Monday, August 15, 2011

Pandering to the paedophobes

So, National has released its core election policy. No, not fixing the economy. No, not getting people into jobs. No, not even more tax cuts for John Key and his rich mates. Instead, they've decided to pander to the paedophobes by cracking down on teenage welfare recipients.

In the minds of National's sherry-drenched paedophobic older voting demographic, these people are young, shiftless, and fecklessly spend all their money on booze and drugs, while popping out kids to get more. Oh, and they probably drive a big car with a loud engine at night too, and don't show "proper respect" to their elders by giving up their seats on the bus, and stand around on street corners in groups wearing hoodies. Clearly, they are in need of a stern stick-shaking and a loud and clear message to get off someone's lawn.

Meanwhile, in reality, things are rather different. Those targeted are those on the Independent Youth Benefit. You get this benefit by being 16 or 17 years old and unable to live with your parents - which means they must either be dead, or physically or sexually abusive. In addition you must not be able to rely on anyone for support - meaning that you have no-one in the world to look out for you. In other words, National is going to be putting the boot into orphans and sexual abuse victims. Classy.

Obviously, these are desirable circumstances to be in, which is why the number of people on this benefit has been declining for years.

And the "solution"? They used up "stick 'em all in the army" last election (and it didn't work), so instead they're going for rather unpleasant paternalism, with bonus stigmatisation and humiliation. Apparently, having the government spend your money for you will teach you the value of budgeting. And apparently having to spend the pittance remaining after automatic deductions via a special card, while being sneered in the supermarket and having your privatised social worker going through the receipts and questioning how much toilet paper you're using will teach you to spend carefully. Instead, I think it will teach people the arbitrariness and cruelty of power, and provide a valuable grounding in basic money-laundering techniques.

Oh, and if you try and escape this by getting a (non-existent) job? Youth rates. That'll teach 'em. Which leaves crime as the only way of getting out from under this abuse. If you're a good kid in awful circumstances, that is a terrible incentive to set.

And for what? This doesn't target a pressing social problem. We're not facing an explosion of IYB recipients, and I'm not seeing a lot of evidence that National's prejudices on their spending is true. Instead, this is being pushed solely to prop up National's support in an election year, by stigmatising and demonising and humiliating an already powerless group (who, as a bonus, can't even fucking vote). Its the ultimate triumph of spin over substance. And for the kids who will be victimised by this? Sorry, guys, National has an election to win.

Its cruel, its vicious, its divisive, and its based on myths rather than evidence. But its so very, very National, isn't it?