Saturday, May 24, 2014

The ultimate call for compensation

Cut and paste in full from Samizdata. Only the exclamation mark led me to suspect it was....well read for yourself. Local substitutions could be made and the piece becomes entirely relevant to this country.

I demand reparations for the crimes committed against women by men!

My case to receive reparations is just as solid as the case for reparations to be paid to African-Americans by lesser-hyphenated-Americans.
Many members of a group to which I belong by accident of birth were enslaved by the group to which you belong by accident of birth (talking to you, heterogametic oppressors). Don’t waste my time with talk about how the law has given women equal legal status to men for generations now, because we are still poorer than you. Well some of us are poorer than some of you and some of us are richer than some of you, but let me tell you that even if I’m doing fine myself, the thought of people with bodies more like mine being on average poorer than people with bodies less like mine is a profound hurt that can only be assuaged by money.
No, the fact that you personally have never enslaved, beaten or otherwise oppressed a woman is not relevant. Can’t you see this thing is bigger than mere individual morality?
You can stop whingeing about how lots of men in history were oppressed quite as much as women were, or how people of both sexes were oppressed on many grounds other than gender, such as class, religion, nationality and race. I am quite aware of that already and join with all victim-groups in unbreakable solidarity, unless any of the oppressors included my ancestors such as to place me in a paying-out group, in which case the notion of paying reparations for the crimes of one’s ancestors is ridiculous. It is the present – a present in which many women are cruelly oppressed – not the past that matters! (Er, when it comes to us getting the money, that is. When it comes to deciding who pays the money, it’s the situation centuries ago that matters, obviously.)
Anyway, why should an artificial construct like “nationality” or “race” be the factor that determines who gets reparations? Gender, unlike race, can be determined objectively. Make gender the criterion and you will be troubled by very few of those pettifogging legalisms you get with race about how all the mixed ancestry people would have to pay reparations to themselves.
Cease your caterwauling about how your great-grandpa once put half a crown in a suffragette collection box. Obviously guilt can be inherited (by you) but the notion of heritable credit is contrary to reason.
None of your man-splainin’ nonsense about being partially descended from women, either. I’m certainly not going to let myself off from the solemn duty of identifying solely with my own gender just because some of my ancestors were men. See, if I can maintain decent standards of group segregation, so can you.
Do not presume to ask how many generations must go by before your group is to be permitted to cease its duty of unrequited toil (mediated via the tax collector and the Reparations Administration Agency) for the benefit of my group. Be assured that we will let you know when we no longer want your money. Until then, woe to that man by whom the offense cometh. That’s you, that is.
May 23rd, 2014 |

Friday, May 23, 2014

Metiria Turei: Govt "punishing" newborns

On Wednesday Green's co-leader Metiria Turei questioned John Key about the extra assistance for newborns in the budget. She wanted to know why the Parental Tax Credit wasn't being extended to children of beneficiary parents. In fact she asked for it to be immediately extended and the Prime Minister said, "No". Turei has now twisted this into:

"It’s bad enough to punish an adult for not having a job but to punish a newborn baby is a step too far," Mrs Turei said.

Adults are not punished for not having a job. They are supported by the benefit system. This country is amongst the most generous in the world in its means-tested but otherwise universal  social security coverage for the unemployed.

When a child is born to someone on a benefit they receive extra weekly financial assistance. That is the Family Tax Credit. It used to be called Family Support. Back in 19931 the maximum amount for the first child was $42 and additional children received $22 (with 16-18 year-olds receiving the higher of the two payments).

According to the Reserve Bank inflation calculator

A basket of goods and services
that cost $1.00
in quarter 4 of 1993
would have cost


in quarter 1 of 2013
Total percentage change 54.8%
Number of years difference 19.25
Compound average annual rate 2.3%
Decline in purchasing power 35.4%
Index value for 1993 quarter 4 is 758.4
Index value for 2013 quarter 1 is 1174.0

OK. So if Family Support had been linked to inflation it would now be worth $64 for the first child, and $34 for additional children. In fact it is much higher.

Today it is $92 for the first, $157 for two, etc.

So newborns, regardless of their parent's source of income are well-supported by the government. They are not punished.

Metiria Turei's description of the situation of children of beneficiaries is deceitful. The Family Tax Credit was not increased in the budget because it would have been inconsistent with the philosophy of incentivising work.

1/ Social Developments, Tim Garlick, p146

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Where is the National Candidate for Hutt South on cannabis decriminalisation today?

Chris Bishop has been selected as National's Hutt South candidate for the 2014 election. As it is my electorate and I would very much like to see it taken from Trevor Mallard I'm naturally interested in the prospects of this happening. As I was just corresponding with a friend about cannabis decriminalisation it occurred to me to see whether Mr Bishop has any stated views on the matter.

In 2003 (I am assuming this is the same Chris Bishop) he was Muriel Newman's representative in the Youth Parliament. A mock bill was drawn up regarding the partial decriminalisation of cannabis which the youth parliament debated and voted on. Chris Bishop is recorded as:

On the Right, Christopher Bishop, from Lower Hutt, saw the bill as increasing personal freedom.

Christopher Bishop, youth MP for Muriel Newman, argued "instant fines isn't the solution, we need a system that will control the cannabis market such as a regulation model."

Wonder where he stands 11 years on?

(National should be applauded for selecting some relatively young candidates this time around.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

"Poverty driving road deaths" - Dog and Lemon

The following thoughts are worthy of wider circulation. The fatalistic attitudes described don't just lead to road deaths. They lead to premature deaths from ill-health and other risk-taking behaviour:
“Poverty isn’t just a lack of money; it’s a lack of knowledge and a lack of understanding. Middle-class car drivers believe in cause and effect, so they buy safe cars and wear seatbelts. Many poor people see life as something that just happens to them, and that they can’t control. Therefore, to poor people, road accidents are simply bad luck, rather than bad management.”

“Worse, in many country areas, there’s no public transport, so the poor often drive illegal cars that won’t protect the occupants in a collision.”

“Among the poor, substance abuse is often considered normal, and if drink-driving causes an accident, it’s considered bad luck, not irresponsible, behaviour.”

“As far as the poorest of the poor are concerned, life is crap, but junk food, cigarettes and alcohol make it bearable. So when you tell these people not to smoke, drink and over-eat, what they hear is: ‘I want you stop enjoying life’. This is a crazy view, but that’s the way many poor people think.”
Sounds to me like he is describing  rural (and perhaps to a lesser degree urban) inter-generational welfare  dependency.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Smoking: relationship between smoking and deprivation

Hot off the press, the graph below shows the percentage of smokers in each deprivation area, 10 being the most deprived. The data is extracted from the Census 2013 and was released this month in the NZDep2013 Index of Deprivation

Figure3: Current smoking in 2013 by NZDep2013

The chicken and egg question poses itself. Do people smoke because they are deprived, or are they deprived because they smoke?

Stephen Berry standing for ACT

ACT has just announced Stephen Berry will be standing in the Upper Harbour electorate. That's good news. With Libertarianz no longer contesting electorally, I am delighted to see one of their past candidates joining up with ACT. Stephen is very committed to individual rights and small government. Hope he gets a decent list ranking.

Cost of smoking for the 'poor'

Yesterday I blogged, "Who can afford to smoke?"

To flesh out just how much cigarettes have risen in relation to incomes here are some numbers.

In 1974 - 40 years ago - a packet of Rothmans or Pall Mall cost 42 cents. I know because I used to buy them.

The people most likely to smoke today are Maori females. They also rely disproportionately on the DPB for their income. So let's peg 42 cents to the (basic) weekly DPB rate which, in 1974 was $26.85.

A packet of cigarettes cost someone on the DPB 1.5% of their weekly income.

Fast forward to 2014. The DPB (Sole Parent Support) rate is now $299.45 and a packet of cigarettes is $26.90 - now a whopping 9 percent of the beneficiary's (basic) weekly income.

If you are Maori and smoke, you'd have to be a masochist to vote for either the Maori or Mana Parties, both instrumental to the ongoing tax hikes and now, a 75% cut to the duty free allowance.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Who can afford to smoke?

A friend was under the weather and she asked me to pick up a few items from the local supermarket.  A couple of items were identified. "Are you sure there's nothing else," I asked?

"You wouldn't buy ciggies would you..."  reluctantly, a facet of the induced guilt smokers now carry. "Course I will." She'd told me the brand was either 'mild' or 'mellow'. As she was also describing her coffee choice, there was probably some confusion between the two.

I arrived at the counter of my local supermarket, a couple of other items in the basket, with a written description in hand. The ciggies reside in a solid cabinet. I said,  "I want two packets of Horizon mild or mellow, please."
"But we don't know which they are," was the response. "What colour is the packet?"
"I don't know, I replied. I'm buying them on behalf of. Which ever packet has the words mild or mellow on it I expect."
"But we can't open the cabinet to show you", they said, as the queue behind me grew. An awkward, absurd, impasse was reached.

"They are for my friend  --- ". Eureka. The magic password. They recognised her name. The non-visibility vault was opened and the cigarettes surrendered. As per usual I handed over my eftpost card and didn't even look at the receipt.

Today my reimbursement arrived in cash. When I opened the envelope I thought, surely there must have been a mistake. Immediately my stomach sank because I thought I had handed her a receipt that was in error because I hadn't checked it.

The receipt was also contained in the envelope though. It revealed two packs of the chosen ciggies were $53.80.


My friend is a extremely talented professional with letters after her name to boot. But, by my observations, she probably has a two pack a day habit. That's nearly $20,000 a year.

It makes me furious. Hopping mad. This rapacious government, urged on by the  mealy-mouthed Maori- saving- Maori obsessive, is stealing from smokers way over and above what their average healthcare costs are. Way back the government was already taking enough to meet the health needs of tobacco users. Now it can only claim to be attempting to price them out of their personal choice for their own good.

My working friend will be paying income tax on top of her tobacco excise. A point will arrive one day when she is working just to smoke.

More fool her, you can say. BUT we now live in a country where non-smokers are protected from any secondhand effects, where smokers are paying for their health care three to four times over. It is her choice and her freedom to smoke if she wishes.

But what of those on  low incomes?

For some time I have put up the facts showing household income inequality is static- to- falling. But when the constantly increasing cost of smoking is accounted for, the poor probably are getting relatively poorer.

As I said it makes me very angry, and very upset for those people who are quite addicted. But above all, who CHOOSE to smoke. What business, at this point, is it of the state's?

Student loans a "welfare-state scam"

This is a new take on student loans, completely applicable to NZ:

From Jacob Hornberger:

The federal student loan program ranks among the biggest scams of the welfare-state way of life that modern-day Americans have embraced.
An article in the Washington Post entitled “College Debt Is Still Keeping Grads from Buying Homes,” points out that “young people are still drowning in student loans, and that debt is holding them back from reaching grown-up financial milestones, like buying a house, according to a new report Tuesday.”
Here is how the scam works.
Federal officials point to the student-loan program and declare, “Your parents can’t afford to send you to college. We can help you go to college by lending you the money. Without our help, you’ll have to live without a college degree.”
So, both students and parents think to themselves, “Oh, aren’t we lucky to be living with such a good and benevolent government? What would we do without it? We certainly couldn’t go to college without federal loans. Praise the government for lending us the money! Praise the troops for defending our freedom!”
But neither the parents nor the students ever ask why it is that the parents lack the money to pay for their children’s education. That’s because parents and students, thanks to public (i.e., government) schooling, have never learned how to engage in critical thinking. They just innocently accept whatever the authorities feed to them.
That’s why they don’t ask the critical question: Where does the federal government get the money to lend to the students?
The answer? They get it from the parents themselves!


Fairness analogy flawed

Academic Deborah Russell delivers a lecture in taxation fairness in today's Herald on Sunday. She argues for progressive tax as opposed to flat. She says she asks her students to suggest what a fair tax system would look like and then uses this analogy to prove her answer is the right one:

Think of it like this. Imagine three people wanting to look over a fence to see a parade: a short person, a middling person and a tall person. If we find a box of exactly the same size for each of them to stand on, then the short person still can't see over the fence, and the tall person has a great view. That's "fair" because we made sure each of them had the same size box — but the short person is left staring at the fence.
Then imagine if we gave two boxes to the short person, and the tall person just stood on the ground. Each person could see the parade because we made sure that we took their individual needs into account. That's being fair, too.
So which sort of fairness is best? Treating everyone exactly the same or treating people according to their needs? The right of politics prefers people to be treated the same. The left thinks we ought to take some account of individual needs so everyone can get a fair go.

I hope at least some of her students have the wits to point out that height is an accident of birth. I am myself the person who would need two boxes to see over the fence.

But in real life I've never be needy in terms of tax redistribution because before marriage I was almost constantly employed. After marriage we had children we could afford, didn't spend what we didn't have, and have stayed together.

Some degree of good fortune, maybe. But where people fall in the "individual needs" stakes is very much influenced by factors within their control. Unlike race, gender or ...  height.