I’m no political commentator – I’m gonna keep this short.I was really pleased to see the Herald feature a couple who were being penalised due to the stupid Work and Income rules about benefits for couples. And then today the shit hit the fan when it was revealed he was a landlord with three properties, dismantling the image of him as a regular honest bloke just trying to get by.
Labour really have not treated this well at all, calling for universal benefits. They should have known National would pick up on the angle of “partners of six figure earners taking advantage of the system” and run with it. They should have discussed some sort of limit, which they’ve done now – far too late.
You know what I think of the welfare rules for couples. I can honestly say that day, finding myself standing in front of the old lady at WINZ reception crying because I was frankly at the end of my rope, and didn’t know what the hell else to do because our country had failed us, was quite possibly the lowest point in my life. Being told that working and studying disqualified T from any assistance – didn’t matter if I quit my job, or dropped out. That I was expected to be able to support two people on less than one fulltime minimum wage. Dismissing the thought of applying for him as a single, because not only would that be lying, it would be damn hard to manage given our shared bank account. Considering the possibility of having to break our lease and millions of subsequent hassles, on top of a full, third year class schedule.
Seriously, the paper could have found tons more deserving people who DON’T own multiple houses to feature. Just check out the TradeMe message boards. There are always stressed, worried people in there wondering if they will be able to get any assistance with their partner working. (One of the reasons I stopped visiting the employment board). Not people with high earning spouses. Just ordinary people on low to middle incomes trying to get by amid rising food, utility and petrol costs.
Even if Burgess’ rental properties are mortgaged, he still has more options than some other people. I’m not saying it’s easy for him, or that owning property should disqualify him, or means he should be rolling in it or anything. Home ownership is expensive. But ideologically he certainly is not a good illustration for this debate, as we’ve already seen in the backlash. Poor guy.