Asked about measures to tackle poverty and child poverty, Mr English told a Maxim-organised gathering in Auckland last night that those terms have been taken over by ideologues and the government does not trust the way those words are used.
“The term ‘poverty’ has been captured by a particular idea of how you measure poverty and a particular solution to it. That is, you measure it relative to incomes, and the solution is mass redistribution.”
And we should resist that definition. Once you accept that as the definition then the only way you can solve poverty is to massively increase taxes on half the population to redistribute it to the other half. If you accept that as the definition, then the only solution is socialism or communism. Doubling the wealth of every person in NZ wouldn’t reduce poverty by one iota according to some in the poverty industry.
“We are not addressing that phenomenon. What we are addressing is absolute levels of hardship. That is someone not having enough to live, and we don’t think that is worse just because someone else has a bit more.”
But the poverty lobby groups do. They don’t want anyone earning too much more than anyone else.
Incomes are only one part of what keeps people at the bottom of the social heap, he says, and other factors matter more.
Labour have said that lifting benefits by $25 a week is not a solution to poverty, it just makes life easier for those in poverty. They are right. Just increasing benefits is not a solution to poverty.
The solutions to poverty take a generation or so to succeed. They are things such as:
- Having a free economy and flexible labour market that creates jobs, for those wanting to get off welfare
- Welfare reforms that don’t leave people on welfare for 20 years
- Targeting the tail in education with initiatives such as the Investing in Educational Success initiative and charter schools
- Reducing crime rates, and reducing reoffending rates
- Reducing child abuse
- Not taking kids from dysfunctional parents and sticking them with their extended family who are equally dysfunctional
Sadly labour have opposed most of these initiatives, which will actually make a difference long-term in reducing poverty. There is no doubt that being on welfare for more than a short period of time has a huge impact on not just income, but also education and health achievement. The data is crystal clear. So you need to ensure those on welfare are supported adequately, but you need to work just as hard at making sure you don’t leave adults who are able bodied on welfare.