Mean(s) Testing

Everyone deserves a liveable income whether in paid employment or not; our society relies on a great deal of unpaid labour to function. A liveable income for everyone is only fair. And being fair is something that most New Zealanders pride themselves on.

The flip side of this is the amount of time spent worrying about unfairness. It is good to worry about unfairness if it is confined to worrying about people missing out on basic entitlements and taking steps to make sure this doesn’t happen.

Unfortunately these days it seems to have gone the other way. The focus is on people getting things others don’t think they are entitled to. Mainly directed at those who get very little by those who have already got a lot.

The way we treat those who aren’t lucky enough to have a decent paid job has become infected with this attitude. Do we want the way we treat superannuitants to go the same way? Means testing superannuation the way we means test unemployment and sickness benefits would be a huge mistake. Means testing causes resentment, stigmatizes and demoralizes. The elderly do not need that. Nobody needs that.

Universality is the key to fairness. Let everyone have the entitlements; free education, healthcare, low interest first home loans, state rental houses, a liveable income. There is no reason to humiliate those in need of assistance by making them prove their neediness just to make sure that the state does not waste money on people getting something they might not need. Fairness can be achieved by reclaiming unneeded state assistance through progressive income taxation and wealth taxes.

Why not let results, rather than predictions, determine who needs state assistance and who does not? That was the way our social security system used to work, before Ruth and Roger decided that the wealthy should not have to pay a higher tax rate. They ignored the fact that most people need a little help from the state at some stage of their lives. People conveniently forgot that the generosity of the state helped fuel their personal success and didn’t feel the need to make sure that future generations received the same assistance by contributing a reasonable amount of tax. That definitely wasn’t fair.

Instead of the state trying to determine who needs assistance, give it to everyone. Why fret about means testing superannuation? Look at the big picture. It’s surely time to make things fair again, for everyone.

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