We could solve poverty, if we wanted to

by Jake Quinn

The current government in New Zealand has no real interest in poverty eradication, so it is not surprising that they turned down Labour leader David Shearer’s offer to take part in the government’s poverty group. His ideas might have actually helped, and that wouldn’t be helpful.

Poverty eradication, especially during times of limited economic growth, is – surely – most effectively addressed through redistributing existing wealth.

National’s answer to poverty is to remove welfare. There are very few jobs for people on welfare to take these days, so removing welfare is highly unlikely to remove people from poverty, it is, rather, likely to do the exact opposite.

Make the poor poorer, which will have them turn to crime. So not brill’ for the rest of us either.

This whole debate boils down to whether we, as New Zealanders, actually have “enough” already. Enough money, enough time, enough stuff. I’d suggest that on the material side of the argument we do, overall.

I’d guess that with the second lowest taxes (after Mexico) in the OECD and very few other redistributive measures (such as wealth taxes like those on inheritance, land or capital gains) we probably just aren’t sharing it very effectively.

As a nation with enough stuff, we actually choose poverty don’t we? In fact, we have chosen it.

By wanting and accepting lower taxes and cuts in government programs and welfare.

We know there is enough food in the world to feed everyone – we just don’t use it effectively, that’s almost conventional wisdom these days.

It’s the same with poverty, we’ve got enough money in this particular country, it’s just not very fairly distributed – and it’s getting worse.

We don’t have to live this way, but pretending it’s not in our power to solve it is ridiculous.