marsden_online: (write)
Backgrounder: I engaged in the comments on this article about student debt at Stuff. Unfortunately comments closed partway through quite a long entry so I'm putting those thoughts here.

Preceding conversation
Matt N texas
Will Matthews, please explain to me why your or any persons student loan is any different, to my business loans ?...I have taken out loans for equipment, equal to or exceeding an "average student debt"...I have assumed all the risk and reward that comes with starting and running a one is proposing to "wipe my loans"......why do you think that a person who borrows to fund higher education, with the intention of earning a higher income, should be subsidized by the taxpayer, as apposed to a business operator, who is also using borrowings to access a higher income ?.........thank you in advance for advocating that I receive the same treatment as a student (sic)

Absolutely, the difference is in that taking out a business loan you are (presumably) in a position to immediately begin repaying down that debt and have done the numbers to indicate that the equipment will increase your immediate earning capacity immediately.

In taking out a student loan you are probably looking at at least 3 years before it has any effect on you earnings (in fact as laid out in the article you are looking at a very restricted income and probably taking on higher priority debt in the interim as well) before you can begin repayment, and that is /if/ you can find a position in a field where your degree adds a significant premium to your earnings. It is a massive gamble on an unpredictable future job market, but for many of the students I know (including many who already have previously "sought after" qualifications) the hope and a prayer is simply a better option than continuing to be stuck on the unemployment "benefit" (even with existing qualifications) in the current hostile job market.

Additionally as I someone has noted in a more recent comment you would have been able to depreciate the value of that equipment on your books, thus offsetting some of your taxable income. Not possible with education, although perhaps is business owners could do that they would be more encouraged to invest in helping their employees gain relevant qualifications.

Matt N texas
Not really can take years to get a return on a business investment, and despite a business owners best intentions or efforts, there is no guarantee of success..or an "immediate " return as you seem to income can be as unpredictable as any addition equipment can offen require ongoing costs,repairs etc...purchasing an existing business does mean an instant income stream, as apposed to starting a business from scratch, however business loans have to be paid back starting with the first month after inception regardless of cash generated.
As for depreciation...some depreciation is as low as 2.5% per year. For 30-40 years...hardly a boon to a budding business, and if you're luckily enough to have made a profit, tax will be contrast students have a great system, they can borrow without having to repay until they start achieving an income...and then it is painlessly repaid via a paycheck deduction to the IRD...simple.
Now the last part of your comments, are impractical, as a general rule businesses are not really required to educate a business owner if I offer to fund an employees study there is NO guarantee that they will investment is effectively is preferable to have the employee fund and achieve their own education, and if those qualifications are what I need or desire to operate my business, then I shall offer a salary or wages as negotiated.
It is plain to see you have not operated or owned a business

Marsden comment unposted

Once upon a time businesses were required to educate their employees, else they would have had no skilled staff at all.

This unwillingness to invest in training your own staff which has become endemic; probably dating back to the first days of public education when employers first decided that since the government was going to pay for training their potential employees it was a cost they no longer had to care about. And since the government has stopped paying all, rather than step back up to address the need themselves they now claim exactly as you do that it is up to the employee to shoulder the cost of the training; knowing that they will be able to use the threat of giving the job to someone who will work for less (read "is more desperate") to "negotiate" the wage or salary lower than the skills are fairly worth to the business.

This expectation that the government will pay for training; this determination to only employ people who are already educated - and often who are already experienced - is the reason despite our high unemployment rate and a glut of educated un-and-under-employed so many businesses are are crying out for skilled staff (as often mentioned in this publication and others). By requiring the prospective employees to take the gamble on what qualification might get them a well-enough-paying position after a year or more of study you guarantee that either
- there will be a glut of graduates with the skills you need (good for you because it forces the amount you have to pay for those skills down - but at the same time you constantly risk your employees leaving for a better paying position and having to pay the cost of replacing them)
- OR a shortage either because the public education is not actually providing the specific skills you are looking for or because few decide acquiring those skills are worth the risk of not having a job at the end of it, in which case your business suffers through having to pay highly for those skills or simply finding them unobtainable.

> .as a business owner if I offer to fund an employees study there is NO guarantee that they will investment is effectively lost.

Not really - you get the benefit of that employee's increasing skill level throughout the period where they are both working for you and gaining their qualification; you get to leverage those skills directly into the specifics your business without the need for any sort of settling in or induction period; even if they do move on you hopefully have the opportunity to have them find a similarly skilled replacement from the cohort they have gone through the qualification with (and who will be able to tap them socially for institutional knowledge about your business again cutting down the amount of time spent coming up to speed).

As returns on investment go up-skilling your employees is almost always going to pay off. Even though as you said at the beginning of your comment:

> it can take years to get a return on a business investment, and despite a business owners best intentions or efforts, there is no guarantee of success

Snark didn't make it into the final draft about what it says about his experience running a business with the attitude that he can't trust his employees not to leave. Snark didn't even reach the draft about the "painlessness" of losing 12% of your paycheck each month especially if your degree is not earning you a 12% premium on wages.


Sep. 21st, 2014 10:53 pm
marsden_online: (Cat Yarn)
Like most of my friends I went to bed last night in a state of grief. As the number of non-voters has come clearer today and the relatively small % of people who actually produced National's likely dominance of NZ politics and discourse for the next 3 years became apparent that grew into a deeper sadness.

This post is just a stream-of-consciousness, spit-wadding ideas which are floating around in my brain out against the wall.

First to note I'm not against National in general. My politics are well to their "traditional" left but that doesn't mean they don't have good policies. There are multiple ways to get things done and government in NZ is (supposed to be) about influencing which way - or preferably which middle path - is taken to address the challenges we face as a country. Unfortunately NZers in general don't seem to have wrapped their heads around the idea of consensus politics, and I include senior members of our parliament here.

I am against the sort of cult of personality, right to rule politics practiced by the current National leadership. I am strongly opposed to a lot of stuff the current national party is implementing which seems driven largely by ideology rather than with regard to proven (or disproven) outcomes or I fear by ulterior motives by which I mean the true results which is being sought are not the ones which are being promoted. This is unfortunately an inherent problem in politics.

My echo chamber is full of anger at the people who didn't vote/appear to be uninvolved or uninterested in politics. It is possible that this actually reflects positively on the general standard of living in NZ that so many people are able to feel that it won;t negatively impact on them regardless of who of the "right/left" is in power, but the truth of the matter is more likely that many of these people have such busy lives just keeping whatever standard of living they have that they do not have the luxury of taking time to engage with the issues of the day. Which to me is an indicator that society is not overall as well off as people think, because in a well off society this time would not be a luxury.

I've seen a lot of confusion over the way so many people seem to have split their vote Labour/National. In a lot of ways I see this blatant vote splitting as a positive, it means that a) the people who are engages understand the difference between who represents them locally and who has overall control of the country and b) the Labour/National(Greens) tribalism is starting to die off. Under MMP it should be perfectly feasible for a National/Labour coalition to form, given that the two parties aren't that far apart on many things. The only thing preventing closer relations between the two parties is that so many old-guard have so much invested in the brand of *not Being X*.

"The right" certainly did get it's vote out better that "the left", even given that explicit support does appear to have dropped since 2011. I think while everyone was distracted by the Brand Key sideshow behind the scenes they actually did work their networks and the party machine make sure that people were going to go to the polls, where the left relied heavily on people going to vote "for the greater good". "The right" understands at a far more integral level that once you have power/influence you have to work to keep that, constantly, and they have. Sadly they chose do do this through the last term by dirty means rather than on the strength of the outcomes of their policies, which one would be expecting to see by the end of a second term. Unfortunately it can be really hard for Sam Citizen to tell the difference between outcomes from policy and mediocre outcomes from a favourable environment.

The general agreement in the part of my echo chamber which talks about such things seems to be that the majority of non-voters probably fall somewhere between Labour and the Greens in the political spectrum, that there is a large gulf there who probably once would have been Labour but can't bring themselves to move Green. There is a lot of talk of Labour having to re-invent itself. Frankly I think Labour would do better splintering along it's well-recognized internal fractures into multiple smaller parties rather than trying to be "The party of the Left" that they once were - only that way can they actually address the spread of issues rather than failing to be all things to many people. It wouldn't hurt National to split either come to that. In my view that is the political landscape which would best show the power of proportional representation for actually building contextual solutions which address the concerns and interests of a majority of those affected, which grouping is going to be different for every situation, and thus widely accepted.

I do wonder how much of the non-vote was younger Internet party support which didn't actually get around to voting. Good on them for stirring up the youth and at least getting them enrolled (I think they had a positive effect there). Hopefully some of those young people rather than being disillusioned and put off politics for the next decade of their lives will maintain an interest and maybe help fill the desperate need for voices speaking up about issues that matter to that demographic, issues which in a lot of ways do overlap with mine but then I'm not "typical".

One thing is clear though - even if the bulk of NZ is doing OK this government is unlikely to do very much - or even less - for a lot of the people who are near the bottom of the heap in NZ, which means that the rest of us with the means to do so are going to need to step up even more. I may have to bring forward some plans I was not planning to implement until after putting more retirement savings / personal buffer aside.

Look after each other out there.
marsden_online: (Default)
If the banks mailed out an annual summary for transactional accounts, neatly presented in tabular and graphical format displaying annual, monthly and maybe even weekly outgoing a) counts b) average value c) proportion of point of sale (EFTPOS etc), cash withdrawals, online transactions and internet-banking transfers.

Or they could go a step further and make these reporting tools available in their internet-banking sites. Does anyone know of a bank or similar financial institution which already does this?
marsden_online: (write)
This is what the hamster was running on last night - it's still going this morning.

I've previously stated my support for the concept of a Universal Base Income or UBI. A UBI is an important step in moving away from the paradigm that you have to have a job to be of any value to society to one where we actually take advantage of increased automation to allow everyone to work less and has a host of benefits including de-stigmatising getting a benefit.

Of course were a progressive political party to take on a UBI as a policy platform there would be a lot of opposition. Some arguments which might be raised against and my counters are:
long post is long )
Whew. long post is long, and here are still tangential posts coming to be about culture and conservation.
marsden_online: (write)
You can read the full outline of the policy on the Labour Party website - I'm just going tto quote the bullet points relevant to my opinion
- $60 per week for a baby’s first year of life, universal for all families earning under $150,000 per year.
- Up to $60 per week between the child’s first and third birthdays, targeted at modest and middle income families.
- The first year payment will go to around 59,000 households, covering almost 95 percent of children under one year of age.
- The one and two year old payment will go to around 63,000 families, covering 56 percent of all one and two year olds.
- The Best Start Payment provides desperately needed support to the estimated 50,000 children under three who are currently living in poverty.
-The Best Start Payment will benefit all New Zealand children born after 1 April 2016.

Unsurprisingly to anyone who knows me I agree with the thrust of this policy. What is getting my dander up is they way it is being touted in the media: the conversation is being cast in terms of "bonus", or even "handout" (bad Radio Network news - I expected better from your editors).

(I'm neither here nor there on calling it an "election bribe" - actually correction here I'd go so far as to say it's a two-election bribe given when it is due to kick in - but that doesn't necessarily mean it is a bad idea.)

This policy is simply to newborns what superannuation is to retirees and the kiwisaver kickstart and "tax credit" are to working adults. Not a handout or a bonus but a (near-)universal entitlement to which no stigma should be attached.

What it is spent on can't be precisely targeted or course, but I am emphatically not in the camp which believes people are going to have a child for a measly $3000 (even $9000 over 3 years) from the government, or that it will just disappear on "beer and smokes". There might be a few who are that bad at maths - but the "Support for expectant parents" part of the policy shows intent to identify, catch and educate people this time around. (Whether the resources will follow to keep on top of this (responsibility is being offloaded onto the DHBs) may be another matter.)

For a high-income family (and I/S helpfully points out that the median is $75,000 this might only mean $3000 in a trust account towards future education fees or their child's inevitable OE. For a family on minimum wage $60 a week will represent the basics in food, nappies, and so forth without having to cut back somewhere else; or the lost wages from having to take a day off work to look after a sick child. For low and middle income families it might mean being able to cope with unexpected expenses like taking an older child or even an adult to the doctor before they infect the entire family/school with something contagious. And -that- is where the force-multiplier of this policy really lies - more than just a benefit to the babe and/or their parents but a benefit to society as a whole.

The benefits of alleviating poverty in terms of reduced health, law enforcement and welfare costs farther down the track are well researched. Unfortunately measured in terms-in-government that future may as well not exist. The value in a policy which will take decades to properly bear fruit unfortunately seems beyond the comprehension of many voters; or if not beyond comprehension then beyond consideration. And the value of working together to build on what previous governments have done right and giving due recognition regardless of where they may have fallen on the political spectrum is alas still foreign to our adversarial political system.

But this is a policy which slim though it is increases the odds of when a child looks around at the poverty trap their parents may be in and say, to quote Dasini, "That’s not gonna be me. Nuh-uh. Nope." circumstances will actually permit. This sort of policy is making luck - increasing the preparation, increasing the opportunity.
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Girl in the Shadows: Dasani’s Homeless Life
via FB: an in depth look at the life of an 11 year old girl and her family in New York - how they got there, what the future might bring. Very long, 5 parts of mostly heartache and the occasional faint glimmer of hope.
Her family lives in the Auburn Family Residence, a decrepit city-run shelter for the homeless. It is a place where mold creeps up walls and roaches swarm, where feces and vomit plug communal toilets, where sexual predators have roamed and small children stand guard for their single mothers outside filthy showers.

It is no place for children. Yet Dasani is among 280 children at the shelter. Beyond its walls, she belongs to a vast and invisible tribe of more than 22,000 homeless children in New York, the highest number since the Great Depression, in the most unequal metropolis in America.

Nearly a quarter of Dasani’s childhood has unfolded at Auburn, where she shares a 520-square-foot room with her parents and seven siblings. As they begin to stir on this frigid January day, Dasani sets about her chores.

One could be grateful that this is on the far side of the world, clearly someone else's problem. Could say that America does not have even the (increasingly holey) social security net that New Zealand boasts. Share it on Facebook as if to say "how bad the world is, how well we have it" and move along.

The NZ media does occasionally deign to pick up on these same issues in New Zealand - it was the topic du jour for a little while in 2010-11 but it seems unlikely little has changed.
- Entire families living in a relative's garage or multiple families crammed together in one home while they wait for state housing to become available. (2010)
- People's needs for accommodation deliberately not even recorded by Housing New Zealand leaving them with no option but to camp in the worst of private accommodation with no tenants rights (Both 2011 - I think WINZ has taking over determining accommodation eligibility but I have little confidence that anything has changed in practice).
- Garage life for two years (2013)

And I don't need a link for anyone reading this to know what the accommodation situation in Christchurch has been like for the past few years. "Temporary" must be starting to look like "childhood" for many.

The numbers may be debatable - perhaps things have improved in NZ since the first of these articles was written. But in the modern, caring, wealthy society which we supposedly aspire to be one person - especially one child - without even the option of a basic, clean, place to live in should be one too many.

And I am certain that the scope of the problem is still actually far wider than I can glimpse from my comfortable middle-class life. I sense a fear in me, that if I actually go looking I will be overwhelmed at the scale and feel unable to make any real difference - thus I "bide my time" and passively watch for opportunities to help within my means and not detrimental to my own (middle class) goals. Would I open my home to strangers? I've seriously considered it post-quake but decided against for mental health's sake (mine and my flatmate's (even if he agreed to the idea)).

Still we are losing bright children (truth be most if not all children are bright); now more than ever we as a society are throwing away their futures through our own inaction when we have the capacity to do better. A week ago I shared on FB an article about Variety looking for sponsors to help families pay back-to-school costs.
A charity is crying out for donors as poverty-stricken parents seek sponsorship for the back-to-school costs of their children.

More than 170 applications have been made for Kiwi Kid sponsorship so far this year, including 21 from Christchurch, and Variety - The Children's Charity needs more sponsors.

There were already 705 children - 116 from Christchurch - receiving financial support nationwide in its first year, much like that offered to children in Third World countries through World Vision.
At the time I said
This presses *many* of my buttons - children, local poverty, education...
I'm fighting a 3-way battle between reflexively signing up; knowing that I'm supposed to be keeping a tighter reign on my spending this year (and so far have been failing miserably); and feeling I could probably find someone in need that I could give the full $35+ per month to directly.
and at the time inertia won. Now I'm making a commitment to reassess my budget for the year, do some research and commit something regular on top of the irregular amounts I give the phone collectors and occasional worthy givealittle/pledgeme/etc call that comes across my radar - whether through Variety or some other avenue (I wonder if Adopt a Christchurch Family is still actually going).

This topic also conveniently leads into my next post - thoughts on the just-announced Labour party policy of an extra $60/week entitlement for families with newborns possibly following up to the age of 3 years.
marsden_online: (write)
The psychological poverty trap

FB was a bit compact for everything I wanted to say from this link.

I don't agree with all of it, especially not how it dismisses financial education. Although I would frame it in broader resource-allocation terms - as this article touches on with the comparison between money and time.

There's a saying "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today" - not that I live up to it any better than the next person but the parallel is that unexpected tasks can pop up analogously to unexpected expenses, and things can (always) take longer to do than expected in the same way that sometimes things cost more than budgeted. Of course we use time all the time and most of us only use money on an intermittent basis.

Aside - relaxing/taking time out is also a something you shouldn't put off to tomorrow - also something I'm particularly bad at.

The two most important points I think the article makes are about
1. the positive feedback loop of having a buffer.
- If you are somehow/somewhat insulated from the effects of a bad decision,
- you are then less stressed by the need to make the decision
- and more likely to make a better decision
- which will of course leave you in a better position to make the next decision

2. people are not to blame for being poor
- it may certainly be because they made a bad decision or series of bad decisions - but that's not a crime.
- it may equally well be due to circumstances outside their control
- either way now that they are poor the deck is stacked against them. If we as a society wish to alleviate their situation we need to stop demonising them and cut them a break

It also touches on the difficultly of actually making changes in your life, regardless of the time spent planning there is always this psychological hump to be overcome before taking action. I am very familiar with this hump, having failed to overcome it on many occasions :-/ The biggest changes in my life (and employment issues are uppermost in my mind at the moment) have always come from outside - when the hump suddenly becomes the edge of a cliff.

In some cases (looks at the "to do" item marked "health insurance" and the pile of research stacked underneath it) the cliff could mean it's too late.
marsden_online: (write)
What do we do with all the young people? This is the issue modern society faces, as longer life expectancy means positions (social, industrial, political) no longer open up as fast.

In the past society has
- sent them to die in wars
- encouraged them to colonise new lands
- put them to work in factories

These can all be considered "contributing" to society.

Over the past few decades in New Zealand the answer seems to have been "offer them more education and hope they miraculously emerge as producing members of society". In practicality all this does in time-shift the issue while flipping the coin from "contributing" to "consuming" (alt. "costing").

Instead of sending them away we're loading them with a potential lifetimes debt, but student loans are simply an attempt to recoup some of that cost, in a way that isn't done for primary, secondary and even the bulk of tertiary funding. The issues around student loans are barely even symptomatic of the root cause, which I see as a lack of clear options for young people to start living their lives.

Education is somehow considered the magic wand. "Keep them in school until they're 18". "If they can't get a job send them to Uni/Tech/xyz course". There appear to be no resources dedicated to actually transitioning from "in education" to "productive member of society".

Where is the support for someone who wants to start a business straight out of school? Or who wants to explore their options for a few years, not have to commit to one option for three? or who -knows- what they want to do to contribute to society, has real passion, but in a way which is not easily measured in dollars and cents?

No resources, but the -expectation- is still there. "You've finished school, get a job." Why aren't you doing something with your life?" "What are you studying -for-?"

What are you studying for? I submit in many cases because it's the best of a very poor set of options. Heck, even if I started counting up the number of already well-qualified post-grads I know in that boat....

Getting back on track -

Situation: the environment say an 18 year old school leaver is entering today is markedly different from 20, 30, 40 years ago, when the people making policy were growing up.
Problem: all the old paths are taken, upgraded to railways and packed full like the japanese subway.
Solution: let them forge new paths. Let's go back to my initial example of colonisation. The frontier isn't across the sea, it is within the very fabric of society. Youth have passion, drive and energy, We need to stop strangling that and let it grow into their future.
marsden_online: (write)
The ZN Herald asked a young Labour MP and a young National MP about the Student Loan system. Guess which one dodged the question and which one gave a substantive answer including reference to an incident at Canterbury some years ago...

Broadsides: Student loans

Health warning: it's the Herald, read the comments at your peril. You will rage.
marsden_online: (write)
Note that NZ already has a universal benefit, if you are over 65. That age either needs to go up real soon or come way down. All the way down.

- Universal benefit, possibly age-adjusted, from birth
- paid either into a conservative Kiwisaver-style fund or to the parents (possibly in addition to a refactored DPB if necessary) until age 13.

- At age 13 and in conjunction with a national financial education program payment either switches to the child* or continues/is redirected into the fund (recipient's choice). From this point the regular payment may be redirected on application.
* not really comfortable with using the word child at this point, but young-adult doesn't quite make it either

- at age 18 (or early application for unusual circumstances, like attending Uni at an earlier age, moving out of home) any accumulated money in the fund is released to the now-adult who may take it as a cash sum or move some/all to Kiwisaver (actually I see the two becoming one and the same, but the point where less conservative options / alternative providers become available needs to be defined). From this point the regular payment may be redirected on simple application (no need to deal with WINZ if you lose your job, unless you need extra support).

While the base rate needs to be higher than the current unemployment benefit there would be a reduction in other benefits, in disincentives not to earn extra money, in administration, in Kiwisaver government contributions, in student loans (expecting some portion of any accumulation being required to be used first). I also believe in higher taxes to pay for improved social services...

Over time I would expect an increase in national financial literacy leading to smarter investing and an improved economy (although I know studies don't really back me up on this). I would also hope to see a reduction in the beneficiary bashing culture infesting certain portions of New Zealand society.

[/brain dump]
marsden_online: (write)
A article provocatively titled Should Kids Be Bribed to Do Well in School? came my way this morning (via the Chief Happiness Officer.

It's about a study done across 4 American cities on the benefits of paying kids for educational activities or outcomes (each city used a different model).
But all this time, there has been only one real question, particularly in America's lowest-performing schools: Does it work?

To find out, a Harvard economist named Roland Fryer Jr. did something education researchers almost never do: he ran a randomized experiment in hundreds of classrooms in multiple cities. He used mostly private money to pay 18,000 kids a total of $6.3 million and brought in a team of researchers to help him analyze the effects. He got death threats, but he carried on. The results, which he shared exclusively with TIME, represent the largest study of financial incentives in the classroom — and one of the more rigorous studies ever on anything in education policy.

Read the article, because there are too many bits I'd like to pull out and quote. The most important outcome appears to be though that paying kids for activity (eg attendance, reading) improves their performance more than just paying for grades.

This bit about the New York, where there was no measured success, has particular wider implications that interest me (ref the subject line of this post).
The students were universally excited about the money, and they wanted to earn more. They just didn't seem to know how. When researchers asked them how they could raise their scores, the kids mentioned test-taking strategies like reading the questions more carefully. But they didn't talk about the substantive work that leads to learning. "No one said they were going to stay after class and talk to the teacher," Fryer says. "Not one."

We tend to assume that kids (and adults) know how to achieve success. If they don't get there, it's for lack of effort — or talent. Sometimes that's true. But a lot of the time, people are just flying blind.

Of course the study wasn't about "bribing" kids , that just makes for a better headline. It was about paying them, either for a successful outcome (I'd call this a "commission model") or for activity performed (a "contractor model"?). And why the hell not? Education (or worse, achieving high grades) is not an end in itself in the real world except for people who have the luxury of being able to pursue knowledge for knowledge's sake. I think we're doing kids, teens and adults at all levels of the education system a huge disservice presenting it as such.

In the adult world, tangible rewards come in the form of money. Kids know that. They have a very good grasp on the value of money - they know exactly how many sweets their dollar of pocket money will get them (example from an earlier age :) ). There comes a time when ribbons and gold stars just aren't substantial any more.

Paying kids through school would provide so many early opportunities for practical lessons about money management. It would output young people already comfortable with the idea of working to earn, better equipped to transition into the workforce, possibly with funds already saved to invest in their great idea, support themselves through tertiary education or take an OE while they figure out what they actually want to do with the rest of their life.

Betcha it would cut truancy rates as well.

Obviously money isn't the only motivator, and it's not the best motivator for everyone. It wouldn't have done much for me. But
Because of the small size of the school system, the Washington sample was less well balanced than those in the other cities. But its results contain one remarkable finding: the kids who were helped the most by the experiment were the ones who are normally among the hardest to reach.

That's got to be worth a try.
marsden_online: (write)
For those with an interest in education there's some really good conversations going on at Public Address, from Russell's post on National Standards and Jolisa's accounting of their experience with the American system.

This quote in the Herald from Paula Bennett about National's approach to tightening up social welfare riles me.
"This may include practical training, attending a basic skills course or attending drug and alcohol rehabilitation," the policy said.

"After that, they will be required to actively look for a job, to go to any job interview they are referred to, and to accept any offer of suitable employment, whether fulltime, part-time, temporary or seasonal.

"If they do not comply with these obligations, they will have their benefit reduced in the first instance, then suspended and then cancelled."
rant1 )
Similarly, this whole shake-up to weed out 'lazy' students
In his statement yesterday Prime Minister John Key said there were "increasingly urgent problems" in tertiary education, pointing to low-quality courses and students who were lazy or studied year after year without going into the workforce.
"We will also take a careful look at the policy settings around student support to ensure that taxpayers' generosity is not being exploited by those who refuse to take their tertiary studies seriously or who show little inclination to transition from tertiary training into work."
rant2 )
Finally and completely different, I wouldn't normally talk about internet dating sites but this Christchurch startup (Stuff article) falls into both the 'that's a new take' and 'why didn't someone think of that sooner' categories, and that amuses me. The idea is that since people are pretty crap at writing about themselves, you have to get a friend to write your profile. The url given in the article is actually buggered, try, not .com.

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