Monday, May 02, 2016

I know the poor

Poverty is a shortage of money, right?  It is not.  In our society, poverty is an effect of foolish decisions.  It is a behaviour problem, not a money problem.

I have seen it many times but I saw it most frequently when I was the proprietor of a 22-room boarding house located in a poor area. Many of the residents would buy basic groceries etc from a nearby service station, where the prices were about 50% dearer that at the supermarket.  And there was a branch of a large supermarket chain only ten minutes walk away.

And on "payday" (the day when government welfare money was paid into their accounts) it was a wonder to see the casks of "goon" (Sweet white wine in a cardboard box) coming into the place.  There was always money for alcohol.

And I had to be on the ball on "payday" too.  I had to get my rent before the money was all spent.  I even knew where some of them drank and would go in and collect my money from them at the bar.

And they would often have fights, usually over women.  And that often left me with property damage. I always had a glazier ready on call to fix broken windows.  I could have tried to claim that cost back off them but that would have been in vain. By the end of the week most had nothing left in their pockets.

And the fighting was not limited to my place.  They would also get into fights in bars and elsewhere.  And the loser in a fight generally had his money stolen off him, often on the night of "payday".  So, sometimes, if I had not got his money that day, he would have nothing left by the time I got to him. 

But not all welfare clients are like that.  Many are prudent enough to have money left over at the end of the week and accumulate some savings.  One such was a tall black Melanesian man -- named Apu if I remember rightly.  When I approached him for his rent he said:  "I got into a fight last night and lost my money ... so I went to the bank and got some out".  He was the only man ever to say that to me.

So he was not poor. He had money for his needs and could put something aside as well.  He got the same "pay" as everyone else but he was more prudent in his behaviour.

I spent many years endeavouring to provide respectable accommodation for the poor but the poor did not make it easy for me.  Many are their own worst enemies.

And in my younger days I lived on Australia's student dole for a couple of years -- and led a perfectly comfortable life.  The student dole was actually a bit below what the unemployed got.  So I have NEVER been poor. 

I sometimes had only a little money but I have always had savings, have always eaten well, have always had comfortable accommodation, have always had sufficient clothing, have always had lots of books (mostly bought very cheaply secondhand), have always had good access to the sort of recorded music that I like,  have always been able to afford the day's newspaper and have rarely been without an attractive girlfriend. 

I did not however drink alcohol until I could afford it.  I was teetotal until I was about 28.  And I have never smoked or used illegal drugs.  So I made good choices -- for which I largely thank my fundamentalist Christian background -- and have always been contented


While I am enormously grateful to  my Protestant background for putting my teenage feet onto the right path, there seem to be some genetics involved too.  I say that because my son, who did not have that background, is a lot like me.  He seems to save as  much as he spends and yet has an attractive girlfriend, a job he enjoys and vast amounts of "stuff" - mainly books and computer games.

He does however have an addiction -- as young people these days mostly seem to.  So is he addicted to heroin, cocaine, marijuana  or "Ice"?  Far from it.  He is addicted to flavoured milk. He finds it hard to get past the flavoured milk display at our  local supermarket.  At a time when young people pour all sorts of foul things into themselves, I am overjoyed about that

Milk IS bad for his waistline but he has the self-discipline to  get that under control from time to time too.  I think that both he and I have inherited Puritan genetics.  I am convinced there is such a thing.  It is a great gift.

And let us not forget that Puritans founded America.  So Puritans can be people of considerable personal effectiveness.  And for some people Puritanism feels right.  It did for me.  People exiting restrictive religions tend to be resentful of their times in the religion concerned.  But I revelled in it. And it is still a fond memory of that time in my life

So in the end I have to agree with a great Rabbi:  "The poor ye always have with you". There may not be such a thing as "white privilege" (most of my lodgers were white) but there may be such a thing as an inborn Puritan privilege -- JR


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG says we are back where we were in 2007

Waleed Aly's powerful but ignorant message about housing affordability

He hasn't got a clue.  Negative gearing does NOT amount to a subsidy. It is simply recognition of costs incurred by an individual in the course of earning income.  When Paul Keating attacked it, the results were so adverse that he rapidly restored it.  And Shorten doesn't plan to abolish it, just redirect it somewhat.  It will still be available for anyone to use.  It could in fact cause new-build housing costs to RISE

If you’re mad, upset and feeling helpless about the fact that you’ll probably never get into the housing market, you’re not alone. Waleed Aly is with you.

On last night’s episode of The Project, Aly delivered a powerful six minute segment on negative gearing; breaking down what it is and who it’s affecting, all before taking a sledge hammer to government claims, and doing what no politician has ever done well – providing non-biased data to back up his analysis.

Of course he did. *Cough* Gold Logie *cough, cough* ahem, Gold Logie.

The general consensus on what negative gearing does is clear, Aly argued. "Economists agree that negative gearing pushes house prices up, contributes to making our houses some of the most expensive in the world, and if you're from generation X or Y or you're a millennial, it's one of the reasons you can't afford a house."

While assessing Malcolm Turnbull's election commitment to keep negative gearing as is, Aly pointed out that the claims made in Tuesday night's interview with Leigh Sales on 7.30 were flawed at best, and raised the train wreck PR stunt that was introducing "real" Aussie families that benefit from negative gearing.

"So to recap, negative gearing has contributed to you - generations X, Y and millennials - not being able to buy a home, but it's got this baby one, so it all evens out, yeah?"

Peter Martin, the economics editor of The Age, agreed that buying houses for infants shouldn't really be our priority.

"If things are really that bad that that's what you need to do to get into the housing market, it says a lot more about the market than that negative gearing's a good idea," he said.

And while the Liberal Party is determined to bring Labor's policy down, independent research from the ANU's Centre for Social Research and Methods found that, "Labor's policy would slow the growth of house prices, increase new construction, raise billions each year for the budget".

"It literally said Labor's policy could be 'the biggest housing affordability policy this country has seen'," Aly said.

No political party, organisation or individual commissioned that modelling.

While opposition leader Bill Shorten may be, as Aly says, "the equivalent of the complaining neighbour who calls the cops and says the music's too loud," he appears to be the holder of the only clear solution to what is becoming a major issue for an entire generation of people.

Aly points out that as a sales person, Shorten really lacks some skills, but sandwiched into the segment was a quote from Shorten that, at the heart of it, says everything you need to know about negative gearing.

"In this country at the moment, we spend more money on taxpayer subsidies on negative gearing than we do on higher education."


Biffo Latham doesn't like feminists

A FIERY debate erupted in the Weekend Sunrise studio when commentator Mark Latham and co-host Andrew O’Keefe clashed over feminism.

Latham was on the show along with guests, Daily Telegraph columnist Miranda Devine, The Guardian columnist Van Badham and columnist Rory Gibson to discuss the issue of feminism and if men were being unfairly targeted.

All three guests got fired up when debating the issue but the real eruption occurred between Latham and O’Keefe.

Latham was asked by Sunrise co-host Angela Cox if he thought men felt threatened now that women today are educated and better off financially.

Latham replied, “no I think the average man is doing quite fine, they ignore most of the left feminist clap trap. They ignore people like Van who are a very very minority interest in our society, she’s a self declared anarchist way way on the extreme left of politics representing perhaps point zero, zero, per cent of thought in Australia so she’s safely ignored”.

“The real issue for men is can they keep up in the education system. At the moment among university graduates leaving every year 40 per cent are male, 60 per cent are female, a massive advance for women in this country. When you look at the bottom of society when you get away from Van’s debate about women like her, because left feminism is essentially selfish,” he said before O’Keefe interjected, “Oh for god’s sake”.

And that’s when the two went head to head. Latham accused O’Keefe of being biased and a left wing participant in the debate while Andrew accused Latham of personally attacking the guests.

It was left to Cox to take charge and request that the guests stayed away from personal attacks.

There were mixed opinions on Twitter with some backing O’Keefe while others were in Latham’s corner but aside from the difference in opinions Twitters users all seemed to agree on how heated the debate got.

And just when viewers thought the segment was over the two men fired up again. “You live in cloud cookoo land. If you’re on the 11:30 train out of the city and there’s a women’s only carriage, and you’re a bad bloke looking to do damage, you’re going to go straight in,” Latham said referring to the idea of having womens only carriages on late night trains.

“That’s a really good insightful comment there. Great to have constructive debate there. Thank you. And thank you all for your insights and thank you Mark for the entertainment,” O’Keefe said.

“Thank you for the objectivity, Andrew and maybe next week, you can go back to being a proper professional host. If you want to participate in these debates declare that at the start of segment,” Latham replied before Cox ended the debate once and for all.


There is a God. And He votes for Malcolm Turnbull

Joe Hildebrand is basically a satirist but there is a lot in what he says below

There’s not much faith left in Australian politics these days but this week it emerged that there is a God and He votes for Malcolm Turnbull.

Because nothing short of divine intervention — of the ecclesiastical rather than the Miranda variety — could explain the two lucky breaks the Prime Minister has caught after a horror show start to the year.

The PM’s first good fortune relies on the misfortune of the 850 unfortunates stuck on Manus Island and his government keeping them there — or at least keeping them anywhere but Australia.

This is brutal but necessary politics. It is clear that suburban voters like it when the government acts tough on border protection and Turnbull has happily obliged them — because they will decide whether or not he keeps his job on July 2.

It is also, incidentally, the right call. If Australia wants to be humane we must also be hard-headed. We need to take as many refugees as we can directly fleeing ISIS and Assad, not lure others into a criminally run death race across the open seas. That’s not channelling Gandhi, it’s channelling The Running Man.

Morality aside — which is, after all, its usual place in politics — the PNG Supreme Court’s ruling that all asylum seekers be freed from detention and possibly returned to Australia initially seemed to present an impossibly complex legal and diplomatic dilemma.

But the government simply pulled out a Little Britain DVD and replied: “Computer says no.”

Frankly, it worked. And it was also refreshing they’d taken their policies from a TV show that wasn’t Veep.

The second gift the Almighty granted Turnbull this week was Bill Shorten’s mother of all blunders when attempting to resurrect a price on carbon, something Labor has to do to stop votes haemorrhaging to the Greens but which exposes it to a bloodbath from the right. You wouldn’t wish the job on Osama Bin Laden.

Key to navigating this rocky path is ensuring the dreaded “carbon tax” millstone is never hung around the ALP’s neck again. And so while Malcolm goes to bed thanking God for OzEmail, Bill lies awake repeating to himself: “It’s not a tax, it’s not a tax, it’s not a tax…”

This perhaps explains why on Wednesday he found himself uttering the fateful words: “There will be no carbon tax under…”

It is at this precise moment mid-sentence that Shorten’s spirit no doubt left his body and hovered over the Opposition Leader, there to spend the remainder of the press conference howling “Nooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!”

In terms of existential crises it ranks somewhere between Macbeth and Darth Vader. You could almost hear Kevin Rudd’s giggle from New York.

Meanwhile Malcolm is laughing all the way to the bank, even if that bank is Goldman Sachs.

A week ago I would’ve taken an each-way roughie that Labor might just steal the election from under Turnbull’s Roman nose. Now I’m guessing that next week’s Newspoll will give him the holiest number of all: 51. But Lord knows I’ve been wrong before.


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