Sunday, February 16, 2014

Karl du Fresne: When hardship is self-inflicted

Few New Zealanders begrudge some of their taxes being spent on welfare for people who, through no fault of their own, have fallen on hard times and need a hand to get back on the rails.
Most draw the line, however, at helping people who assume a right to be maintained by their fellow citizens in the lifestyle of their choice. I’m not talking here about the usual sad suspects, such as the women who leave school at 15 and have a succession of children, often by multiple feckless fathers, and rely on the state to pay for their upbringing.
No, I’m talking about people like the Auckland couple interviewed recently by the New Zealand Herald on what the Labour Party’s $60-a-week baby bonus would mean for them.
The female partner lectured in art history until a couple of years ago, when she took time off to study for a doctorate (since attained).
She and her partner were on the unemployment benefit when they had a son 16 months ago, though she went back to work for two days a week when the boy was five months old and now works a three-day week.
The couple also received an accommodation supplement and family tax credits for the baby and the male partner’s 13-year-old son from a previous relationship, though we were not told what their total taxpayer support came to.
The male partner, meanwhile, was described as an actor and musician with an “unstable” income. He had a low-paid sales job but gave it up for a six-week acting engagement. He’s now studying full-time.
What’s striking about this couple is that they appear to have choices. They are educated. Unlike some beneficiaries, they have some control over their lives.
But they chose to have a baby, despite being on an unemployment benefit.
She chose to toss in a full-time job to study for a doctorate. Assuming her qualification is in art history, it’s not exactly a field rich in career opportunities – but then, who are we to question her life goals?
He had a full-time job but chose to drop it in favour of a short-term acting gig. Perhaps he felt a sales job was not worthy of his talents.
The article didn’t say whether he gets a benefit while he studies (another choice), but it’s reasonable to infer that he does. They could hardly exist on her income from three days’ work.
If these people have experienced hardship, as they claim, then it was self-inflicted.
They are not no-hopers, powerless to determine their future.  They have options. But underlying their decisions is the implicit assumption that the taxpayer will fund their chosen lifestyle.
This is a perverse outcome of a welfare system that has expanded far beyond what its original architects envisaged.
We can only be thankful that the couple’s sense of entitlement isn’t more widely shared – because if everyone felt free to do what they wanted, comfortable in the assurance that the state would support them, society would have collapsed long ago.

Karl du Fresne blogs at This article was first published in the Dominion Post.


Anonymous said...

Few New Zealanders begrudge some of their taxes being spent on welfare

Get a grip.

Only 10% of Kiwis pay any nett taxes - and you can damn well be sure we hate paying every damn cent.

Brian said...

Karl has drawn attention to a familiar pattern in our Welfare system.
Living off the state in New Zealand, while able to work has become almost an art form of respectability in some cases. The begging bowl of sympathy is placed before all politicians especially in an election year. How can they resist the urge to fill or even top up those welfare payments, let alone investigate and portrait themselves as creatures devoid of human understanding?
There is a great deal of difference in helping those who, by some either natural misfortune or redundancy issue beyond their control, land up without adequate means in our society. It is entirely a different matter when many in society go actively outside the law to gain access to Welfare payments that they are not entitled too.
The standard political practice of forever increasing payments just to satisfy the liberal elements in our country needs a brake applied. Welfare is not working, and will never work so long as there are no checks on how money in households is allocated. One can but wonder that the claims regarding our child poverty, stem directly from the misuse of welfare to these recipients?
Our welfare system must cease the practice of handing out its payments in a monetary form; it is too easy to abuse without checking each individual payment. (Which would in itself, be an impossible bureaucratic financial and privacy nightmare.)
All Political Parties must institute the sensible option of non-transferable food vouchers irrespective of the implications from our Green & Socialistic community, that this is de-grading. Being on welfare for any length of time itself, should be an incentive to returning to work and getting off the welfare bandwagon.
Like all Western Countries our manufacturing base is being eroded by Asian low wage slave like economies. NZ is suffering as part of this cancer, and it is up to larger economies in the West to find a way to counteract these commercial and industrial practices.
The United Nations should have the answer, but they have had their head in the Indigenous sand for too long to be effective.

paul scott said...

It is hard to imagine a more bizarre and ludicrous policy than that where a Western State would pay people to have babies.
Sweet Jesus even Chairman Mao made it the advantage not to have babies, while he was otherwise engaged. David Cunliffe is a gift to New Zealand.
Cunliffe personally assures us of a third term NZ Nat coalition Government.

If you want to see how the WINZ operates, well think of an excuse and get down there to your local office and you will be profoundly shocked,
Mr Karl says in his analysis.

We can only be thankful that the couple’s sense of entitlement isn’t more widely shared – because if everyone felt free to do what they wanted, comfortable in the assurance that the state would support them, society would have collapsed long ago.
But Karl is wrong here. We do have a sense of entitlement to the Welfare State provisions .
The NZ Government sends my wealthy brother in law superannuation at about $250 per week.
He Brother in Law told me it didn’t even cover his booze bill.
Only one example but pay me here, send me money people, my wife wants to have a child, what is wrong with you people, send me money
from Paul Scott

Unknown said...

In general (not totally though) they both seem to be trying to "improve themselves" so that in future they won't be on welfare of any sort. The woman was lecturing prior to having their son so she has already worked to get her degree and now, doctorate. She's back at work 3 days a week with their child being only 16 months old. What do you want? Childcare is ludicrously unaffordable so there is LITERALLY NO INCENTIVE for people to try to work even more than they are and would you like to tell me (these days) when it is that she CAN have a child? If it's looked at from a financial perspective the answer to that is, probably never. The only part I really do agree with you on is that it is wrong that the woman's partner gave up a paid job(however low-paid)for an acting job unless he was ASSURED that it was going to lead to paid acting work as a result.
I see your point, slightly, but I think you are too judgemental and these days EVERYTHING is tough for ANYONE who is not in the "UNTOUCHABLE" top 5%. There is much more going on in this country that is APPALLING that has nothing to do with those on welfare. It's the other end that is REALLY appalling.

Dave said...

The problem is that in Western society we have this ingrained sense of honor or doing the right thing... enter.... benefits.... put in place by the best thinking fair minded people to ever walk this earth. Designed to help those who really need it and rightly so.
Then enter the other ... dark side of mankind,when ever there is an opportunity to take, accumulate even steal and take an easy way out. These are the people we all know that when presented with an opportunity to take something on offer for all the right reasons will try to 'milk it' for all its worth.
It could be creating an income by deliberately having babies, faking sickness or an injury to never having to work again, being so doped out on drugs and or booze that you ensure you will never leave the unemployed benefit system. The list goes on.
So we are the instigators of our own downfall by oddly enough doing the right thing in the first place.

Anonymous said...

What I find to be interesting, is that we let in quite a number of refugees every year, but it appears that the majority never get a job and stay on welfare for the rest of their lives. So what have they contributed to NZ? Nothing. And we have young girls who have their first child as soon as they are abe to. So what's their prognosis for work when they eventually get sick of having kids? Probably nil. And then we have the Gangs. Do they contribute anything? Do they pay GST on their drug sales? Are they a nett drain on society? Do they fill the prisons? At least there is one possible angle here. The Australians have banned motor-cycle gangs. It now appears that some of their gang members have moved to NZ. How they get through immigration with their gang associations is another question, but why don't we make a start and ban gangs.