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Whose family is working for who? - Tactical Ninja

May. 20th, 2011

09:14 am - Whose family is working for who?

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As it turns out, my hearing test ended up right on the 'you need to see a specialist' end. ;-/ It seems my right ear is normal like a normal thing, but my left ear is head-scratchingly 'significantly impaired'. I kind of knew this but audiologists find interesting things where I just find 'can't hear'.

There is nothing wrong with my left ear, mechanically. There is no scarring in the canal and the tympanic membrane (hey look, jargon!) is fine and dandy. This means that my problem is sensorineural* (not business wankspeak but an actual word btw). This apparently makes up about 90% of hearing loss. Thing is, since it's only one ear it's unlikely to be noise related, which leaves three options:

1. Genetic. Given that I just had my DNA mapped, I was able to look this up and I don't have the genes that predispose people to this type of deafness. This doesn't mean I'm immune, just that this is a less likely option.
2. Medical. Things like tumours, Ménière's disease, side effects of strong antibiotics, a variety of other things. I suddenly know a lot more about ears and how they work, and what could go wrong with them. Curse you, google! I am concerned with the feeling of heaviness in my ear which (in my mind) suggests something in there. Again, hoping for the baked bean.
3. Idiopathic - ie No Fucking Clue Why.

This is why I need to see a specialist, who will be able to tell if I have an evil absorbed twin clinging to my cochlea or something. Chances are I don't, and once that's discovered I will probably be exploring hearing aid options. It's not something I'll need to wear all the time and I'm thankful that microtechnology has made such great advances - they are now small and relatively cheap. Sadly the government only thinks people under 21 are worth helping with their hearing, Luckily I'm sufficiently liquid these days that I can still access care despite the lack of government help. My heart goes out to those without this option.


As you know, the budget was yesterday. The government, as expected, had a go at Working For Families (for those not familiar, a tax credit paid weekly to parents who work). They reduced the abatement threshold by $2000 and increased the abatement itself from 20c to 25c, which means people will start to lose more at a lower income level than before. They've also changed the age at which payments increase from 16 to 13-15, and this will be gradually phased in. More info here for those who care.

So what does this mean for me? Well, on that graph in the article I'm in the green group. I have one child. This year, based on last year's income, I am eligible for $10 a week, and since The Kid is about to turn 16 that was going to increase to $20 a week. As of next year with the adjustments, I'll be back to $10 a week, essentially. If I get a payrise (even one just to cope with inflation) I will no longer be eligible.

But here's the thing. I don't need this money. I am doing quite nicely thank you very much, and while sometimes I go "Argh! Moar money plz cos I want this shiny thing and also to see my love more than twice a year!" I'm actually pretty comfortable. I don't get any child support and I'm still comfortable - if I got that I would feel loaded. I know this is because a few years ago I was Really Really Poor, and have perhaps a different perspective on what counts as well off from someone who started in their first job on $30,000. So yeah, I feel well off, and objectively I am. I can afford to lose this money. In fact I've been considering stopping the payment, which I'll talk about later on.

But the thing is, I'm a single parent with one kid. If two parents live together their combined income is taken into account, and suddenly two people each working at a $40,000 job wouldn't be eligible for help. As a single parent, I can live frugally by sharing the rent with my flatmate, so I'm not paying the full rent or the full food bill - only my share and The Kid's - but only my income is taken into account. And my income is comfortable, but 2x$40,000 incomes, while a little over mine, would have all the household expenses coming out of them instead of 2/3 - it costs more that way and is still ineligible - and I don't think that's fair. Never mind that the increases for lower income people don't even keep up with inflation.

So the bottom line for me is that the changes they've made are token, don't really help lower income people enough to make a difference, and aren't effectively taxing those who are well off in order to make the distribution fairer. Yes, as a single parent I'm supposed to be one of the ones who need help but really? I don't. Yet I'm still eligible and the folks earning less than half what I am are not getting increases equivalent to what I'm losing. WTF government?

So yeah, about that stopping the payment. I'm faced with a dilemma. On principle, I don't believe in charity because I believe the state should be responsible for taking care of its own - that's what we pay tax for, right? Yet I'm accosted at the train station almost daily by charities looking for donations. I feel like a heel for ignoring them yet if I were to give money to the ever-increasing number of people wanting it, I'd end up actually needing the government help I'm eligible for. Which is an arse-backwards way for things to happen IMO.

Meanwhile, I get this $10 a week that I don't really need because the state has trouble differentiating between 'rich on paper' and 'actually rich'. Again on principle, I want to literally put my money where my mouth is and not accept this payment - welfare is to help people who need help and I don't need it, I would prefer it were redistributed to people who really do. But in the current situation I don't trust our government to effectively redistribute this money to folks who need it. The sensible alternative is to take the money and give it to a charity, right? But while I would happily give it to any number of charities (Mary Potter Hospice, Plunket and Rape Crisis spring to mind), none of these are doing the work I think the money should be doing, which is making life that bit easier for people who are really struggling in a direct way. Like, education for young single Mums - funding that the government cut recently. My $520 a year could help pay for someone to get trained in something, you know? But if I let the government keep it it's just as likely to get spent on fucking tussock plants to 'New Zealandise' the fancy loos for the rugby tourists. And I don't want that.

Any suggestions as to what I ought to do gratefully accepted.


I realise this is an enviable dilemma - it's a luxury to even be able to care about this, you know? Such is life - 12 years ago I was getting food grants and I haven't forgotten how hopeless that felt.

As for the rest of the budget, it was bad but not as bad as I expected. This is probably because I don't understand the full ramifications, and because I expect the worst from this lot so anything less seems a relief. Feel free to explain the bits you care about and how they work - I'd like to know.

* this is the term for damage to the hair cells in the cochlea that turn sound vibrations into electrical impulses for the brain. Apparently normal ones look like a row of new high rise buildings. The audiologist described mine as 'like Christchurch'.

Wow. Today's post was going to be about porn. I guess you'll get that on Monday now.

Comments:

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From:rantydave
Date:May 19th, 2011 10:05 pm (UTC)
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I have a mate who is partially deaf (used to be a roadie, go figure) whom you should talk to before spending money on hearing aids. The technology behind these things has come a long long long way - it's really rather jaw dropping, actually.

PS, you can tell me where you went to get your ears tested. I suspect mine are missing ~100-200Hz for some reason. Either that or everyone else has really low expectations for audio equipment which is also possible.

Your $10 a week is not a handout, it's a tax cut that can be aimed more carefully. If National get voted back in come November you're probably going to need it. I suggest a cookie jar.
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From:tatjna
Date:May 19th, 2011 10:20 pm (UTC)
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It was the Tinnitus and Hearing Clinic in Petone. Not ever having visited an audiologist before I can't say whether she was any good by comparison, but I'm pretty satisfied with the information I learned.
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From:tatjna
Date:May 19th, 2011 10:22 pm (UTC)
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PS what should I talk to your mate about? I know nothing of hearing aids...
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From:rantydave
Date:May 20th, 2011 02:08 am (UTC)
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Hearing aids, and the market thereof if you are likely to be purchasing such a thing.
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 20th, 2011 03:59 am (UTC)
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Weird frequency to lose. Next time you're in the vicinity of my monitors we can test this easily.

-Will
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From:tyellas
Date:May 19th, 2011 10:09 pm (UTC)
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For the doing-good-on-$10-a-week thing, two suggestions? One is to give money or food to a food bank that you support. Or use the $10 to fund yourself or your son participating in an hour or two's volunteer work a week. Transport there and back, related equipment or generosity, etc.
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From:tatjna
Date:May 19th, 2011 10:21 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I thought about volunteering time, but atm I'm volunteering a day-ish a week to the AHOA, which is a kind of help-climate-change-by-proxy affair (plus yay community!), and time is more of an issue for me than money. Food bank is a good idea though.
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From:t_c_da
Date:May 19th, 2011 10:39 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I find the way Sheriff John & Deputy Bill have hacked at the middle income folk in the name of Fiscal Responsibility (thus breaking his promise not to touch KiwiSaver & WFF at the last election) yet left the tax cuts for his rich mates fully in place (presumably in the name of keeping his election promise to them) a bit "White Man Speak With Forked Tongue" to say the least.

In fact I'm pretty well untouched by the budget, although $WIFE will have to stump up a little more of her meagre paypacket for KiwiSaver - a minor irritant rather than a major blow for us, although for many of her work colleagues it Will Hurt...

Another vote that is going nowhere near National at the next election...
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From:khaybee
Date:May 19th, 2011 10:41 pm (UTC)
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Here is a note I recently got from my friend Mike:
Hiya,

You know I like to cook and eat; and you know I like it when other people cook and eat - so, you won't be surprised to know that I am distressed when people aren't eating because they don't have enough food.

I was surprised to learn the food banks, in Wellington, are struggling to meet demand. So, when I saw the website wellington500.info, and their call for help to deliver 500 food parcels, I thought I would ask you for help.

According to the website one food parcel consists of:

1x breakfast cereal
1x tinned fish
1x can of either baked beans or spaghetti
1x 500g bag of pasta or 1kg bag of rice
1x jar of peanut butter or Vegemite

You can put this together for $10 - $15; or maybe take it out of your pantry tonight. Remeber, this is one day - realistically it's at least $100 per week.

Every week we've all seen the extreme generousity of the Tuesday Night Dinner Community, by all of us making a small contribution now we can have a big impact.

Please help today, this is a good way of helping people in our city.

Thank you
-Mike

p.s. How can we make this sustainable? A single donation has a single impact - how can we make this recurring?

p. p.s. if you have any ideas on how to help in other ways please contact me directly.

It seemed to fit in well with what you were talking about.
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From:tatjna
Date:May 19th, 2011 10:48 pm (UTC)
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*nod* And I was incensed by the PM's comment about 'poor choices' leading to use of food banks. I agree it's poor choices, but those choices would be by the state not the individual.

I'ma go check out how to make a recurring donation now.
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From:t_c_da
Date:May 19th, 2011 11:06 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, one of those "Poor Choices" is to not be born into a rich family - like we have any choice about that one...
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From:thesecondcircle
Date:May 19th, 2011 10:49 pm (UTC)
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Here in the US, we have shelters that help battered women (many with children) leave abusive relationships and get started on a new life. They do good work and are often looking for donations of things like household goods, clothes, etc. You could call someplace like that and ask to anonymously "adopt" someone that they are helping and send the dollars directly to her through them (maybe monthly).

"I don't believe in charity because I believe the state should be responsible for taking care of its own - that's what we pay tax for, right?"

Can I ask, is this a common attitude in your country? Is it something that's commonly expressed in the press or by certain people? I ask (without judgment) because this is almost the exact opposite of one very common opinion in the US and one that you NEVER really come across here.
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From:tatjna
Date:May 19th, 2011 10:58 pm (UTC)
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I don't really know if it's a common attitude tbh - it's one I've mostly come to after studying social policy and coming to realise the way in which charity 'stops the gaps' of welfare by relying on the generosity of the better off.

Given that 'from everyone according to ability, to those according to need' is supposedly a principle that social democracies are founded on, failures in social spending by the state needing to be covered by charity implies that something is not right in the middle-man stage, ie tax. Last year the government brought in tax cuts that favour the rich, and this compounded my view.

I don't think there's anything wrong with charity per se, but I do think that the need for charity shows the tax system/state is not doing its job. I pay tax for two reasons: 1) to help pay for the running costs for infrastructure I use and 2) to pay for services that ensure the wellbeing of us all. Or so I hope.
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From:morbid_curious
Date:May 19th, 2011 11:41 pm (UTC)
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I think the "we wouldn't have to give to charity if the government was doing its job properly on social policy" attitude is probably fairly common in left-wing parts of New Zealand society. Personally, I feel the government should be using our taxes to provide both fiscal and social infrastructure, so that everyone has a reasonable chance of becoming prosperous through their own effort and enterprise. I don't mind paying a bit of extra tax toward that goal, as long as they're employing that money effectively.

But then, by our political standards, half of the U.S. Democrat Party would probably count as "right wing", and fair chunk of the U.S. Republican Party seen as "kooky fundamentalists". (People in NZ tend to be very leery of mixing government and religion, despite no constitutional separation of the two.)
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From:tatjna
Date:May 20th, 2011 01:25 am (UTC)
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When I was doing the youth course I occasionally interacted with the Mission, and for a religious-based organisation they are incredibly non-religious. Like you I'm normally very wary of religion in general, but these guys do good work without ramming God down anyone's throat.
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From:tatjna
Date:May 20th, 2011 01:24 am (UTC)
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Yeah, I settled on the Mission after reading their 'Mission For Families' section - what they do with that is the sort of thing I'd like to help happen. I set it up so the WFF comes into my account and goes out to the Mission on the same day, so it just sort of whizzes past me on its way there.

I will probably do the same as you for the tax refund part. Makes sense. And when The Kid turns 16 and the amount doubles, I'll just chuck that their way too.
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From:pythia
Date:May 20th, 2011 04:15 am (UTC)
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"Apparently normal ones look like a row of new high rise buildings. The audiologist described mine as 'like Christchurch'."

*snigger*
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From:thatgirljj
Date:May 20th, 2011 04:28 am (UTC)
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I really hope you don't have Meniere's, it sucks.
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From:tatjna
Date:May 20th, 2011 07:50 am (UTC)
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I doubt that I do since I'm not experiencing nausea or weird balance issues, but it was on the list as a possible cause.

I know a couple of people who have it and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.
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From:helianthas
Date:May 20th, 2011 08:06 am (UTC)
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My $520 a year could help pay for someone to get trained in something, you know?

What about finding a place that you respect that provides training, and offer a $520 scholarship for a low-income person to get instruction there?

There might be some logistics behind it if the institution doesn't have a system set up for individuals to create scholarships, but possibly not too complicated. Write an essay, demonstrate need...?

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From:tatjna
Date:May 20th, 2011 08:09 am (UTC)
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This is something I've been mulling over today. Thanks for the input that validates! ;-)
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From:helianthas
Date:May 20th, 2011 08:11 am (UTC)
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I think you could have a lot of fun coming up with a name for the scholarship, too....!
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