Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Still crazy after all these years

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  • Jake Pollock,

    Peter, I believe you just described Sam Vimes' Theory of Economic Injustice.

    Raumati South • Since Nov 2006 • 489 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Ashby,

    @Jake Pollock

    Except that the good Sergeant Vimes and I arrived at the theory independently. I do remember recognising the essential truth of it when I read it. However the good Sergeant gets one detail wrong. Cheap boots cannot be salvaged by cardboard insoles when the uppers disintegrate or part company with the soles. Boots that last long enough to wear out the soles, are GOOD boots. I must have been buying the 5 dollar ones.

    Stands to reason me not being in employment. I was not idle, just married with kids while an undergraduate then trying to do same on a PhD stipend that was less than the dole. It only worked because the University Grants Committee didn't enact punitive marginal tax rates on income earned from tutoring, demonstrating labs and other such things. Unlike those on the dole, who can easily be deterred from working by the system that makes it not worth their while.

    I have kept our poor cards, as a reminder, should I need one, that we have been poor, officially.

    Dundee, Scotland • Since May 2007 • 425 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    I wonder if many of our decision-makers/politicians have either never been poor or chosen to forget it. Choices become rather different in ways that are hard to abstractly imagine. Right now there are an awful lot of New Zealanders without jobs, and yet our leaders see that as a "lagging indicator" not worthy of any actual short-term effort to address. The market will provide, just like it did so well in the glorious late 80s and 90s.

    Unadjusted abatement thresholds are a form of fiscal drag you don't hear much about, so it's good to see at least some action on that from this government. The last one were far more right wing on such matters than most want to believe.

    I remember reading in some dusty policy paper that the marginal rate for some beneficiaries approaches 100% - hardly an incentive to do what you can to improve your lot, though I understand the cross-spectrum desire to get people completely off benefits. I believe most people on them want that too, but there has to be something to move to - which is not going to be magically created by dropping company or top personal tax rates a few percent.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    I wonder if many of our decision-makers/politicians have either never been poor or chosen to forget it.

    Yes, that's what I deduced a few weeks back when, in a short queue for the burgers (mine being fish of course) I was chatting to a stranger next to me. I mentioned after his indication of having been a student, that student loans was on the agenda in Parliament. He was keen to know the situ of which I expressed concern for students in general and the increase in loans interest. His response was" I don't care about them anymore, I have paid off my loan." that was the end of that conversation. I thought, might just be an ACT supporter.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I wonder if many of our decision-makers/politicians have either never been poor or chosen to forget it.

    Not our PM though, so he tells it.

    I'm not convinced that the 'former poor' are more likely to show empathy to the 'currently poor', though. Particularly not the 'formerly poor, now fantastically wealthy'. Their own rise from poverty is likely to have given them the impression that everyone could do the same, if they just followed the same philosophy. Often, they despise people who failed to rise all the more because they don't feel as inclined to patronize them as the 'never was poor' sect.

    Their fallacy is usually in failing to account for the luck factor. Not just the luck of the breaks they had in making it big, but also the luck they had in being the kind of person who would capitalize on those breaks.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    wonder if many of our decision-makers/politicians have either never been poor or chosen to forget it.

    Bryce Edwards has recently made a very interesting post on this, which includes the following comment from John Minto:


    "...Based on our national profile we should have about 7 MPs from amongst the unemployed and half our parliamentarians from jobs earning less than the median income of around $39,000 per annum. I doubt there would be more than five percent of current MPs in that category and not a single MP would have entered parliament from a job paying less than $15 an hour despite 450,000 New Zealanders being in this category. Our parliament is dominated by professionals, intellectuals and business people many of whom sniffily comment they have had to take a pay cut to come to parliament. I’d hazard a guess that around 90% of MPs entered parliament from jobs in the top 30% of incomes. The result is a parliament of the well-off, by the well-off and for the well-off..."

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    There but for fortunate genetics and an applied brain go I

    I have probably said this before, but anyway...

    Dad's been doing a lot of digging into the family history.

    Once you get past grandparent level, the ancestors are very largely poor workers. Illiterate London bootmakers, Volga river raftsmen. Judging by census data, the UK ones were in fact wretched. For example, my great-great uncles were abandoned boys who were *glad* be sent to the training hulks on the Thames. When my great-grandfather was married, only one of the four parents signing the register could write their name.

    Every generation of my family from, say, 1900 until the present has had a greatly improved condition and prospects compared to the previous ones. Universal education, sanitation, labour laws and the welfare state are what allowed our completely invisible potential to be expressed. Genes don't enter into it.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Robbie Siataga,

    Lucky for us they didn't sterilize the poor back in the day then. There'd be no one around except the bluebloods and God knows what sort of mutants they'd be by now ;)

    Since Feb 2010 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    My mainly Irish and Scottish background was poor, until my grandfather, who made it in property development. But his real escalation out of the working classes came from WW2, where his obvious brains shot him straight into the air force ahead of many others of much higher privilege. It gave him post-war opportunities that he capitalized on. He always believed in an egalitarian welfare state, despite becoming very wealthy. I've always found that inspiring - that in becoming rich you don't have to turn into a selfish bastard.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Robbie Siataga,

    Funny that Ben, but as a polynesian outside the royal breeding lines the best other way to improve your lot and marry well was to prove yourself in battle also.

    I think a certain amount of selfishness is needed to become rich but theres no need to be greedy about it afterwards.

    Since Feb 2010 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Craig - all beneficiaries, including my beloved mother, pay gst on everything; a 2.5%increase in GST is a 2.5 diminshment on her income (which is pretty bloody slight anyway.)

    A 2.5% increase in GST is a 2.2% diminishment in income.

    Assuming that the government doesn't put in some GST compensation for benefit rates. Beneficiaries should come out even, unless the government are right bastards.

    Most likely people to be hurt by the GST increase are lower income earners, particularly those that don't earn WFF.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    I remember reading in some dusty policy paper that the marginal rate for some beneficiaries approaches 100%

    In the early nineties, it passed 100%. There was a thresh-hold you hit, and my memory is a bit dodgy on it now but I think it was at around 15 minimum wage hours a week, where the claw-backs were more than you were making per hour. My partner had to sit down with our WINZ guy and show him this happened on a piece of paper. The poor guy was appalled, but previously unaware.

    Since then, the thresh-hold of earning for abatement has risen and WFF has come in, so I think it's gone, but certainly for a while, if you worked too much you lost money.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Funny that Ben, but as a polynesian outside the royal breeding lines the best other way to improve your lot and marry well was to prove yourself in battle also.

    I hope it's a peculiarity of the past, both for polynesians and for everyone else. But very often I wonder whether it is in the nature of peaceful society to gradually become more rigidly hierarchical, and that violence will always be our safety valve against the Iron Law of Oligarchy. Whether that violence is internal or external.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    I'm not convinced that the 'former poor' are more likely to show empathy to the 'currently poor', though. Particularly not the 'formerly poor, now fantastically wealthy'. Their own rise from poverty is likely to have given them the impression that everyone could do the same, if they just followed the same philosophy. Often, they despise people who failed to rise all the more because they don't feel as inclined to patronize them as the 'never was poor' sect.

    It's called kicking away the ladder of opportunity.

    Assuming that the government doesn't put in some GST compensation for benefit rates. Beneficiaries should come out even, unless the government are right bastards.

    Most likely people to be hurt by the GST increase are lower income earners, particularly those that don't earn WFF.

    Rearrange the following words: Poll. Thatcher. Margaret. Tax.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5443 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    Ya, ha, ha... ha, or, like I who recently picked up a set of velcro cycling gear, three pairs of orange and green overalls and a feather down duvet, for the princely sum of $12 , financially challenged people can shop at second hand shops, where the GST has already been paid by the wealthier original purchaser. Isn't it funny how the 'goods' part of GST only needs to be paid once, at first hand, leaving the the item less good, but the better deal.

    But still not going to last as long as if it had been bought new.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 719 posts Report Reply

  • Robbie Siataga,

    I wonder whether it is in the nature of peaceful society to gradually become more rigidly hierarchical, and that violence will always be our safety valve against the Iron Law of Oligarchy. Whether that violence is internal or external.

    And of course its human nature to want the best for your kids and to create a dynasty, for them not to suffer but in doing so you may be depriving them of skills/lessons they need to survive and evolve.

    Theres lots of rebels without causes around at the moment and revolutions needed without anything to fill the vaccuum afterwards.

    If only it were as simple as waiting for a messiah and a promised better afterlife.

    Since Feb 2010 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • FletcherB,

    This is yet another of the advantages of having at least a little uncommitted income...

    You have enough spare cash laying about that you can take advantage of "specials" or other recognizably good deals when they are available.... whereas when every dollar you come by is already committed... you dont have that luxury.

    To extend the shoes analogy...

    I'm currently wearing shoes that cost me $40. They are high quality and have already lasted more than four times longer than the $20 shoes from a certain large red retailer I once tried....

    $40 doesnt seem that much more than $20, and you might think any sensible person could see the advantage of getting them....

    But in fact, they arenormally $120 shoes that were on sale for only 24 hours.

    With my free cash, I can get the good deal when its available.

    When you're on the bones of your arse, you arent going to be spending anything on shoes until the ones on your feet are dead.... and then you have to go to the red shed and get the ones that last 2 or 3 months again because they are all thats available this week.

    West Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 893 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Theres lots of rebels without causes around at the moment and revolutions needed without anything to fill the vaccuum afterwards.

    I feel strangely optimistic about the future these days.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Rearrange the following words: Poll. Thatcher. Margaret. Tax.

    Yup. But we should discuss what's likely to be coming, not 'things that Satan would impose upon us'.

    The government signalled that benefits would increase to compensate for the GST increase. Assuming that they follow through on that, beneficiaries will only be as screwed in the future as they are now (ie, a fair bit), not any more.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    The second hand/op shop thing depends on there being a stratum of society that can afford to get rid of their good quality stuff without much recompense. The Queenstown op shop is the most striking example of this; I reckon you'd be able to pick up a lot more nice stuff from op shops in high income suburbs than in low income suburbs, where people buy cheap to begin with, use things until they fall apart, hand them down to friends and relatives or sell them for as much as they can on trademe.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Robbie Siataga,

    I've always enjoyed 'junking' for retro clothes and what not, but i've noticed there doesnt seem to be much good shit out there and a lot more people getting in first

    maybe cos they dont make stuff as good as they used to, or stuff costs more, or people aren't throwing away as much good stuff or most of it goes to trade me now but whatever...i'm getting a little disheartened

    and i too feel optimistic about the future but only me and mine :)

    Since Feb 2010 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I still swear by the economics of buying second hand cars. At least in NZ.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    When you're on the bones of your arse, you arent going to be spending anything on shoes until the ones on your feet are dead.... and then you have to go to the red shed and get the ones that last 2 or 3 months again because they are all thats available this week.

    Alternatively, could I suggest, for good quality, good place to start is the Blundstone factory along Swanson Rd (281)Henderson. It is open on Saturday mornings as well as during the week and my shoes were $30 with the boots at $60. They dont seem to run out at all.Well the shoes got a wee split in the sole after 5 years. Extremely good product.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I still swear by the economics of buying second hand cars. At least in NZ.

    Cheap garage workers. High interest rates. Big markups on new cars.

    Plus, the NZ mindset is that it's better to drive a 10 year old Skyline that's a bit crap than a brand new Suzuki Swift.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • JackElder,

    velcro cycling gear

    As a cyclist, I'd like to say that there's no way I'd choose to venture out in velcro. It's just asking to get into a sticky situation.

    But even stepping past the obvious joke - 2nd hand cycling shorts: yuk. I'd have to be pretty fucking strapped for cash to consider buying 2nd-hand underwear, which is functionally what bike shorts are.

    Wellington • Since Mar 2008 • 709 posts Report Reply

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