Anyone else a little sick of this already? Since we can’t do anything about the global pandemic or the associated quarantine I thought I would turn my attention to something I can solve. New Zealand Poverty and Income Inequality. Some of you may be thinking that is a little ambitious but with the lack of alcohol or the ability to buy weed (happy 4/20) I’m thinking clearer than ever before. Others may also say that it isn’t really the responsibility of Nexus to solve poverty and we should leave it to the politicians. Currently the politicians are a little busy, and even if they weren’t it seems our local politicians on both sides they are busy trying to out “Religious conservative each other on issues like the right to die with dignity, a woman’s right to choose, and drug reform… you know the important debates that don’t seem to have two sides in Hamilton East.
But if this quarantine has taught me anything, and it absolutely hasn’t, it’s that when we actually want to get things done we can. So let’s take a look at why things are so fucked up in the first place.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
There are a variety of factors that lead to wealth inequality and abject poverty. In New Zealand but to say the gap between rich and poor is getting wider is an understatement. In New Zealand the top 10% of wage earners have more than the bottom 51 percent combined. Homeownership costs have steadily risen to the point where you need to be able to finance a million dollars to own property in Auckland. The simplest and most prominent factor is that successive governments since the 1980s have done more to widen the gap than fix it. Muldoon’s think big was a glorified version of Reaganomics, Lange’s government undertook the biggest reforms of government assets and sold anything owned by the state under the “left-wing” Richard Prebble. Jim Boldger came in and handed the reins of social development and welfare to Ruth Richardson, an undead vampire who fed for centuries on the grief and misery of anyone under the poverty line.
In the late 90s and early 2000s, New Zealand got better at dealing with the poor. Well, they got better at assigning the blame on the poor people themselves. We created wonderful phrases like entitlement generation, painted pictures of people on the benefit buying multiple gaming consoles and living off cigarettes and takeaways while enjoying the $120 a week that came from hard-working taxpayers.
Of course, the best at it was unquestionably Bill English who enabled the key government to make all sorts of sweeping reforms while giving tax breaks to oil companies and “job creators” while they kept us focused on real issues like whether gay people could get married, and how much land James Cameron could buy in Queenstown.
This doesn’t even touch on the generations of students that are drowning in debt, the shoddy conditions of rental living, rising healthcare costs, and the fact that avocados cost more than fucking Fruit Loops. Or the fact that idiot local councilors were saying we should round up the homeless and drive them out of the city. Apparently the only crime that particular councilor was happy with was the white-collar fraud he was convicted of. We are, without doubt through the dystopian looking glass.
I hope so, otherwise, we are wasting peoples time here. But like anything else, there isn’t just a simple poverty switch. To fix generational poverty you have to fix social factors that create poverty and limit social mobility. There is a symbiotic relationship to the social factors, economic factors, and fixing poverty. Some of these solutions aren’t going to be popular, some aren’t going to be easy, and almost all of them won’t happen if Simon Bridges got elected.