood. My point really is that no government or political party is really in any position to alleviate poverty. Its up to us.
In my case I had enough of being a long term beneficiary enjoying drugs, booze and a bit of agro and did something about it, eventually winding up here in Latin America and succeeding. Took 11 years and was difficult but I achieved it within one generation, so better then my goal. I had nothing, most literally, but now have something.
Dont buy into divide and rule, ignore the bastards and get on with it, that's my view.

At 22/2/12 8:47 am, Blogger fatty said...

"no government or political party is really in any position to alleviate poverty"

That's utter bollocks, every government has the ability to eliminate poverty, I could do it in 3 years if I was PM.

Your faith in a capitalist utopia is illogical...its not realistic to believe that everyone can get out of poverty if we work hard enough. You forget that this system requires a number of people to be in poverty so you and I have a better standard of living.

And the Paula Bennett mantra of 'it was difficult but I achieved it' bullshit is laughable to anyone with a brain. Its applicable to a few, but not the majority...and certainly not to those trapped in poverty.

You are right about Labour though...that Party is a disaster...all they have done over the past 25 years is normalise neoliberalism.

At 22/2/12 11:02 am, Blogger Mike Barker said...

Hi Fatty, my point is that no political system has the power to eliminate poverty, nor do you or I. I can only eliminate my own poverty. There is no capitalist utopia, or socialist or... whatever utopia and poverty is always with us. I doubt any government has ever had the ability to eliminate poverty and that is my point. Certainly none have ever succeeded anywhere on Earth at any time in history. Jesus is even quoted "The poor will always be with us"
That Paula Bennett Mantra you refer to is no joke, it is in fact the only method available, though I agree not all will succeed. Luckily, it is possible for any New Zealander.
I would be pleased to learn how you would go about eradicating poverty were you PM for 3 years. That assertion is more of a joke, and definitely not achievable.

At 22/2/12 11:48 am, Blogger Frank said...

Mike - "My point really is that no government or political party is really in any position to alleviate poverty."

That has to be the worst cop-out I've read on the net for at least a day. It's a quasi-Libertarian worldview that, like most "-ologies" ignores reality.

Government policies set the stage for how the sort of society we end up with.

If governments were really that powerless and made no difference, then the Soviet and American governments would have made no difference to their respective societies.

Of course government policy makes a difference. If you doubt that, vote for a marxist Party that advocates 70% tax-rates and enforced expropriation. Betcha you won't.

"Its up to us."

That part is 100% true. We can start by not re-electing shabby rightwing governments that are fixated on failed neo-liberal policies.

"I achieved it within one generation, so better then my goal. I had nothing, most literally, but now have something.
Dont buy into divide and rule, ignore the bastards and get on with it, that's my view."

Not all people are identical. Some manage to achieve; others do not. Others achieve to varying degrees. Some need assistance; others are 101% self-capable.

For example, I never abused alcohol or drugs - does that make me a "better person" than you? Of course not. I was just luckier to be born into better circumstances (a middle class family that did not engage in drug-taking.

SteveO - "How can you blame National for these figures when the report goes up to 2008?"

Ummm, 'cos National are the government?

'Cos National have the resources to address these problems?

'Cos we pay Key $411,000 per annum + perks, to address these issues?

'Cos if you keep defaulting to Rightwing cop-out #1 (blame previous guvmint) - then what was the point of holding elections in 2008 and 2011? We might as well stick with one Party. (And you know what that's called?)

Funny how the Right Wing insists on everyone taking Personal Responsiblity - except their own right wing governments. Then it's someone elses' fault.

At 23/2/12 9:36 am, Blogger Mike Barker said...

"It doesn't seem to matter who we vote for Government always seems to get in." An old joke I know, and indeed some are worse then others. In the NZ case however no government has ever had the effect on us that our parents and families have in terms of economic or educational outcome, that simple.
The other thing we need to remember is that beneficiaries with a vote generally face a conflict of interest, perhaps choosing to vote for a living rather then work for it, thus bringing into being poor governments and coalitions. Throw in poor choices such as teenage pregnancy etc and it can be seen that the poverty trap is certainly self sprung to some degree.
The real challenge is to overcome poverty mentality rather then pass it down through the generations as inevitability. Even so doing we would still have those who need help but we would as nations be in a better position to help them. Just dont ever expect this to come from politicians, that is unrealistic.If anyone can point to a government anywhere in history that has eliminated poverty please do make me aware of it.

At 24/2/12 10:11 am, Blogger fatty said...

Its quite easy to eradicate poverty in 3 years. The 3 key issues are food, water & housing.

To take care of food I would do three things...firstly set up a Govt supermarket which would be far cheaper and every NZ citizen would have an account with them (meaning a certain amount to spend there each week). Secondly, high tax on junk food and make fruit and veges cheaper (NZ grown fruit and veges even cheaper) - this would naturally solve the health issues associated with poverty. Thirdly, free cooking lessons available to all so people are able to feed themselves cheaply and to a high level of health.

Water becomes free and accessible to all. Alongside new technology such as the much hated shower heads etc. Water can be cleaner cheaper and more efficient...we just have to stop being rednecks and resist any form of water privatisation.

I would also love to sort out the housing issue. It would become illegal for one person to own more than two houses/properties. If people want to make money through property and force people into poverty be controlling a necessity, then they can go live in another country. Also the Government would provide retirement accommodation, to many elderly people are in poverty due to privatisation of their care. Generally, most older people want safety and connectedness in their old age....this can be provided cheaply and efficiently by the Govt, saving us and the elderly money. We need to lower the price of housing and make it more accessible to younger people if we want them to stay in NZ and create a better country.

If I was PM loads of wankers would hate me...but they are wankers, so who cares?

Concepts of individual property rights and individual responsibility need to be challenged because they are
the creators and drivers of poverty in NZ. Not only could I eradicate poverty in 3 years, but I could set up this country to be based on equity, rather than desire and greed. "Individual rights" would be granted AFTER the human rights of all individuals are provided.

The only reason you think it is impossible to eradicate poverty in NZ is because the free market capitalists tell you there is no alternative.

There is one other key underlying issue in NZ and that is culture. It is time we made Maori culture the equal of Pakeha culture. That means we change the little things to fight institutional racism...we revert to Maori place names. NZ becomes Aotearoa, Chch becomes Otautahi. Change the flag, Te Reo Maori becomes compulsory in schools...etc etc. And I don't mean using Maori culture as a form of tokenism which is actually neoliberal privatisation in drag...such as Whanau Ora. Use Maori culture to empower all New Zealanders, don't use Maori culture to decorate a turd - that just perpetuates the notion that Maori need to pull their socks up - individual responsibility etc etc.

You'll notice my rant revolves around the concept of individualism vs collectivism...that is the key issue of poverty, its not rocket science. Individualism perpetuates poverty and individualism has become hegemonic in NZ. Poverty always has been and always will be constructed by how we live, Jesus was wrong.

At 25/2/12 10:39 am, Blogger fatty said...

"If anyone can point to a government anywhere in history that has eliminated poverty please do make me aware of it."

I can...it depends on your definition of poverty???

There are 3 main definitions of poverty.
The first is absolute - which is basic water food and shelter...many Western countries with a fair welfare system have arguably achieved this.

The second is known as relative - that means that anyone below a percentage of the average wage is considered in poverty (many countries use this as their measurement)...by this measurement you could say that Cuba has eradicated poverty...or that socialism and communism eradicates poverty.

The other measurement of poverty is measured by the vague and unmeasurable concept of "social inclusion"...this is the term I prefer and those countries that have come closest to this are the nordic countries...those with institutional welfare.

The problem with this concept of "social inclusion" is that it is easier to achieve in a culturally homogeneous society such as Denmark (most Danes have similar ethnicity/religion/values etc). Can we do it in NZ even though we are culturally heterogeneous rather than homogeneous?...if we want to achieve social inclusion in NZ we must actively resist our Pakeha dominated mono-culture, give equality to Maori culture and provide a space for cultural minorities.

Just as poverty is created by our economic and political systems... poverty can also be prevented through economic policy. To believe otherwise is completely illogical. Capitalism creates poverty...that poverty can be constrained through institutional provision in some countries...but because of our unique bi-cultural (and developing multi-cultural) society, the unfair nature of capitalism is compounded upon Maori.

NZ needs to ditch capitalism, promote collectivism and become culturally equal to prevent poverty...at the moment we are promoting individualism, ingraining mono-culturalism and furthering unregulated capitalism.

NZ has policy induced poverty...our poverty is created...it is not true that "The poor will always be with us", instead we ensure that the poor are always with us.

At 25/2/12 1:51 pm, Blogger Mike Barker said...

Hi Fatty. Sensibly put as always. However I agree with the "vague and unmeasurable" bit. Social inclusion is a construct. My view remains that the govt role in the eradication of poverty in NZ has gone about as far as it can. It is now the turn of families to do their part. NZ does not have absolute poverty. Culturalism of any sort is neither productive or otherwise, and only production eradicates poverty. None can have what does not exist, and therein lies the failure of systems without incentive. I am also part Dane and have visited family there. Yes, they have considerable social agency but also a work ethic, a production ethic if you will, that makes it possible. Its not the heterogeneity, Denmark is also becoming a melting pot, it is the recognition of the need to produce. That lack of recognition of this need to be productive is the basis for most of NZ's poverty, we have ourselves to blame, rich and poor alike for taking away incentive.
I cannot think of any example of dire poverty in NZ that cannot be alleviated by this principle.

At 26/2/12 9:18 am, Blogger fatty said...

How do you define poverty Mike?..you have said that "only production eradicates poverty"...so do you consider poverty to only be economic?

You are right in saying that 'social inclusion' is a construct (as is capitalism and poverty), however it remains a valid concept especially in today's hyper-connected world. Unfortunately social inclusion is now little more than a buzzword that has lost its meaning and abused by the blue/red team in Government.

"It is now the turn of families to do their part"...What do you mean by this statement? You must be aware that the "family" is no longer a stable institution in our society. Most NZ families are broken and poor due to poor employment contracts and high housing costs. For the average worker, flexible employment and a Govt assisted housing bubble has left the 'family' with little to no family time and no chance of buying a house...see how policy creates poverty and breaks down the institution of the family?

Watch these 2 doco's to see how poverty is created by our economic and social policies.

"Culturalism of any sort is neither productive or otherwise" this statement is blatantly untrue, ethnocentric and ignores the last 100 years of social science's findings. I admit to hating the token culturalism from our red/blue Govts too, but culture still forms the identity of many people. (not me, I have it easy, being a straight, middle-upperclass Pakeha with strongly resourced family support whenever I need it).

Do you notice a contradiction in your argument between culture and family?
You say that "Culturalism of any sort is neither productive or otherwise" and then you say that "It is now the turn of families to do their part". That may work for people like me because I have strong family support and I live in a society dominated by my culture (hetro-Pakeha).
But does it work for many of the more vulnerable people? Many people live with no stable family and in a society where their culture is always being subjugated.
Your argument always falls back on individual responsibility and is steeped in neoliberal ideology...that's actually the creator of poverty, not the answer.

At 27/2/12 1:47 am, Blogger Mike Barker said...

Hi Fatty. To me poverty is simply a dearth of nutrition, housing etc, the absolute poverty we agree does not exist in NZ. Social inclusion as you describe it is voluntary and available to all in NZ, particularly because it is a hyper connected World.
The family is a relatively universal unit across most cultures. You are right, it is not a stable unit, another reason why 16 year olds should not start one. In this day and age in NZ pregnancy is usually deliberate.
Capitalism is not a construct, it is a valid operating system, and so far has proved the best at eliminating poverty. No other system has reduced poverty or raised living standards to the extent of the capitalist system.
To be able to give one must have the means, material generosity is the preserve of the rich. As noted in "Land of Plenty" New Zealand was the richest country in the World in 1956, it was broke by 1984. Big govt, Muldoonism, had not delivered.
I do not believe anyone is currently being subjugated in NZ. Maori as a bloodline is disappearing, many who identify themselves as Maori nowadays do so voluntarily,being less then half Maori themselves. They have no right to cry oppression on a racial basis.
As for housing in NZ, it is more affordable then here in Panama. Here the principle wage earner does not usually earn the rent, let alone other essentials so the family sticks together by economic necessity, as has been the historical case. NZers at all levels are fortunate. Teenagers have the ability, frequently state funded, to afford to live independently and all have access to housing and assistance.
Why can we not expect the individual to be responsible for his own well being.It is possible, though voluntary.

At 28/2/12 12:06 pm, Blogger fatty said...

"Social inclusion as you describe it is voluntary and available to all in NZ, particularly because it is a hyper connected World"

I don't think you understand the concept of social inclusion...it is far more than economic and technology inclusion. It includes issues including identity, vulnerability, recognition, idealism. Put simply it cannot be measured by the answers on a census. Your economic perspective is only a small aspect of social inclusion.

"...another reason why 16 year olds should not start one. In this day and age in NZ pregnancy is usually deliberate"

Of course it is, have you noticed the unemployment stats. Teen pregnancy is a logical response to an unfair system. Maybe if stopped with the flexible short term contracts and gave them an option...expect more teenage pregnancies as work instability increases under the guise of 'flexibility'. Teenage pregnancy is a product of our socioeconomic environment and lack of employment regulations.

"Capitalism is not a construct"

So if capitalism is not constructed...did it exist when the dinosaurs were roaming the earth? I'm pretty sure capitalism was invented by man and has become normalised in the very late stages of human existence.

"No other system has reduced poverty or raised living standards to the extent of the capitalist system."

For you and me it has been great, but it has kept more people in poverty than it has lifted out. Add to that the wars it has produced as the west has scrambled for resources and geopolitical control (both poverty inducing symptoms of capitalism). The post WW2 regulated capitalism was more palatable than its current 'rape and pillage' - neoliberal capitalism. Centralised capitalism resulted in way less poverty throughout the world compared to what we have now. The West's lame attempt at development (really modern colonialism) ensures more money flows from the 'developing' countries to us in the 'developed' world...even including the billions of dollars the West 'gives' to the poor in aid...they wallow in their poverty as we reap the rewards. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postdevelopment_theory

"Maori as a bloodline is disappearing"

Defining Maori culture as a bloodline percentage is a racist and outdated concept. It was deemed racist by most of the world about 50 years ago. You probably don't want to say/write things like that.

"New Zealand was the richest country in the World in 1956, it was broke by 1984. Big govt, Muldoonism, had not delivered."

NZ went from rich to poor due to its post WW2 over-reliance on agriculture and then the loss of the UK market in the 70s. We were a one-trick pony that lost its only trick, it was not a result of big-govt at all...if big govt and a regulated economy are the cause of poverty, what's up with China?

"As for housing in NZ, it is more affordable then here in Panama"

Of course it is...Panama is an incredibly resource rich nation that is still suffering the effects of USA's capitalist expansion. Economically, they should be way better off than they are...but that's capitalism for you. The poverty in Panama is not due to a lack of resources or hard work - it is due to the capitalist structure you seem determined to defend


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