Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Bullshit victim-blaming

Yesterday, the Children's Commissioner revealed that more children than ever before were living in poverty. John Key's response to this massive failure of government policy? Victim-blaming:

Prime Minister John Key says drug dependency is a major contributor to poverty in New Zealand, as a damning new report claims that one in three Kiwi children are living in hardship.


In an interview with Newstalk ZB's Leighton Smith this morning, Mr Key said a range of factors contributed to poverty but he singled out drug abuse as a concern.

He said drug dependency locked people out of the labour market and kept them in poverty.

Subtext: child poverty isn't the government's fault, but the fault of drug-addicted parents. Exactly the sort of thing Key's right-wing, victim-blaming base want to hear. Except its utter bullshit, and obviously so.

First, the hard stats: back in 2013, Key's government started drug-testing beneficiaries (and making them pay for it). So, how many drug addicts did this programme uncover? Sweet fuck-all. In the first year of the programme, they tested almost 30,000 people - with just 47 positive results (another 74 people refused testing, which National regards as an admission of guilt rather than a proactive attitude towards personal privacy). So, that's a positive rate of 0.16% (or, at most, 0.4%). And this is supposed to explain a third of all kiwi kids living in poverty.

Or, we can look at the trend over time. In 1984, child poverty was 15%. Today, its 29%. John Key's explanation for this is "drug addiction". So where are the addicts? After all, an extra 14% kiwi kids living in poverty due to drug addiction should mean roughly an extra 14% kiwi parents (give or take) as addicts. That's roughly one in seven - a huge number/ So, where are they? They should be clogging our courts, our streets, and (according to John Key, who thinks "drug addiction = joblessness"), our dole queues. But they're not. And in fact, illicit drug offences have dropped over the past 20 years, from 24,417 in 1994 to 16,543 today (1984 figures are not available).

In short, Key's position is just bullshit victim-blaming. But if he didn't blame his victims, he'd have to accept responsibility for this crisis, and then do something about it. And that's the absolute last thing National and John Key want to do.