Mike Treen wrote a devastating blog last week on the horror of the economic impacts of Labour & National on the working classes…
Principally, this is the consequence of the anti-working class (and anti-Maori) policies of the late 1980s and early 1990s that destroyed collective working class organisations and drove a large proportion of the working class (and again disproportionately Maori) into poverty wages and insecure work.
Prior to this recession, Maori and Pacifica had higher labour force participation rates than did Pakeha.
New Zealand went through a period of economic restructuring that radically transformed the way we worked during a six-year period starting with the second-term of the Labour Government following the sharemarket crash of 1987 and then continued in the first term of the National government until 1993. This embedded a so-called free-market orthodoxy that said the market was always right and the pursuit of profit a god-given endeavour we would all benefit from – eventually.
Unemployment went from 4% to 11% overall and was 25-30% for Maori and Pacifica communities. Unemployment was the weapon the bosses deliberately used to break workers willingness to resist. Wages were cut, welfare benefits were cut, health care and education were being turned into commodities to buy and sell. The country was encouraged to become debt slaves as well as wage slaves.
Full-time employment collapsed. In March 1986 the first year of the Household Labour Force Survey there were 1, 369,600 full-time jobs in the economy. This represented 54.1% of the working age population. By the September quarter of 1992 there were 1,174,500 full-time jobs representing 43.8% of the working age population – a loss of nearly 200,000 full-time jobs which was equivalent to 10% of the working age population.
It was worse for men. Male full-time employment fell from 73.1% of the male working age population to 57.4%. In absolute terms male full-time employment didn’t pass the 1986 number until the December quarter 2001 when it reached 909,000 but at 63% of the male working-age population it was still 10 percent below the numbers for 1986. At the end of 2020 it was only 64%.
Families were forced apart as it became impossible for men or women to support families on a single income. Both partners needed to work in multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet. Many made the practical choice to live apart and one claim the sole-parent benefit and live in a separate household. Loving parents had to avoid the spying eyes of the government-paid or volunteer peeping-toms who watched out for too many overnight stays than was permissible. Special “hotlines” were created which allowed anonymous complaints to be made which were then aggressively investigated by WINZ.
The reactionary moral crusaders against the growth in the numbers of solo-parents in the community were precisely the same people supporting the reactionary economic and social policies creating the unemployment that led to the breakdown in family life that fed the rise in numbers on benefits.
Employers used the fear of unemployment to go after the wages and conditions or workers and break the unions that stood in their way. Real wages were cut by about 25% and there was the additional loss of overtime rates and allowances for most workers.
Instead of secure work on union-negotiated agreements we had the flexibility we all wanted to choose the zero-hour contracts that mushroomed and became the dominant form of employment agreement in whole industries.
By far the biggest impact of the assault on full-time work was borne by Maori and Pacifica families.
Of course, to hide the crime that was being perpetrated Maori and Pacifica families were demonised for “choosing” to go on a benefit.
It was claimed the benefits were “too generous” and were cut by the 1990 National government from around 40% of the average wage to around 33% for the adult unemployment benefit. Their value compared to the average wage has been allowed to steadily decline for two decades since because it was only ever increased by the consumer price index rather than average wages like superannuation has been.
The 1992 benefit cuts were worth approximately $1.3 billion – about the same size of each of the tax cuts handed out in 1996 and 1998.
An explosion of poverty was an inevitable and foreseeable consequence. Prior to the cuts in 1991 around 25% of children in beneficiary families were identified as poor in the Household Economic Survey. That rose to 75% post cuts and hasn’t changed much since.
Since the current Labour government was formed three years ago there has been a $25 a week one-off increase and two annual increases matching inflation rather than the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The value of a main unemployment benefit is still only 19% of the average wage – under half its value from before the cuts by National in 1990 and then maintained by labour because it kept the National policy of only increasing benefits by the CPI during the 1999-2008 Labour government.
…this is why Grant and Jacinda’s words on poverty and inequality are so meaningless, because the tiny handicapped baby steps of progress that every middle class Wellington Union so breathlessly celebrates in press releases are pathetic when you consider Labour were the Party responsible for the neoliberal revolution that doomed so many in the working classes.
There’s a point when you have to acknowledge that all those baby steps are really just jogging on the spot.
Sadly there isn’t any other political force that can pull Labour up on their sophistry and hypocrisy.
Unfortunately the Identity Politics Left in NZ are too lost with meaningless and divisive ‘social justice’ cancel culture as opposed to economic justice to counter the neoliberal hegemony.
The Greens are too busy gerrymandering the law to ensure all men accused of sexual assault are found guilty, they are trying to criminalise Christians with a ban on Gay Conversions (despite not being able to tell NZ how many Gay conversions are actually happening in NZ annually) and pass virtue signalling climate emergency announcements that don’t actually trigger any emergency powers.
For them it seems Dr. Seuss, Mr Potato head and old tweets are the true enemy!
Christ knows how feral the woke Green activist base online will turn when the Hate speech madness begins. Trying to explain why blasphemy laws and criminalising the misuse of pronouns is a response to a white supremacy terror attack is going to be fun.
All the while Grant and Jacinda speak empty words about poverty and inequality on a melting planet.
As long as Jacinda & Grant keep the house prices high and the Covid out, Middle Class NZ will support them as viciously as they supported Key for 3 terms because the commodification of housing is the quintessential ‘Kiwi way of life’.
The ‘Kiwi way of life’ is a low imagination horizon anti intellectualism based on exploitation of confiscated indigenous resources where ignorance & malice is celebrated by the rural volk while middle class attention is engulfed between social media virtue signalling, school rankings & being ‘present’.
A rich country with hundreds of thousands in poverty, tens of thousands homeless, 668 suicides per year , an appalling domestic violence rate; a country with generations locked out of home ownership and job security on deunionised wage levels that lock us into insecurity, desperation and subservience; a country undermined by exploited migrant labour and speculation where primary industries get to pollute and rape the environment without remorse or punishment ; a country that refused to feed the kids because it was ‘the parents fault’ and who re-lected Key despite dirty politics, abuse of political power and mass surveillance lies; a country that could only apologise for the atrocity at Parihaka 140 years after it happened; a country with social services who chase and hound beneficiaries to death and persecute them; a country whose bloated private prison complex locks up as many people as America and we release men back into the community more damaged than when they went in; a country whose politics are owned by vested big business interests and petty corruptions; this is a country where The Project and Seven Sharp are considered current affairs with all the intellectual power of the ZM and Edge Breakfast shows.
Whatever noble lineage that existed within our egalitarian roots has long been killed off by the 35 year neoliberal experiment and you can see that by the passionate intensity those who have profited by exploiting capital gains tax scream their hatred at the mere mention they might have to pay money on a gain they haven’t even realised yet.
We are a juvenile country with all the cultural maturity of a can of day old coke.
This is what we are. This is who we is.
In 2010, the 388 richest individuals owned more wealth than half of the entire human population on Earth
By 2015, this number was reduced to only 62 individuals
In 2018, it was 42
In 2019, it was down to only 26 individuals who own more wealth than 3.8 billion people.
This isn’t a democracy, it’s fast becoming a feudal plutocracy on a burning Earth.
Every aspect of our existence is monetarised for big data to sell us more stuff we can’t afford. We are alienated and anesthetized by a consumer culture that keeps us neurotic and disconnected. Our work, our existence, every move we make are all built to suck money to a minority class that sits above us while under neoliberalism, globalization, financialization, and automation, our existence as individuals has only become more disposable.
The intellectual response and solutions from the Identity Politics Left to these challenges are all white people are racist, all men are rapists and anyone supporting free speech is a uniform wearing Nazi.
An election changes a Government.
A revolution changes the State.
We need a democratic revolution, not neokindess.
Increasingly having independent opinion in a mainstream media environment which mostly echo one another has become more important than ever, so if you value having an independent voice – please donate here.
If you can’t contribute but want to help, please always feel free to share our blogs on social media