Alf found a bucket of bilge at the Sunday Star Times today, the end product of a survey about some sort of gap between rich and poor.
It started by saying –
Accusations that New Zealand is one of the worst performers in the developed world when it comes to the income gap between rich and poor have been validated by a Sunday Star-Times survey.
Stop right there.
Who is doing the accusing?
What must we do- exactly – to be judged good performers? Jump through hoops? Sing opera arias? Tap dance? Wave a magic wand and make poverty vanish?
Who has done the judging?
And where is the table of data that shows us their score-cards?
Answers of sorts can be found further down in the report.
Most critically, we find we have been judged and found wanting by a couple of Pom academics who wrote a book.
As to the SST survey, it was conducted by an outfit called Horizon Research and –
..it shows the burgeoning gap between the haves and have-nots is frothing over into resentment, anger and disillusionment.
Oh dear. A “burgeoning” gap between the haves and have-nots.
And it is “frothing” over into “resentment, anger and disillusionment”.
These are remarkable assertions.
Mind you, there are not too many data to support them in the item Alf read on line.
Maybe he must stroll down to his local shop to buy a copy of the paper to find detailed tables.
But for now he is scornful of the beat-up language employed by the over-hyped scribblers, named as Michael Donaldson and Anthony Hubbard, who perhaps have not been taking their medication, or maybe have been taking too much of it.
The extravagance of their language is continued in the next sentence.
Those who are struggling are slamming the government for giving tax breaks to the rich, and for the perceived “propping up” of failed finance companies, while there is a growing tranche of middle- to high-income earners who see those on welfare as a drain on the country’s resources.
Alf would like to know the nature of the struggle.
We all struggle, at least sometimes.
Alf is known to have struggled to find his way home from the Eketahuna Club on occasion.
And he has certainly struggled to try to persuade the news media to publish his media statements or report his contributions to parliamentary debates (always rich with wisdom).
Oh, and the strugglers mentioned in the SST story are “slamming” the government.
Not grumbling about it, or criticising it, or denouncing it, or excoriating it, or otherwise saying what they think of it.
They are “slamming” it.
The SST then falls back on namby-pamby opinion.
According to social researchers, the size of the gap between rich and poor can lead to a welter of other societal problems.
How many social researchers?
Two, actually. And Poms, at that.
In their 2009 book Spirit Level, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett argue that almost every social problem common in developed societies – reduced life expectancy, child mortality, drugs, crime, homicide rates, mental illness and obesity – has a single root cause, inequality.
But we are all unequal, no matter what country we live in, and Alf is bound to concede that he is more unequal than most. But this has not driven him to an early grave, drug misuse, crime (including murder) or the a loony bin.
But he does put up his hand to being on the tubby side.
And the British academics say New Zealand has greater inequality than most countries.
Wilkinson told the Sunday Star-Times that inequality rose faster in New Zealand in the late 1980s than in any other country. His book ranks New Zealand as the sixth most unequal society of 23 rich countries, when the incomes of the richest 20% are compared with the poorest 20%.
Hold on. The late 1980s?
How recent are the most recent of the data on which these rankings have been made?
The SST proceeds to tell us Wilkinson’s assessment is backed by an online survey of more than 2000 Kiwis.
So we needed to have a computer to be able to participate?
Let’s see what it tells us.
When respondents were asked what they’d like the government to do in 2011, typical responses were to get tough on crime, stop borrowing, remove GST on food and sort out “Maori issues”.
But many respondents recognised the growing income gap.
So – not all respondents recognised the growing income gap. Just “many”.
Their responses (or those singled out by the SST) suggest their judgements have been based on impressions and beliefs rather than on firm statistics.
“I hope that the gap I see growing between two distinct classes of people closes somewhat. We used to be a pretty level society, but these days we have a distinct middle and very much lower class, and I regret that,” wrote one person. Others said:
“…the inequality between high-income earners and low-income earners is resulting in poverty for the latter and major social problems.”
“Address the growing gap between the income of the haves and have-nots by removing the tax breaks for the rich so that the wealthy pay their fair share.”
Oh, and do you remember the government being slammed?
True, some of the slamming (if that’s the right word) came from people who think welfare beneficiaries are getting a hard time.
But some came from the taxpayers who cough up the money to be distributed to the poor.
The anger around wealth and poverty was reflected in the comments about welfare.
Those who want the government to “lay off the benefit bashing” say beneficiaries and low income earners felt “third class”, were “stigmatised” and struggled to make headway. Many blamed the hike in GST – from 12.5% to 15% in October last year – as well as unequal tax cuts.
“Give beneficiaries a break, we are getting more in debt due to the tax cuts, which were total lies, unable to feed family decent food, life is just not worth bringing kids into this society, more money for food and bills.”
But guess what?
The survey actually found we have equality, because –
An equally vociferous call was made against the “bludgers” and solo mothers on the domestic purposes benefit.
“I thought the DPB was a hand-up not a handout.
“I have a neighbour on it who has Sky TV, Tivo, and two computers and yet cannot afford to send her pre-schooler to kindy.”
Others called for the government to get tough on benefit fraud and to pay benefits in the form of food stamps.
“Make people on benefits find interests so they do at least some work rather than sit at home, drink alcohol and take drugs as well as abuse their own children,” said one person.
This pretty well sums up Alf’s position, although he has no problem with people drinking alcohol at home after they have spent a hard day earning the money for it.