Friday, 4 November 2011

Glad Tidings, Or Cruel Game?

Un-Persons: National's welfare policies only work politically because there are a huge number of voters who instantly relegate solo mothers and their children to a place outside the circle of respectable citizens. Only when paid employment reclaims them from the ranks of "the undeserving poor" do welfare beneficiaries stand the slightest chance of being accepted as a "decent, hard-working New Zealanders". Such is the cruel reality behind Mr Key's Pollyanna-ish "glad games".

IN ELEANOR PORTER’S classic children’s novel, Pollyanna, the orphaned heroine startles her misanthropic guardians with what she calls “the glad game”. No matter how bleak her prospects, Pollyanna always finds something to be glad about.

Listening to the Prime Minister wax eloquent about his government’s new welfare policy, I couldn’t help thinking of Pollyanna. Forty-six-thousand New Zealanders are to be purged from the welfare rolls over just four years, and Mr Key is glad. Why? Because, according to the Prime Minister, unemployed, sickness, invalid and domestic purposes beneficiaries will have individualised care wrapped around them like a cuddly blanket.

It’s a lovely thought. Thousands of young solo-mums will have their lives sensibly organised by an army of highly-qualified case-workers. Job training will be made available to all, while their kiddies are looked after in top-notch child-care centres. New MSD swipe-cards will keep these eager job-seekers safe from the temptations of booze, tobacco and God knows what else. Their weekly rent will afford them warm and commodious accommodation.

And all of this will be achieved at the very reasonable cost of just 50 million additional dollars, spread over four years. Presumably, this “new money” will be added to the $130 million per annum already spent moving beneficiaries from welfare to work. So, let’s see: $50 million divided by four equals $12.5 million per year to be spent assisting 11,500 beneficiaries (46,000 divided by 4) into the paid workforce. Hmmm? That’s just $1,086.95 per beneficiary.

Can professionally trained case-workers, high-quality child-care, affordable and appropriate housing stock and effective job-training services really be provided for just $1,086.95 of additional resources per person?

And what about the Government’s boast that getting 46,000 beneficiaries back into the workforce over four years will save the taxpayer one billion dollars – that’s $250 million a year. Or is it? Don’t forget, the estimated annual cost of getting 11,500 people off the welfare roll is $130 million + $12.5 million or $142.5 million. Which means that the annual net benefit to the taxpayer isn’t $250 million, but a much more modest $107.5 million. The saving over four years is more likely to be $430 million – not $1 billion.

Not forgetting, of course, that for there to be any net benefit to the taxpayer at all sufficient new jobs will have to be created to: 1) absorb the normal number of school-leavers and graduates entering the workforce; 2) re-employ workers in businesses which have been sold, shut down or failed; and 3) provide jobs for the 11,500 “Jobseekers” the Government intends to purge from its rolls every year for the next four years.

That’s a very big ask – especially for a government recovering from a global economic recession which added 60,000 people to the welfare rolls. The Prime Ministers glad-game notwithstanding, New Zealanders’ employment prospects remain bleak.

Isn’t it more likely that the $1,086.95 per person of “new money” will be expended on the “services” of a vastly expanded army of “assessors”? Medical professionals (many of them, perhaps, retired, or holding overseas qualifications) who will be expected to tell thousands of sick citizens that they have been “re-assessed”, and that, overnight, they have quite miraculously become “job fit” and, therefore, ineligible for Mr Key’s new “Jobseeker Support” payment?

And, isn’t it equally likely that the Ministry of Social Development will hire scores of new, minimally-trained, case-workers to harry and prod, prod and harry solo mums and unemployed workers into taking any kind of work, no matter how intermittent or unsuitable, so that the number of citizens in receipt of state support can be shown to be trending downwards?

Or, perhaps, the MSD won’t hire any new staff at all. Perhaps the responsibility for managing those receiving Jobseeker and Sole Parent Support payments will be contracted out to private enterprise. The more jobseekers and sole parents they purged from the welfare rolls, the higher the profits of these private agencies would climb.

It’s what happens in Australia – and it’s what the Welfare Working Group set up by Mr Key’s government recommended.

Pollyanna transformed a whole town by refusing to be beaten-down by circumstances, and by unlocking in her neighbours an altruism they’d long been encouraged to repress. Is it a similar, altruistic, game Mr Key is playing with New Zealand’s beneficiaries? Or will he just be glad to see them gone?

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times, The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald and The Greymouth Star on Friday, 4 November 2011.

22 comments:

Brendan said...

Welfare dependency is a tough nut to crack. National's approach has been timid in my view, however it is better than doing nothing, and takes a positive approach to the problem.

Lets talk about some DPB facts.

More than 100,000 mainly women are on the DPB.
More than 33% enter as teenagers.
More than 22% go on to have a second child while on welfare.
47% are Maori.
In some regions of New Zealand 16% of all teenage girls between 16 and 19 are on the DPB.

Of the 200,000 children experiencing child poverty, the vast majority come from DPB dependent households.

Of the 25,000 confirmed cases of child abuse last year, approximately half occurred in welfare dependent homes. That's 68 confirmed cases of child abuse every day of the week all year long, and does not take into account child neglect and emotional abuse which is another story again.

More than 40% of Maori women between the age of 20 and 30 are on welfare, for the most part it's the DPB.

It's not the benefit cost we cannot afford, its the down stream social dysfunction and associated costs we cannot afford, not to mention young lives blighted by abuse, neglect, poor health and academic performance, substance abuse and crime.

Now those negative statistics are not unique to those on welfare, but they are over represented in that demographic by many orders of magnitude. Studies show between four and ten times more likely.

Overseas experience shows that increasing benefits simply increases the numbers of welfare beneficiaries without necessarily improving the lot of their children.

From my perspective welfare, especially the DPB is the greatest threat to the Maori people that exists in New Zealand today. Unless something is done and fast, they are on track to become a permanent underclass, with very few exceptions. Welfare for Maori in particular has become the 'kindness that kills'. It's good to hear some of their leaders acknowledge this, but it's a long hard road ahead to turn this around.

Proponents of welfare, particularly those who advocate for increasing benefits, would do well to ponder this.

It's a tough nut to crack, but doing something is better than doing nothing. I'm somewhat skeptical about the approach, however I do hope it works.

The Sentinel said...

Good column, both on the numbers, and the language game involved. What the government call 'support' is indeed 'prod and harry'. There is no actual case manager to help with individual cases, the WINZ employee forces the client into any available position and moves onto the next. It also takes weeks to actually get to apply for the dole, and no going on the artists (PACE) scheme anymore, it doesn't exist in practice.

David said...

Getting close to needing an authorisation statement here Mr Trotter, unless of course you can demonstrate that you dish it out equally in all directions.

Chris Trotter said...

I think you'll find, David, that newspaper commentary is specifically excluded from the Act's restrictions.

As it bloody well should be!

Anonymous said...

Until New Zealand has an honest discussion about what welfare is for, we'll continue to see more idiotic policies like this one. Impoverish now; pay later.

I sure am looking forward to having to pay bucket loads more to imprison these kids when they grow up.

Anonymous said...

It is very hard to get people thinking rationally about welfare.

Solo mothers are viewed particularly harshly by many. The reasons probably require a shrink to explain, but the result is not a pleasant sight, and any attempt at debate on this issue brings some very unpleasant creatures out from under their rocks.

One thing that is frequently forgotten is that we do need to reproduce ourselves and women who are caring for young children are likely to be at least partially dependent on someone while they do this socially necessary work.

Society has moved away from the nuclear family model where the male cares for the female while she brings up children so the state has become a substitute in many cases.

Some people may not like this, but it is the reality we are faced with.

Its no use pretending we can turn the clock back to where women are prepared to stay in abusive relationships en masse or to where men will automatically support their offspring, or be able to afford it even if they wanted to.

Looking at the alternatives requires taking off the misogynist glasses, applying a bit of brainpower and examining the facts.

The first thing to acknowledge is that most solo parent do return to the workforce when they are able to do so.

Let me just repeat that for the deliberatly deaf. Most women on the DPB return to the workforce or find another way of supporting themselves when they are able to do so.

Of course there are exceptions. There always have been those who are unable to cope with paid work for one reason or another and in the past they would often have been supported by husbands- sometimes this happens now as women who have been on the benefit move into new relationships.

If it is no longer usual to pair off into long term male/female relationships for the purpose of child rearing it follows that there must be an alternative way of supporting mothers with children for the period that is necessary.

A state benefit seems perfectly appropriate for this purpose but it should be set at such a level the children are not brought up in poverty.


An alternative is for women to stop having children. We would soon see roars of outrage from the very people who complain about solo mothers when their supply of cheap home grown labour dried up.

Paying decent wages so one parent can afford to stay home and look after childrenmight take the pressure off some relationships and reduce the numbers dependent on benefits. Doubling the minimum wage might just about do it- I'm sure right wing critics of the DPD would love that.

We should bear in mind that most workers are also beneficiaries as a result of Working for Families. In many cases working families would be living in poverty without this payment and one of the main reasons DBP families are more likely to be in living in poverty is they are excluded from this benefit.

So we deny them enough to live on then abuse them for being poor.

There are many different ways we could do things but they would all require structuring society to meet peoples needs rather than sticking to a system that simply does not work, and they would all require a fundamental change in attitudes from those in power and a committment to a far more equal society.

Simplistic and punitive solutions like those being put forward by National and idiot statements 'like welfare being the biggest threat faced by Maori' are not going to deal with a problem which is the result of a rapid change in the social environment and the cumulative effect of low wages, low benefit levels, hatred of women being independent, poor distribution of the nations wealth and too many stupid right wing pricks setting the agenda.

andrewmahon1234 said...

Well, we've put full employment on the neoliberal bonfire. And the days of Holyoake counting the number of unemployed on his ten fingers have burned to the ground.

Now we have creepy libertarian fruitcakes ranting about the morals of the poor bastards thrown on that bonfire and how audacious and lowly they are to ask for the price of a weeks groceries.

Of course the grotesque excesses of the high bourgeoisie are never called into question. It's the beggars at the bottom five percent that should be harangued into criminality and desperation.

Well done Brendan.

Lixin said...

Thank you Andrewmahon1234 and Anonymous. As an ex-DPB recipient (5 years on the DPB)I do become quite upset at the stereotyping of beneficiaries.
Over the years I have known many otherwise decent, intelligent people who accepted with no serious thought the stereotype of all beneficiaries as bludgers and in particular of those on the DPB as career solo mothers. Whenever I asked if that included me as I too had lived for some years on the DPB there was always a bit of a silence and then I would be told that I was different. On closer examination that perceived difference was really class snobbery as I am well spoken and well educated. Perception is all.
I viewed the DPB as a means of ensuring my independence until I could return to the workforce and all the women I knew in a similar situation at the time shared that view, the alternative would have been having to bludge off family and friends.
Yes there are a few women who see it as a lifestyle choice: and yes there are bad mothers out there, but woman on DPB doesn't automatically = career solo mother and/or bad mother.

barry said...

Enough has been said about the statistics and the fact that all the bad ones are associated with solo mothers - but I recall 30 or 40 or 50 years ago where society was pretty much based around the nuclear family when one income could look after the family. In fact in government jobs one had to resign when you got married.
Society didnt seem to have the problems that it does now.
Sure we cant go fully back there - but just consider the harm that equailty has bought us all.
We never were, arent and never will be 'equal' - no matter what some law or regulation says.

Anonymous said...

"Proponents of welfare, particularly those who advocate for increasing benefits, would do well to ponder this."

It's been pondered. If you want them to work, then enact a full employment policy. Most people will happily go to work if there are decent jobs available. We know this because this is what it used to be like here – where I grew up, the kind of people who would now be long term beneficiaries had jobs.

Now there are always going to be a number of people who are incapable of meaningfully organising their own lives no matter what. Punitive welfare policies applied to such people are about as useful as lectures delivered to alcoholics. Assuming that punitive policies will lead to fewer solo mums assumes that the women involved make rational decisions about their love lives. They don't and experience suggests that they probably never will.

The reason we provide welfare payments to these hopeless cases is because it is the least worst option. We can't put them all to death or sterilise them (people who suggest the latter tend to be deranged), so we have to put up with them. All we can do is do our best to minimise the impact that they have on the rest of us, and that means doing things to try to keep them less stressed, and their kids out of trouble and out of jail (because that costs serious money, unlike a welfare benefit).

We have to put up with the costs of hopeless people the same way we have to put up with promiscuity and drug use. The proposed cures are always worse than the disease.

That's just life. Conservatives need to get over it.

Anonymous said...

The gravy train is over.

Decent Kiwis are tired of exorbitant taxation to pay for the lifestyles of the Labour-voting parasites.

This is the reality and it really is that simple. The majority has spoken. We don't want to pay any more.

Get a job. Stop committing crime. Produce more than you consume. Be responsible for your own lifestyle choices.

Stevey said...

"The Gravy Train is Over"...

Nice one Anonymous @6.15.

Anybody who has the slightest familiarity with the 'benefit' system would realise the fatuousness of such a statement. It ain't no gravy train buddy.

You and the "majority" you claim to speak for should take a trip to India, Bolivia, Laos or any other country where no welfare system exists. Stinky streets overrun with beggars, women as beasts of burden and the rich living behind walled compounds with armed guards. Sure I'm generalising, but you get my drift, right?

If you wanna scrap the welfare system, just remember that by far the majority of benfit money is paid to old people as superannuation. All this outrage about solo mums (oh the dirty sluts!) is a bit wide of the mark don't you think?

"Get a job"... oh so '90's that one. Wake up an smell the coffee...THERE ARE NO JOBS MATE.

How decent of the "majority" to pick on the most vulnerable among us. That takes real balls doesn't it?

Victor said...

Aonymous@12.22

My conservative sensibilities warm to your hard-headed realism.

Alongside the many afflicted by involuntary unemployment or restricted by illness or disability are a comparative few who deliberately choose not to work.

What employer in her or his right mind would want to have any of this latter group on her or his payroll?

In economic terms, the least bad solution probably is, as you suggest, to pay the clock-watchers to stay home watching clocks.

At the same time, we must find ways of stemming the trend towards inter-generational poverty and exclusion that this approach helps engender.

I'm not clever enough to think up ways of squaring the circle. But dragooning the unwilling into the workforce is surely not the solution.

Anonymnous@6.15

I think you'll find that no-one in a mature economy such as ours produces more than they consume.

We are all dwarfs who stand upon the shoulders of previous generations of dwarfs.

Victor said...

Let's also remember that the economic backcloth of the welfare debate is the miniscule size of our public debt per head of population and the massive size of our private debt, a fact recurrently made by, amongst others,Standard & Poors.

Certainly, public debt, whilst still low by global standards, has gone upwards in recent years, thanks to recession and its long aftermath and to the catastrophe in Christchurch.

But the quickest way to get public debt down is by stimulating the economy and not by imposing the stranglehold of austerity on it.

So why make the poor suffer if there's no percentage in it for the economy as a whole?

Do the words 'dog' and 'whistle' resonate?

Brendan said...

As a nation, we should not expect to have 12% to 14% of our working age population on welfare.

For those who suggest that tax payers should get over themselves, and just 'suck it up', I'd like to point out that just 17% of the households in NZ are paying 97% of the tax already.

44% of households pay nothing (other than GST of course) although their net receipts from the State will often exceed their GST costs either by direct benefits or WFF.

Clearly, there is a good deal of wealth transfer already happening in our society, and you have to ask how fair or just, or sustainable it is to keep on ratcheting up those numbers.

As you will have observed, my main focus is the DPB, because in its *present form* it is one of the least compassionate, and terminally stupid public policies presently in existence.

Consigning teenage mothers to State funded poverty with the demands of a young vulnerable baby that they are often emotionally ill equipped to manage is hardly an act of compassion. It sounds to me more like hell on earth. We have five children, so I know something about the demands of child rearing!

How much better for the teenage mum, and her child to provide the following choices.

a) keep the baby if you and your family are able to afford to do so, and they are willing and able to provide the care and support both mother and child need.

or

b) Engage with open adoption services where prospective parents who are better equipped both financially, and relationally to love and care for the child have the opportunity to do so.

For the vast majority of cases, this would guarantee better outcomes for everyone, particularly the child.

This would be a first step in winding the DPB back to its original purpose, which was to provide economic support for mothers who are abused or abandoned by their partners.

I don't think the present government has the stomach for this, and I"m sure Labour doesn't, so no one need get too concerned at this post. ;-)

I would be interested to hear constructive alternatives.

Gem said...

Yes, we should strive to reduce the number of people on benefits. High unemployment and welfare dependency is surely a sign of a sick society. But…where are the jobs? Does anyone know? I’m not being facetious – I really want an answer to this question.

Previously, I worked in a mental health service, supporting people with experience of mental ill health to get and keep work. I understand the importance of people being employed. Employment improves people’s mental health. It also increases their feeling of connectedness to society. This isn’t airy-fairy loony lefty guff – it’s factual http://www.mentalhealth.org.nz/file/downloads/pdf/file_117.pdf

Most people do want to work. That people have queued in their thousands for supermarket jobs around New Zealand shows this. For anecdotal evidence of people’s motivation, look at the situations wanted column in your local newspaper. In my area (North Shore, Auckland), I have noticed an increase in work wanted ads. Consider that when you telephone to enquire about an advertised vacancy, the employer sometimes says that he or she has already received numerous enquiries.

Of course, a minority of people exploit the welfare system. This is true of any system, such as ACC, private insurance, etc. While unethical, illegal conduct should be criticised, it is neither logical nor fair to make assumptions about the all recipients of a system’s benefits based on the crookedness of a few beneficiaries.

So, I repeat – where are the jobs?

Brendan said...

@Gem

"where are the jobs"

This is a question often asked. If you look at the unemployment figures, the highest levels are amongst those in their teenage years or early 20's. In other words, our nation's youth.

While the political left go to great lengths to argue that there is no correlation between the minimum wage and employment, the facts are quite the opposite.

If the minimum wage was not a factor, why not make it $25 per hour, or $35 per hour, and everyone in employment could make a decent living?

When you increase the minimum wage, and abandon youth rates, you lock the unskilled, the unemployed, and many of our youth out of employment.

Employers are running a business, they have to make a profit from the efforts of their employees. If you make the cost of unskilled or semi-skilled labour too high, they simply won't be employed.

Now the idea behind youth rates, is that it gives people a start on the first rung of the employment ladder so that they can gain the most basic of life skills that make them employable.

No one expects them to stay there for ever!

Governments cannot create real jobs, only business people can do that, and the have to produce goods and services at a price that other people want, and are prepared to pay for.

There is no rocket science here, just basic economics.

You can push up the minimum wage and abandon youth rates as this Government, and others have done, but you will have high youth unemployment and fewer jobs as a result.

You choose.

Anonymous said...

Brendan would like to point out that just 17% of the households in NZ are paying 97% of the tax already.

So where's the evidence for that? It's another Act type factoid which is actually a distortionary lie.

I paid tax all my life, as did most of my colleagues and I'm definitely not one of the top 17%.
But I don't begrudge paying tax-- I was lucky enough to earn more than enough. Then again, I wasn't fighting to pay big city rent on the minimum wage while trying to run two cars to get both of us to work in a city with poor mass transport systems. And $13 dollars an hour before tax buys a lot of milk and wheatbix, not to forget the mince.
Of course, if employers were responsible enough to pay a living wagem we'd not need WFF, would we? Another taxpayer 'subsidy by the rich' to 'the rich'employer class. Who'd a thought it, just like the housing supplement which is a subdidy to the rentier class.

And as for these loose young women who make DPB a career.... of course, the age distribution stats make nonsense of that stereotype, too. But let's not let factoids get in the way of a good story.

How about a bit of policy setting to encourage job growth? You know, governmental leadership such as we were told was lacking by one of those businessmen's collectives last week.

Anonymous said...

@Brendan

Your economic illiteracy rears its head again. This must be the third or fourth time you've needed to be schooled.

"As a nation, we should not expect to have 12% to 14% of our working age population on welfare."

This is an inane statement. If you want them off welfare, then promote a policy of full employment. Note that this will likely cost everyone else more than welfare does, so you'll be back to square one. Unemployment is much more a natural consequence of economic policies than it is of individual indolence or bad decision making. Even if it were the latter, welfare is still in most cases the cheapest and most efficient way of dealing with the problem.

"For those who suggest that tax payers should get over themselves, and just 'suck it up', I'd like to point out that just 17% of the households in NZ are paying 97% of the tax already."

Even if that were true, it need not matter. Welfare payments are transfers from those to whom the loss will be collectively least injurious to those to whom the gain will be collectively most beneficial. In general, that will be the wealthiest citizens, but they need not be. One could argue that the burden should fall on the middle class because taxing the rich is more economically injurious (and were the latter true, then it would be the right thing to do).

Note that the market does the same thing (shifting money around to where it will do most good) for the most part, but the goods welfare is intended to purchase are subject to market failure – hence the compulsory transfer.

"Clearly, there is a good deal of wealth transfer already happening in our society, and you have to ask how fair or just, or sustainable it is to keep on ratcheting up those numbers."

Welfare is not primarily about fairness or justice, but about reducing the externalities caused by poverty. Don't want homeless people clogging up the streets? We'll have to pay for it. Don't want crimes caused by poverty? We'll have to pay to eliminate poverty.

Welfare is primarily about correcting market failures. That's what it is for. If you don't understand that basic fact, you have no business discussing welfare.

"As you will have observed, my main focus is the DPB, because in its *present form* it is one of the least compassionate, and terminally stupid public policies presently in existence."

Want all NZ children to get a basic level of care? We'll have to pay for it.

"b) Engage with open adoption services where prospective parents who are better equipped both financially, and relationally to love and care for the child have the opportunity to do so."

Most right thinking people view the idea of the government forcibly removing newborn babies from their mothers with horror (unless there is no alternative - such as in cases where the mother is mentally deranged). The fact that you are seriously suggesting this makes you sound like a sociopath.

"This would be a first step in winding the DPB back to its original purpose, which was to provide economic support for mothers who are abused or abandoned by their partners."

That's not what it is for. It is to make sure that all NZ children receive a basic level of care.

"I would be interested to hear constructive alternatives."

There are none. The DPB is the least worst. Yes it sucks. But that's life.

Anonymous said...

...no one need get too concerned at this post. ;-)

How true Brendan. Posters who claim to be compassionate while simultaneously recommending less money for the very poorest and hardest-working and advocating taking the babies from the arms of poor mothers and giving them to the rich, and ignoring the fact that Labour raised the minimum wage every year and still achieved the lowest unemployment rate in the OECD, are hardly worthy of consideration, let alone concern.
ak

Stevey said...

Brendan.

The business people have had pretty much everything they asked for given to them by every government since 1984. Both Labour and National administrations have pursued policies that have systematically destroyed just about every aspect of NZ's social and economic fabric.

And what is the result. We are virtually tenants in our own country. We have some of the worst social indicators in the OECD. I suggest you read the excellent book "The spirit level: why equality is better for everyone" by Wilkinson and Pickett.

In that book you will see tables and graphs that consistently place good old NZ in the bottom quadrant. We have gone from being one of the most egalitarian nations to now having one of the fastest growing gaps between rich and poor.

All this in a land of plenty can only be explained by deliberate policies of successive governments. If the top 17% pay virtually all the tax, don't you think that it may be because they draw most of the taxable income?

The reformers hate the poor. Because the poor remind them on a daily basis how dismally their generational reform project has failed. Paradoxically they are cowards for the very reason that they will not scrap the welfare system. The measly welfare payments as they are at present serve only to salve their consciences. Not to provide a dignified existence to those unfortunate enough to end up on welfare.

Scrap the welfare system. It is a disgusting poverty trap, I agree. The tax you save will be nothing compared to the money you will have to spend to protect your business from theives, your home from burglars, your kids from kidnappers and eventually air fares to leave what was once called God's own country....

Sanctuary said...

The reporting of Labour's policy today neatly strips away the artifice and conceits that surround our self-image and national myths.

John Armstrong and Tracy Watkins don't even bother to discuss the policy at all, instead simply surrendering to John Rosen's cult of savviness. Audrey Young's Herald headline - "Anti-poverty plan gives working parents benefit to jobless" - is simple partisan hackery and drips of sarcasm. Her story comes with loaded editorialising in it's language - "The... ...plan highlights the difference between Labour's bid to make life easier for sole parents and National's cracking the whip to get them into work..." And one cannot doubt that a parade of new Victorians from the wannabe aristocratic hubris of Paul Holmes to the banal stupidity of Kerre Woodham will be lining up to take a whack at Labour's policy.

The bottom line in this country is the white middle class have largely given up caring about the poor and the unemployed. This is reflected in the news coverage poverty and unemployment gets, which is practically zero. Wendy and Simon - perfect and pausterised and packaged for consumption - who make up "our" news teams are actually the middle classes' news team. And consider, how often does the liberal middle class at Public Address lower themselves to the dreary discusson of unemployment or poverty? And when it comes to the poor the middle class like to pretend they care, but really they are more worried about parking restrictions on SUV's around their school of choice than they are about child disease in South Auckland. The true attitude of our society is revealed when someone proposes to do something about poverty with actual money. Then the elite and it's "aspirational" blue and white collar middle class supporters react with a sneering, punitive judgmentalism that would be instantly recognisable to Victorians.