Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Nasty Party

Not content with trying to force terminal cancer patients and those without limbs into the workforce, National is now planning a broader attack on beneficiaries by putting a time-limit on the unemployment benefit and forcing everyone to reapply after a year. This may very well dissuade some of the vanishingly small number of benefit cheats we have in this country - but at the cost of further victimising and punishing a much larger number of innocent people who are merely victims of economic circumstance and the government's unemployment-creating monetary policy. We wouldn't tolerate that sort of approach in the criminal justice system, and we shouldn't tolerate it in social policy either - especially when people's lives are on the line.

As for "savings", as The Standard points out, anyone ineligible for the benefit can already be removed from it, while processing benefit applications isn't cheap. The net result is that the government will be wasting millions of dollars a year needlessly reprocessing people simply in order to look tough. Meanwhile, the victims of this cruel PR exercise will be left utterly destitute. If the government follows the usual playbook and announces that "no-one truly in need will miss out", then they will be eligible for Temporary Additional Support, so there will be no savings. If they don't, or if people miss out and fall through the cracks, then the money "saved" will be respent ten times over by the police, courts, and corrections system as they respond to the inevitable increase in crime. Either way, all that stress, victimisation, and humiliation will be for nothing.

As with their other welfare policies, this is simply an expensive and wasteful exercise in sadism. And it shows that National really does deserve its name: the nasty party.