They are wasted in the sense that we have so many people regularly underutilised and not allowed to fulfil their potential. Not in in the sense popularised by the current National Government of being permanently under the influence of substances that preclude them from work.
The history of an underclass
Dominion post (Newspaper). Fletcher, David 1952- :’The country’s underclass is getting bigger!’ 20 October 2011. Fletcher, David, 1952- :[Digital cartoons published from 2001 onward]. Ref: DCDL-0019235. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/29943669
Since Rogernomics was introduced, the independent Reserve Bank has maintained an average unemployment rate of over 6%. I use the word ‘maintained’ deliberately.
Monetarist theory held that there is a ‘natural rate of unemployment’ below which Governments risked unacceptable levels of inflation. By a combination of permanent levels of unemployment and hamstringing Unions, our Neo-Liberal Governments (regular or lite) have controlled inflation by creating a low wage economy where most workers do not have the power to negotiate pay increases. It has been so effective that our unskilled workers are earning no more and sometimes less than they were 30 years ago, after adjusting for inflation.
(As remembered by me from Robert Wade, New Zealand Professor of London School of Economics, given in presentations in NZ, last year.)
Government policy (since 1984) is like hiding 95 bones in a hall and then letting in 100 dogs to find them. When 5 dogs don’t find a bone you tell them they are failures and they didn’t try hard enough. You send them on courses to improve their bone finding skills and reduce their food to encourage them to try harder next time.
Next time you do the same, and once again have 5 dogs who fail (maybe the same dogs).
Whatever happens, you always blame the dogs rather than increase the number of bones.
What became of the 6%?
By the early 1990’s the then National Government had a problem. Low paid workers’ wages had fallen so much that they were earning a fraction more than those on unemployment. Those on welfare ‘needed to be encouraged to work’.
The answer was Ruthanasia. The Government got Treasury to investigate the minimum amount of money required to live on. Treasury in turn got Dunedin academics to do the research then reduced the lowest figure they provided by a further 20%. This ensured a margin to encourage the unemployed to find work (that the Reserve Bank policy ensured was not there) and doubled the number of New Zealanders in poverty.
Kick them while they are down
Scott, Tom, 1947- :O. K. kids, what’s it gonna be – Kings or Auckland Grammar? Lockwood’s dream – real choice in education. 8 November 1995.. Scott, Tom (1947- ) :Cartoons from The Evening Post. 1 November 1995 to 30 November 1995.. Ref: H-242-006. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23114574
Having ensured that Beneficiaries didn’t have enough to live on, changes in education policy (Tomorrow’s Schools) had already ensured an almost apartheid segregation over time where zoning combined with housing affordability meant the children of the victims of the Reserve Bank policy then received worse education than their peers.
This made sure that the “failings” of the parents were passed on to their children.
Low paid workers now require subsidies in the way of “Working for Families” to maintain the gap with the unemployed. Even then 40% of children in poverty have at least one parent in work so the income is still not enough.
While the Reserve Bank continues its policy of 6% unemployed, Paula Bennett, Minister for Social Development, continues the policy of penalising Beneficiaries to ‘make them find work’. Justifying the drive to force people yet further into poverty by promoting the lie of an undeserving poor living the ‘life of Riley’ that the hard working low paid workers immediately above them can only dream of.
Tom Scott drew a cartoon in the Dominion in July 2013 that compared the campaign against beneficiaries as being similar to the Nazi’s early campaign against Jews in 1930’s Germany, by suggesting the next idea might be beneficiaries being forced to wear yellow crosses to make them obvious to the community.
Press (Christchurch, N.Z.). Evans, Malcolm Paul, 1945- :Welfare Crack Down. 16 July 2013. Evans, Malcolm Paul, 1945- :[Digital cartoons published from 2008]. Ref: DCDL-0025591. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/32259632
In reality the daily public humiliations that our neediest endure in the WINZ offices and the constant barrage from our Minister for Social Development against any entitlements that they have already ensures that they feel third class citizens in their own country.
An end in sight?
Until the Reserve Bank is instructed to work towards full employment or, at the very least, severely reduce its “natural level of unemployment” we will continue to have 6% of our population living between a rock and a hard place. Stuck in a situation that they have no control over, being victimised by the very Governments who have put them there in the first place.
Recent broadcasts by David Cunliffe are beginning to suggest that Labour intends to run this year’s campaign, again, as ‘National Lite’ seeking the votes from centrist supporters rather than the huge pool (800,000) on the left that they have deserted since the 1980’s.
If this is true it will be a disaster for reducing inequality in our country, whether Labour win or lose. It will maintain the warped idea that we can create a strong economy while wasting the talents and potential of 6% of our population.
It will also be an outright tragedy for the people we have forsaken for so long.