Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Class and Metiria

Over on Newsroom, Claire Timperley points out the not-so hidden subtext in the public lynching of Metiria Turei: class:

Beneficiary fraud is a uniquely class-based problem. The only people who are in the position of having to make difficult choices about whether to ‘play by the rules’ and by doing so risk not having the means to support their family are those who are in the poorest group of New Zealanders.

The fact Turei lied to the authorities demonstrates the very difficult position many beneficiaries find themselves in. Whether or not Turei made the morally or legally correct decision is not relevant to the issue I am raising (although there are undoubtedly important questions it raises about the beneficiary system).

What is important, however, is that by dint of her experience of this specifically class-based conundrum, she is no longer considered fit for high office.

And its all the more apparent when you compare it with Bill English's housing allowance rort: there, a rich man lied about where he lived and paid lawyers to order his affairs to scam the taxpayer of tens of thousands of dollars. But it was "within the rules" - rules he helped write - so its all OK. But as Simon Wilson points out on The Spinoff, beneficiaries don't have lawyers to order their affairs like this, and don't get to write their own loopholes, so they have to steal bread rather than being able to pay people to make it look like they're not stealing it. And again, that comes down to class.

The overwhelming message from the political status quo has been that poor people have no place in our Parliament and no place in government. That's been their message since the 18th century (hell, its been their message since fucking Plato). But if they want to overturn 150 years of democracy and go back to the C19th, then they are inviting the C19th response: pitchforks and guillotines.