Armstrong on Welfare Reform

August 11th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

John Armstrong writes:

While displaying a high degree of caution and retaining its right to change its mind up to the last minute, John Key’s National Government is clearly steeling itself to go where no National Government has gone before.

It is planning fundamental reform of the welfare system in an election year.

That much – though not much more – could be gleaned from the Prime Minister’s reaction to yesterday’s release of an “issues paper” produced by the Paula Rebstock-chaired welfare working group charged with reviewing the benefit system.

Great. A sacred cow left alone for too long.

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21 Responses to “Armstrong on Welfare Reform”

  1. jcuknz (648 comments) says:

    The writing is on the wall in the UK as that government starts in on its 130 billion expenditure cut back causing angst, confusion and mayhem and politicians wildly jump in to make cuts without careful consideration.

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  2. starboard (2,447 comments) says:

    Excellent…lance the welfare boil JK and you will be PM for a very long time. Hit ‘em hard.

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  3. Manolo (12,621 comments) says:

    I would put Lindsay Mitchell in charge of welfare reform. With her knowledge and determination, she would do an excellent job.

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  4. Right of way is Way of Right (1,125 comments) says:

    If the National Government clearly articulate a programme of welfare reform, and encourages the deadweight to get off their backsides and find work, they will either become very productive, or emigrate. Either way, we win.

    They’ll have my vote, especially if the intergenrational dependancy and DPB issues are addressed.

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  5. tom hunter (4,004 comments) says:

    We’ll see. Anybody who looks at the data has to recognise that “Social Welfare” forms – at best – a similar proportion of state expenditure to that of NZ Superannuation.

    Then there’s the godforsaken Public Health monster lurking in the background. What? You mean to say you don’t know what happens to peoples health as they get older, and you can’t imagine what that means as the proportion of elderly increases?

    Of course in trying to think about these looming societal storms we also have to recognise how we got here in the first place, and that narrative – I care, you don’t. I’m compassionate, you’re not – will be the one that bites any thinking in the throat. As an example there’s been a recent attack by the esteemed (cough!), Nobel-prize-winning economist and NYT opinionator, Paul Krugman, on the GOP’s latest “welfare” reformer, Paul Ryan. You can read about it in: Paul Krugmans a lazy dishonest hack, but the quote I think is appropriate here is this one:

    Near the end, PR [Paul Ryan] seems genuinely perplexed as to why he’s suddenly the target of such nasty personal attacks from PK [Paul Krugman].

    Isn’t the answer obvious? It’s the same reason why Chris Matthews went to such pains to make Ryan look unserious and why the DNC is now lumping him in with candidates like Sharron Angle in an attempt to make him seem kooky.

    According to the Narrative, today’s conservatives are a horde of feral, brainless bigots following whatever primitive impulses their political id generates. Ryan, being both soft-spoken and very intellectually serious about the unsustainability of entitlements, is both a threat to that narrative and to the welfare state itself. As such, frankly, he’s lucky he’s gotten off as easy as he has thus far. Potentially, he’s progressive public enemy number one.

    Any Paul Ryan’s in National? If there are I doubt they’ll live long, especially once the We Care brigade get stuck in.

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  6. Jibbering Gibbon (200 comments) says:

    “…While displaying a high degree of caution and retaining its right to change its mind up to the last minute, John Key’s National Government is clearly steeling itself to go where no National Government has gone before…”

    OBSCURITY… the final frontier.

    These are the voyages of John Key’s caucus. The three-year mission: to explore populist ideas, to live off the political landscape and to admit to doing what every government has done before – nothing.”

    Captain Key: Mr Brownlee, set a course… for Obscurity. Warp factor 12!

    Lieutenant Brownlee: Aye aye, Captain!

    * the intercom stutters into life…*

    Chief Engineer English: The public reaction is underwhelming, sir! They’ll not take take much more!

    Finlayson (the vulcan): Your direction is quite illogical, Captain.

    Captain Key: Steady, Finlayson… steady… as she… goes.

    Chief Engineer English: …The taxation reserves are dissolving! She’ll not take much more!

    Captain Key: Tax and spend, English! Spread, the load! Extend the, ETS! We must, make, it to, our, destination.

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  7. Deborah (155 comments) says:

    A few more paragraphs from John Armstrong’s column:

    But no matter how many sticks and carrots they come up with, it’s all hopelessly theoretical until the Government, or the economy, comes up with some new jobs.

    The latest Household Labour Force Survey records 159,000 people are now officially unemployed. Last month, 63,059 of these people received the dole. Just two years before, that figure was just 17,710.

    Planning revolutionary ways of encouraging people back to work when there isn’t any to go back to is a “make work” assignment confronting the wrong question.

    (Emphasis mine)

    And some more:

    Just a month ago, Prime Minister John Key declared his local pizza delivery man was a supporter of the law allowing workers to be hired on a 90-day trial. It then emerged that pizza man Sanjay Kumar has a master’s degree in zoology and a business diploma, but the only job he could get was as a self-employed fast-food deliverer.

    What a shame there isn’t a working group into ending this sort of waste of talent. It would be a much more profitable exercise than one indulging in another round of beneficiary-prodding.

    The biggest sacred cows are NZ Superannuation and Working for Families. Between them they amount to over half of the welfare bill.

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  8. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    C’mon people- Marshmellow Key and his cream puff acolytes going to do something about welfarism..???? Still believe in the tooth fairy too do you?

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  9. Cunningham (746 comments) says:

    I like in the UK that they have started up a system where ‘bounty hunters’ search for benefit fraud get paid a commission for each benefit fraud they find. Cheap way to fix the problem and would certainly make people think twice about abusing the system.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/7935823/Bounty-hunters-to-cut-benefit-fraud-by-1bn.html

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  10. Deborah (155 comments) says:

    I’m sorry – that’s not a John Armstrong article that I quoted from, but a different one by Brian Rudman: Positive focus to create jobs better than benefit-bashing.

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  11. Nick R (443 comments) says:

    Does anyone else find the timing of this interesting? The Government is starting to come under pressure from its own support base after the mining fiasco etc, the economy is tanking again, the whole “catching up with Australia” policy is just an embarassment. So they throw the base a tasty bone in the form of a bit of beneficiary bashing.

    I suspect this will turn out to be another case of the Government writing a cheque it can’t cash – jobs summit version 2.0.

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  12. Jeff (47 comments) says:

    A sacred cow you say David? Maybe just the rump.

    My dad (58) and i (25), had a robust debate on Saturday when he came to visit. He is from an era where beneficiary bashing goes hand in hand with his support for National. It is only with time and patience on my part that has slowly moved him away from that thinking, and more towards a middle of the road approach.

    You see i vote National too. I think they have good ideas, but if John Key thinks that our welfare bill is going to be cut by only dealing to the DBP and the sickness benefit, hes going to lose my vote.

    The elephant in the room is superannuation. My old man, as sour about it as he is, agrees that we need to address our superannuation bill now, not after Key is done and dusted as the PM.

    You see nailing himself to the wall on super and saying no cuts while hes in charge, is as short sighted as Helen Clarks interest free student loans. Compounding this is the reversal of some Kiwisaver policies. I can only imagine how much better off we would be in Muldoon hadnt screwed the pooch and backed off compulsory super in the 70′s.

    The dimpost has been talking about this of late, as i know you have too David. It’s hard to see that Labour can get up to compete, but i think if they release policy around super and Kiwisaver, National are going to start leeching the smart younger voters.

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  13. Cunningham (746 comments) says:

    Jeff I completely agree. It was foolish to rule out raising super like that. It has to be addressed and I actually quite like Don Brashes idea where you get a different level of Super depending on when you start. It was disappointing that both Labour and National just ruled it out straight away without any debate. It just annoys me that tough decisions are just ruled out when it is so obvious to any one with half a brain that they need to be made. I realise that to make a difference you need to stay in power for a few terms (I would bet my left nut that Nat will come out with much more right leaning piolicies next time around) but don’t they ever think of what is good for NZ NOW.

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  14. James (1,338 comments) says:

    As long as the running of Government is imbroiled in the haggle of self interested party politics nothings going to change.We need a seperation of Government from politics….for the same reason as we have seperation of Church and State and SHOULD have re State and the ecfonomy.

    HOW we sepaerate politics from Government is another story.Bascially the only way is the Libs ideal of the State being appointed as nightwatchman with a limited rights protecting role and not being subject to democracy (vested interset mob force)….which is the crux of the problem.

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  15. malcolm (2,000 comments) says:

    I’ll believe it when I see it.

    National’s track history of having balls:

    – 2025 report.
    – vision to catch Oz.
    – mining.
    – rebalancing the tax system (ok, one ball).
    – avoiding temptation of neutralising tax cuts with GST hike.

    Actually, I won’t even believe it when I see it. I’ll believe it when the Governor General signs the papers and when the government stick with it and don’t water it down. And even then I’ll be amazed.

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  16. Fox (182 comments) says:

    We’re talking about a National Government that doesn’t even have the guts to allow mining, and this in the middle of an election cycle.
    A Government that held a ‘great economic forum’, and came out of it with nothing more than the promise of a pathetic, half-baked cycle path.
    A Government that caved to the envirowhackos and implemented an ETS, at a time when the NZ economy is already being pummeled by the fallout from global financial crisis.

    And now Armstrong is suggesting that John ‘smile and wave’ Key is going to tackle the welfare system in an election year??
    Ahahaha!!
    I feel another Tui billboard coming along……

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  17. chfr (126 comments) says:

    Allow mining and we have the jobs…simple eh.

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  18. kowtow (6,690 comments) says:

    Buz word bingo.

    and we were going to get a “step change ” or some suchin tax weren’t we? to make investing more productive…….

    oh wait ,we’re getting the ETS.(to change the un changable)

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  19. Caleb (465 comments) says:

    second that Nick R.

    i bet ipredict wont be running any stocks on this one..

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  20. Mark Petersen (1,301 comments) says:

    The Key government is slowly revealing itself as a far more right leaning than we have seen in the past. Centre right is not a description that will fit the Key agenda for long. I see it accelerating this move post the next election as it claws back social policy and moves to privatisation and sales of SOEs and some of the more radical reforms and cuts will occur post the next election.

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  21. KevinH (1,128 comments) says:

    Armstrongs comments are premature of course, no government would go into an electoral cycle with a benefit cut policy because that would be electoral suicide.
    Rebstocks findings would have to be researched etc before they saw the light of day and that would take about 18 months before the findings would make their way into a discussion paper.
    Incidentally Rebstocks findings will more or less echo views expressed by welfare reform parties such as Act so in that effect her research will probably uncover nothing new.

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