That a child should die in this country because the house it was living in was too damp and cold and a heater couldn’t afford to be run is a shocking state of affairs. This is the kind of thing we associate with Third World countries.
The other thing we connect with those places are children going hungry, where poverty reaches such levels of deprivation that there is not enough food to go round.
New Zealand as a place where children go hungry in a welfare state, where large sums of money are spent each year on aid and assistance, suggests something is radically wrong here.
An equivalent time in this country’s history where such conditions pertained would be post 1929 and the Depression. I’m not sure if any child died because of those dire circumstances, but the welfare state had not yet been invented.
So something just doesn’t add up.
Today, charity organisations are working flat out just to keep up with demand, feeding multiple hungry mouths. St Vincent de Paul is one of them, doing sterling work, despite thieves stealing over $1000 worth of its food, and more lately other thieves or the same ones damaging the ignition on the charity’s food van in an attempt to hotwire and steal that.
It beggars belief, of course. The charity is now forced to build a security fence to keep things secure and safe.
When St Vincent de Paul Waikato manager Mike Rolton was asked why such things were happening in New Zealand and what the solutions might be, he was at a loss to say, although he did mention that homeware trucks targeting poorer areas were part of the problem.
So the poor are buying stuff they can’t afford, perhaps don’t need, on layby, running up debt and then find they can’t feed their children. This is self-inflicted poverty.
I have a simple answer to the conundrum. What if people stopped having children they aren’t able to adequately feed and clothe and keep warm? It seems self-evident that if you are not in a position to financially support a family, put adequate food on the table, put warm clothes on any children’s backs, then it is highly irresponsible to have them. In fact it is dissolute. You are endangering a child’s life.
Stop having them if you cannot afford to look after them properly. It’s screamingly obvious. Stop breeding.
Nowadays, it is not too difficult to prevent breeding. You simply swallow a pill, get an injection or get the snip. Science has made life so easy and convenient. Ironically, the people who are breeding the most are the ones least likely to be able to feed their offspring. Do the maths, people. It’s not rocket science. You don’t need a degree in physics to work it out. Children are expensive items. Not enough food to go round? Then minimise the mouths.
Back in the day, people did seem to comprehend this; or some did, at least. If you couldn’t afford to get married, you didn’t. The first question the father might enquire of a young man attempting to secure the hand of his daughter would be about his financial capacity to support a family.
The famous American artist Edward Hopper married his sweetheart when he was 40 because, before that, he was a poor struggling artist with few prospects. He couldn’t afford to marry. In 1925, his career took off and he felt confident to announce the nuptials.
Of course all that sort of thing is old fashioned these days. But the same logic surely applies. And whether married or not, the advent of contraception has made it even easier to secure a financially positive outcome. No “waiting” is now required, because the fear of pregnancy and fear of penury has been alleviated.
The answer to child poverty is blindingly obvious. Stop having them if you can’t afford to feed them. Take control of matters into your own hands and rise above the fickle fortune of global economics, the dearth of unskilled jobs and other outside factors.
Of course, we all know that this is unlikely to happen.
So here’s a novel idea. Why not give all males at birth the snip? Then reverse it later when they can prove they are financially capable of feeding any children who might result from a stable partnership or marriage.
Too radical? Too sensible? I can already hear howls of protest from the Libertarian party. People should be entitled to have as many children as they like, when they like, even if they are incapable of feeding them.
People who work in budgeting services and really know the score tell me that dire poverty is often a result of crippling debt. The poor have bought stuff they cannot afford and do not need on credit that accrues high interest rates. You cannot run and service a car, for example, if you are on welfare, but apparently many do, resulting in no food for their numerous children.
Here’s another solution. Welfare payments should be paid direct to power companies and landlords, while the provision of food stamps are made for food (excluding alcohol and cigarettes). After that, you’d not see a single child turning up to school without breakfast or a lunch pack.
originally Published in www.stuff.co.nz/