International Cat Speculators Since 2006

Archive for the ‘Welfare’ Category

The poor in America

It’s a tough message, but I believe he makes some points that need hearing.

In this country we also have the far left telling us that the poor (and in many cases, the average family) need more government assistance. But those same people who “need” assistance are already getting thousands per year from programs like Working For Families, often more far more than they pay in tax. In fact, we now have our government supported by an incredibly small number of taxpayers – small wonder we’re running deficits.

Giving money for nothing is a chumps game. It’s a vicious cycle, where “fixing” the need instead drives demand for more need. And it’s even more vicious to break. When National finally broke it back in the 90’s… well, they’re still paying for it now, 20 years later.


Welfare in the News

I just realised something after writing up the previous post.

The woman in this story on Close Up the other week gets $480 “from the government”.

This page gives the DPB at $288.47/week after tax at the “M” rate.

That gives a base income of $16,994.64 before tax. Using that we look up the WFF rates, and discover she is entitled to $394/week from that scheme. (She’d get an additional $105/wk if she were working 30 hours or more.)

So we add that all up, and we arrive at $682 per week.

Now, this does not include any accommodation supplement which I can’t even guess at because it depends on circumstances. I read that can be up to $125. I would be very surprised if she’s not getting it. From the sounds of it several kids might also be entitled to the Child Disability Allowance, which is $44.55 per disabled child.

It seems odd that such a low income is quoted. It seems like there’s about $200 missing, minimum. It could in fact be as high as $900 – after tax. (When I added the tax onto that, using the IRD tax calculator I arrived at an income of $58,593 PA – within sneezing range of what Labour told us was “Rich Prick territory”)

My best guess is that the phrase “From the government” was intended as a fudge to imply that $480 was her income not just what she gets from WINZ. Certainly the item mentions child support, so my guess is that this means her benefit is cut somewhat when she recieves that.

I’m very reluctant to be seen as beneficiary bashing. This woman clearly has many disadvantages in her current situation, and were I her neighbour I would offer my assistance to her whenever possible.

It’s the man on the street that makes a society a society

Thought I’d respond to, rather than fisk nessessarly, this NRT post.

Over in Public Address, Keith Ng attacks the idea that suppliers in Canterbury should price gouge to ensure a “more efficient” allocation of resources. As he points out, this isn’t just pointless – people wanting to flee town, or thinking they might need to will buy petrol no matter what the cost – but also deeply corrosive of social solidarity. And that solidarity has made a real difference in this disaster:

I’m just shaking my head at that logic. Because the “problem” is actually the point – people leaving town don’t care about the cost, they just need to leave. So they have to purchase petrol. So if they want to leave enough, they’ll have the money. However, people who aren’t using petrol and just want the “security” are going to look at the price and realise that their emotions just aren’t worth $5/L. And they walk away, leaving people who really need the fuel to purchase just enough to get to the next town where petrol is not under threat.

Incidentally, that’s what I did last time I filled up in Kaikura, 12 years ago. It’s not that I haven’t driven through Kaikura since, I just made sure I didn’t have to fill up there.

The reality of petrol is that people wanting to purchase it are a)Car owners and b) presumably have enough money to pay normal prices. So we’re not actually talking about people hard up here.

I mention Kaikura though, because one of the stations there was fingered as a “culprit” in the price gouging hysteria. I actually suspect myself that they were making less money than usual on a per litre bases since a) the price quoted wasn’t much above their normal markup on city prices and b) they were also probably having to source their fuel from Wellington, meaning that it would include the price of crossing Cook Straight. So quite often “gouging” is simply a reflection of the actual, abnormal-at-the-time cost of delivery.

The real problem with not raising prices in response to a spike in demand is that no one gets what he needs. Forget the poor, the first guy coming through the door has the ability to get goods at normal prices, he’s going to. In Christchurch, a boy racer filling up would pay the same as a family moving out of their destroyed house. At normal prices, the boy racer would think nothing of filling up and leaving less for the family, but at higher prices he’s going to think twice – assuming he has more common sense than money. Even the richest man is going to start questioning whether he’s really prepared to pay 3x the normal price on anything.

We see this all the time in ticketing – the first few people get piles of tickets, and the rest have to purchase from scalpers. Why not raise prices to match supply with demand? “Oh, we don’t want our fans to miss out.” The fans don’t miss out either way, but the event ends efficiently writing a big fat cheque to scalpers – money for nothing. I have supported price “gouging” on twitter for this reason – because in the not unlikely event that I travelled to Christchurch I wanted to be sure fuel was available to get me out of the city should I have problems. If the fuel’s all gone, I would be stuck, but if it’s $5/L I can buy enough to get me to Timaru where prices are normal.

Yes, it’s nice to keep prices at a low level. I suspect that much of the supply problem in Christchurch would have been to raise the price on the board (driving away the emotional buyers) and charging the normal price anyway.

But to continue.

The most remarked upon fact after the earthquake is the way in which people have been helping each other. Many people have acted in complete defiance of economic self-interest, and as a result, housing, labour, transport, equipment, all kinds of goods have been given to people who most need it.Somebody can probably wrangle an explanation out of this that’s consistent with classical economics. Perhaps helping the community is in their own long-term self-interest, and perhaps helping others means that they get helped in return.

But the bottom line is that a whole lot of people told the rational economic agent to take a hike*, and as a result, they did a much better job of efficiently allocating resources (that’s Economistspeak for “helping people and getting shit done”) than the market ever could.

Its a powerful reminder that at the end of the day, we live in a society, not just an economy, and that there’s more to resource allocation than just economist’s “efficiency”. But it should also cause us to ask some hard questions about our wider society. In Christchurch at the moment, there are people without homes who are being sheltered, and without food who are being fed. This response is a Good Thing, and its a sign of our fundamental decency and recognition that we can’t just leave our neighbours to starve. But there are people outside Christchurch with these problems as well, victims not of a natural disaster but a man-made economic one (but still every bit as blameless). Shouldn’t they be receiving the same help? Shouldn’t the government be acknowledging that basic duty of care to every New Zealander in need, not just to those in Christchurch?

Ok, let’s go through this.

Yes, people are receiving a lot of help, and this is indeed a good thing. I’ve offered help, my church has offered help. No one has asked us, we have seen the need and offered. Huge chunks of New Zealand have had a simmiliar response.

Outside of Christchurch, there are indeed people who have no house to live in. There are people who have nothing. There are very few however who have to wait months for working sewage, who’ve had their house destroyed for the second time in 6 months, or can’t get electricity because the lines are down.

It’s that large combination of issues, and the widespread scale that’s driving the charity right now. Welfare can’t help everyone. One single organisation would find it difficult to organise all the wide variety of needs as quickly as private citizens operating on their own or in groups can.

But the needs outside Christchurch are much more simple, and on a smaller scale. This family needs a house. This family needs income while someone is out of work. These things can be delivered by the welfare system, and are.

But the post is really weird about this difference.

Shouldn’t they be receiving the same help? Shouldn’t the government be acknowledging that basic duty of care to every New Zealander in need, not just to those in Christchurch?

That makes no sense at all in the context of the actual situation. The government is not the one providing the student army, or the farmers, or trucks of water, or offers of accommodation for those in need. The government can’t acknowledge that it owes everyone something that it’s offering no one.

We’ve had a situation in our street of the government “helping” someone. But before that happened I had to help the person concerned deal with the situation that had happened. I, and many others (actually, too many others) have helped with this situation to complement the services that the government clumsy provides.

The reality is that I’ve usually tried to help those I come into contact with. So does my wife. We don’t go out and volunteer at soup kitchens, but we pass on clothing to others in the community, offer help when someone is ill, and various other things. The government can’t sort those things out and I wouldn’t want them to. In fact I’d be horrified if they tried.

I’m trying to think of a way to tie this off, but I just noticed the sun is out and I have to go mow someone’s lawn. Seriously. There’s an act of charity – but excuse me if I baulk at the government providing a mown lawn for every able-bodied person on the dole.

Super Awesome Test Post

Just one of those things you do when you’ve done something cool and want to see if it really, really works.

Update: It works. You can now click the various Facebook, twitter et al Icons, and you will see my posts appear automatically on my twitter feed.

I can’t so much as keep track of my own keys, but that foreigner has stolen “my” job

Winston Smith is always worth a read every once in a while.

“Winston, I need the spare keys to my flat. I’ve lost mine again. I might have left them in there. Give us the spare keys will you?

“No,I won’t give them to you. The last time I gave you the spare keys you lost them as well and we had to get the locks changed at our cost. When the caretaker comes in he can go around with you and let you in and if you want a new set you will have to pay for them to be cut. For God’s sake Mike , that’s the third set you have lost over the past few months. If you can’t even manage keys to a flat how can you manage the flat itself?”

There are several of our residents who as well as being unable to sign on the dole on time without constantly having their benefits cut off are also incapable of having keys without losing them. Before Mike had time to respond to my question the doorbell at the project rang. It was the Pizza delivery man who is about 21, around Mike’s age, and is from Eastern Europe and speaks perfect English. Mike went to answer the door as the Pizza was for him and his pregnant girlfriend. Afterwards, he came back to the office to offer his opinions on EU enlargement and the influx of immigrants that have ensued in to the UK as a result.

“See that Polish Pizza guy it’s the likes of him that’s stealing all the jobs of young British workers like me. I don’t agree with all these foreigners coming over here taking our jobs. It’s just not right. What do you think of it Winston?”

What I really think is that the Eastern European should be allowed to stay and that Mike should be stripped of his rights as a citizen and deported to an uninhabitated rock in the outer Hebrides. However, I don’t say this as I have been trained to view Mike as a vulnerable victim who is at risk of becoming homeless.

Reality is that the quickest ans dirtiest way to help this fellow is to simply stop “helping” him. At least then he might realise that he has to take some responsibility for his actions. Sadly, neither that, nor any other less quick-and-dirty solutions are likely to happen.

Oh, and it turns out that the human blob’s mother was an immigrant.

‘Jobs Creation’ Rant of the Day

Via Michelle Malkin, with original wording… modified!

I am so freaking tired of hearing – from both sides of the spectrum – that something needs to be done about “jobs.”

freak “JOBS”

Jobs are a byproduct of healthy industry. They are not a goal in and of themselves and they most definitely are not something the government itself should be trying to encourage or create.

Jobs are what happen when someone has too much work to do by himself, so he gets someone to help. If you want to work, GO freakING WORK. Start a freaking business. Find something that you can do and do it and sell the product of your labor to others.

What? You don’t want work for yourself? You want to work for someone else? Fine, but it’s not businessowners’ responsibility to employ people and its not the federal governments responsibility to somehow force them to. If you want a freaking job, then AGITATE THE freakING FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO EXPAND BUSINESS AND “JOBS” WILL COME. Make it easier for the people who actually do business and jobs will come as a byproduct. Jimmy Cricket, and you’re also asking for higher taxes on the very people you need to create your precious JOBS? ARE YOU freakING KIDDING ME?

WHAT THE freak HAS HAPPENED TO THIS COUNTRY? Why does everyone want to be treated like a child? And the darned federal government ENCOURAGES this stuff.

I am so freaking tired of this straight out of Marx stuff that somehow the people are just entitled to share in someone else’s fortune and capital in the name of “jobs.” GO MAKE YOUR OWN freakING JOB.

Businesses aren’t in the business of making “jobs,” they’re in the business of CREATING VALUE FOR THEIR OWNERS. When you say that a business should be making more JOBS, you are saying that the capital of those business owners should not actually belong to them and belongs to the “workers”. Thanks a freaking lot, Stalin.

“Fund Jobs Not Wars”

Has it every occurred to these people that only one of those is actually the responsibility of the federal government to fund, and its not “JOBS”.

freak freak freak freak freak.

I am surly this morning and this isn’t helping.


Got some more comments to make on this topic (like how Labour said if we insulated lots of houses) but got to do stuff. Sort of busy at the moment – working!

Make it too easy and it’ll still be too hard

By chance yesterday, I wondered into Winston Smith‘s blog (Via Lindsay Mitchell‘s).

Winston in a care worker in the UK, working with… well, read on. Winston’s blog is full of stories like this, of people who are never actually required to do anything, who are bribed in order to not assault and abuse other people, and who can’t even motivate themselves to successfully sign up for a benefit.

Gavin, twenty three, is today being evicted, or in the jargon of the supported housing sector ‘having his licence to occupy terminated.’ The reason for Gavin’s eviction is that he has significant rent arrears. He has no valid excuse for this debt and has accrued it due to being too lazy to access state benefits to which he is legally entitled. Whether ethically he should be entitled to these benefits is another matter. He has come to the office to express his indignation and to convey how unjustly he feels he is being treated.

“I really don’t understand why I am being asked to leave here. I paid my rent when I was working so I don’t know what the big deal is,” he remarked.

“Gavin, Gavin,” I sigh with despondent resignation, “ twenty three, and you still don’t know how the real world functions. You haven’t worked for a year and a half and even when you did it was only part-time. During that period you only paid some of your rent some of the time,” I reminded him.

“Yeah, I had a limited income so Housing Benefit should have paid the rest.”

Winston explains that those dealing out benefits aren’t psychics, to which the reply is that “it’s not my fault, my social worker should have done more”.

“Gavin, it was actually your keyworker at the time that filled in the form for you and constantly reminded you to submit it along with all the required documentation. I have evidence of this in your support plan as we are required to write down every mundane detail of assistance and advice we give to you. The issue wasn’t that the Housing Benefit form wasn’t filled in, but that you gave them none of the additional documentation that they needed in order to pay you for that period and without all the required documents your application at that time was never processed. Anyway, since you were sacked you did get your Housing Benefit sorted, but not for the period you were working and this is where a large portion of your arrears comes from. However, more recently you have been accruing arrears in that you haven’t been paying the seven pounds fifty of your rent that isn’t covered by Housing Benefit but should be paid out of your Jobseeker’s Allowance.”

“But Im not getting Jobseeker’s Allowance, they keep messing me around,” he whines, self pityingly.

“Yes, I’m well aware of that you are not in receipt of JSA but remind me why did you lose your Jobseeker’s Allowance again? Oh yes, that’s right, it’s because you constantly failed to turn up to sign on as you prioritized sleeping until the afternoon over getting free money to ensure you had somewhere to live. So, instead of complaining of being messed around by the Job Centre you need to look at what you have failed to do and that is sign your name one morning every two weeks on a piece of paper. ”

Failing the most modest of requirements. Can anyone be taken seriously if they suggest that simply signing their name every too weeks is too much to ask to receive assistance?

“Well, I don’t actually need Jobseeker’s Allowance as my girlfriend comes around to visit every evening and she always brings food so I never go hungry and she buys me cigarettes as well. Besides, Im going to get a job.”

In other words, in his mind, his only needs are having a full stomach, and a smoke. Because someone else owns his accommodation, why should he bother with that?

“Gavin, but you need JSA to ensure that all of your rent is paid. What is it about the concept of paying rent that you seem to fail to grasp? I’m also curious as how you will be successful in your quest for and maintaining of employment when you can’t even successfully scrounge from the state. In fact, you are failing to even be on the dole so how you could hold down a job is anyone’s guess. Anyway, all of this is irrelevant now as you are being evicted today. If you could just ensure that your room is clean before you go as we have someone moving in to it next week.”

“I ain’t fu**ing cleaning it, sure that’s what the cleaner is paid for.”

The irony of course being that “Gavin” isn’t doing anything at all for his money, yet demands that others do things for him.

“No, he is hired to clean the communal areas and take out your rubbish but not clean your room.”

Neither of which a cleaner should be doing but I can see why Gavin has this expectancy. The state has fostered this expectation that others are there to serve him whether it be in the form of a keyworker sorting out his benefits or a cleaner charged with clearing up the detritus of his chaotic lifestyle.

Five minutes after getting rid of Gavin, Kenny, 21, knocks on the office door. He too is failing to successfully scrounge from the state. I’ve seen slugs with more get up and go. Soon, his ex-girlfriend with whom he has a fractious relationship, will be bearing him a child. There are similar scenarios throughout the project and indeed up and down the country ensuring that Britain has yet another generation of employment and education averse youngsters to take the place of today’s underclass when they go to the great Burberry factory in the sky. He seeks my sage advice in relation to benefits.

And another story continues.

Oh, and while I’m at it, this is also happening here. I know someone on a board of a private charity, who places modest obligations on those they help, and hear only excuses in return. From what he tells me, some of those people are shortly going to be on the street.

I was thinking about the stories on Winston’s blog later, and remembered that in Management lectures at university, we were told that “Positive” reinforcement was by far the best way. We were told that studies had shown this, yet people didn’t use it. The message was clear: people only used negative reinforcement because they were stupid, lazy or just liked inflicting pain.

It’s the last one that is being seized on by opponents to National’s “meet the requirements or we cut your benefit” plans. (Not to mention Sue Bradford’s inflammatory comments regarding Christians during the Section 59 debate.)

Reading Winston’s blog, it’s clear that raising a child with only positive reinforcement is a recipient for disaster. But herein likes the rub.

The studies that established the superiority of positive reinforcement were almost certainly conducted on people who had been raised with both positive and negative reinforcement. Meaning, that those participating would understand that failure of a task would have negative consequences – as they do in the real world. (Failure of my task to purchase this morning’s paper would mean I had no paper to read for example.)

So clearly, when someone is offered a positive inducement to do a task, this is quite likely to have an implied and assumed “negative” inducement as well at the other end. Clearly, having both is better in most cases than just having one – someone pushing as well as pulling is going to be better than someone pulling only.

But today, we see the real results of only using positive reinforcement, and it’s in people who can’t even take the slightest responsibility for their own welfare. Couple this with a “duty of care” and you have some serious problems that only get worse. One or both has to go.

Yes, some people are going to end up on the street under these reforms. Yes, they will have to rely on private charity.

That’s sad, but what’s sadder is that they don’t want to take responsibility to improve their lives. Maybe once they look at the effort they take to get non-government charity, they might realise that they’ve actually chosen the harder path by default.

Earning more than the average wage, but on the benefit

I actually largely agree with No Right Turn on this one. Well, sort of.

The Herald and the sewer are highlighting the fact that “many among the top 50 have more than eight children”. That’s not surprising. Firstly, poking around with table-builder shows that (as of the 2006 census) around 2.6% of New Zealand women had had six or more children. These people are subject to the same vicissitudes of fate as any other family – they can lose their jobs and suffer from relationship breakups – and when they do WINZ assists them, just as it does for anyone else.

That is an excellent point. People on the right tend to focus on beneficiaries having large families to get higher benefits, but large families also come about because that’s simply what people want. Many Catholics might have problems using contraception for example.

Plus, I have a sneaking suspicion that the sheer work of a large family might start kicking in as a disincentive at some point, but I could be wrong.

Secondly, benefits are nominally assigned by need, which means more help (e.g. childcare subsidies, OSCAR subsidies, family tax credits) is available for large families. … If we want them to have any chance of a decent life (rather than creating or perpetuating multi-generational poverty), they need to be provided for. What exactly are the right proposing here? Denying assistance to those whose need is greatest? Leaving people to starve? That’s not a solution acceptable in any decent society, and it would worsen our social problems, not reduce them.

And I/S is right, high benefit income is highly likely to denote high need. For example, it’s possible that some families have several children who have special needs, and they get the Child Disability Allowance for that on top of other payments.

However, in normal circumstances, i.e. with one or both parents working and pre-WFF, family income does not increase to cover increased need – people just have to make do. They are “left to starve” to use I/S’s hyperbole.

And this is what people see – while they have to adapt to meet increasing costs, their taxes are going to people who can simply demand more when they need it to the point where they can demand more than most people earn.

While Idiot insists that Bennett is calling these people dishonest, I think that she is simply doing her job – making sure that she can justify to the taxpayers that these people are really in need. No one wants to take food from staving children, but when $85,000 is being paid, those paying the bill have a right to demand scrutiny.

Our benefit system enjoys widespread support in spite of it’s quirks. All Bennett is doing is making sure it retains it by insisting it does what it was intended to do.

Christ: Give to the Poor

I couldn’t put it better myself.

The difference between the left and right is not about whether or not financial assistance should be provided to the poor. Contrary to the false moral superiority (and slander) propagated by left wing activists, the difference is that the left primarily believe in taking other peoples money by threats of violence and giving it to the poor and in practice they give very little of their own money voluntarily. Conservatives, on the other hand, give generously of their own money and take others by force only when as a last resort.

I can find no scripture anywhere which suggests that Christians should help the poor by giving regular, set payments, regardless of the recipient’s heart, by taking that money from others.

Nor do I find any scripture that suggests that one should force others to give to the poor under compulsion, while giving nothing voluntarily oneself.

I once spoke to a christian man, a true solder of the cross (sadly now departed) who spent his life working for the cause of the gospel.

He pointed out that in old times, the local church would provide welfare to people as it was needed, because the church knew the people in question, knew their circumstances, knew if they needed help, were downplaying their situation or simply being lazy. Charity strengthened the community because people actually had do to something to help their fellow man. (I guess they could also give as they were able – if you didn’t have $10, you might have extra potatoes instead.)

While there are advantages to the welfare state, he pointed out that it’s advent meant a great loss to communities, where those in need no longer needed to have contact with their community, and had help targeted regardless of their real need, be it greater or lesser than that provided.

People portray the right as hard on the poor, and the left as beign out of touch with aspects of the real world. I am on the right because I think there is not compromise, because being a conservative has the best of both worlds.

Random Thoughts on Child Poverty

1. I’ve yet to meet a kid who’s earning more than 60% of the median wage

2. Actually, I might have but from memory they were right pricks

3. Isn’t it illegal for kids to work that much anyway?

4. The real problem is the parent’s income – not how much they get, but what they do with it. Too many beneficiaries spend their money on booze and flash cars and too little on the children they have. (Most of the cars outside the local WINZ are better than the one I drive at present.) I know parents who’s children would be no better off if their income tripled.

5. Also, what they do with what they buy. A good jacket can last for a day or years depending on the behavior of the wearer.

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