Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Defining poverty down

New Zealand has a problem: too many children living in poverty. But National has a solution: redefining poverty to make the problem look smaller:

John Key has completely invented a new poverty measure that drastically underestimates the extent of child poverty, presumably to avoid taking meaningful action in this week’s budget, the Green Party says.

In the last week John Key has put the number of children in poverty as low as 60,000, by inventing a new threshold for material deprivation that is higher than anywhere else in the Western world.


“John Key yesterday defined poverty as a child with nine to 11 attributes on the material deprivation index. In fact, the accepted definition of material deprivation is to have four or more.

“There is not one child poverty expert who would agree with the Prime Minister that only 60,000 to 100,000 kids are living in poverty here. Internationally accepted measures put the number up to four times as high.

This is how National deals with problems: not by acting to resolve them, but by PR, by redefining them into non-existence. But that doesn't actually make the problem go away - it just lets them continue to ignore it. And when we're talking about a problem like child poverty, which blights lives and consigns its innocent victims to poorer life chances, that is simply obscene. The fact that ignoring it will impose billions of dollars of ongoing costs on our society makes it obscenely stupid as well.