Saturday, 5 October 2013

This government.

I don't often do explicitly political posts, but I have been driven to post something about the current government, their actions, and the effects on people.

There are a number of statements that David Cameron - and other members of his cabinet - have made that are typical of a manipulative leader - of which I have met a few, usually in churches. He makes statements that everyone can agree with, and then interprets them is ways that most people would disagree with. Then, if you disagree, the response is "so you don't really think that xxx" where xxx is the broad statement that everyone would agree with.

Let me take an example. One of the recent ones is "nobody should get something for nothing". Now in truth, I would totally agree with this, as it stands. People should not get something for nothing - some of us work to earn a living, to have to pay for all the stuff I want. So yes, it does seem unfair if some people get stuff they want without having to work for it.

Then he does something ridiculous by applying this to those on welfare payments. The vast majority of whom have made their national insurance contributions, which are the payments that they have made for the benefits they should be receiving. While it is true that they may receive more than they have paid in, that is the nature of insurance. The idea is to give people a safety net when things are difficult - and at the moment, the economic situation means that jobs are hard to find and easy to lose. This is the time when we should be increasing the welfare bill, because there are more and more people in need of this.

This actually leads to another of the mis-information that this government constantly gives out, which is that the welfare budget is a major part of the government expenditure. The truth is, it isn't. Yes, it sounds a lot when you see the total figures, but it is not that much in real terms. There are other ways in which the government could find this money, that would impact far fewer people in far less severe ways. In fact, if everyone were to claim all the benefits that they were entitled to, and all those who fiddle the system were stopped, the welfare bill would go up. Benefits are actually underclaimed, not overclaimed.

Of course the other side of this is that this statement came from a cabinet populated by millionaires who have inherited their wealth, who have received expensive education from this money, and have therefore received something for nothing. This is the most astounding hypocrisy. For then to say this and not realise why this is so hypocritical indicates to me some serious lack of appreciation of most peoples situation.

"We are all in this together" - that was one of Camerons first great statements. What we understood was that everyone would be contributing to the recovery, which is perfectly right. Of course what meant was that he was going to implement the most aggressive, right-wing, anti-poor policies ever, while pandering to the rich. In fact, everyone has paid and contributed, however the poor have been squeezed significantly more than the rich. That is completely upside down - the people who should be contributing most are the richest, and in particular those who got us into the mess in the first place. that is not the welfare claimants.

"The taxpayer should not fund people living beyond their means" - once again, this is a statement that it seems everyone can agree with. Of course our taxes should not be funding people to live lavish and expensive lifestyles. Cameron meant that taxpayers should not be finding expensive benefits claimants lifestyles. Once again, of course, the truth is not as it is presented to us. One or two people scam the benefits system to live an extravagant lifestyle. It is perfectly right that they should be caught and stopped. The vast majority of claimants are not living extravagant lives, and should not be unnecessarily punished.

Any yet there are some 600 people in Westminster who are living beyond their incomes, on very high levels of expenses (the sorts of levels that many people even in business would be appalled by), who are clearly living "beyond their means", and getting money from the taxpayers to fund it. It is also the case that tax system tends to favour the wealthy and rich businesses, enabling them to profit from not paying as much tax as they should. So many of the richest people are having their lifestyles supported by the taxpayer. If you have not seen JK Rowlings excellent comments on paying tax, she is awesome, and the only one of the top 10 richest people in the UK to take this attitude to tax. So yes, the taxpayer should not fund people living beyond their means. Especially those whose means are significant.

A more recent policy statement continues this direction. The idea that young people under 25 should not receive benefits is preposterous. It may be perfectly OK in nice safe middle-class families, where young people can stay at home without problems, because there are plenty of rooms in the house, and plenty of money to look after them, whether they have a job or not. However this is a strange and privileged view of society, and one that very few people see around them. What about the family who have no spare room, because the bedroom tax has taken it from them, and who have no jobs in the household, because they have all vanished.

Once again, the idea that people on benefits should do work "like picking up litter" is another example of a lack of appreciation of the reality of the situation. Who do they think picks up litter at the moment? In fact, any of this work will take jobs and money from people who may be doing these jobs because it is all they are able to get these days. When the job market is so squeezed, the answer is not to demean those on the more menial jobs, and try to take them away by giving them as unpaid forced labour to those who are unable to obtain a job.

It struck me that the capitalist approach is, on the whole, that if you want things, you should pay for them. And yet, it seems that the policies of this Tory government is precisely the opposite, whereby those in privileged positions seem to expect those who are unemployed to do work on their behalf for free. The workfare schemes were similarly un-capitalist in principle.

The policies of this government have been very damaging to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. That is a abdication of the purpose of government, which is to look after everyone in society, from the rich to the poor, irrespective of whether they like or agree with them.

As I alluded to earlier, I have seen some of these tactics in the church, where manipulative leaders abuse those they are supposed to lead, and fail to support those they disagree with. They also fail to support those who are most vulnerable, those most in need of help and support, those most in need of the church. This is a disgrace, a failure of leadership, a failure of responsibility. Whether in church or nation, all good people should stand against this.

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