thoughts on welfare reform

The earthquake has come at a convenient time for the National government, eclipsing the release of the Welfare Working Group’s report.

The proposed welfare reform is fundamentally about getting people actively looking for work. Collapsing all benefits into one “jobseekers” benefit, defined in essence by the criteria to be actively seeking work, punishing the long term unemployed, and those who have children (in quasi-eugenic policy).

This criteria, as demonstrated in In A Land of Plenty, is purely a piece of economic theory in action. An unemployed underclass actively looking for work keeps wages down, which, according to the dominant economic theory – the one that doesn’t work and has led to the ongoing global economic crisis – will keep inflation down, and if only inflation can be kept down, sunshine and bunnies will reign in the land. That is the whole of the faith.

Being forced to actively look for work, in this light, has nothing to do with actually getting a job that isn’t there. Jobseekers are the stick keeping wages down and workers willing to put up with crap conditions because at least they have a job. This is fine as a purely numeric theory if you disregard that actual humans are involved.

The proposed reform refuses to acknowledge the wider economic situation. Jobs aren’t there because the economy is broken. The government isn’t doing anything to create jobs. They have no ideas and no plan but sticking to a failed ideology that requires treating people like shit. The proposed welfare reform is like a game of musical chairs, except there are many thousands less chairs than players, and the losers get screwed.

Also, in the wake of the Christchurch disaster, there are going to be many people in our second biggest centre whose livelihoods are gone. Just in time to queue up for some dehumanisation.

Last word taken from Gordon Campbell’s summary:

In sum, welfare reform on this scale will not only punish and marginalise the poor – with all the health/law and order costs that will create in its wake. It will also present employers with a golden opportunity to permanently undercut the wages and conditions of all but the elite and skilled members of the New Zealand work force. Obviously, New Zealanders can vote for this package or reject it – but we need to very clear what sort of society we would be endorsing in November by supporting it. IMO, the welfare gulag envisaged by the WWG and (apparently) endorsed in large part by the Key government, is foreign to the country that most of us have known.

3 Responses to “thoughts on welfare reform”

  1.   Zanzibar Hexidos
    February 24th, 2011 | 5:28 pm

    The catchcry “where are the jobs for people to go to?!?!” has been thrown by the Opposition. Correct from one point of view. But you’ve highlighted the clear point of view… and demand, with only a minimum wage to buffer people from de-facto slavery.

    It’s the 21st century and I am still amazed that the follies of monetarism are still in vogue. But they are.

    The question I have is how much is this new beauracracy going to cost? And how much would it take to implement a universal income system, which should mean less beauracracy – if implemented properly i.e. it has less rules to administer i.e x2 everyone just gets paid a base income no matter what.

    I think true economic liberalism relies on the discretionary powers of the employees as well as the employers.

    In fact, why should I be an employee with PAYE taken off of me. Why can’t I just work via a company and do what the other self-employed do in the line of business: claim expenses before paying tax? Like my transport to work, my work clothes, the cellphone I needed when I was trying to nail a favourable job quickly years ago….

    In short, a base level and a consistent set of rules for all paid effort.

  2.   Helen
    February 26th, 2011 | 12:25 pm

    I also am worried that in the aftermath of this terrible disaster another disaster is hatching while everyone is looking the other way.

  3.   billy
    February 28th, 2011 | 11:10 am

    Zanzibar: have you read “the abolition of work¨ essay by bob black?

    Helen: more or less the definition of “the shock doctrine”