Can ‘poverty’ be a habit?

Poverty is currently one of new Zealand’s big issues.

National’s approach has been to make financial and business conditions conducive to economic and employment growth, to incentivise and assist unemployed people to get jobs, and to target the worse off with additional assistance.

Labour’s approach is to criticise National’s approach.

Green’s approach is to give the poor much more money and to guarantee them comfortable living conditions, seeing this as a right regardless of any individual’s capability or willingness to work.

The hard right want the Government gutted and for everyone to manage on their own – swim or sink.

The hard left (including some Greens) accuse the Government of deliberately making the poor poorer so the rich can get richer – I’ve never seen anyone explain how that would work.

Some people are not competent to manage their lives or their finances so a decent society should support them.

There are certainly hard luck stories that result in people being poor.

But why, generally, do people who have had money and go broke manage to climb back up the money ladder? While others seem to start poor and remain perpetually poor? Can poverty be a habit?

I saw a link to an article by Thomas Worley on Facebook. He is described:

About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley understands the difference between being rich and poor: at age nine, his family went from being multi-millionaires to broke in just one night.

For five years, Tom observed and documented the daily activities of 233 wealthy people and 128 people living in poverty. He discovered there is an immense difference between the habits of the wealthy and the poor. During his research he identified over 200 daily activities that separated the “haves” from the “have nots.” The culmination of his research can be found in his #1 bestselling book, Rich Habits – The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals.

The article: Will Your Child be Rich or Poor? 15 Poverty Habits Parents Teach Their Children

When I travel the country speaking to high school and college students about exactly what they need to do to become financially successful in life I always begin my presentation by asking three questions:

“How many want to be financially successful in life?”

“How many think they will be financially successful in life?”

Almost every time I ask the first two questions every hand rises in the air. Then I ask the magic third question:

“How many have taken a course in school on how to be financially successful in life?”

Not one hand rises in the air, ever. Clearly every student wants to be successful and thinks they will be successful but none have been taught by their parents or their school system how to be financially successful in life. Not only are there no courses on basic financial success principles but there are no structured courses teaching basic financial literacy. We are raising our children to be financially illiterate and to fail in life. Is it any wonder that most Americans live paycheck to paycheck? That most Americans accumulate more debt than assets?  That many Americans lose their homes when they lose their job? Is it any wonder that most Americans cannot afford college for their children and that student loan debt is now the largest type of consumer debt?

That sounds very similar to New Zealand. I was never taught any financial principles at home or at school. I left home and got my first full time job when I was sixteen and started to teach myself – and I learned to manage fortnight to fortnight with my pay (beginning at $66 a fortnight) from there with no plan for the future. I’ve learned and taught myself a few more things since then.

I’ve experienced how easy it is to get in a financial rut. And I’ve managed to do ok at times to. I certainly don’t regard myself as rich but I think I have a pretty good life overall.

I’ve never planned or aspired to making myself rich. Doing ok has been ok enough.

What about the hundreds of thousands of people deemed to being in poverty? Are they stuck there?

By today’s measures I grew up in poverty. It was tough times for my parents trying to manage on an orchard that was sold to them as frost free but was devastated by frosts at times, at one stage in two out of three years. At times both my parents worked elsewhere to survive. But the both ended up financially quite comfortable, able to live their later years as they liked.

But some people seem to start in poverty and remain stuck in poverty. Corley writes:

The fact is the poor are poor because they have too many Poverty Habits and too few Rich Habits. Poor parents teach their children the Poverty Habits and wealthy parents teach their children the Rich Habits. We don’t have a wealth gap in this country we have a parent gap. We don’t have income inequality, we have parent inequality.

My parents didn’t teach me to get rich, but at least they taught me to work hard and to battle away until I wasn’t poor.

Corley lists fifteen statistics that separate the rich from the poor.

  1. 72% of the wealthy know their credit score vs. 5% of the poor
  2. 6% of the wealthy play the lottery vs. 77% of the poor
  3. 80% of the wealthy are focused on at least one goal vs. 12% of the poor
  4. 62% of the wealthy floss their teeth every day vs. 16% of the poor
  5. 21% of the wealthy are overweight by 30 pounds or more vs. 66% of the poor
  6. 63% of the wealthy spend less than 1 hour per day on recreational Internet use vs. 26% of the poor
  7. 83% of the wealthy attend/attended back to school night for their kids vs. 13% of the poor
  8. 29% of the wealthy had one or more children who made the honor roll vs. 4% of the poor
  9. 63% of wealthy listen to audio books during their commute vs. 5% of the poor
  10. 67% of the wealthy watch 1 hour or less of T.V. per day vs 23% of the poor
  11. 9% of the wealthy watch reality T.V. shows vs. 78% of the poor
  12. 73% of the wealthy were taught the 80/20 rule vs. 5% of the poor (live off 80% save 20%)
  13. 79% of the wealthy network 5 hours or more per month vs. 16% of the poor
  14. 8% of the wealthy believe wealth comes from random good luck vs. 79% of the poor
  15. 79% of the wealthy believe they are responsible for their financial condition vs. 18% of the poor

Corley suggests:

Parents and our schools need to work together to instill good daily success habits as follows:

  • Limit T.V., social media and cell phone use to no more than one hour a day.
  • Require that children to read one to two educational books a month.
  • Require children to aerobically exercise 20 – 30 minutes a day.
  • Limit junk food to no more than 300 calories a day.
  • Require that children set monthly, annual and 5-year goals.
  • Require working age children to work or volunteer at least ten hours a week.
  • Require that children save at least 25% of their earnings or gifts they receive.
  • Teach children the importance of relationship building by requiring them to call friends, family, teachers, coaches etc. on their birthdays and to send thank you cards for gifts or help they received from anyone.
  • Reassure children that mistakes are good not bad. Children need to understand that the very foundation of success in life is built on learning from our mistakes.
  • Punish children when they lose their tempers so they understand the importance of controlling this very costly emotion.
  • Teach children that seeking financial success in life is good and is a worthwhile goal. Children need to learn what the American Dream is and that it is something to be pursued in life.
  • Children need to learn how to manage money. Open up a checking account or savings account for children and force them to use their savings to buy the things they want. They need to learn that they are not entitled to things like cell phones, computers, fashionable clothes, flat screen T.V.s etc.
  • Require children to participate in at least two non-sports-related extracurricular activities at school or outside of school.
  • Parents and children need to set aside at least an hour a day to talk to one another. Not on Facebook, or on the cell phone, but face to face. The only quality time is quantity time
  • Teach children how to manage their time. They should be required to create daily “to do” lists and these lists need to be monitored by parents. The goal should be to accomplish at least 70% of their tasks on their daily “to do” list.

And he concludes:

Wealthy people do certain things every single day that sets them apart from everyone else in life. Wealthy people have good daily success habits that they learned from their parents. These daily habits are the real reason for the wealth gap in our country and the real reason why the rich get richer. Unless we teach our children good daily success habits, and level the playing field, the rich will continue to get richer and the poor will continue to get poorer.

Food for thought. Especially for our politicians.

I’m sure that to an extent poverty can be a habit.

Should out Governments feed that habit or try and break that habit?

How many children ‘in poverty’?

John Key says that the Government will particularly target the 60,000-100,000 children living in most deprivation. Green co-leader Metiria Turei questioned Key in Parliament yesterday about the numbers, but came up with a few numbers of her own. Greens are campaigning to ‘end child poverty’.

End child poverty: Take the Step New Zealand should be the best place in the world to grow up. But for 285,000 Kiwi children currently in poverty, that’s just not the case. Persistent poverty damages a child for the rest of their life. And it damages our country. We’re spending over $6 billion a year on preventable crime, illness and lost educational opportunities – the direct cost of keeping kids in poverty. Many of our poorest children are excluded from getting the same support the state gives other kids who need it, because their parents don’t work enough. These kids need champions to make sure Parliament understands that ordinary New Zealanders want the best for all our kids, regardless of who their parents are

That’s “285,000 Kiwi children currently in poverty”. In Parliament yesterday Turei asked:

Is the Children’s Commissioner wrong, and are his experts who worked on the solutions to child poverty wrong, when they state that there are between 180,000 and 200,000 children who are materially deprived

But she also asked:

Did the Ministry of Social Development fail to give him the 2014 Bryan Perry report that showed that there are 260,000 children in poverty and that 205,000 of them are living in severe poverty, where their parents earn less than half the median income?

And:

Will the Prime Minister just admit that he has made up an Oliver Twist definition of poverty so that he can ignore some 200,000 New Zealand children who suffer from poverty every day?

So Turei and the Greens are quoting a number of numbers:

  • 285,000
  • between 180,000 and 200,000
  • 260,000
  • 205,000
  • 200,000

Greens seem to want to increase benefits to increase ‘incomes’, whether the parents are in work or not, and no matter what the deprivation. So what does Key base his number on?

It seems to me that the member picks and chooses her index depending on what suits her argument, but all I can tell the member is that if one looks at the number of children who are deemed to be at the most significant level of deprivation in New Zealand based on the Ministry of Social Development index, it is 60,000 to 100,000. But what I can say is that Bryan Perry’s new annual report—and the new edition will be out very soon—will make it quite clear that in terms of what they define as severe material hardship, there are between 60,000 and 100,000 children, and they have between nine and 11 conditions on the deprivation index.

Using actual measures of deprivation (or poverty) to target the worst problems won’t stop the Greens and others from accusing Key and the Government of not caring about kids and of deliberately keeping kids in poverty. —

Full draft transcript of questions and answers yesterday in Parliament.

Prime Minister—Statements 6. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

Metiria Turei : How poor does a child need to be under his “definitional difference”, which he told Paul Henry about yesterday, when he claimed that there were only 60,000 to 100,000 children living in poverty?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The advice I have from the Ministry of Social Development material deprivation index is that there are indeed between 60,000 and 100,000 children who are living in more severe material hardship. They are children who, based on that index, lack nine to 11 items from that deprivation index.

Metiria Turei : Under his “definitional difference”, is a child living in poverty if their parents cannot afford to buy them fresh food, if they do not have two pairs of shoes, if they cannot afford a school uniform, and if they do not have their own bed? Rt Hon

JOHN KEY : I refer the member to the Ministry of Social Development’s material deprivation index.

Metiria Turei : Is the Children’s Commissioner wrong, and are his experts who worked on the solutions to child poverty wrong, when they state that there are between 180,000 and 200,000 children who are materially deprived—that is, they go without three or more essential items such as fresh food, warm clothes, their own bed, and good shoes?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : It seems to me that the member picks and chooses her index depending on what suits her argument, but all I can tell the member is that if one looks at the number of children who are deemed to be at the most significant level of deprivation in New Zealand based on the Ministry of Social Development index, it is 60,000 to 100,000.

But I would say that this Government is very focused on all children, particularly those who are less well off, and there are degrees of how less well off they are.

That is why the Government introduced free GP visits.

That is why the Government has put more money into providers like KidsCan.

That is why this Government has worked alongside Fonterra and Sanitarium to provide free breakfasts.

That is why the Government has supported having social workers in all low-decile schools.

It is why the Government has introduced children’s teams to work with at-risk children and families.

That is why the Government has insulated every State house, and it is why the Government has worked to insulate 240,000 other homes and has given them clean heating.

This is a Government that, in the very worst of times in New Zealand, has maintained benefits and entitlements that provide support for the very children whom that member is talking about.

Metiria Turei : Did the Ministry of Social Development fail to give him the 2014 Bryan Perry report that showed that there are 260,000 children in poverty and that 205,000 of them are living in severe poverty, where their parents earn less than half the median income?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The member will note—if she wants to refer to that particular report that she is talking about—how consistently the numbers that she is talking about have been at that level of deprivation. In fact, there were about 240,000 to 260,000 children living in poverty under Labour, at the height of what was theoretically an economic boom.

But what I can say is that Bryan Perry’s new annual report—and the new edition will be out very soon—will make it quite clear that in terms of what they define as severe material hardship, there are between 60,000 and 100,000 children, and they have between nine and 11 conditions on the deprivation index.

Metiria Turei : Would the Prime Minister agree that by promising to tackle child poverty and then changing the definition of poverty to exclude most of the children who are actually poor, he is breaking yet another Budget promise?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I think the member is being extremely selective with the comments I have made. If she actually goes back and looks at the interviews that I have done on this topic ever since the last election, she will see that I have consistently said that there is a disagreement between ourselves and those who claim that there are 260,000 children in that category.

We have made it quite clear that we see a group of 60,000 to 100,000 as our priority. It does not mean that we do not provide either services or support for the wider group; we actually do. I listed a great many, and I will not repeat them now. But our primary area of focus and attention is on those who are most in need.

I think most New Zealanders, actually, would say that the Government having a focus on those who are in the worst of conditions is putting our resources in the right place.

Jacinda Ardern : Does he stand by his previous statements in this House that there are many measures of child poverty, in light of his position now that there is just one, material deprivation, which just so happens to be the smallest of all the measures that are used by the Children’s Commissioner?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I stand by the view that there is no one single measure, but I am simply saying that the material deprivation index, according to the advice that we have had from the Ministry of Social Development, is the best. That is one measure, but there is no one single measure of poverty in New Zealand, and I do not think there should be.

Metiria Turei : Will the Prime Minister just admit that he has made up an Oliver Twist definition of poverty so that he can ignore some 200,000 New Zealand children who suffer from poverty every day?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I think the member risks being a little bit silly. I listed a few moments ago a very wide range of support that we provide for all New Zealand children, and in some cases, obviously, the support is much more focused on those who are in need.

I have made it quite clear that I think there is a group who are in worse hardship than others, and that is supported by the material deprivation index, which evolved, actually, from the European equivalent.

It is a very thoughtful process that Bryan Perry goes through, and it looks at very detailed analysis. I am more than happy to have the debate with the New Zealand public, but I think you might find that the New Zealand public supports the view that those who are most in need deserve the most support.

That does not mean that other children do not get support; they actually do. But this Government is very focused on that group, and I think most New Zealanders would say that is the right thing to do. The member shakes her head, but if we followed her economic policies a whole million of New Zealand children would be in hardship because none of their parents would be in work.

Green’s ‘Kids Kiwisaver’ won’t save Kiwi kids

Metiria Turei has announced a Green “game changer” policy for children that she is “very proud of”.

Today we announced a game-changing savings policy that will give every New Zealand child the start in life they need and deserve; it’s called Kids’ KiwiSaver.

Too many New Zealand families are struggling to save for their children’s futures. The Green Party wants to give you a hand so your children get a decent shot when they turn 18.

Kids’ KiwiSaver is an important step towards giving every kid the great start they deserve. Here’s how it works:

  • The Government will put $1,000 into a Kids’ KiwiSaver account for every child at birth (parents can choose to opt out).
  • Each child living below the poverty line will then get a Government top-up of $200 every year until they turn 18 and any contributions the family makes to their child’s future, up to $100 annually, will also be matched.
  • For all other families, annual contributions up to $200 will be matched by the Government.

With careful saving, our policy means children could have a minimum nest egg of $12,900 by the age of 18 that they can use to help fund tertiary education, invest in their adult KiwiSaver account, or use to help with a deposit on their first home.

The Greens claim we have a dire situation right now with hundreds of thousands of kids living in poverty and they insist urgent action is needed.

This policy piles money into something that may or help in a decade or two. It does nothing for kids in deprivation now.

And in this release the policy isn’t costed.

Last year there were 57,142 births in 2014. That would cost $57 million under this policy.

And Greens claim there are 285,000 children living in poverty.

New Zealand should be the best place in the world to grow up. But for 285,000 Kiwi children currently in poverty, that’s just not the case. – https://home.greens.org.nz/endchildpoverty

That would be another $57 million per year.

So their policy is for spending of about $114 million per year that at best would have some long term benefit. It will do nothing for children while they are living in hardship.

The chances of National backing this policy are probably close to zero. It’s hard to see Labour giving it priority if they would support it at all.

This looks like a feel-good futile policy that’s likely to keep the Greens on the political sidelines.

Obesity, poverty and education

Obesity, poverty and education are all linked, but like a whole chicken and half a dozen eggs it’s difficult to know what part of the problem should be addressed first.

One thing’s for sure, just giving poor, under educated obese people more money is unlikely to be successful in addressing the problem.

A report by the Institute of Economic Research says that Obesity linked to cycle of poverty.

Obese people are more likely to be stuck in a “vicious cycle” of poverty because they perform poorly in school and miss out on jobs, researchers say.

A report, by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, said adults living in poor areas were 1.6 times as likely to be obese as those in other areas, and “face challenges at lifting their socio-economic status”, starting with lower education.

“Obese children don’t tend to do as well academically as their peers,” the report said.

“Those lead in turn to lower wages, employment and social deprivation which increase the likelihood of obesity.”

It’s a First World problem where poor people tend to be fatter.

Edgar National Centre for Diabetes and Obesity Research director Professor Jim Mann said low socio-economic status was a “vicious cycle” for those with obesity.

“Being economically disadvantaged is a predisposing factor to obesity. One reason is good food preparation requires either time or money. If you are rich you can get good food or if you have a lot of time you can soak the lentils, et cetera.

But most of the poorest people are beneficiaries. They generally should have more time to prepare food than working parents. So do they make poor choices with their selection of food?

Just giving poor people more money risks them making more poor food choices.

Countering the high economic and social costs started with the surrounding environment, said Mann.

“If people are not bombarded with high saturated fat, high sugar kind of food everywhere they go . . . if you didn’t have people who are socio-economically disadvantaged you would lose an enormous amount of obesity.

Fast food and convenience food advertising often targets the more poorly educated demographic. For example a lot of McDonalds advertising seems to feature dumb people.

Poorly educated people may be more susceptible to being duped by advertising and high pressure sales methods.

“The most important thing is to create an environment that reduces the risk of obesity,

Better education.

Better education to improve employment and earning opportunites.

Better education on nutrition food preparation.

And education on how not to be sucked into manky marketing? A lot of advertising tries to sell things people don’t need or are bad for them.

The big problem is that these are ingrained inter-generational problems.

Taking over parent’s responsibilities and feeding kids at school won’t fix obesity – the kids will still overeat at home.

There are Government initiatives that try to address this at the level of young school leavers. I know of second chance educators who provide food free to teenagers who have failed in the education system. But that food is largely ignored,

In a society that’s more advanced than any in world history it’s ironic that we haven’t figured out how to do one our most fundamental functions – to eat sensibly and safely.

A major problem is that the rate of change of society has been much faster than normal human learning and evolution works.

This is potentially a lot more serious a problem for humankind than climate change – the climate has fluctuated for eons, but the current state of a high tech high pressure marketing fattening society is unique.

Will we ever catch up? Or will we kill ourselves off?

Labour poverty message mangled

Social media doesn’t always work the way you want it to. Yesterday Labour posted on Facebook about poverty – “Since John Key was elected 20,000 more Kiwi children are living in POVERTY.”.

There’s that many numbers thrown around about poverty I’m not sure if that will be an effective message or if it’s just another eye-glazer.

Regardless of that when I say it this morning the Top Comments have mangled Labour’s message.

Matthew Small:

That might be true, but John Key is not to blame for all of it, some people decide to have more kids when they can’t afford it; which statistically puts the kids straight into poverty.

Surgey Teer’s”

Funny how so many people believe that if you live in poverty it is somehow the governments fault. I grew up in poverty, having to stick cardboard inside my shoes because they had holes in, always hungry, all clothes were charity and hand me downs. Theonly person who I could blame was my father and step mother, both did not work and did not want to work. They still had money for cigarettes and alcohol though!!
107 likes

The only people who can change the cycle is you, individually. Work hard, take any opportunities you can. For me, the apathy of my family with regards to work made me strive for success, I did not want my children to go through the same things I did. I did not want them to grow up in a doss hole of an area ridden with crime and scum.

I would never have thought as I was growing up that I would have moved my family half way around the world and would be living in near luxury, but, I earned it and I have never took a cent of charity. I never, ever thought that I was owed something from any government. Yes, they were on the dole, it was difficult and the money was pitiful, but, it should have been less, there would have been more incentive to go and get work.
60 likes

Joy Jackson:

We are a first world country with endless educational and employment opportunities. It is simplistic and defeatist to blame a government because they are not providing you with money you have not worked for. I don’t worry about the National government,
50 likes

That’s not the response Labour would have wanted.

LabourPovertyFacebook

Scrolling down showed standard opposition lines that were less populazr

Mervyn John Peter Oquinn:

John Key doesn’t care about people it’s all about money
33 likes

Donald John Robinson:

Why blame this government, John Key played the same game as Labour, but nearly a million lazy thick incompetent, selfish ignorant New Zealanders didn’t VOTE !!!!!!
24 likes

Carol Kara:

Profits before People should be the National party slogan.
20 likes

Counter message versus same old slogans.

Another problem with this is that it isn’t easy to ‘Get the facts.” There was no obvious links to any facts. Most people wouldn’t bother trying to get them.

There’s also no sign of anything on this on Labour’s home page on their website. It’s not on their News page either.

Googling “labour children poverty living” hits Labour’s Children page that has it’s last post dated 8 July 2014. Nothing on this Facebook post.

So I don’t know what facts they are claiming.

Labour have failed to win hearts and minds on their Facebook post and have failed to provide the facts that they wanted us to get. Or did they want us to get the facts?

I see faux pas and no facts. It’s a mangled message.

The elusive surplus threatens poverty measures

It looks like the Government won’t make their promised surplus next year due to reduced tax take and pressure from reducing milk prices.

NZ Herald reported No surplus this year – Treasury

Treasury this morning delivered a body blow to the Government’s hopes of returning to surplus, saying it now expects a deficit of over half a billion dollars for the June financial year.

At this morning’s Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update, Acting Treasury Secretary Vicky Robertson said despite solid growth in the economy, the Crown’s finances would take a hit from lower than previously forecast tax take.

That had seen Treasury change its forecast operating balance before gains and losses (Obegal) for the 2014-15 year from a slim surplus of $297 million to a deficit of $572 million.

Treasury said softer outlook for economic drivers of the tax such as lower dairy prices and interest rates had seen the expected tax take for the year fall by $600 million.

The changed forecast isn’t a big deal on it’s own, changing economic conditions and revisions are to be expected.

Unless there’s a significant turn around and the surplus is achieved this is embarrassing for National and Bill English who have put a lot of emphasis on reaching a surplus after some very difficult years since the Global Financial Crisis.

Generally English deserves a lot of credit for managing the country’s finances prudently, this played a significant part in National doing so well in the election.

But English has not been so prudent on two counts – staking so much of his reputation on reaching a surplus by 2015, and leaving no room for mistakes or unexpected changes in his last budget.

English cut the surplus too fine, leaving virtually no margin for a negative change. Mr Reliable gambled and looks like losing this bet.

It isn’t a major problem for National at this stage of the electoral cycle. But it will make their promise to address poverty in next year’s budget challenging.

Ardern not ready for promotion

In Question Time today Jacinda Ardern flexed her mouth at Anne Tolley and looked like an amateur. Ardern is touted as potentially Labour’s next deputy leader when Annette King steps down in a year (or is expected to).

12. Child Poverty—Measurement

JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development

 JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development : By what percentage have child poverty levels changed since the Government took office, based on the constant value, below 60 percent of median incomes, and after housing cost measures included in the Ministry of Social Development’s report on household incomes?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): The rate on that one measure specified went from 22 percent in the 2008-09 survey to 24 percent in the 2010-11 survey and back to 22 percent in the 2012-13 survey, which shows that we are recovering from the recession. There is a range of measures in the Child Poverty Monitor released today, and the Ministry of Social Development regularly looks at a range of measures, but the issues around poverty are complex, and research shows that a number of measures needs to be used. This Government is focused on practical help rather than arguing over individual measurement. Things are improving, but there is still a long way to go, and, as I say, the issues can be complex and often intergenerational.

Jacinda Ardern : Based on her interview with Radio New Zealand this morning, where she stated: “What you describe as poverty is not what I might describe as poverty.”, how does she describe poverty and how many children are living in it?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : Well, that is absolutely correct. Poverty is a scale and it is very important, and the research shows that it is very important to understand what aspect of poverty you are talking about. So what that member might describe as poverty may be quite different from what another measure is describing as poverty. That is exactly what the research shows.

Jacinda Ardern : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member really only reiterated my question. My question was: how would the Minister describe poverty, therefore, and how many children are living in it? She can choose to answer one or the other, but one would be nice.

Mr SPEAKER : She certainly answered one. The question was not as the member has just said it was; it was a lot more full than that. It asked how the Minister would describe poverty, and the Minister went on to describe it as a scale and that there were various aspects for measuring it.

[Interruption] Order! If the member wants to question whether the answer is adequate, she should show the manners to listen to my justifying that the Minister has addressed the question. If she wants to make further progress, make it using concise supplementary questions.

Jacinda Ardern : What target will she set to reduce child poverty?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : This Government has already set results targets, and reports regularly on progress. We are finding that that clarity and accountability are well received and are what matter to New Zealanders.

I remind the member that the Salvation Army said in 2008: “Our measures of progress at this time next year should not just be those of how much our economy has grown … more relevant measures could be those of how few people are locked up in prison, how few violent crimes have been committed and how much better children in poorer schools are achieving.” Those are the sorts of targets this Government has set and is reporting on regularly.

Jacinda Ardern : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was very straightforward and explicit. It was: what target will she set to reduce child poverty?

Mr SPEAKER : And, again, I accept that the member may have had difficulty listening to the answer because I did as well—there was a lot of noise coming from members around her—but there was discussion in the answer about targets and measures. One of them that I did pick up on was the measurement of incarceration rates. That is the Minister’s answer.

[Interruption] Order! If the member is going to continue to raise every time an answer that she considers to be an unsatisfactory addressing of the question, I will attempt to explain to the member why I think it is satisfactory.

But we will make no progress at all if the member is going to continue to yell at me when I am standing on my feet. Does the member have a further supplementary question?

Jacinda Ardern : Can the Minister explain how targets to reduce incarceration rates have anything to do with improving the well-being of a child living in poverty?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : I would love to. There are about 23,000 children at any one time living in New Zealand who have a parent in prison. If the member does not think that that affects long term the economic, social, and emotional well-being of children, then that member has a very different concept of poverty from mine.

An old pro versus a young apprentice. Ardern has a lot to learn before she’s ready to step up.

Greens talk poverty but target middle NZ vote

The Green Party talk a lot about addressing children in poverty. In a policy announcement today they emphasise this:

The Green Party today announced that its key social platform for this election will be to tackle child poverty and inequality by ensuring every child in New Zealand has enough to thrive.

But the policy they announced today seems to be clearly targeting the middle New Zealand vote in Greens announce 20 hours free ECE for two year olds:

In the first of these announcements, made today, the party has announced a package to support families by extending access to free early childhood education and improve the quality of all ECE.

The key policy points in the Green Party’s plan for supporting families’ access to ECE are:

  1. Extend the 20 Hours free early childhood education subsidy to cover two-year-olds, at an initial cost of $255 million. As the benefits of this successful scheme are opened up to at least another 40,000 children, more kids will get a good start in life and the burdens on their families will be eased.
  2. Provide $32 million a year to restore funding for 100 percent qualified teachers, as part of an ambitious plan to boost the quality of early childhood education and make sure every child gets the right care and support.

The total package will cost $297 million a year immediately rising to $367 million in four years.

“Every child should have enough to thrive. Any less is a failure of our society,” said Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei.

“One in four children lives in poverty, and 205,000 Kiwi kids are now living in severe poverty, and going without the basics.

But this doesn’t seem to be directly targeting poverty. Some poor families may benefit, but middle and upper income families will also benefit. Not extending EXCE down a year is hardly a “failure of our society”.

“Extending 20 hours free ECE to two-year-olds will make a real financial difference to thousands of families. We estimate that families with two-year-olds in ECE could be up to $95 a week better off under our policy.

“About two thirds of all two-year-olds are currently enrolled in ECE, but their parents miss out on the ’20 Hours’ subsidy given to three and four year olds. We will make the system fair by extending the same subsidy to the large number of two-year-olds in ECE.

“Despite the relatively low level of current subsidy, around 40,000 two-year-olds are still enrolled in ECE, significantly more than a decade ago. Our policy helps will make a big difference to those families straight away.

It will be popular to some, but a one year of childhood is very narrow.

“This is an investment in families and our kids’ education and in reducing poverty.”

“Good-quality ECE helps children reach their full potential, both in education and in leading healthy and productive lives. It can even make the difference, according to recent research, between being in or out of poverty in later life.

“Investment in ECE is a great education spend today, but it can also reduce poverty and inequality overtime.

They have pushed the poverty line eight times in this media release. Perhaps they have more policies to come that will specifically target more pressing poverty needs, but despite their insistence this one seems to miss the mark.

It’s a good enough policy, if the cost can be justified in an overall budget, but they are trying to oversell the poverty pandering.

$300-400 million a year is a lot to allocate to all two year olds, not just those who are really deprived.

This looks a bit like a vote buying exercise dressed as a pauper.

Answering weka’s questions

Amongst a lot of discussion at The Standard there have been requests that I answer weka’s questions. There’s been many questions and comments on various threads but I’ll respond to what seems to be the most requested questions here. My comments are in parentheses.

“Not sure how it can be avoided setting benefit levels statistically lower then people who are employed.”

Benefits were cut by $20/wk in 1990. In the mid 80s the unemployment benefit was around the same rate as what school leavers were earning going into office jobs. We used to have relatively higher benefit rates then, why can’t we now?

Cost. I presume there’s many more people on benefits now. At the end of March 2014: 295,320 working-age* people were receiving a main benefit. (MSD).

And wanting to encourage people into paid employment.

“I’m not sure than any of the larger parties are suggesting that should be substantially changed.”

The GP want a UBI.

Their Income Support Policy states “The Green Party supports a full and wide-ranging public debate on the nature of UBI and the details of a UBI system, and government funding for detailed studies of the impacts of UBI. The Green Party will: Investigate the implementation of a Universal Basic Income for every New Zealander”. They are interested in the concept (as I am) but don’t say they want one.

“The aim is to raise people’s income by getting them into employment.”

That disqualifies you from having any opinion on beneficiaries until you answer the question: how many beneficiaries are not required to seek/gain employment?

It doesn’t disqualify me from anything. I have already said that some people on benefits cannot seek employment. Both Labour and National governments want to encourage those who can seek employment to do so.

I’ve also already said that if the number of people on benefits is substantially reduced then those who have to remain on benefits should be able to be provided for better.

Then you will have to answer how many people are now required to see work, despite previously being exempt.

I don’t have to do anything. I don’t know what point you are trying to make with this.

Some current details are here at MSD.

I think it’s reasonable to expect that those who are capable of working should be seeking paid employment and taking responsibility for their own welfare.

I acknowledge that it can be very difficult finding work that people want with the pay they want. Some are more motivated than others. Some people have unrealistic expectations but for many there simply aren’t enough jobs.

Then come back and explain how those people are supposed to live. 

They live how they live. It’s very tough for many. Others find a way manage.

And why those people aren’t entitled to a livable income.

You tell me why you think they should be entitled to a ‘livable income’.

Ideally everyone should have an income that makes living not too much of a struggle. But expecting everyone should have comfortable style of living without having any money problems is fanciful and idealistic.

Life can be hard work and bills can be difficult to manage, especially if you have children. We should strive for better and easier but it can never always be guaranteed or provided,

Then explain why you think that beneficiaries are all unemployed.

They’re not, some are partly employed. There’s a range of reasons why beneficiaries could be unemployed, including circumstance, health, choice, lack of alternatives and a shortage of jobs.

And then explain how unemployed beneficiaries are supposed to raise their income via employment when there aren’t enough jobs.

Some can supplement their benefit. Some could be more flexible in what work they seek and where they seek it (that’s difficult for many). And there are not enough jobs for many. That’s one thing benefits are designed to assist with.

Then, when youve done all that, retract your statement that NACT don’t keep people poor.

You’ll have to be more specific, I’ve made a number of comments related to that.

I don’t believe that in general National (or Act) want to “keep people poor”. The effect of Government policies (Labour and National) may be that some people stay poor, but I question whether any MP wants to ‘keep people poor’.

All parties propose economic growth with the intention of improving incomes and increasing the number of jobs.

“I presume you know that if the minimum wage was raised by 50% and work was provided for anyone who wants it then we’d still have the same number of people under the statistical poverty line.”

What everyone else just said. Plus, you’re a dick. If the people at the bottom end of the scale have enough to live on, then poverty stops being an issue irrespective of the statistics.

But waving a money wand and waving a job wand aren’t realistic options.

Can you show any country in the world where giving everyone “enough to live on” has succeeded over a period of years or decades.

Poverty is a problem that needs to be addressed as well as possible, but Government giving substantially more money to people with productive work being an unpressured option is unlikely to succeed if history and current world conditions are anything to go on.

But perhaps weka can outline how he thinks an entitlement to a livable income could work, with examples of how similar policies have worked elsewhere.

Poll – top 5 election issues

Colmar Brunton have polled on what people think are the  ‘top 5 issues’, with education and health head of the rest

Poverty and inequality are there but not as prominent as some may think.

It’s interesting that education is the top rated issue, especially as National’s Hekia Parata struggled with her education portfolio at the start of the term. John Key had faith in her ability, and that may turn out to be a significant election factor.

A notable absence from the list is the economy, which is something many claim to be a major deciding factor.

Asset sales may be fading in importance.

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