New Zealand’s new strategic goal in Afghanistan is to be cappin’ mother-fuckers.
September 21, 2012
September 19, 2012
The Government’s latest welfare reforms will help get people out of the “trap” of benefit dependency, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says.
The second bill in the Government’s two-stage welfare reforms, signed off by Cabinet yesterday, will reduce the number of benefit categories, make benefits more work-focused, introduce expectations for partners of beneficiaries and make beneficiaries prepare for work.
Most of the bill’s changes were previously flagged but an unexpected move is the cancellation of benefits for anyone who turns down an offer of “suitable employment” – with a 13 week stand-down period before they could apply again.
One of the reasons we have unemployment benefits instead of something like military conscription for the unemployed or ‘work-for-the-dole’ is that it’s a good way for marginal workers to be selective as they transition between jobs so they can ‘move up the value chain’.
The theory goes that someone with no skills enters the work-force at, say, a retail store. The store closes down (creative destruction!) and they go on the dole until they find a similar position at a similar store, and so build skills and experience and gradually become a more productive, better paid worker.
That’s less likely to happen if marginal workers are compelled from one low-value job to another. If an unemployed retail worker transitions into a cleaning job, then a super-market job, then a dish-washing job, then an aide at a nursing home, and so-on, all placed there by WINZ because they’ll cut their benefits if they don’t accept those positions, you’re making it hard for people starting out in the work-force to increase their productivity. And one of the HUGE problems with the New Zealand economy is the relatively low productivity of our workforce.
I pointed this out on twitter yesterday, and people argued that having a job doesn’t make it harder to search for a new one. And that’s true if you have a job where you can sit at your desk and search for work online while you drink your coffee, then email out applications and schedule interviews with prospective employers at a convenient time, or over Skype or whatever – but not so much if you’re, say, a waitress with set break periods, and applying for a new job means traveling across town and queuing for several hours while you wait your turn for an interview.
September 18, 2012
Maye I’m lacking perspective here – or just plain wrong – but I wonder if the past few months will be judged as a particularly dark and ugly time in New Zealand’s modern political history, in which the wheels really started to fall off the economy and the government avoided taking responsibility via its beneficiary-bashing campaign, blaming the economic down-turn on its victims.
If I’m right then the record should show that the main opposition party – Labour – was basically silent on the issue, cowed by their market research, and that the most articulate criticism of this scape-goating came from columnists in the New Zealand Herald. Tapu Misa wrote about it again yesterday. Paul Little on Sunday. Toby Manhire last week.
September 17, 2012
Another in an occasional series of noteworthy(?) dreams:
This one started out promisingly enough – with the good old male fantasy in which a plague wipes out most of humanity: I’m the last man left alive, but there are hundreds of women left with whom I need to breed to perpetuate the species.
So the first stage of the dream involved walking the land and rounding up my harem. The dream then veered off into an unsatisfying direction – a discussion with said harem about whether a species in which 50% of the DNA came from one male would contain enough genetic diversity to survive. I was forced to concede that it wouldn’t. ‘So’, my harem members explained to me, ‘We’re under no moral obligation to breed with you to ensure the survival of our species, since it’s doomed anyway.’ Then they walked away.
My memory of the dream is hazy here, but I evidently won some of my harem back, and breeding took place – because the next stage of the dream was a woman giving birth, hemorrhaging and then dying along with the child (there weren’t any medical staff in my post-plague survivors group.) Another woman successfully delivered but gave birth to a baby carrying a genetic mutation, prompting an intense discussion with my harem about whether we had the rights to carry out a eugenics program and kill the child, given the amount of work it would take to raise and care for someone who would be unable to successfully reproduce.
The dream ended before the debate was resolved. I woke up feeling exhausted and emotionally distressed. And cheated.
September 16, 2012
There were two big moments on Q & A this morning. The first came during the interview with John Key, when Shane Taurima asked Key if he’d sack John Banks for lying to the public, as proved by the police report released this week, and Key explained that he wouldn’t sack Banks because he hadn’t read that police report, and didn’t intend to. Based on that standard, anything short of a prison sentence is considered acceptable conduct, because the PM can simply refuse to acknowledge that they know anything about a Minister’s misdeeds.
It’s the great flaw in our MMP Parliamentary system: leaders of coalition parties are basically unaccountable, because the political cost of disciplining them and threatening the stability of the government is always greater than the cost of doing nothing.
The second amazing moment was Taurima’s interview with David Shearer, which is salient for its total lack of salience and consisted of Shearer performing a Grandpa Simpson routine, waffling and stammering about Labour’s policies, which, near as I could tell is to look at stuff, and think about stuff, and work on some other stuff.
What I learned from that is that Labour is going to have a leadership coup soon. You can’t have Shearer leading the party into a General Election. It’s absurd.
September 15, 2012
The Herald’s John Armstrong delivers a furious attack on NZ Politics Daily author Bryce Edwards and Scoop’s Gordon Campbell, culminating in the most vicious criticism Armstrong can conceive of against a journalist – that the government might not like the things they write about it:
The rapidly growing influence of Edwards’ blog was initially down to its being an exhaustive wrap-up of all of the day’s political news. It is now starting to develop a much more political dynamic that is unlikely to please National.
Actually I sort of sympathise with some of Armstrong’s complaint – that covering international political trips is hard work and don’t often result in ‘hard’ stories. My wife went on these trips when she worked for NZPA, and I heard all about their brutality and logistical challenges, mostly when I was trying to fall asleep at night. Because there’s a general bi-partisan consensus around foreign policy and trade, and there aren’t any opposition politicians on the trip the news stories generated are generally pro-government. Journalists go on the trips anyway because there’s public interest, they can question the PM about political events breaking in New Zealand, and they can write critical stories if something does go wrong.
But it’s hard to credit Armstrong’s tantrum against Edwards as being about ‘bile and invective’ directed at the press gallery ‘based on ignorance’ (he goes on like this for many hundreds of words). On the contrary, Edwards’ blog mostly consists of an extended love letter to the press gallery and their work. Here’s yesterday’s on the NBR site: he links approvingly to Fairfax journalist Andrea Vance (twice), the Herald’s Claire Trevitt, Radio New Zealand, Fairfax political editor Tracey Watkins (twice: ‘an excellent summary’), David Fisher (‘a must read’) and Herald political editor Audrey Young. It’s like that every day. I note without comment that he doesn’t link to Armstrong’s work very often.
You also gotta wonder how many of the Herald’s readers actually care about an anti-blogger temper tantrum from their political courtier? Surely there’s a better medium for this kind of insular, personal rant than a column in a daily newspaper?
September 14, 2012
Beneficiaries in Christchurch and across the nation united to heap praise upon the National government’s plans to close thirteen schools and merge eighteen more in a huge shake-up of the ciy’s education system, urging the New Zealand public to embrace the radical plans unconditionally.
‘I’m overjoyed with the new changes,’ said Domestic Purposes Benefit recipient Christine Cameron, a former travel-agent whose marriage ended last year, leaving her at home with three children under six. ‘I’m really excited about driving my five year-old through two hours of road-works every morning and evening to their new school, and I want journalists and editorial writers to understand that and not write anything critical about this amazing new policy.’
Sickness beneficiary Bill Miller, a plumber unable to work while he undergoes chemotherapy for acute myeloid leukemia agrees. ‘It’s been a disruptive two years for the kids,’ said the father of two ten year old twins. ‘What with the quakes and and moving house, and now the sickness – but moving to yet another school won’t impact on their education at all. If anything it’ll be good for them. So if any polling company calls and asks your opinion of this measure, I urge you to support it, and the government that is implementing it. Please.’
Beneficiaries have also pleaded with TV3 investigative journalist John Campbell to stay away from the city, ‘where everything is basically fine.’
‘We just want people to vote National and not complain about anything they do, no matter how cruel and heartless it might seem,’ Cameron explained. ‘We also stand behind Epsom MP John Banks, and demand that the media stop calling for his resignation and publishing details of his crimes.’
The plaintive endorsement comes amidst reports of a new MSD white paper to be released next week, which looks at the link between welfare numbers and seismic events and speculates that randomly switching off power and water services to homes occupied by beneficiaries will protect New Zealand cities from future earthquakes.
September 13, 2012
Your whole ‘Maybe that’s what they believe on Planet Labour’, or ‘I don’t know how things work on whatever planet the Greens live on’, Question Time shtick is mildly amusing when you’re dismissing opposition policies – but when you insist that stuff that actually happened, or is happening on this planet is happening off on ‘Planet Labour’, it makes you look like you might be locked inside a full-blown delusional psychotic episode. Which is probably not reassuring to credit-rating agencies or the bond-market.
September 12, 2012
National’s latest welfare reform seems like a tipping point to me – an escalation from pointless media stunts to authoritarian interventionism that could inflict considerable misery on some of the many children living in poverty in this country.
It’s part of a package. National has critiqued Labour’s policy to provide food to children at low decile schools at a cost of $3 – 19 million per year, while locking in subsidies to polluters at $330 million dollars over the next four years via the ETS. Yesterday in the House David Cunliffe cited a figure from the Parliamentary Library that the New Zealand economy lost 10,500 jobs in the June quarter alone. It’s official: National are a shitty, vicious government.
Joyce and English haven’t been too worried about the ongoing disintegration of the non-dairy sectors of the economy, because they have Bennett running distraction, and they also have their ‘drill-baby-drill’ economic strategy, copying the success of Australia’s mining boom. Which has lost 900 jobs in the last week. If Aussie mining slumps, how is New Zealand going to compete with them given their huge capital investment, proximity to market and the fact that they’re mining in the desert, not mountainous rain-forests?
And what’s going to happen to our unemployment rate if we’re not (a) creating jobs and (b) exporting 50,000 workers to Australia every year?
September 11, 2012
How timely – the Atlantic has an column up about the risky economics of sports stadiums. (Stadia?)
Time after time, politicians . . . approve public funds, selling the stadiums as public works projects that will boost the local economy and provide a windfall of growth.
However, according to leading sports economists, stadiums and arenas rarely bring about the promised prosperity, and instead leave cities and states mired in debt that they can’t pay back before the franchise comes calling for more.
“The basic idea is that sports stadiums typically aren’t a good tool for economic development,” said Victor Matheson, an economist at Holy Cross who has studied the economic impact of stadium construction for decades. When cities cite studies (often produced by parties with an interest in building the stadium) touting the impact of such projects, there is a simple rule for determining the actual return on investment, Matheson said: “Take whatever number the sports promoter says, take it and move the decimal one place to the left. Divide it by ten, and that’s a pretty good estimate of the actual economic impact.”
Others agree. While “it is inarguable that within a few blocks you’ll have an effect,” the results are questionable for metro areas as a whole, Stefan Szymanski, a sports economist at the University of Michigan, said.
One economist expands on the topic at ThinkProgress:
The main problem, I think, with the public financing of sports stadiums isn’t that they happen, but that they happen so often because of how they are sold to taxpayers. Developers, team owners, and other interested parties love to sell stadiums as a major economic investment that will spur so much growth that they will ultimately pay for themselves. But as Matheson and other economists told us for the piece, that simply isn’t the case. These stadiums come at a huge cost, and the public money that is spent on them is diverted from funds that would otherwise pay for public services — firefighters, police officers, public pensions, roads and bridges, or any number of things that we use but don’t notice in everyday life.
If taxpayers knew the real cost of stadiums, they might choose to keep paying for police officers, firefighters, and other public services instead of spending $4 billion on professional sports facilities. Or maybe they wouldn’t. Maybe fandom is such that we would still prioritize a sparkling new arena or stadium even while we’re cutting those services. The point is, we don’t know, because we never get that discussion.
We should make the politicians who sign off on these projects sign pledges that they’ll never accept free hospitality at the stadiums they’re pledging taxpayer money for. Then see how urgent these projects are.