The early reports seemed too crazy to be true – but they are. Right here on page 15:
The Welfare Working Group also proposes a change in the conditions of eligibility to address this issue. The majority of the Working Group recommends that a work test in the case of parents having an additional child while on welfare should be aligned with paid parental leave provisions (when the youngest child reaches 14 weeks). A minority of members felt that the work-test in the case of parents having an additional child while on welfare should be aligned with parental leave employment protection provisions (at 12 months). The Working Group is of the view that if the changes to the work test do not address the incentives to have additional children while reliant on welfare payments, then it may be necessary to consider additional financial disincentives in the future.
It makes perfect sense if you’re an
inhuman monster trained economist: women who have a second child on the DPB tend to normalise to living on a benefit and become long-term beneficiaries – so if you impose a high cost on that behaviour then they’ll respond rationally by avoiding it, with positive outcomes for them and the taxpayer.
But back home on Earth, there will always be a non-zero – and possibly quite large – number of young woman living in poverty who do not behave like good rational maximisers, and under Rebstock’s proposal the state would force them back into the work-force while their baby was less than four months old, or stop their benefit if they failed to comply.
I’d be amused to see Rebstock questioned on the practicalities of this policy: if a woman is married with one child and her husband leaves her, and she goes on the DPB then discovers she is three months pregnant will she be compelled to return to work fourteen weeks after giving birth?
But what’s the point? Who cares what Rebstock ‘thinks’? It doesn’t really matter what’s in the rest of the Welfare Working Group proposal – to suggest something this psychotic discredits the entire project. Some commentators have suggested that the WWG is an attempt to shift the Overton Window on welfare issues to the right and make the government look more moderate. If so I think it will be an utter failure. You can’t shift the Overton Window to the left on, say, Treaty of Waitangi settlements by suggesting the crown grant the entire North Island to Maori – you’ll just provoke a backlash from the other 99.999% of the political spectrum.