GUEST BLOG: Janfrie Wakim – Prioritise people’s needs .. now

15
713

The timing of our ANZAC Day commemorations coincided with another annual April event the Global Days of Action on Military Spending.

April 2020, will be remembered for the Covid-19 crisis with its echoes of the 1918 flu pandemic. This ongoing calamity throws into sharp relief the prioritising of military spending over the well-being of people and our planet.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) annual figures onworld military expenditures show that 2019 global military expenditure increased for the fifth year in a row. World military expenditure totalled an estimated $1,917 billion (US) in 2019 – an increase of 3.6% from 2018 and the largest since 2010. United States, China, India, Russia and Saudi Arabia accounted for 62% of expenditure and for the first time that two Asian states featured among the top three military spenders.

How does Aotearoa-NZ compare ?

The first ‘Wellbeing Budget’ revealed an astonishing 24.73%*, increase in spending compared with 2018. However, only a month later, the government announced it would spend $20 billion over the next decade on increased combat capability, frigates and military aircraft. In the meantime, the pressing needs of whanau and children living in poverty as well as housing, health, education, disability and other public services were largely overlooked.

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

Earlier in 2019, the Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG)’s report ‘Whakamana Tāngata’ urged an increase in main benefits and improved Working for Families tax credits for all families. The Families package in 2018 had done very little for the 174,000 worst-off children under the lowest poverty line (40% after housing costs). Few seemed to notice that the 2019 ‘Wellbeing’ budget boosted military spending along with contributions of $2 bn/year to the New Zealand Super Fund (NZSF).

The Covid crisis has exposed the fragility and flaws in the social security safety net. Who could ignore the extraordinary numbers queuing at foodbanks for basic needs? Yet, these military and NZSF contributions took priority over the struggles faced by many low income families and their children.

The Child Poverty Action Group challenges the wisdom of continuing contributions to the New Zealand Super Fund (NZSF) especially in Covid-19 times. Families and other taxpayers must pay tax to fund not only current pensions, but also help fund their own state pension when the fund starts to be drawn down after 2050.

The numerous crises facing Aotearoa-NZ and the planet make it imperative that our resources are diverted first to our most vulnerable citizens. Expenditure on destructive weaponry and saving for a distant future makes little sense when unemployment and poverty are set to rise inexorably in the coming months.

Clearly the precarious nature of paid work for many whanau is both distressing and debilitating with long-term effects on parents, caregivers and children. Every means

possible is needed now to mitigate the harm that ensues when income support is unavailable, inadequate and hard to access.

Internationally over 60% of those losing jobs are women. This gender imbalance will get worse as unemployment rises. The sectors hit hardestare those generallyconsidered “feminine,” such as healthcare. The impact will be felt not only by those involved in the COVID crisis but also on other healthcare services, education, caregiving, and leisure and hospitality. Even at a time when the relevance and necessity of these community-building services are more evident than ever, those employed in these sectors are most vulnerable to being laid off.

CPAG supports the WEAG recommendations for a secure safety net for all people, when their circumstances change as Covid-19 virus highlights so painfully. CPAG urges an immediate policy extension to allow all low-income families to have the full Working for Families support to deliver at least another $72.50 /week as this will help the worst-off families keep their children safe and well. The cost is around $450m, a very small fraction of military expenditure.

By suspending the extra $20bn (NZ) allocated to military speeding in last year’sbudget as well as annual contributions of $2bn to the NZSF, the government will demonstrate its declared commitment to the wellbeing of low income families and their children.

 

Janfrie Wakim is a member of WILPF, a trustee of the ANZPCSCT and founding member of CPAG.

https://www.wilpf.org https://www.otago.ac.nz/ncpacs/about/

The NCPACS was made possible by a $1.25m donation from the Aotearoa New Zealand Peace and Conflict Studies Centre Trust (ANZPCSCT).

https://www.cpag.org.nz/

* https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1905/S00497/wellbeing-budget-shocking-rise-in- military-spending.htm

15 COMMENTS

  1. What do humans need?

    1. Unpolluted air. We die within a minute or two without it.

    2. A moderate temperature range. We die within minutes at either extreme, especially when naked.

    3. Unpolluted water. We die within a day of two without it.

    4. An environment with low a low level of [nuclear] radiation. Humans exposed to high levels of radiation die within minutes or hours; those exposed to moderate levels of radiation develop life-threatening conditions over weeks or months.

    5. Carbohydrates or protein or fats as an energy source. We die within weeks without it.

    6. Trace elements and vitamins. We become sick within weeks and die some time later without them.

    7. Nurturing, particularly in the first 3 or 3 years of life.

    8. Companionship and community. Those without it become mentally ill.

    9. A sense of purpose, a sense of belonging and a sense of achievement. Humans without them become lethargic and mentally ill.

    10. A safe and secure environment in which to raise progeny. Humans without them have their gene lines terminated.

    (Pardon me if I have missed any significant factors.)

    For about 180,000 out of the approximately 200,000 years our species has existed we lived in small groups, effectively tribes, as hunter-gatherers. There was extreme co-operation within the group, and -depending on the availability of resources (particularly food and water)- there was tolerance of, or hostility towards, neighbouring groups.

    The ‘big mistake’ humanity made was to adopt settled agriculture. Doing so led to greater food security but also led to the need to protect food stores from raiders. Settled agriculture led to specialization -food specialists, protection specialists and administrators etc. Before too long certain sectors of the civilized society decided they were worth more than others and therefore entitled to a bigger allocation of than the majority of citizens. The next step was to employ the protection specialist to protect their palaces and wealth from the masses, and to employ priests to keep the masses in their place. And then to send the ‘defence’ forces to attack other settlement to steal what they had accumulated….culminating in the industrial scale conflicts of the twentieth century, the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War etc. And of course, in more recent times the never-ending resources wars: “Just how did OUR oil get under THEIR sand?”

    Throughout most of the twentieth century one of the most pressing matters for capitalists, especially in the US, was to eliminate socialist governments via corruption, bribery and threats (The Cold War, Confessions of an Economic Hitman etc.), and to exaggerate the threat posed by small nations with socialist or, even worse, communist governments, in order to keep the industrial-military-complex expanding. Thus, the US now spends more than every other nation combined on its so-called defence forces, which are frequently attack forces or forces of occupation. Whether the US can actually muster the military forces and the political will to launch outright attacks on Iran, Venezuela, North Korea or China is yet to be seen. But the US has been thoroughly outwitted and outgunned by the ‘new’ Russia, that emerged from the US-led plundering period of the 1990s.

    Needless to say, the US has frequently used its inordinate influence over the global financial system to wage war on nations that do not come to heel or pose economic threats to its position of perceived privilege.

    Not to be overlooked is the War on Nature that has characterised American agriculture from the end of the Second World War until the present, with the widespread adoption of petroleum-powered machinery as a replacement for animal power, and the incorporation of chemical toxins into the food chain in order to eliminate control pests, plus the attempted stamping out of organic food production by corporations such as Monsanto, which attempted to sue farmers who had not adopted their genetically-modified systems but had been infected by them via wind-blown pollen.

    Nor should the War on Indigenous People be forgotten: the last vestiges of humanity still living as hunter-gatherers in the Amazon are under attack (being murdered) by those who seek to exploit what ever lies under the jungle, or wish to eliminate the jungle and the people who live there in order to expand monoculture industrial food production.

    Returning to the theme of what we need as humans, how well does the industrial-military-complex fare when it comes to meeting our needs?

    I think the answer is obvious but I will elaborate:

    1. Unpolluted air.

    The MIC is leading to ever-higher levels of pollution, much of it emanating from motor vehicles, aircraft and ships. The American military has an ecological footprint far greater than many entire nations. In many cities the air has reached the unbreathable point. and where it is still breathable it is being found to contain micro-toxins, even micro-plastics! with as yet unknown consequences.

    2. A moderate temperature range.

    The population explosion fueled by industrial agriculture has led to humans living in large number in places that would otherwise be largely uninhabitable. Air conditioning makes extremely hot and extremely humid locations tolerable. And heating makes life in extremely cold locations tolerable. (Needless to say, indigenous peoples managed without fossil fuels by using animal by-products for high-insulation clothing and wood for cooking/heating.)

    3. Unpolluted water.

    As well as the obvious plastic gyres in the Pacific, the oceans are being acidified by carbon dioxide emissions, and stream and rivers are being contaminated by fertilizer run-off and intensive animal keeping wastes.

    4. An environment with low a low level of [nuclear] radiation.

    Well, we’ve had two nuclear reactors ‘blow up’ in recent times, and the facility at Fukushima is still leaking contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean. There are storage facilities with unknown quantities of nuclear wastes of various forms, some of which have been leaking into the local, and eventually global environment.

    5. Carbohydrates or protein or fats as an energy source.

    With the help of monoculture crops, the MIC is very good at converting pumped water and atmospheric CO2, together with synthetic fertilisers , into carbohydrates and fats, and to a lesser extent into protein via industrial agriculture. Factory-farmed animals do not get the exercise necessary for proper muscle development, and the meat from such animals tends to be of a much lower quality than that from free-range animals. The over-ingestion of such ‘food’, together with sedentary lifestyles facilitated by fossil fuels, has led to an explosion of obesity and other food deficiency conditions.

    6. Trace elements and vitamins. Industrially produced food tends to have lower levels of these than natural food, leading to an explosion in the use of dietary supplements.

    7. Nurturing, particularly in the first 3 or 3 years of life. Well, instead of spending their early lives in intergenerational families, many children are brought up in low-income sole-parent families, and others are fostered out into ‘child-care’ facilities so their parent to work though the day.

    8. Companionship and community. The globalised system tends to eliminate genuine companionship and community, and people have become increasingly dependent on faux communities facilitated by electronic devices. Additionally, there has been an American monoculture, much of it based on greed and stupidity and exceptionalism, foisted on the world, and genuine local cultures have been subjugated or eliminated.

    9. A sense of purpose, a sense of belonging and a sense of achievement. Industrial humans in the global consumer society are missing a true sense of purpose and belonging, and use substitutes -like shopping and eating and going on trips- to satisfy inner cravings.

    10. A safe and secure environment in which to raise progeny. The MIC is in the process of overheating the Earth to the point of making it largely or completely uninhabitable for humans (and most other vertebrate species). Far from making the world safe, the extreme globalisation witnessed in recent times is directly responsible for the epidemic now raging round the world and killing people or making them extremely sick.

    Undoubtedly everything I have pointed out will be ignored by politicians, economists, the corporate media etc. and we will, as a society, continue to squander resources inappropriately. And for New Zealand governments, that means protecting and promoting the dysfunctional economic system and the dysfunctional monetary system, even as they slowly (or quickly) implode.

    ‘I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.’ Albert Einstein

    • Sorry, a few typos there.

      first 3 or 4 years of life.

      therefore entitled to a bigger allocation of resources than the majority of citizens

      chemical toxins into the food chain in order to eliminate (or at least control) pests

      Nurturing, particularly in the first 3 or 4 years of life. Well, instead of spending their early lives in intergenerational families

      fostered out into ‘child-care’ facilities so their parents are able to work though the day.

  2. Here’s a nice example of Government welfare imbalances that have gone on for decades:

    Wellington woman Michele Cairns says she’s spent a lifetime paying taxes – but the Government’s expectation that a household can live off one income means she can receive no support now that she needs it.

    Cairns finished at her job a month ago, ready to start a new position as an accounts manager on March 30.

    Then, the country went into lockdown. Her new employers told her she could not start her job until the end of April.

    “I’m the main breadwinner and it was a huge hit for our family,” she said.
    Her husband works for a business that supplies cafes and restaurants.

    For now, he is receiving the wage subsidy and is on 80 per cent of his $47,800 annual income.

    “It took Work and Income two-and-a-half weeks to tell me I can’t get the benefit because of my husband’s income, but he only earns enough to meet our rent and keep food on the table. What about our power and other bills?”

    She said it seemed out-of-date that someone could not access a benefit if they had a working partner.

    “My husband and I have always had separate accounts. I have always paid my taxes as an individual, and in my time of need the Government should support me as an individual.”

    Interesting isn’t it! THIS government are quite happy paying hundreds of dollars a week to solo mums who REFUSE to name the father or their child or children, but all hardworking taxpaying individuals out there who pay there taxes as “individuals” are forced to rely on their partners income when they either lose their job though no fault of their own; or can’t actually go to their new job to work under a government imposed lockdown even

    • It would have been pretty cool if you could have directed your anger up the pyramid rather than down towards the solo mums that already have plenty of people wanting to shit on them without your effort.

    • Lets face facts .
      The married partners non payment of benefits goes right back to 1964 rewrite of then social security act and no government of any stripe has wanted to change it.
      It doesn’t matter what age you are as far as WINZ is concerned if you have been in a relationship in the nature of marriage longer than 6 weeks you get nothing. If your partner earns more than a pathetic amount. It is too bad if you have a long term illness and winz wont put you on the supported living benefit and your partner is over the limit you are screwed . If you have to pay full price for your meds and multiple meds at that you are doubly screwed. So our whole welfare system and healthcare system needs a major rewrite.

      • Agree, it is time to rewrite the social contract. It is currently based on low taxes and the (often unstated) expectation that people will fund their own insurance, whether self-insurance e.g. savings or medical and income protection insurance. There are benefits, but they are set at subsistence levels.

        However, these being the shaky isles, and with other global issues like pandemics, higher taxes and better social insurance is a much better model to move to.

    • I have some sympathy with the womens story but the state cannot be responsible to provide for everybody as soon as they lose their job if they are married. Where was the forward planning and putting something away for a rainy day . If she was an accounts manager she would not be on minimum wage . Many waste money on their coffee and brought lunches . I do not know details of this women’s situation so am not judging but I know it does take place
      Why are you picking on solo mums .Having worked as a volenteer teaching them to cook there is a number of reasons why they do not name the father. Some expartners can be very violent I was threatened by one just for being in the house. These women live in fear and being put down by people like you does not help. They are not all bludgeon.

  3. $10.6b in 4 weeks to support the ‘nearly unemployed’.
    $4.8b in benefits to support 315,000 recipients in a 12 month period?

      • UBI set at no less than 85% of the minimum wage or a living wage. Abolish WINZ. Asset test those with enough material possessions and alternative incomeand or revenue streams.

  4. Where in the current or recent political discussion can we find “World Peace” being discussed and strategised.

    The assumption appears to be that we need war. What sort of mindset produces that.

  5. I have some sympathy with the womens story but the state cannot be responsible to provide for everybody as soon as they lose their job if they are married. Where was the forward planning and putting something away for a rainy day . If she was an accounts manager she would not be on minimum wage . Many waste money on their coffee and brought lunches . I do not know details of this women’s situation so am not judging but I know it does take place
    Why are you picking on solo mums .Having worked as a volenteer teaching them to cook there is a number of reasons why they do not name the father. Some expartners can be very violent I was threatened by one just for being in the house. These women live in fear and being put down by people like you does not help. They are not all bludgeon.

  6. The same mindset that assumes we need tourism, the same mindset that assumes we need rampant consumerism; the same mindset that assumes we need golf courses and corporatised sport. The same mindset that assumes that melting down the planet is an acceptable price for keeping industrial civilization going just a little longer.

    As expected, another diabolical milestone, 418 ppm atmospheric CO2, has been passed

    Daily CO2
    May. 1, 2020: 418.03 ppm
    May. 1, 2019: 414.88 ppm

    And there are still 3 or 4 weeks until photosynthesis in the Northern Hemisphere starts utilising atmospheric CO2 faster than humanity is spewing in into the air, albeit only for a few months, after which humanity will again be spewing CO2 into the air faster than natural systems can process it, and we will commence the inevitable march towards 420 or 421 ppm in May 2021).

    The only thing that will prevent that dismal scenario is the rapid collapse of global industrial civilisation, which would lead to widespread starvation and the mayhem commensurate with that.

  7. UBI set at no less than 85% of the minimum wage or a living wage. Abolish WINZ. Asset test those with enough material possessions and alternative incomeand or revenue streams.

Comments are closed.