[Image: Redpepper] What follows is intelligent, adroit and not mine. It was written by Bernadette Meaden on the Ekklesia website and passed on to me by a mutual friend.
It constitutes what I think may be a complete answer and refutation of ‘accusations’ that the Labour Party is the so-called ‘party of welfare’. Tories love to bandy this about as though it is an insult. What they don’t tell you is that their alternative is abject poverty for all but an elite few.
I’m jumping ahead of myself. Here’s what Bernadette had to say:
“Conservative MPs frequently say that the Conservatives are the party of ‘hardworking people’, and the Labour Party is ‘the party of welfare’. It’s said as an accusation, an insult, and many Labour MPs take it as such, attempting to deny the charge as if it’s something to be ashamed of.
I would like to see Labour…
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With Labour voting for the government’s bill to cap welfare spending, the debate on the welfare state has taken a decisively wrong turn. The issue is not the cap itself, its level, or even its design. The problem lies in the very way in which the welfare state is understood.
Even if one accepts the need for the cap, there are many problems with the way in which it is designed. Many people have rightly pointed out that the capping scheme is not as “recession proof” as it is portrayed. One defence of the bill offered by the government – and accepted by Labour as the key justification for its support – is that it exempts “cyclical” spending, such as unemployment benefit (now given the Orwellian name jobseekers’ allowance). But there are other elements of welfare spending that increase in economic downturns that won’t be exempt. For example, recessions may increase the need for disability benefit because more people are incapacitated due to the psychological and physical impact of unemployment, poor diet, and lack of heating.
Important though these criticisms are, the biggest issue is the very way in which the “problem” of the British welfare state has been defined and understood. The cap is based on the view that the UK needs “to prevent welfare costs spiralling out of control”, given the wasteful nature of such spending. This is not backed up by the evidence.
The British, having supposedly invented the modern welfare state (a debatable proposition), have the mistaken notion that they have an exceptionally generous welfare state, as evidenced by the widespread worries about “welfare scrounging” and “welfare tourism”.
However, measured by public social spending (eg income support, pensions, health) as a proportion of GDP, Britain’s is not much bigger than the OECD average; 24.1% against 22.1% as of 2009. And the OECD includes among its 34 members a dozen or so relatively poor economies – Mexico, Chile, Turkey, Estonia and Slovakia, for example – where the welfare state is much smaller for various reasons (eg younger population, weaker parties of the left).
Even when it comes to income support for the working-age population – the element targeted by the new bill – the UK is not a particularly generous place. In 2007 it spent 4.5% of GDP for the purpose. This was only slightly above the OECD average (3.9%) and way below other rich European economies: the figures were 7.2% for Belgium, 7% for Denmark, 6% for Finland and 5.6% for Sweden.
And it is not even as if the need for social spending goes away if you reduce the welfare state. For many British supporters of a smaller welfare state the role model is the US, which has a very small welfare state (considering its level of income), accounting for only 19.2% of GDP as of 2009. However, it has a huge level of private spending on social expenditure, especially medical insurance and private pensions, which is equivalent to 10.2% of GDP. This means that, at 29.4%, the US has total social spending that is almost as high as that of Finland, which spends 30.7% of GDP on it (29.4% public and 1.3% private). Moreover, if the cost is “spiralling out of control” anywhere, it is in the largely private US healthcare system, thanks to over-treatment of patients, rising insurance premiums and soaring legal costs.
Most importantly, the view that social spending is wasteful needs to be seriously challenged. The frequently used argument against the welfare state is that it reduces economic growth by making the poor workshy and the rich reduce their wealth creation, given the tax burden involved.
However, there is no general correlation between the size of the welfare state and the growth performance of an economy. To cite a rather striking example, despite having a welfare state that is 50% bigger than that of the US (29.4% of GDP as against 19.2% of GDP in the US, in 2009), Finland has grown much faster. Between 1960 and 2010 Finland’s average annual per capita income growth rate was 2.7%, against 2% for the US. This means that during this period US income rose 2.7 times while Finland’s rose by 3.8 times.
The point is that the welfare state – if well designed and coordinated with labour market policies to re-train people and get them back into work – can encourage people to be more accepting of change, thereby promoting growth. Firms in countries such as Finland and Sweden can introduce new technologies faster than their US competitors because, knowing that unemployment need not mean penury and long-term joblessness, their workers do not resist these changes strongly.
Most American workforces are not organised and thus incapable of resisting technological changes that create unemployment – but the minority that are organised, such as the automobile workers, resist them tooth and nail because they know that if they lose their jobs, they will not even be able to afford to go to hospital, and will find it extremely difficult to get back into the labour market at the same level.
The British debate on the welfare state needs to be recast. The false premise that the country has a particularly generous welfare state whose cost is spiralling out of control needs to be abandoned. The structural factors driving up welfare costs, such as ageing, should be accepted – rather than denied and so putting undue pressure on other elements of social services.
Above all, the debate should be redirected into reforming the welfare state in a way that promotes structural change and economic growth.
Source – Welfare News Service 28 March 2014
David Cameron’s pathetic tirade about poverty this week – during which he accused one of the most senior figures in the Catholic Church of lying about the extent of vicious cuts to social security – was exactly what might be expected from an aloof, out of touch Prime Minister who’s never had to do a real day’s work in his life.
Cameron claims that Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols’ statement that the safety net of the welfare state has disappeared for many people is ‘just not true’. After all, David Cameron doesn’t know any poor people and life in Chipping Norton is simply spiffing. He goes on to say how lucky those unable to find a job are to be…
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Its a strange thing but a “Dickensian” christmas is often held up as the personification of all things the season should strive to be… the soft, warm glow of candlelight, decorated xmas trees, hot punch, roasting chestnuts, happy families around the fire, merry carol singers gathered under the gaslight in the street, not the least phased by the several inches of snow covering everything – proper snow, snow that miraculously doesn’t turn to slush under the passage of so many feet and the wheels of carriages, or become polluted by the regular discharges from the horses that provided the motive power.
Sometimes people will organize “Dickensian Christmas” events and dress up in Victorian costume, probably read from his works… and generally miss his point.
Because the strata of society they dress up as is inevitably the upper or upper-middle classes of Victorian society. Then as now, the low paid and unemployed weren’t invited to the party – who do you think lit the candles and fires, cooked the feasts and generally did all the work ?
British society must not revert to “times of Charles Dickens” and leave the nation’s poorest families in desperate need of food and clothes, a charity has warned.
Action for Children said the nation “can’t go back” to the scenes of desperation described by the Dickens. The comments come as the charity said it has been regularly sending families to food and clothes banks for the first time since the 1940s.
Spokesman Jacob Tas said a “staggering” number of its centres were showing families where they could obtain emergency supplies, with some families are being forced to choose between eating, paying for heating or the rent.
Almost two-thirds (62%) of the charity’s 220 children’s centres said they aere “regularly” signposting families in need to food banks, according to its annual report, The Red Book.
And 21% of managers of the charity’s intensive family support services are signposting those in need to clothes banks, said the report released earlier this year.
Mr Tas said: ” It’s painful and unfortunate that we have now entered in a time when we go back in comparison to the 1940s. It’s really horrible for those families who are basically already at the bottom of the food chain that they have to go to go to food banks to get their food.
“Some families now have to make a choice between either paying the rent, paying for heating or paying for food. We are talking about children that are cold at home and are hungry and that is in 2013, which is really painful for everybody involved.
“In this very wealthy country, we are in the top 10 of the richest in the world, yet here we have a two-tier society where people are struggling to feed and clothe themselves.
“We can’t go back to the times of Charles Dickens where at Christmastime we are handing out food and clothes. We should be more advanced in our opinion of society where we take care of those who need help the most.”
He said that there are a number of contributing factors to the rise in people seeking help for basic necessities including the economy, unemployment, changes to the benefits system and cuts to services. “These families are facing the maximum squeeze from all sides,” he said.
In Tyne & Wear, the Trussell Trust, which runs several foodbanks, has already this year helped 19, 388 people – last year it was 7,020. In Newcastle’s West End 7,410 people received help – last year it was just 26.
Gateshead saw a rise from 390 last year to 1,720
The Bay Foodbank (North Tyneside) last December delivered 97 boxes of food (designed to last a family 4-5 days). In November this year they delivered 305 boxes.
The People’s Kitchen in Newcastle is expecting to help around 650 people over Christmas.
Austerity – we’re all in it together. Alledgedly. This time next year, a whole lot more of us will probably be in it, and we can all have Dickensian christmas’s.
Defrocked UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom, a swivel-eyed loon of the first order, has come up with another one – ban the unemployed from voting.
He has attacked the fact that some will still get a vote even if they have “contributed nothing to the national exchequer at all and maybe never will”.
You might well think he’s talking about corporations who pay no tax here, or rich individuals who can afford accountants to bend the rules to avoid paying their fair share, but of course no…Bloom subscribes to that weird right-wing theory that the poorest are to blame for everything, and are probably doing it just to be spiteful.
No, his solution is that the electoral system needs to give “more electoral power” to the wealthy who “create the revenue”.
In other words, a system where the vote of the richest is always worth more than that of the poorer electorate, and those at the bottom getting none at all.
Good thinking Godfrey ! When the worst off in society cant even comfort themselves with the thought of voting idiots like you out at the next election (even though that prospect is a rank outsider at the best of times) then maybe bombs not ballots will become the order of the day. Because once you’re totally disenfranchised, what have you got to lose ?
He explained his rationale further – “I do not expect to vote in a Unite ballot because I am not a member and pay no dues. I do not expect a vote at Marks and Spencer’s AGM because I am not a shareholder. We need to get to a system where the interest of the individual and the state are more compatible.”
Yes Godfrey but… you see, this is a nation, not a company or a trade union. The vast majority didn’t apply to join it, we just ended up here as an accident of birth. If the accident had been slightly different some of us might have been born with silver spoons in our mouths and would spend our days trying to dodge paying taxes rather than scraping by.
And this idea that the poorest contribute nothing. Bloom, who apparently worked as a financial economist (although it may be worth noting that in 2008 Bloom’s company,TBO, was fined £28,000 by the Financial Services Authority for ‘posing an “unacceptable risk” to customers) doesn’t seem to realise that however poor you might be you still pay taxes – Council Tax and VAT at the very least. Some unfortunates also have to pay the Bedroom Tax. So lets have less of this “contributing nothing” crap.
Of course the man’s an arse, although what that makes the people who voted for him I shudder to think (and I am almost tempted to suggest that they are the people who should have their right to vote removed).
He is a member of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a tax-exempt libertarian organization located in Auburn, Alabama. Its website states that it is dedicated to advancing “the Misesian tradition of thought through the defense of the market economy, private property, sound money, and peaceful international relations, while opposing government intervention” and has published views critical of democracy, which authors in Institute publications have called coercive, and incompatible with wealth creation… so I think we have pretty good idea of where he’s coming from.
Bloom, who seems to hate women almost as much as the poor, confessed that has visited brothels in Hong Kong. He claimed however he never consummated the visits (even the most hard up prostitute has to draw the line somewhere …) and also claimed “terrified young women beaten into prostitution often from Eastern Europe […] is only a very small aspect of the flesh trade”, and concluded that “in short, most girls do it because they want to.”
After inviting students from the University of Cambridge Women’s Rugby Club to Brussels in 2004, he was accused of sexual assault, making “sexist and misogynistic remarks” and using offensive language during a dinner party. One student handed a formal letter of protest to the President of the European Parliament, heavily criticising Bloom’s behaviour.
Bloom who sponsored the club with £3,000 a year, admitted making misogynist comments but denied sexual harassment. Perhaps, given his Hong Kong experiences, he thought his three grand actually entitled him to act like that.
In December 2008, Bloom was carried out by an intern after making a speech in the European Parliament while drunk, the second occasion on which he was accused of being drunk in the chamber. During the speech, Bloom denied that MEPs from Poland, the Czech Republic or Latvia have the ability to understand economic relations.
On 24 November 2010, Bloom was ejected from the European Parliament after directing a Nazi slogan at German MEP Martin Schulz who was speaking in a debate on the economic crisis in Ireland. Bloom interrupted Schulz and shouted “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer“ at him.
Bloom was filmed at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen congratulating the French for bombing the Rainbow Warrior, a Greenpeace ship, in 1985.
In the clip, posing in front of the present Greenpeace flagship, Rainbow Warrior II, Bloom said, “Here we have one of the most truly fascist boats since 1945, well done the French for sinking (it).”
Truly a prince among men…
A piece from RT.com by Tony Gosling, which pretty accurately sums up the current situation for many in “Great” Britain today.
Not satisfied with their seventh home, brace of sports cars and servants, the rich are paying Tory politicians, press and the City to grind the faces of Britain’s poor into the dirt.
Millions of hardworking families can no longer afford a social life, shoes for their children, to go swimming or to the cinema.
A depraved Sheriff of Nottingham is ruling Britain. While the superrich loan shark 0.001 percent are given the red carpet treatment to loot the family silver, Sheriff Cameron and his Bullingdon Club bullies are putting all the blame at the door of whom? The destitute and disabled.
Past recessions and the desire of businessmen to drive down wages and conditions have swelled the numbers of the unemployed in Britain to around 3 million. Since the post-World War II Labour Party ‘National Insurance’ and ‘Social Security’ laws, these jobless have always been given enough by the government to live on. But those days are over under this sheriff, the poor are being lashed.
Including government help with inflated housing costs, Britain has around 25 percent of the population dependent on various welfare payments. Cameron’s wheeze is an online ‘Universal Credit’ scheme to lump all these payments into one. After several hiccoughs and cost overruns the latest 140 million pounds (US$225 million) written off from this pilotless project just this week beggars belief. It could have provided a year of low paid public sector jobs for around 10,000 people languishing on the dole and saved the taxpayer a cool 300 million pounds altogether.
It has been left to the poorest in society, struggling after being stripped of their statutory legal aid, to challenge these attacks in the courts. Last month forced laborer Cait Reilly won a Supreme Court challenge and her slavery scheme was ruled unlawful. Now this week government abolition of ‘Independent Living Allowance’ for disabled people has also proved Sheriff Cameron and his poor-bashing henchman Iain Duncan-Smith have been breaking the law.
This week figures emerged too that a staggering 700,000 of Britain’s poorest unwaged, while denied work, have had their subsistence payments removed for not complying with a privatized scheme called the ‘Work Programme’, designed to bully them into low paid work.
Undercover recording back in 2012 revealed privatized employment staff being trained to regard the jobless as not deserving anything to live on at all. Job advisers were told by training staff to regard clients as ‘benefit scrounging scum’.
My own experience on this scheme verifies consistent bullying tactics are being used daily on the thousands of the weakest in society. The complaint system which I tried to use turned out to be a crooked sham, but the private company running my scheme, Seetec, still stands to be rewarded with approximately 15,000 pounds of taxpayers money for doing nothing to help me find work at all.
While on the program I witnessed one unwashed, educationally subnormal young man of about 25 arrive for his interview in clothes that looked as if they hadn’t been changed in weeks. Just before he sat down, his ‘job adviser’ yelled at him in front of the whole open plan office, “Back again are you? You said you would. Why haven’t you got a job yet?!”
The young man visibly shrank back from the chair as if he was preparing himself to receive a physical punch, his eyes were darting around as if for a safe place to run to, or perhaps someone he could trust.
The young woman who had stopped talking to me, my adviser, visibly cringed. Not saying anything she made it clear to me she didn’t approve of her colleague’s behavior – the cruelty was naked and inexcusable. She left the job shortly afterwards.
Before I left that day another client told me the police had been called to deal with a fight earlier, but as he was telling me the story I had to get up and move away. Another client started swinging his right arm back and forth, remonstrating about how he had been practicing throwing hand axes, grinding his teeth as he described what a mess they made of someone you didn’t like when lodged in their back.
On the way out that final day I got chatting in the lift to a 50-year-oldish woman who told me she had a degenerative nervous disease. Government contractors ‘Work Capability Assessment’ company, ATOS had certified her ‘fit for work’ so she had to struggle into Bristol City center three times a week to apply for jobs she knew – in competition with able bodied young people and migrants – she could never get.
Since Britain has enjoyed such high living standards and maintains its position as one of the wealthiest handful of countries in the world, we are feeling the ‘pinch’. The sense of injustice and moral outrage has become palpable on the BBC TV’s weekly ‘Question Time’ which nowadays breaks out into angry exchanges despite the producers largely keeping the socialist left off the panels.
It’s a policy designed to start a second civil war, threatening ordinary people with starvation, prison or eviction seems to be all Britain’s coalition government can think of to ‘motivate’ the populace.
Just as Switzerland’s wicked Gessler had his William Tell and France’s Villefort family had their Count of Monte Cristo, quietly Britons are beginning to see Robin Hood’s Merry Men coming together.
The market’s nightmare vision is for a Big Brother technocrat and authoritarian regime. But what Britain and the rest of the NATO zone really needs is a reasserting of the Universal Declaration of Human rights, a united front for an updated set of universal social standards with no sinister strings attached.
Switzerland and Cyprus are now proposing one excellent solution, the basic income, but go one stage further and we can guarantee citizens for free what that basic income is supposed to provide.
As its first priority the state should abolish the threat of eviction, instead making the dignity and subsistence the order of the day. Water, food, healthcare, energy and a rent-free roof over every head. Above and beyond that people will have plenty of time to work and better themselves, with taxes kicking in as families pursue more luxurious lifestyles.
A nationalized banking system that goes hand in hand with good government would force the moneychangers out of the temple, to serve the people once more. We’d have no more of their weasel words: ‘There’s not enough money for that!”
Original article – http://rt.com/op-edge/britain-poor-denied-work-425/
Figures from November last year to June show payments were suspended as a result of benefit sanctions 33,460 times across the North East – 17,470 of those were in Tyne and Wear and Northumberland and the remainder in County Durham and the Tees Valley.
On Wearside, a total of 3,720 sanctions were put in place, with 2,150 in Sunderland Job Centre, 780 in Southwick Job Centre, 400 in Houghton and 390 in Washington.
In South Tyneside benefits were withdrawn on 1,430 occasions for claimants registered at South Shields Jobcentre and 600 times for clients at Jarrow Jobcentre.
Across Durham and East Durham, a total of 2,820 sanctions were put in place, with 1,060 of those in Peterlee, 810 in Durham, 540 in Chester-le-Street and 410 in Seaham.
Couldn’t find the figures for Newcastle, Gateshead or north Tyneside – if you know, add them to the comments section.
It should be remembered that although the final decision on whether to sanction is made by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) many of the cases are actually raised by the private for-profit Work Programme providers, as happened in my case – thank you Ingeus, Sunderland.
Comments from local politicians seem to be a bit thin on the ground (hello Labour MPs ! Anyone awake there ?) although South Tyneside councillor Jim Foreman, a critic of welfare “reforms” was quoted as saying : “If you walk into South Shields Jobcentre, there is generally 700 to 900 vacancies available.
“How many people do we have on the dole in the borough, 6,000 to 7,000? Those are telling statistics.
“The Government makes great play about the work-shy, but people need more support to fill out the complex forms they need to.
“There are many people who are not computer literate, who are not numerically OK. These people are in a lose-lose situation.
“They are at risk of having their benefits cut and falling into the hands of loan sharks. It’s a never-ending cycle.”
You dont have to be too numerate to be able to work out that 6000 – 7000 unemployed into 700 – 900 jobs just wont go. You just cant fit a quart into a pint pot.
Unfortunately this basic fact escapes those responsible for these draconian tactics. Minister for Employment Esther McVey for example, who stated: “This Government has always been clear that, in return for claiming unemployment benefits, jobseekers have a responsibility to do everything they can to get back into work.
“We are ending the something-for-nothing culture.”
Uh, pardon me ? I’ve been involved in the often less than wonderful world of work since before Ms. McVey was even born. I dont know how much I’ve paid out in National Insurance contributions over the years, but I did so on the understanding that by doing so I’d be able to claim help in hard times such as these, and also that others in need would be helped, regardless of whether they’d paid as much NI as me.
So something for nothing ? I don’t think so. And it certainly pales in comparison with MP’s expenses claims. Now that really is the something-for-nothing culture.
McVey, we are told, has worked in the family business, which specialises in demolition and site clearance.
How appropriate. Now she’s focusing those skills on the poorest in society.
Old Tory policies die hard – or perhaps they (like Labour, LibDems, UKIP, etc) just dont have the depth of imagination to think up new innovative ones.
Whatever, another Thatcherite policy rears its ugly head again. All the way from the days when they seriously considered cutting cities like Liverpoool adrift to die, comes a reprise of Norman Tebbit’s “on yer bike” advice.
An article in The Economist titled Some towns cannot be preserved. Save their inhabitants instead informs us that –
“Middlesbrough, Burnley, Hartlepool, Hull and many others were in trouble even before the financial crisis. These days their unemployment rates are roughly double the national average, and talented young people are draining away. Their high streets are thick with betting shops and payday lenders, if they are not empty.
“Under the last Labour government these towns were propped up on piles of public money. Some built museums and arts centres in an attempt to draw tourists, though this rarely worked. All became dependent on welfare.
“But there is little money for grand projects these days. And cuts to welfare, enacted by the Conservative-led coalition government in an attempt to balance the books, are falling brutally there. In Hartlepool the cuts amount to £712 for every working-age person. In Guildford, a middle-class commuter town south of London, they add up to just £263.”
So, nothing we didn’t already know. Can you guess what the remedy is going to be ?
“Governments should not try to rescue failing towns. Instead, they should support the people who live in them.
That means helping them to commute or move to places where there are jobs—and giving them the skills to get those jobs.”
Ok, right – so that means we all have to uproot and head for the South East ? And, if/when we manage to scrabble to the top of the heap and win the coveted prize of a minimum wage service industry job, where are we going to live ? Some London boroughs are already enacting what amounts to economic cleansing of the poor when it comes to housing.
Still, perhaps we’ll see the esthablishment of squatter camps outside the city limits, from where those with jobs can be bussed in every day to labour for their pennies.
Actually, the article may have been thinking along similar lines – “…new communities can be created in growing suburbs fringing successful cities. It has happened before.”
It certainly has. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. Finally, I’d like to quote one of the comments published in response to the article, which I think succinctly sums up the problems that the piece’s author evidently failed to forsee –
“The obvious consequence of this article is that you support the people by moving them from “dead” areas to “live” areas like, er, London and the Greater South East. Obviously in leaving a dead area you will get very little for your house (after all it is being effectively abandoned), so you will have to be subsidised in the South – or live on the streets – something I don’t think the locals in London like.
Then of course the problem is London
– The motorways are clogged (despite having more lanes than anywhere else in the country),
– the railways are apparently a hell hole (despite having better rolling stock than the rail-buses we still have where I live and despite getting the Crossrail investment and tube extensions),
– the airports are apparently even worse (despite or possibly because of a hogging of international connections)
– Housing is a nightmare – made worse apparently by immigrants (you wait until the Northerners arrive!)
– Key workers are not available (probably because they cannot afford to live in central London and cannot afford to travel into London)
– There are water shortages (which will probably get worse when the people from Hartlepool, Burnley, Hull Middlesbrough et al arrive)
Actually being unemployed and living on the Durham coast sounds like quite a good life in comparison – and will probably cost the exchequer less than solving all the additional problems London would have if you moved hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people from “dead” areas to London.”
Economist, 12 Oct 2013 http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21587790-city-sicker