Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The gap between rich and poor widens in New Zealand

The report in today’s New Zealand Herald that the gap between rich and poor has widened yet again comes as no surprise. The ramifications for our most at risk citizens are obvious. In our bigger cites the situation is even more dire as families struggle to provide even the most basic of life’s necessities.
At a time when politicians fight about Charter Schools and benefits, the above report simply highlights what many of us working in schools and the local community have known for a long time. Even those on quite modest incomes are having a real struggle and are feeling quite hopeless for the future. Just imagine what each day brings for those even lower down the ‘income chart.’
Is it any wonder that kids arrive at school hungry, without the correct uniform or books and the tools they need for an education? How these kids will ever get computers and other ‘necessary’ technology ‘additives’ is just too hard to contemplate. We have a Government hell-bent on cutting wherever it can, all in the name or ‘responsible fiscal policies.’
Unless our economy magically improves and people find work that pays a liveable wage, then the situation can only get worse. I am tired of hearing the Government haranguing people to get out there and work, when it is patently obvious that the work is not there. For those on the minimum wage, living in a large city, the fact is that they cannot meet the needs of their families. Ask any food-bank just how bad the situation is.
There was a time when the huge majority on New Zealanders had their needs met and the gap between the ‘haves and have nots’ was far less. That time was a more compassionate time, where people were less selfish. Yes, our tax payments were higher, but there was a belief that that was fair. We have come a long way from that solidly held belief. Now it is---‘I want more and if that means someone else has less, then too bad.’
Unless we are more sympathetic to the position so many people find themselves in, nothing will change. I am not talking about more benefits and I am not protecting those who rip off the system, be it through welfare theft or other methods: I am saying that we need to look at where we have been and where we are collectively going as a nation. It is time to redress the balance. One way or the other, we are going to see stresses and tensions in our society grow if we don’t look for solutions that take the vast portion of the population along for the ride. Try to imagine what will happen if we don’t.