To help poor people, give them money

The Oz (no link) is touting a campaign by Andrew Forrest to introduce an Australian version of the US “food stamps” system, replacing cash payments with a card that can only be used to buy an approved list of items. This is yet another step in the abandonment of economic rationalism by the political right. I’d be surprised if Forrest could get the support of any economist for this (though the recent performances of the IPA crew give me some pause). Free market advocates, following Milton Friedman, have long sought the replacement of in-kind benefits with cash. To those on the left, even where enthusiasm for markets is more qualified, the conclusion is reinforced by the obvious class warfare involved here. At best, someone like Forrest can be seen as a paternalist, hoping to protect the poor from themselves. But it’s obvious that the Murdoch press, and its target audience, want to punish the poor, not protect them.

As it happens, my slowly-progressing book has a section on just this issue, presenting the standard arguments of Friedman and others as part of the case for why markets work so well (when they do)

To help poor people, give them money

The problem of poverty is huge, in rich and poor countries alike. Around the world, nearly a billion people live in extreme poverty, living on less than $US1.50 a day. Even in the US, on most measures the wealthiest country in the world, the Dept of Agriculture estimates that 14.5 per cent of the population experience food insecurity, defined as being ‘uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because they had insufficient money or other resources for food.’

Faced with images of the hunger and suffering caused by famines and extreme poverty, a natural and intuitive reaction is to send food. This reaction is often politically appealing in countries that happen to have large stockpiles of food, either because of unforeseen declines in market demand, or because of government policies such as price supports for farmers.

On the other hand, many advocates of development aid dismiss food aid as a short-term ‘band-aid’, and argue that the aim of aid should be to provide the ‘right’ kind of assistance, as measured by subsequent economic growth. Advocates of aid initially focused on economic infrastructure and industrial development, and have more recently turned their attention to health and education.

Which of these approaches is right? Much of the time, neither. While support for health and education has a better track record than food aid, there is a growing body of evidence to say that, in both poor countries and rich ones, the best way to help people is to give them money.

To see why this should be so, ask: What would a desperately poor family do with some extra money? They might use to stave off immediate disaster, buying urgently needed food or medical attention for sick children.

On they other hand, they could put the towards school fees for the children, or save up a piece of capital like a sewing machine or mobile phone that would increase the family’s earning power.

So, the poor family is faced with the reality of opportunity cost. Improved living standards in the future come at the cost of present suffering, perhaps even starvation and death. Whether or not their judgements are the same as we would make, they are surely in the best possible position to make them.

Experimental evidence supports this conclusion

Exactly the same points apply in rich countries. Giving poor people assistance in kind, such as food stamps and subsidised housing, has a lot of political appeal. Not only does it meet an apparent need, but it appears to reduce the chance that the recipients will waste their extra income on luxuries, or on alcohol and tobacco. In addition, as in the case of the US food stamps program, it may also be possible to form a political coalition with producer interests, in this case the farm lobby.

Thinking in terms of opportunity cost, however, we can see that aid in kind almost inevitably results in waste. The opportunity cost of subsidised housing is the low rent paid for the house, while the opportunity cost of moving usually includes going to the back of the line. So having secured subsidised housing, people will stay there even if the house no longer suits their needs, because it is too big, too small, or far away from a new job.

The same kinds of problems come up with food stamps. Families poor enough to get food stamps face all kinds of problems. They might, for example, be faced with eviction if they don’t make a rent payment, or with a need for urgent medical or dental care.

Most of the time food stamps cover only part of a family’s food budget, so they are really just like cash. Families can meet some of their food bills with stamps, then use the money they save to meet other needs. The opportunity cost of spending more on food is the alternative that can’t be afforded.

But it’s precisely when people need money most, to the point where they are prepared to live on a restricted diet, that the limits of food stamps start to bite. If poor families were given money, they could choose to pay the rent bill even if it meant living on rice and beans. That’s a hard choice, but it might be the best one available.

Unsurprisingly, then, poor people often try to change some of their food stamps for money. This is denounced as ‘fraud’ and used as a reason for cutting food stamps even further.

It is market prices that determine the opportunity costs of goods and services for individuals and families. So, when people choose how to spend additional money, the opportunity cost of one choice is the alternative that could be bought for the same amount.

The idea that poor people don’t understand this is patronising and wrong. The tighter are the constraints on your budget, the more important it is to pay attention to them. Poor people often have less access to markets of all kinds, including supermarkets basic financial markets such as bank accounts and face complex and variable prices as a result. Nevertheless, many of them manage to find highly creative ways of stretching a limited budget to meet their needs. Additional constraints, in the form of payments that can only be spent in particular places and on particular goods, are the last thing they need.

87 thoughts on “To help poor people, give them money

  1. What if poor people spend the cash on cigarettes, drugs or alcohol for themselves rather than vegetables for their children?

    Just asking.

  2. Andrew Forrest, by the way, is noblesse oblige from central casting. You can’t fairly lump him in with the reptiles from the Murdoch press.

  3. Both sides of politics have their patronising moments with the poor.

    On issues such as borrowing money at high interest rates, the Left seems to assume that poor cannot make these calculations for themselves and need to be protected from their own choices.

    How much you exactly repay of these high interest rate shysters is on their website you toggle a box to tell yourself exactly how much you will repay of the different periods of time for different amounts of money. There is full disclosure.

    Likewise, the Left is very keen to make it illegal to offer poor people of job below a certain specified minimum – the minimum wage. Again, the poor people are soon not to be able to make choices for themselves about whether this offer is better than their alternatives.

    The nudge literature is rather condescending as well towards the poor in particular and most other people as well except themselves in person. You should read behavioural labour economics summary of the IZA a website co-written by Larry Katz

  4. @Uncle Milton

    Is it your belief that the majority should always be punished because of the failings of the few ?

    How do you apply this principle to your own life ?

  5. @Uncle Milton

    What about it? If it turns out that it’s not alleviating poverty, you can adjust the cash payment program later. But everything we’ve seen in evidence suggests that people don’t just “blow the money” – they use it to meet their needs.

    And yes, some of that will be spending on cigarettes and alcohol. Poor people like pleasure same as everyone else, especially since their day jobs are usually so monotonous and dull.

    @Jim Rose

    Likewise, the Left is very keen to make it illegal to offer poor people of job below a certain specified minimum – the minimum wage. Again, the poor people are soon not to be able to make choices for themselves about whether this offer is better than their alternatives.

    It’s called setting socially acceptable conditions under which the market is allowed to operate, something that happens in all economies. I’m sure you could find some people who would willingly sell themselves into chattel slavery if that was legal, too, but should we allow it? After all, isn’t the person doing that “making a choice”? Isn’t it patronizing to tell them they can’t sell themselves into chattel slavery?

    That’s what the minimum wage is about. If you can’t pay a certain amount per hour for a task, then it’s not a job worth having – at least as how it’s set up.

  6. >
    What if rich people spend their money on yachts and holidays rather than the kids.

  7. @Uncle Milton

    How does this differ from the proposition that we should install comprehensive video surveillance in all homes to prevent child abuse? Again, just asking.

  8. @John Quiggin

    There’s never a simple answer to the question, “where do you draw the line”?

    The John Stuart Mill answer is to let people harm themselves but not others. In practice, we do stop people harming themselves, from seat belts to compulsory saving for retirement.

    While we don’t have video cameras in homes, if your kid turns up to school with a black eye, however innocently obtained, the school will report this to the authorities and a file will be opened on you. If it happens repeatedly, expect them to pay you a visit.

  9. I would consider supporting income management for all working-age recipients IF the paid parental leave was also income-managed. After all, this money should only be spent on the children and basic living costs …

    As this proposal is to exclude age- and veterans-pensions from being income-managed, then how will somebody who has been income-managed for a number of years while of working age, suddenly acquire the necessary wisdom to be able to manage their money when they reach 65 (or 66, 67 or whatever the pension age is)? It smacks of trying to exclude conservative voters from any impacts of income management. Apparently they are forgetting that these pensioners also have family members who WILL suffer.

  10. @GrueBleen

    In my own life I put up with petty annoyances that are designed to protect me from myself, provided they are not too obtrusive, which they rarely are.

  11. I might support “Income Management” if the government could prove that poor people are poor only because they don’t know how to manage their affairs and their money.

    Otherwise, nope. Not a hope.

    Income Management isn’t a “petty annoyance”, and if people would be so kind as to not trivialise the negative impacts is has on those subjected to it.

    Trying to justify it with crocodile tears and hand wringing over spending on alcohol and tobacco isn’t going to wash.

  12. I must admit to having mixed feelings on this matter. I should declare in advance that as a school teacher who has spent a good deal of my career teaching in Sydney’s south western suburbs, I have seen a fair bit of child neglect, and some poor choices with money — by no means restricted to recipients of community provision. That view may be skewed, because almost by definition, one notices the cases where people are apparently making what appear to be unwise choices about their money management, even if, for the most part, people who are poor are doing a fair job.

    My partner’s father was, sadly, an alcoholic, and his long suffering mother — an ex-WAC — performed heroically in raising three children on the pittance left over from her husban’d malfeasant conduct. My father’s family story was a common one. They got just enough, but not one thing more and his mother, as far as is told by him and his siblings, never once grimaced or cried or laughed or showed affection. She never felt she could share this burden outside the family, because that would have been shameful so her hell was private. The struggle used up all she had — which is something that is simply never accounted for in the economics of poverty. More money might have helped, assuming she rather than her husband had secured control of it.

    My own experience of stries like this are, I suppose, why I am inclined to favour a greater reliance on non-cash support structures. “Food stamps” are of course demeaning, and this is not something I’d ever want to see, but these days there are ways of providing people with stored value cards. Which could look for all the world like a standard transaction card and could be enabled to purchase just about anything outside of a few blacklisted items. One might fund community food and grocery coops, and allow concessional access to those for those qualifying.

    One could likewise increase the stock of quality public housing — and not merely in the areas where land was cheapest, and create a structure in which people of qquite modest means could live there, with some state support that would be invisible to most of the fellow occupants.

    The basic problem is that we humans aren’t all equally good at NPV-style calculus, and in any event some of us use a discount rate on benefit that is seriously weighted against future benefits. For those who think their life chances are poor, not considering seriously their life circumstances 12 months ahead isn’t entirely irrational — it just looks that way from the perspective of those of us who imagine that if we do the right things we will probably be better off than now a year from now. The rational choice of a homeless person, or someone who has few marketable skills is nearly always to salve the pain that attends that reality, because pain of one kind or another is with them every day. It is a wicked problem. It’s also why such folk are so much more likely to be exploited or swindled.

    So when we who want to empower the marginalised speak of a safety net we need, IMO, not to fall into the mistake of allowing our respect for their possibility in near ideal circumstances to alter our approach to their needs in the world as it is. Being respectful is a sham if the consequence of our “respect” are programs that set them up to fail. We should be cognisant that oppression really does oppress people, and diminish their ability to use the resources they have optimally. Their free choices are not as free in practice as those of us who have had the benefit of good education and worthy mentors.

    What public policy should do is to ensure that they get everything they need to be able to make adequately good decisions on their own behalf, even if that involves resort to measures that some might decry as “nanny statish”, because, IMO, that’s a lot better than policies that are FU statish.

    Let us increase the generosity of community provision (including through the supply of cash or non-repayable credit), but let this extra provision flow through well-conceived and implemented programs in which the beneficiaries themselves can be actively involved. Let’s ensure that everyone gets good access to quality health, housing, transport and education, starting from early childhood. Let’s ensure that there are places where people can purchase food and staples concessionally. Cash is a great thing because it allows choice, but meaningful choice comes from insight and that is not caused by money but by quality life experience.

  13. Most poverty in our system (late stage capitalism) is caused by the highly inequitable nature of the system itself and the deliberate policy of using unemployment to discipline workers, limit wage demands and fight inflation. Another way of saying this is that most of the poverty in our system is caused by laws, rules and institutions designed to enable a few to become super rich while impoverishing many others. Poverty in our society is not an accident or an unintended consequence. It is very deliberately intended and designed into our system.

    I really get sick of people buying into the fallacy that it’s all an unintended and lamentable consequence of some badly set part of the system. It is integral to the system itself; integral and fully intended.

    Paying adequate welfare using money will alleviate the ill effects of the system. But the fact that we keep needing to do this for able people (redistributing wealth with welfare) demonstrates irrefutably there is something fundamentally wrong with the system itself.

  14. “I’d be surprised if Forrest could get the support of any economist for this”

    Behavioural economists are always pointing out that people suffer from cognitive biases, leading them to make bad choices, hence policies “nudge” them in the right direction. Now maybe what Forrest is proposing is a shove rather than a nudge, but then the debate is about how much paternalism is needed, which is different from saying that giving cash is always superior.

  15. Around the world, nearly a billion people live in extreme poverty, living on less than $US1.50 a day.

    This is a surprisingly widespread over-simplification that leads to serious misunderstanding. They do no such thing, apart from perhaps a very few who only do so briefly and transitionally, as it is physically impossible; those like that either better their lot or perish (of course, their numbers are continually replenished).

    Rather, what is mostly happening is that there are nearly a billion people living in extreme poverty, living with less than $U.S. 1.50 a day and using that as a very necessary top up to their remaining and otherwise inadequate non-cash subsistence resources. When those subsistence resources are adequate, people living like that did better on less cash. Think how things were in Haiti, in the days before the U.S.A. arranged to have the Creole Pig wiped out, and compare that with how things are there now: cash incomes have increased, and people are suffering even more.

    For this and related reasons, simply giving people more money is less effective than it might be. In an extreme case it would simply move food from mouth to mouth. Of course, the thrust of this article is about the other kinds of poverty constraint, that money can help with but food can’t, but it is important to have a clear understanding of just what is concealed by the veil of money when there are indeed non-cash subsistence resources around as well – and when there are not, and which sort of poverty we are looking at, whether that of the developed world or elsewhere.

  16. @Fran Barlow

    Of course, wicked problems always have historical antecedents too. Many men and some women of your partner’s father’s generation were traumatised by war, suffering PTSD and so on. Alcoholism was a common response. And most, if not all wars, are fought at the pointy end by the lower classes so that the upper classes can pursue their own goals. That is, the lower classes pay the cost in blood and pain and ruined lives while the upper classes make off with the war profits.

  17. To make sense of these issues requires a rare combination of clear thinking (informed by but by no means identical with a good knowledge of economics), lots of worldly experience including, especially knowledge of and sympathetic imagination for the whole range of human beings, their capacities, cultures and prejudices. TTht ssid there is no use pretending that 40 per cent or more of people, even in Oz, are incapable of making decisions concerning money that wouldn’t regularly p*ss off the people who are big net taxpayers for most of their lives. OK, by good luck maybe not as big a proportion actually waste and squander….

    Consistent with that confident affirmation of reality as I have seen it to be I am not enthusiastic about UK Chancellor Osborn’s sllowing people to take their pension fund savings as lump sums. It is, for one thing, almost certain to add to the burden on the public purse… On the other hand who wants to keep people dependant on the jobsworths populating the world of private pension providers and financial advisers?

    A quibble over your using that figure of $1.50 a day for what so many people have to live on. It is just a tabloid headline figure so to speak, even if generated by NGOs. I asked my drivers in a couple of Third or Fourth World equatorial tropical countries a few years ago what it would to buy enough food to supplement nature’s almost free supplies and the average answer was 30 cents day. There were of course no heating costs and water was usually plentiful. Of course health care was minimal even if not very expensive. It prompted the thought that the money we spend setting up 13750 refugees each year as future voting citizens might be better spent – save for maybe 1000 special cases – on doing good things for millions in the countries of first refuge.

    And while I’m at it JQ: though many of my acquaintance on right and left deplore surveillance I note an inverse relation between objecting and advancing age. At least lets have a few lawyers and counsellors arranging for CCTV to be installed as both deterrent and protection from lies on all sides. IMO there ought to be much more surveillance combined eith serious and credible penalties (and damages) to deter abuse.

  18. @Ikonoclast
    How do you explain the devastation of the UK officer class, disproportionately, in WW1?
    Are you allowing for enough classes in your analysis. The great days of Britain’s rise from about 1500 to 1900 was marked by the high rate of growth of the commercially and professionally successful classes. In contrast the traditional nobility/aristocracy were military in origin and got themselves killed

  19. As I understand it, the Gates duo have Gus Nossal as chief strategist to drive their philanthropy. Forrest gives Marcia Langton top billing in his Acknowledgements. She’s a public figure and needs to join this debate. Does she sign up to these recommendations too or is she a consultant providing sectional input like the staff of PM and C, Access Economics, McKinsey and Deloittes who were also involved?

    How are the views of acknowledged experts and practitioners in the field considered? Is this a reward for Forrest pledging a large philanthropic donation last year? Is this the way to develop public policy?

  20. @Uncle Milton

    the Left seems to assume that poor cannot make these calculations for themselves and need to be protected from their own choices

    People from all walks of society make financial mistakes, Joe Hockey’s MIL got dudded by a smooth talking financial advisor from CBA. You assertion is based on your assumption that others have made an assumption…the reality is that there are some clever crims out there.

  21. I assume the restrictions on purchases are designed to reflect the interests of taxpayers who probably don’t want to see their tax dollars spent on smokes and booze. These types of restrictions might even encourage greater acceptance of the transfers from those providing the income.

    Heavy drinking and smoking are concentrated among low income people and, as they are irrational patterns of behaviour, I see no difficulty with restricting purchases paternalistically.

    In indigenous communities money that could be used to pay for family food does get diverted into booze and smokes. Consumption of these items has a huge effect on health – I estimate that 20% of the gap between white and indigenous life expectancy is due to their cigarette smoking alone.

  22. The left should be making more of the fact that approx 700,000 unemployed people can’t squeeze into 150,000 jobs no matter how much you take away the carrots and beat them with a stick.

    I’m touched by Fran’s story (sounds a bit like my own, actually) but any system devised by bureaucrats to make the poor spend their money on food rather than grog is doomed to failure as people will always find ways to game the system. I think it is better to ensure that maltreated women and children have well funded support services to fall back on – including emergency food and accomodation. In poor areas, it may also be a good idea to provide students with breakfast.

  23. According to Twiggy the poor ie vulnerable are self identifying. You just need people to identify the self identifying.

    I think Twiggy is having a genuine go at addressing poverty but is limited by his expertise. The mistake was to put him in a position of leadership.

  24. @Jim Rose


    The Left assumes that capitalists “cannot make these calculations for themselves and need to be protected from their own choices. “.

    Hence the bailouts, the QE, the defaults, and the 25% unemployment.

    Without capitalism there would be no suggestion of food stamps.

  25. Maybe we could countenance food stamps if they were accompanied with superannuation stamps, fuel stamps, clothing stamps, dentist stamps, travel stamps, education stamps, and housing stamps.

    All funded from Twiggy’s missing taxes?

  26. @hc

    Heavy drinking and smoking are…irrational patterns of behaviour, I see no difficulty with restricting purchases paternalistically.

    Unless that applies to everyone equally – regardless of whether they are rich or poor and wherever they got the money to make those purchases – it might lead to some friction.

    And if it did apply equally it might also lead to some very unhappy rich people.

  27. The ALP’s shadow minister Shane Newman has given tacit approval to Forrest’s report saying on ‘NIRS’ that he “welcomes” some of its key ideas.

    He particularly mentioned alcohol foetal syndrome and home ownership (ie: the ability to mortgage off parcels of land to individuals rather than have group ownership).

  28. Forrest said ;- ‘I stand here as a servant of Aboriginal people’ . Well thanks ,but no thanks Twiggy. The intervention sucks ,it is rapid forced integration.

    Re: war ;- A bayonet is a weapon of war with a working class man at either end of it.

  29. @Uncle Milton
    If that happens, it is the job of child protection. Happens cross society, not only those on benefits.

    How does Centrelink know what one spends their money on, Why should they know. That is not their job.

    How does Centrelink assess the situation, Not their role. L:eave it up to those who already have this responsibility.

  30. Perhaps unemployment benefit should be divided into an amount for basis needs and another amount for discretionary spending. The money will be spent to the benefit of the economy. The money spent can be designated as investment in human and social capital. If there is a fiscal problem, albeit an emergency, raise taxes on the basis of relative wealth. The fundamental issue, aside from the ideology which has a long pedigree if the Poor Laws are remembered, is the need to everybody without exception to be engaged in socially productive work consistent with protecting the ecosystem, including what Gandhi described as “bread labor”, or body labor.

  31. Pr Q @ #7 said:

    How does this [judgmental paternalism] differ from the proposition that we should install comprehensive video surveillance in all homes to prevent child abuse? Again, just asking.

    Since you ask, I will tell. There is no moral equivalence between the right to be free from home invasion and the entitlement to welfare benefits. To even ask the question is to answer it.

    The legal rights of citizens to be free from invasion is based on ancient common law and cannot easily be over-turned, even by the most vigilant agents of the Crown. These rights are more or less unconditional and absolute, all the more so where there is no probable cause for authorities to forcibly enter or search.

    By contrast the entitlements of welfare dependents are specified by legislation which can be amended or repealed at the next election. The benefits are usually selectively dispensed and eligibility is subject to meeting various conditions. Thats as it should be given that the resources being doled out are the tax-payers and he is entitled to accountability in the expenditure of his hard-earned dollars.

    Installing CCTV in all homes to pre-emptively prevent child abuse would be a violation of the most cherished and long standing rights to privacy and property, summarised by the saying “a man’s home is his castle”. And this sweeping draconian practice would only constrain or catch a small minority of the total population, so it would be an absurd over-kill.

    By contrast a welfare dependent is, like any dependent such as child, lunatic or criminal, significantly subject to the authority of the agency that writes the cheques and is responsible for their welfare. There is plenty of evidence that welfare dependents are even more likely to indulge in vice than randomly selected citizens. Substance abuse is one of the main reasons why they are on welfare to begin with. Curtailing expenditure on vice is actually beneficial to the beneficiary.

    So the state has every right, nay a duty to the tax payer, to insist that welfare resources are spent on items for which they are intended, namely the means of subsistence. Whether the state chooses to exercise this right is matter that depends on the circumstances.

    IMHO, based on personal experience, the case for income management of indigenous welfare recipients and in kind welfare benefits in the Northern Territory was over whelming. Forty years of unconditional welfare from the federal government, a basket case NT government and a culturally sensitive administration by Baby Boom anthropology dupes had resulted in a systemic crisis. As one Arnhem land elder put it: “The missionaries were better”, and those kind souls took a hard line on such matters.

    Mr Yunupingu, a former Australian of the Year, called for the intervention taskforce to urgently build missionary-style dormitories in the communities where children could be fed, clothed and cleaned. He said he would not shy away from criticism the dormitories would be a return to the days last century when missionaries ran the communities.

    “The missionary days were good,” Mr Yunupingu said. “The missionaries looked after the kids much better than the Government does today.”

    Whether the same principle ought to be applied across the board to non-indigenous welfare recipients in the other states is a vexed question. For purposes of racial equity I tend to lean to the affirmative.

    More generally Howard’s assertion of the principle of “mutual obligation” to welfare recipients has struck a chord in the community. It affirms the principle that we must all contribute to the common weal.

    As the saying goes, “beggars can’t be choosers”. Or as the other saying goes, “You live under my roof, you live by my rules”.

  32. Megan, You are quite right. But the opportunity cost of flawed decisions by the rich are lower. They can still put food on the table and pay for school books. Its true that both rich and poor misrepresent the opportunity costs but it matters less for the rich.

  33. Should the aged poor on pensions be placed on 100% income management? What makes the aged poor any different to the working age unemployed poor? Or as one person pointed out above, PPL receivers? The whole logic of income management reeks, and quite frankly, I’m surprised at a Liberal (ie Australian Conservative) party even entertaining such ideas.

    In extreme cases, perhaps a case can be made for a particular person to be on some sort of income management of their welfare payments, but given the incredibly low income that the dole represents, perhaps a better idea is that people should have their dole augmented with free fresh meat and fruit and vegetables, that sort of thing. It might leave the recipient with a shred more dignity if they didn’t have to make harsh choices like fresh food vs rent this week, or food vs electricity. I know of working people who have that struggle of meeting all bills in a timely fashion, purely because of the lumpiness of earnings and bill arrival times; it is to be expected that people on the dole long term will find it very tough indeed, and to remove that last bit of flexibility they have with their financial matters will have nasty consequences I’m confident, sad to say. There are no easy answers though, so one solution is highly unlikely, a fantasy.

    If it is felt necessary for a whole category of people in a consumer society to be placed under severe restrictions as to what and when they may purchase any things, something does not compute!

  34. @jack strocchi

    Or as the other saying goes, “You live under my roof, you live by my rules”.

    I find it incredibly hard to believe that you have actually used this saying in these circumstances. I take it you are a white person? Do you know whose roof you – and Twiggy Forest, and all the rest of us white people – are actually living under? Learn some manners.

  35. One way to limit the need for welfare “reforms” of any sort for the next generation would be to fully implement Gonski, and at least give each kid an equal leg up. Since the Tories appear to have no interest in that, I’d doubt the Governments intentions irrespective of what good intentions Forrest may have.

  36. I find the very notion of Twiggy Forrest’s “report” offensive. Conceptually I think of this a fat cat attemting to manipulate a people into a form that he can exploit, which in Forrest’s case would be to have such people working his mines on their land, for a pittance. The very gall to be telling indigenous people how to run their lives to meet our perceptions after we have pushed thdm into the far cofners of their land.

    Having said that education of the young so that they can cope with the mess of a world that could very well descend upon us all is a future proofing strategy that should be engaged. That education though must understand and make allowances for the vast gulf between cultures.

    Speaking of food stamps, I would prefer that a combination of food primary items supplied

  37. ….physically thereby saving the retail markup, and paying a cash amount to value of that retail markup plus some extra so that the recipient has some flexibility and choice. Tin and packet food would be supplied from manufacturers direct to depots operated by councils. This could be an option amoungst a parcel of solution strategies.

  38. @jack strocchi

    “As the saying goes, “beggars can’t be choosers”. Or as the other saying goes, “You live under my roof, you live by my rules”.”

    I suppose that is why so many blackfellas kill themselves; it is the only way to avoid the hell that comes from living under your roof.

    Living under your roof has become increasingly intolerable for some white people also or have you not noticed that rates of anxiety and depression and suicide and other health problems are increasing in poor people? Oh that’s right people only get these things because they get welfare or they just make it up to get welfare.

    But really you might want to consider an alternative scenario; that it just isn’t worth living if all there is to living is to work in the jobs you are offering.

    And what’s this weird stuff about your privacy being so sacrosanct?

    It seems to me that people like you – and this focus on being secretive is another feature of the crazy old man diagnosis – must want this privacy because you do shameful things that you don’t want others to know about.

    Can you explain, not how come you imagine you have this right, but why you want it so much? That would be interesting.

  39. A rich man gave a beggar a generous quantity of cash, and the beggar immediately ran into a delicatessen and bought smoked salmon sandwiches. The indignant rich man ran after him and said, ‘I gave you money because you’re starving, not so that you could indulge yourself with smoked salmon sandwiches!’ The beggar replied, ‘Listen: when I haven’t got any money, I can’t eat smoked salmon; you say that when I do have money, I can’t eat smoked salmon; so tell me, Mister Bigshot, when do I get to eat smoked salmon?’

  40. @Florence nee Fedup
    Easy to agree that neither government, nor the church nor Centrelink specifically are likely to be much good at anything complex let alone assessing the behaviour of individuals – or families – but that’s not to say they shouldn’t at least try and apply some rules about what you call “their money” when that money comes from resentful – or even generous and undemanding taxpayers.

  41. @J-D
    Nice story. Has it a point? Or is it a nicely ambiguous fable you could tell in Sunday school to get the kids thinking?

  42. @Julie Thomas
    Your usual presumption about people. I am confident that Jack uses his real name and is quite young contrary to your insinuation or apparent assumption (or guess). And I don’t recall him treating privacy as sacrosanct so much as making a contrast between two different customary expectations to answer a conflation of them.

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