Never read comments on Stuff

Stuff.co.nz is the main NZ news website. It presents the mains news stories from all of the national newspapers and the bigger local ones as well. It has a comments section, and that’s always a mistake to read (but I do anyway). Here’s why it should all be ignored, this time from an essay about the inordinately strong focus on beneficiary fraud when tax fraud is so much more expensive to the state, and more worthwhile in terms of returns.

Would you not agree that in a large proportion of cases the issue stems from the beneficiary and the choices they have made in life which have lead them to their current outcome? (Not all but most). Politicians fix the issues whether they are left or right. I’m sick of hearing people blame the government. I also hate people thinking a benefit is an entitlement, it shouldn’t be. Recognise that the rest of the country is helping you out of a bad situation and do the best you can to get yourself out of being a beneficary [sic] and the tax payer will have no problem with you being on that “temporary” benefit.

Here we have that wonderful fallacy, that beneficiaries in general laze around and don’t try and get jobs while on the benefit. It’s just a handout to these people, or so the narrative goes. The Ministry itself, however, admits that three in four unemployment beneficiaries are off the dole within a year. Less than one percent are on it for more than ten years. There are not simply myriads of people opting out of the workforce to hang out on benefits.

Honestly, how many people would decide to live on $190/week just for the hell of it, or because they’re lazy. $190 is approximately far less than anyone can live on with any sort of quality of life. Minimum wage will get you more than $400 per week to live on, and while that’s still not a lot, it gets you far more than the benefit. It’s just not an attractive ‘lifestyle choice’

And of course, there’s a side helping of blaming the beneficiary’s ‘choices in life’ for their situation. Because being offered shitty choices in life is absolutely your own fault. Making bad calls is something that you deserve to be judged on. Blaming victims of chance for the way the cards fell is absolutely just.

To be clear, I know there are people that do decide to live on a benefit. Everyone’s got an anecdote of so-and-so’s distant relative’s son who is just a complete layabout and lives on his mother’s couch, buying junk food and video games with his benefit. There has to be some substance to some of these tales. I know that not all beneficiaries are in their situation due to chance, or bad luck. And I know they’re not all innocent bystanders – there are some that calculate their situation with great care. There are also some people who are just plain evil, and manipulative, and out to get whatever they can however they can. But I argue that these are not the majority.

Yes tax evasion is a crime but it only human nature to bash beneficiaries because us hard workers get frustrated seeing people getting paid for sitting on their butts, while tax evaders still at lest contribute somewhat.

Human nature to bash beneficiaries. Are you claiming that it’s just human to tread on the downtrodden, or to envy the poor their poverty? And that contributing something to the economy (which can be a bit questionable) makes tax evasion something worth condoning? Those are some pretty weak arguments. I would like to think that human nature would be better than that, at least when people realise how few people actually want to be in the position of needing welfare, and how little time is spent lazing around, especially on domestic purposes benefits. Now, the people we should really be bashing if we want to talk about laziness are super-annuitants. The don’t have any work obligations, don’t have to reapply every year, they have it sweet! No, we don’t do that because it’s blatantly unfair.

So why is beneficiary-bashing a national sport? They’re broke by definition. Their lifestyles suck. They raise their kids in poverty. Nothing about their lives is enviable, except perhaps that they do not have to do a nine-to-five. But that’s all people see – the ‘laziness’. The not contributing. Walk a mile in a beneficiary’s worn-out shoes, and maybe attitudes would change.

Stealing from the government via benefit fraud is far worse than paying less tax than you should. The latter is not stealing.

And this gem. I don’t think there’s anything I can add to this.

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