One of the more disturbing facts to come out of the disturbing and tragic death of Ms Muliaga - who died shortly after Mercury Power disconnected her electric power and rendered her oxygen machine useless- was the fact that power companies are making 150 disconnections a day, or approximately 750 disconnections a week or 39,000 disconnections a year. If you calculate on, say, an average of three people per disconnevted household, that's 117,000 directly affected by the actions of power companies.

What this grim fact does is yet again explode the myth that we're all living in prosperous times, that we've never had it so good.

It might be good for banks and property developers and parliamentary politicians on fat salaries, but for the rest of us - it's a struggle, and a struggle getting ever more difficult.

How does the corporate media explain the obvious contradiction between the prosperity myth and the reality out in the community?

The most common strategy is to label the poor and disadvantaged as being part of an 'underclass'. It seems to be part of the vocabulary of media right wingers and liberals alike. Gung ho right wingers like Michael Laws and Paul Henry use the term as a matter of course - but it has also been used by liberals like TV3's John Campbell.

Politicians and public servants are always waffling on about the 'underclass'.

The use of this term is intended to marginalise. You are not working class. In fact, you don't belong in an economic class at all - you are underclass. You are not really part of New Zealand society, you live under a stone called 'underclass'.

Big Karl Marx used the term 'lumpenproletariat' to describe the parasitical criminal class that fed on the working class.

The term 'underclass' however broadens this category to not only to include criminals but a whole section of the working class whose only crime is that they are poor; the working poor, beneficiaries, the elderly.

And its usually they're fault that they're re poor. They can't budget. They spend they money at the pub and/or TAB. They have made a 'lifestyle choice' of living on a benefit.

In perpetuating the prosperity myth, the corporate media choose to ignore the fact that people are poor and shrugging to pay the bills because, among other things, wages are low in this country, there has been a decrease in secure fulltime jobs and a growth in insecure part-time and casual jobs. And, of course, rents and power prices have skyrocketed. Power prices, in real terms, have increased some eighteen percent in eight years.

The here is no such thing as an 'underclass'. What we have is an increasingly impoverished working class, an impoverished working class that, for too long, been without an organised political voice.


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