Bashing Would-Be Welfare Reformers
National's newly released welfare reform paper has been resoundingly slated in some quarters as no more than politicians flying kites. Wouldn't it be great if welfare reform was just politicking. It's not. It's a matter of grave urgency. Only a few New Zealanders recognise and act on this fact. For their trouble they are lambasted, derided and bad-mouthed. The personal cost to those pushing for reform is considerable.
When I began advocating for an end to the DPB a couple of years ago I expected it to be tough. That the battle of ideas would be rigorous and my intentions would be misunderstood. I hadn't however, counted on deceit and misrepresentation.
Words get re-written. I say 'the non-working have time on their hands with no need to contribute.' This is regurgitated by the Left as 'she seems to suggest that beneficiaries are lazy, unmotivated, parasites.' This happens routinely. If you can't answer your opponent with evidence that they have it wrong, attack them personally.
Before last year's change of government, an Alliance MP publicly described my idea (dump the DPB for the dole) as a 'final solution'. The obvious inference was not lost on me. I later went head to head with the same MP at a select committee hearing. As one attending put it, "If this 'caring, compassionate' Leftie could have climbed across the table and strangled you, she would have."
Then there are the outright threats. One woman representing the 'southside bitchz' wrote in very ugly terms "How dare you m..f..ers stop my DPB. It's my money. I'll f... you up bitch. Yea."
When I read this letter my heart beat a little faster. Not from fear, but the cold realisation that these were the words of a mother. I wondered if she used the same threats and language with her children when they angered her.
So why do we keep going? Clearly it would be far eaiser to keep our mouths closed and our eyes shut to the disintegration of family, the work ethic and the ensuing social mayhem. That's what any truly greedy, 'I'm alright Jack' merchant would do.
Even easier would be to preach alongside the morally superior Left. Their mantra of 'benefits are provided to ensure 'social inclusion', the poor are victims of circumstance and we should take more from the workers to alleviate their struggle,' is guaranteed to bring greater kudos and votes for that matter.
Nobody condemns this so-called solution as hard-hearted or uncaring despite it never having worked. God knows we've been trying for the last forty years to help the poor by redistributing income. The result - more poverty than ever.
And the Greens are handwringing on the poverty band wagon too. Green MP Sue Bradford said last week that expecting single parents to work was a "Victorian, draconian punishment". Far from being a punishment, work is the only way out of poverty.
But this sort of politically correct claptrap is easy to peddle. Far, far harder is to swim against the tide and attempt to get at the truth.
National MP, Katherine Rich, herself a working mum with very young children, put a huge effort into her "Saving the next generation from welfare dependency," discussion paper. It is broadly researched and the arguments undeniably sound. Her critics know this and their attacks are sickeningly predictable and tiresome. National shouldn't be deterred because this is exactly what those with a left-wing bias, inside and outside the media, want to achieve.
It must be, because if they really cared about people at the bottom they'd be looking for a better way as well.
Lindsay Mitchell is a Research Fellow for the
Institute for Liberal Values (
http://www.liberalvalues.org.nz) and specialises in
issues relating to welfare policy.