Screw you, Jenny Shipley [New Zealand Politics]

Radio New Zealand has been doing a series of interviews with our former Prime Ministers. Some have been truly interesting – Jim Bolger’s repudiation of neoliberalism, for example. But today they got to our worst living Prime Minister, Jenny Shipley (1997-1999), and, well, Shipley is just as obnoxious as ever:

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/329667/welfare-state-%27never-designed-for-the-middle-class%27-shipley

Having served on the Executive of a Students’ Association, access to tertiary education is a matter close to my heart. Above all, it is about opportunity: I was the first member of my family to go to University, and I would never have been able to attend without the loan and allowance system (free tertiary education having ended in New Zealand in 1989). As the son of a caretaker, I would certainly never have been able to pursue law. So to see Shipley going on about this makes me angry. Very angry.

You see, the thing about the New Zealand student allowance system is that it is terminally screwed-up already. Basically, it assumes that your parents support you until age 24 – which simply isn’t true in the vast majority of cases – and does not inflation-adjust when considering parental incomes. The upshot is that only a minority of students currently get student allowances, while because the very rich can manipulate their income (via trusts) there are students who receive an allowance while being the children of extremely wealthy parents. Shipley is attacking people whose parental income (via inflation creep) is now over the threshold, yet aren’t lucky enough to be the offspring of rich tax dodgers.

The best solution would be to have a universal student allowance – never mind the issue of student debt, the amount of money saved without having to impose this artificial means-testing would be immense. If Shipley is truly concerned about middle-class welfare (hint: she isn’t. She just has odd ideas about costs of living outside her personal bubble), the obvious counterpoint is that the people who use tertiary education to get well-paying jobs can then pay more tax via progressive taxation. It would also help those students who are currently forced to borrow $170-odd a week in living costs from the government, because, well, $170 does not go very far in the New Zealand of 2017.

So yes. Screw you, you nasty cow.

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