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Monday, September 20, 2010


... occasionally I submit letters and opinion pieces to the editor of my local newspaper ... they never get published ... I wonder why?


The claim, by Lindsay Mitchell for the Business Roundtable (Herald, Wednesday, September 30, 2009), that “it is a fact that the more is done for people, the less they will do for themselves”, invites ridicule for inventing fictitious facts. Anyone handy with a learner’s dictionary will find that definitions for words and expressions like ‘help, to do something for someone, aid’ are based on the logical assumption that ‘help’ is an action transferred to those who cannot help themselves. The very idea of ‘helping oneself’ is of course also mired in ambiguity - a negative interpretation being something like ‘Bill English helped himself to a bit of extra income’. The notion that Maori - and Maori women in particular - help themselves to taxpayers’ help - help they do not deserve morally and ethically but are entitled to legally - is an old and worn bogeyman, again and again trotted out by New Zealand’s gentry who should look at their own luxury glasshouses before they throw stones. How much of taxpayers’ funds are diverted into subsidies, tax breaks, incentives, protection, R&D - all to boost corporate profits? Sure, these guys are good at monetary calculations: take a 100,000 or so DPB women at say an average of $500.- a week (wasn’t that a sum Paula Bennett disclosed?) and, bingo, five million dollars a week would be so much better spent on supporting the blue-chip import-export industries. If some 33,000 Maori women on the DPB cannot help themselves, let them eat cake, as Marie Antoinette would say.

For educational purposes let’s have a look at the other facts presented by Lindsay on behalf of the Business Round Table.

• numerous international studies show that numbers of children born outside marriage increase with increasing benefit payment

Citing studies requires references - it’s a fundamental requirement for Year 10 students doing their first research assignment. In the absence of any such references we are left to suspect that any statistical correlations of such sort can only be manufactured by the Business Round Table.

• the DPB has made fathering and fleeing commonplace and accepted

Another fantastic fact that has no basis in fact. Who has done a survey of Maori women who become pregnant so they can get on the DPB? Who has surveyed the 33,000 Maori men who fathered Maori children with the devious plan to flee from the scene? Show me at least 1,500 such men so as to make it a significant statistic.

• The taxpayer provides computers for the homes of poor children (many of which probably have SKY installed)

Where is the sample survey to support the ‘probability’ that ‘many’ homes of poor children have SKY installed? What does SKY have to do with computers other than to suggest that poor people waste all their money on SKY when they could buy a computer for their children instead?

• … (in the USA welfare rolls of female headed households) dropped from 35.6 per cent in 1991 to 25.4 percent in 2000 … but at 28.7 percent in 2008 …

With selectively and falsely applied statistics you can prove anything, including above attempt to show that the US welfare reforms of 1996 succeeded in alleviating poverty. Historical population statistics only make sense if the population number stays the same. A 10% poverty rate for one million people equates to 100,000. A poverty rate of 10% for ten million people equates to one million. Which one is worse? In any case, the much heralded welfare reforms so lauded by Mitchell have other statistics as well:

• Many people entered poverty wage work

– In 1997 median hourly wage of women leaving welfare was $6.61/hr

• 1/3 back on welfare by1997

• 1/4 were not working or with a partner working by 1997

• 1/4 former recipients reported in 1997 that they were too ill, disabled or unable to find work


No wonder President Obama is having a hard time to convince the American equivalents of the NZ Business Round Table that twenty million Americans without health insurance don’t just have themselves to blame. After all, to be poor is to be stupid - in NZ as much as in the USA. Now who was it that said that women of colour always end up at the bottom of the heap?

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