Friday, December 10, 2021

Labour chooses to be cruel to beneficiaries

RNZ reports that WINZ is systematically racist and misogynist about debt, with Māori being forced deeper into debt, and women and Māori forced to repay at a higher rate than men and Pākehā. From past statistics, most of this "debt" is due to benefits being too low in the first place (and almost all of the rest is due to WINZ fucking up and overpaying people), so its prima facie odious. Meanwhile, high repayment rates grind the poor deeper into poverty. Hardly any of it will ever be paid back. The obvious solution is simply to write it off. But is our "kind", "centre-left" government going to do anything about it? Of course not:

Ultimately, the Greens, Te Pāti Māori and Auckland Action Against Poverty all wanted a debt amnesty to wipe the slate clean.

Sepuloni said an amnesty would require a law change and was not something being considered.

Bullshit. Just to pick a few examples: at any time, Sepuloni could amend regulation 206 of the Social Security Regulations 2018 to specify that some things (for example, conditional benefits and recoverable grants) are not "debts to the crown". Or she could amend the Ministerial Direction on Debt Recovery to change the rate and method of recovery or allow recovery to be indefinitely deferred. Or, she could jointly give an authorisation with the Minister of Finance under regulation 207(3) to simply write debt off.

Again, the Minister can do this at any time, with the flick of a pen. So when she pretends to be helpless, she is lying. The government can end this cruelty whenever they want. They choose not to. They choose to further immiserate the poor and destitute, out of festering NeoLiberalism. And we should hold them accountable for that choice.