John Key’s real Nanny State
The ‘Nanny State’ is a term frequently used by right-wingers to decry state regulation of big business, particularly in relation to workers rights and environmental destruction. The negative association with women, and mothers in particular, is a frequent tool of the right.
Seldom do the right cry out ‘Nanny State’ and fight against the intervention of the state into the private lives of poor people, however. They think it is perfectly OK for the state to do things like test people for drugs and surveill them in their homes. Nor do they fight for things like legalising recreational drugs.
On the contrary, the real nannying going on is the Nats treatment of beneficiaries. The state knows best what poor folks need, and they intend to force beneficiaries to do what they are told or be punished – and punished severely.
The punishment is a reduction of weekly benefit by up to 50% if people do not have their children in 15 hours a week of early childhood education by age 3, full time school by age 5 and registered with a GP. The Nats cynically proclaim it’s all for the sake of the children, but these are not legal requirements imposed across the board as some model of best practice parenting.
The sanctions fly in the face of advice from the likes of the Plunket Society who say that while there should be a focus on children, imposing financial sanctions is likely to worsen outcomes for children, not improve them.
“There are a number of complex factors that contribute to uptake of services. For some vulnerable families the choices are not as simple or straight forward as they are for others”, said Helen Connors, Plunket spokesperson.
The government has also commissioned work - at a cost of $1 million - into figuring out how much benefits are going to cost into the future; they need to figure out how to reduce the costs of things like unemployment.
It is staggering that the people running the country who presumably have at least a high school education need to ask, let alone commission long expensive studies, to find out that people need jobs. Following John Key’s ‘Jobs summit,’ which came up with the sole bright idea of a national cycleway, the government has done nothing for sustainable employment for people over the past 4 years. Nearly everyday now we hear of more job losses, plant closures and redundancies.
Auckland Anti-Poverty Action’s Sarah Thompson has said the picture for the future is bleak, ‘Similar approaches in the USA saw welfare rolls decrease but in turn poverty and hardship rose as did the number of people living on street corners in cardboard boxes – and this is where Bennett's penny-pinching might well lead us.’
A Nanny State that actually took care of the most vulnerable people in society would be something to applaud. John Key’s Nanny State is all about hurting the people most unable to fight back – the poorest people in this country. Beneficiaries aren’t the problem. The problems are tax cuts for the rich, and a government willing to exterminate workers rights and push down wages.