OPINION WITHOUT ANALYSIS IS PRETENTIOUS

It’s always frustrating to come across opinionated comment unsupported by evidence or reasoning.

A case in point is this February 25 New Zealand Herald editorial on last week’s Welfare Working Group report.

The editorial states:

… the group errs in spreading its net too widely. John Key’s queasiness related to women who had more children when they were already on the benefit being required to look for part-time work when their baby was just 14 weeks old. The intention is to stop mothers having additional children simply as a means of remaining a beneficiary. Every so often, an example of this gains publicity. It is probable, however, that the problem is overstated. Either way, the Prime Minister is right to rule out the proposal.

This is just fact-free ex cathedra opinion. It is “probable” that the problem is overstated?  There is no need to surmise. Did the leader writer not read the WWG report which states (p76), “In New Zealand, an estimated one is seven sole parents who enter the benefit system will have an additional child while on a benefit (and ultimately one in four of current sole parent beneficiaries)”?  That hardly looks like a small issue to me.

And what is the Herald’s alternative position? Does it condone the behaviour of the appalling, foul-mouthed Joan Nathan of MeGehan Close, a long-term beneficiary with six children, one of whom, befriended by John Key, is now in CYF’s hands because she is “better off” there and “it’s a life I can’t give her”? Does it think taxpayers should support such DPB recipients on an open-ended basis when most responsible, working families plan the number of children they have on the basis of how many they can afford to provide a good life for? What is its view on the responsibilities of the fathers in question? Does it support the other WWG recommendations on this issue, eg free contraception? Does it favour the minority recommendation that work obligations should commence after 12 months rather than 14 weeks? And why? We are not told.

The editorial goes on to say:

In the same way, the working group goes over the top in recommending that mothers should be forced to look for work once their first child turns 3. Many couples on two incomes may well be willing to return to work soon after a baby’s birth. But that does not mean other people’s priorities are wrong. In parenting terms, there is much to be said for mothers who stay at home with their pre-school children. Whatever the benefits of work, for the individual and the economy, insisting that sole mothers take paid work before their children attend school is a step too far.

It describes this recommendation as “radical” and “extreme”. By what standards?  Welfare researcher Lindsay Mitchell has pointed out that the United States and Canada have a range of ages according to the state or province, with the United States having a maximum of 1 year.

Social democratic Norway, France, Germany and Switzerland have been work testing at 3 for some years.

Why does the Herald think that New Zealand can afford a welfare system with rules that are more lenient than those of these much richer countries, with all the consequences for child poverty and social breakdown that they generate?

The WWG reports (p66) that three-quarters of recipients of paid parental leave returned to work within 12 months, and two-thirds of those returned to work after taking six months or less.

The expectation that, with exceptions, parents be required to look for part-time work of at least 20 hours per week once their child reaches three years of age, and thus relieve the burden on taxpayers and society, looks neither radical nor unreasonable to me.

The leading newspaper in New Zealand’s leading city could do better.

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2 thoughts on “OPINION WITHOUT ANALYSIS IS PRETENTIOUS

  1. It’s always frustrating to come across opinionated comment unsupported by evidence or reasoning.

    Gee, Roger, I wish had been given a dollar for every time someone said that about some of your writings!

    But as I understand it, an editorial is an opinion piece – the Editor’s opinion. There’s no need to make it read like an undergraduate essay, is there?

    There are some assumptions made by the writer of the editorial that are readly accessible to most readers and I suggest that those assumptions simply don’t meet with you approval.

    For example,

    The intention is to stop mothers having additional children simply as a means of remaining a beneficiary

    I don’t think this was explicitly stated, but we all think we know that this is a correct interpretation, and we understand that the writer is disapproving of the concept.

    Then you ask

    Does it condone the behaviour of the appalling, foul-mouthed Joan Nathan of MeGehan Close…

    .

    Surely this is a classic either/or fallacy. There are alternatives to consider between sending the lady to live under a bridge somewhere and condoning, but in a civilised society sometimes the cheapest (a value dear to your heart, I presume) course of action is to do exactly that, condone. And condone with enough sympathethic generosity that an unfortunate lady can live her life with a degree of dignity.

    And to be honest, Roger, is holding up just one example out of the thousands of good folk on benefits a little dishonest?

    You quote US and Canada as examples, yet the US has probably the most unequal society in the world, with millions out of the welfare system because they are in prison instead, including a number imprisoned for life for shoplifting because that was their third strike. And Canada’s record of treatment of it’s indigenous peoples is appalling.

    The Scandanavian societies, on the other hand, invest well in childcare and other empowerment strategies, and the WWG does appear to support this, but our current government has been doing the opposite in our entire education system, uncluding early childcare.

    And this approach requires upfront investment with an uncertain ROI – not Bill English’s cup ot tea, I would suggest.

    And surely one analysis that needs to be done, if only to assuage your concerns about beneficiaries having babies, is to compare the birthrate amongst beneficiaries with that of non-beneficiaries to determine if we have a problem?

    Women do seem to have some kind of hardwired instinct to breed, don’t you think?

    Finally, perhaps where you see a “burden”, others see investment for the future, producing a well nourished, emotionally and physically, future high achiever.

    • Show me where I have expressed an opinion unsubstantiated in context or indirectly by evidence and/or argument. I’ll be happy to eat my words.
      The issue isn’t about having opinions. It’s about justifying them. Others can judge our disagreement about Joan Nathan. There are indeed alternatives to consider and I mentioned several.
      One example?! As I wrote, the WWG report states, “In New Zealand, an estimated one is seven sole parents who enter the benefit system will have an additional child while on a benefit (and ultimately one in four of current sole parent beneficiaries)”?
      The birth rate among non-beneficiaries is no business of the government/taxpayers if the parents are self-supporting. Spot the difference with beneficiaries?

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