by Sue Bradford
John Key’s advice to those lucky enough to benefit from the April tax cuts to donate them to charity simply adds insult to injury for all those people currrently struggling just to get by.
Most people earning less that $40,000 won’t get anything in April; high earners will get more back the more they earn, with the richest getting the most.
The first thing National did when it got into power was to reverse Labour’s tax cuts which would have helped low income earners. Since then the Nats have also of course intrroduced the 90 day fire at will bill, cut funding to groups in the community housing sector, presaged massive job cuts in the state sector, ended work on pay equity and talked of cutting back on ACC entitlements.
Every day more people are losing their jobs or having their hours cut so they have less to live on. Others struggle to find a job in the first place. People dependent on welfare benefits are trapped on income which in many cases way below what is needed for dignified survival without spiralling into endless debt.
Mr Key’s paternalistic approach reminds me of 19th century Dickensian philanthropy – the encouragement of the rich to give charity to the deserving poor.
Asking the rich to give a few pennies to the needy just makes them feel good, without achieving badly needed structural change. And I’m sure low wage workers and beneficiaries would much rather have the dignity of an income they live on than be forced to rely on the local foodbank.
Not that I’ve got anything against philanthropy, but I”d hate to see New Zealand become like America where the state in many cases doesn’t provide universal halth or welfare, and where private philanthropists fills the gaps as they see fit. This does away with any notion of universal access as well as fostering a section of society for whom no social, economic or health support is available at all.
It is also ironic that Mr Key is making this call at a time when many community organisations are becoming very apprehensive about the security or otherwise of their funding from Government. For example groups who are funded through the Pathways to Parternship porgramme have not – so far at least – been able to secure any assurance from the new Minister for Social Development Paula Bennett as to whether this fund will continue or not.
I certainly agree with the latter half of John Armstrong’s headline this morning ‘Charity Drive or Key’s lurch to the right?‘. I am indeed fearful that Mr Key’s latest pronouncement may signify the beginning of a drive to soften up both the public and the community and voluntary sector into accepting Government funding cuts to groups whose work will be needed more than ever in the days to come.