Poverty and Inequality – Are We Bored or Burnt Out And What Can Be Done About It?

People have become bored with economic inequality and poverty issues, according to Otago University Political Studies lecturer Dr Bryce Edwards. He ruffled a few feathers, but he’s probably right. The amount of media attention and voter support the Alliance Party has gotten in recent years certainly supports his theory. Or possibly people are just burnt out.

People may be too busy with their own problems to worry about anyone else’s. Or they may think there is nothing they can do about it so there is no use worrying about it. They may not believe politicians can offer any answers – it is pretty obvious that since the 1980’s politicians have been part of the problem, not the solution.

The lack of interest may also be the result of the beneficiary bashing programme which portrays the poor as largely the authors of their own misfortune who are bludging off everyone else. And perhaps people don’t wish to admit, even to themselves, that they are poor or struggling to make ends meet because of the stigma attached to this.

Whatever the reasons, it is a problem for political parties such as the Alliance, that care deeply about poverty and gross inequality and want to live in a society where everyone has a decent lifestyle. They can’t achieve this if they can’t get voters to vote for them.

It is perhaps time think of policies that would reduce inequality and promote social justice as universal policies that would benefit everyone and present them as such, rather than as targeted at a certain sector.

Everyone would be better off if all healthcare was free, even doctors visits and prescriptions. Everyone would better off if education at every level was totally free, right down to school camps and materials for practical classes. Everyone would be better off if interest free home loans were offered to all first home buyers (up to a set price in each area). And everyone would be better off if interest free loans were offered to all homeowners to insulate, double glaze, and install a means of heating their home up a set value (around the cost of a upgrading a modest three bedroom home, perhaps).

Everyone would be better off if there was a universal basic income whether people are in paid work or not, and a universal child allowance. No one need feel guilty or inadequate for receiving help. Nor could anyone complain if everyone got the same entitlements. Though higher earners would pay higher taxes.

Money would be saved by removing the massive bureaucracy around deciding eligibility of targeted entitlements and monitoring misuse. Money would be saved through people living in healthier homes and accessing health services earlier thus requiring less expensive treatment, with fewer long term complications. Money would also be saved through reduced crime and lower rates of imprisonment.

A better educated, healthier population would mean a more skilled workforce and increased production. A better paid workforce would mean more revenue from taxation.

In short, everybody wins!

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