Debunking The Benefits Row

Posted: February 17, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Righto then, not blogged in a while, but given the seemingly worrying state of attitudes in our country, I think it’s about time I joined in. Over the past few weeks, Channel 4 and Channel 5 have both been stirring the festering pot of hate that the right-wing press are aiming at people who claim benefits – anyone would think it was their fault the economy is shot to buggery…

There are a lot of assumptions and assertions about the whole welfare bill that need to be addressed fairly and properly by all concerned in Government, and indeed in the media at large, but apparently booking a studio full of shouters and foghorns is much more important than any attempt at balanced discussion. Katie Hopkins, who sees illness as a failure in her own life, generally tends to be the showpiece wheeled out in these things, displaying a hugely ignorant “MY OPINION IS RIGHT, YOURS IS WRONG, AND SO I WILL SHOUT LOUDER THAN YOU IN ORDER TO MAKE IT CLEAR THAT YOUR OPINION ISN’T WORTH AIRING” attitude towards anyone who questions her beliefs. Whilst she is adamant that her own points be heard, as soon as anyone with dissenting points gets a chance to talk she will talk right over them in order to make sure her voice is the only one that is heard. My nephew has better manners than her, and that’s because he’s been brought up correctly, to speak in turn and respect other people’s opinions.

Anyway, that’s enough about that borderline mentally-ill person…let’s discuss some welfare news instead.

The main problem we have with the debate on welfare is when the vile rag The Express puts out splash headlines like this:

Image

(Daily Express, 2011)

I won’t go into why that figure is misleading here (the work has already been done many times over, including here), the important thing is the attitude this type of headline breeds into a certain group of people (namely the bloody ignorant). If you say something often enough, in a certain tone, pretty soon people will start to believe it. So it’s absolutely no surprise that our “beloved” right-wing press do their utmost to properly hammer this one home day after day, week after week. Between the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, you can probably pick out a “scrounger” storyline every day of the week for the past few years.

It’s not helped by production companies coming up with programmes like “Benefits Street”…at first Channel 4 and Love Productions tried to claim it was a programme about how a community comes together in hard times, which is clearly bollocks because otherwise they wouldn’t have called it Benefits Street. But I digress…

Here’s some figures about welfare, no doubt already published many times, no doubt ignored by the right-wing many times…

Did you know that of the total welfare bill (£116.6 billion in 2013), the amount we spend on unemployment benefit is £5.9 billion (2013 budget). The total UK deficit (the difference between income and expenditure) is £96bn (2013 tax year to December – just 8 months, we’re predicted to have a full-year deficit of £167bn by April). Anyone want to educate me on how exactly the country’s debt will be erased by culling unemployment benefits?

In comparison, as part of the financial crisis, Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling approved a package of around £500bn in value aimed at rescuing the very banks that caused this crisis in the first place. Now not all of that is in direct financial injection, most of it is in the form of guarantees, but £50bn was still injected as liquid into the failing banks to rescue their cashflow situations. Now if we’d instead let Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds collapse, things may have appeared to be worse over the short-term – but in Iceland they had a similar situation, and instead of bailing out the banks, they jailed the bankers who caused the problems. Granted, there was provable fraud in that case, but it truly wouldn’t surprise me if the same happened in most banks throughout the world – indeed, the LIBOR scandal (with three former Barclays bankers charged today) shows just what banks are capable of in their efforts to maintain their wealth.

Do banks cull their failing staff? Nope – they get rewarded for failure instead. Know what the reason is for the continuing trend of high bonuses to people who nearly brought this country to its knees?

If we are to act in the best interests of our shareholders, we have to make sure we have the best people in the firm,” Anthony Jenkins, Barclays Chief Executive

Barclays, the same bank that plans to cut its staff by around 12000 (7000 in this country), increased its bonus pool by 10% to £2.38bn. Seems like a fair deal to me…

So bonuses increased…that must mean their performance was better, right?

Nope…Barclays pre-tax profits for 2013 fell from £7bn to £5.2bn – still a pretty successful year, unless you happen to be a low-level worker, in which case your job is under threat and you should look for work elsewhere. But with another 7000 people potentially hitting the dole queue, that could add up to a much harder time to find work for many people.

So what about doing what Katie Hopkins suggests, and getting a menial cleaning job, or work in a warehouse? Well, that’s one option – but do you think companies and agencies that hire cleaners and warehouse workers will take on people with 20 year work histories, or people with pretty major degrees? It’s not just a case of applying and getting a job – many people find themselves over-qualified for low-level positions, and are rejected by companies because of this. Yet we’re all told that we should all be out there cleaning or labouring? Sort it out, Hopkins.

Anyway – our economy is broken, but it’s not the people on welfare of any kind that broke it. It’s the people at the top of the banks. Think about that, next time you see a poorly-written splash headline designed to provoke outrage amongst the ignorant.

UPDATE:

Another thought occurs over the banking issue – know how we’re told that if we don’t allow bonuses we won’t attrace the best talent? My thinking is that if the “best” “talent” is capable of crashing the global economy, do we really want them? Wouldn’t we be better letting them go to wherever they can get their mercenary hands on the most cash for themselves, and we can instead rely on the people that won’t take extraordinary risks with money that isn’t theirs? Surely that’s better for this country than leaving it in the hands of people who exist solely to exploit its resources for their own personal gain?

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