The Government has today announced changes to welfare, in an effort to get people off unemployment and other benefits and into the workforce. The magic employment pixie will then take these people and find work for them all.
Of course, there are very few jobs for these people to go into. So you have to wonder what is behind the new measures. I suspect old-fashioned politics is at play – stamping down on bludgers will be popular with National's core constituency. It will also appeal to ACT. The Maori Party, the other support party for the Government, will probably just go “meh”, and wash their hands of the entire thing, because they got some half-arsed TV deal involving rugby, and aren’t the baubles of power quite nice?
The best way to get people off welfare is to grow the economy, so that new jobs are created. The Government cannot be blamed for the recession, but John Key’s response to the economic challenges posed by the downturn has been feeble. He’s made big promises (remember the jobs summit? the cycleway? meaningful tax reform?), but has so far delivered next to nothing of substance. His main focus appears to be the marginalisation of the underprivileged (tax cuts for the wealthy, "tough on crime" etc), in favour of the benefactors who helped him into power. He either has no vision for the nation's economy, or is keeping it a secret.
John Key says we can’t afford the millions spent on
welfare. And yet we are told the nation can and must give the wealthiest
members of society a tax cut.
For most people welfare is not a choice. Punitive measures may work in some cases, but the bulk of the people on benefits just want to work. In some cases (e.g. sickness or childcare responsibilities) they simply can’t work.
You have to wonder where this welfare debate is heading. How long will it be before someone (most probably an ACT MP) suggests beneficiaries should even have the vote? Think that’s mad? Paul Quinn’s bill to disenfranchise prisoners may be the first step in that direction.
Attacking bludgers is a tried and true measure for National, and it has worked a treat in the past. And in Paula Bennett Key has an eager executioner. Who better to wield the knife that a former beneficiary?