From the outset, the slogan for yesterday’s Budget – “The Plan Is Working” – begged to be mocked. There’s actually a plan for the national economy? Who knew? And its been working for whom, exactly? Not for families in poverty, clearly. Supposedly, the social hardship package is the centre-piece of Budget 2015. Yet how could Finance Minister Bill English claim with a straight face to be doing anything significant about poverty – or income inequality – without making any changes to the economic settings that keep on generating it ?
In reality, Budget 2015 contained no sustainable plan to transform the lives of the poor. What we got was a sop, a stunt paid for in part by the continued, chronic underfunding of areas such as health and education which – newsflash – also affect the quality of life of those living in poverty. Core benefits for families with children will go up by a headline figure of $25 a week, while fiddling with tax credits will deliver about $12 to low income families in paid employment. Read the rest of this entry »