Saturday, 19 May 2012

Feckless scroungers

The anti-public services and anti-welfare state brigade are having a field day, using the recession as an excuse to kick the most vulnerable and deprived citizens in the teeth and remove as much state support from them as possible.

Politicians and columnists alike are bemoaning the 101 evils of welfare. It goes to the undeserving. It stops people working. It makes them lazy. It stops them standing on their own two feet. It's beset by fraud. It encourages single motherhood and large families. And on and on.

None of these hysterical claims  are true. They're disproved time after time by thorough research and a look at the statistics. But this doesn't stop the halfwits and ideologues from digging up anecdotal and untypical stories to make sweeping and utterly false generalisations about the entire rollcall of claimants.

Stories of massive families living in mansions. Stories of the alleged disabled running marathons. Stories of workshy scroungers lying in bed all day. Stories of widescreen TVs and new cars provided by the taxpayer.

This ferocious black propaganda is smoothing the way for the government to cut benefits to the disabled, the sick, the unemployed and struggling families on a colossal scale, with the passive agreement of large swathes of the misinformed general public.

There's been much publicity about the family of 17 on state benefits, publicity that ended in tragedy a few days ago when six of the children died in an arson attack. What was the point of singling out this family for criticism? None, except to suggest they were feckless, irresponsible layabouts.

Large numbers of innocent people who genuinely need help are being penalised because of this politically-motivated smear campaign. And those doing the smearing are mostly well-off and highly unlikely to need any state benefits themselves. Their callousness and viciousness is breathtaking.

PS: May 31. The parents, Mick and Mairead Philpott, have been charged with murdering the six children. 


Grannymar said...

I wonder how many of the smearing judges that you mention out there, actually own their own homes or cars? Could they they exist on real cash without recourse to credit?

Nick said...

Grannymar - Good question. Life is a lot tougher if you're not one of the credit-worthy middle classes who can borrow large sums any time they want.

kylie said...

"seek first to understand and then to be understood"
if people would try that, those six, sorry SIX CHILDREN might have lived

Nick said...

Kylie - Absolutely. If people would try to understand a bit more, and not jump to instant conclusions, the world would be a better place.

Bijoux said...

The Wall Street Journal just ran a piece yesterday about someone being in line behind a person buying a $41 cake at some gourmet food shop, paid for with food stamps. Although I agree that stories like this are probably unusual, it does give one pause to wonder why more restrictions aren't placed on govt programs.

Nick said...

Bijoux - But again, this is just anecdotal. How many claimants would actually be buying $41 cakes? Not many, I suspect.

Wisewebwoman said...

This is incredible Nick. As if the welfare payments are a stepup to a lavish lifestyle.
Any I have known have been the most downtrodden of our citizens and interestingly enough were not those spat upon "immigrants" that other privileged middle classers define as being the recipients of such largesse.
Anyone who throws the first stone I would ask that they live for a month on welfare, then talk about the lavishness of the lifestyle.
And what has a $41 cake got to do with it?
the lack of compassion is appalling.

Secret Agent Woman said...

First, let me say that I am absolutely in favor of social programs to help the needy. I have no qualms about that and work with many people who simply could not survive without them.

However. I am also aware, through my work, of the range of abuse of the system. I am definitely not suggesting the programs be abolished. But I do feel that they are very poorly administered. I have had countless encounters with people who are not truly disabled who receive disability benefits for life. I know people who sell their food stamps, lie about their dependents, use their government benefits to feed their addictions, and make money under the table. I have to struggle to keep from becoming jaded. I would like to see an overhaul of the system that allows for more oversight, a fairer system for assessing disability, more benefits targeted to children, more resources allocated for vocational rehabilitation to get people working, and health care benefits for all citizens (this last one specifically for the U.S.) to remove one of the primary incentives for staying on disability. As with health, I think prevention is key, so education and job training would be good uses of the tax dollars. It's a vastly complicated problem and I don't think people who want to look at ways to improve the system are necessarily lacking in compassion.

Cheerful Monk said...

I agree with Secret Agent Woman. It's naive to think that there aren't people who abuse the system. That doesn't mean some people don't need help, just that we should set up that help more sensibly.

In the past I knew a lot of people who worked hard to support their families and resented having to pay for large families that the parents couldn't hope to provide for. I also remember watching a program years ago about women on welfare who complained that their benefits weren't nearly enough. One woman as I recall had seven children by different men and when someone suggested she stop having more children her answer was, "Nobody has the right to tell me how many children I can have!" Yes, it's naive to think there are no abuses of the system.

Nick said...

www - Indeed, try living on welfare payments for a month and see how lavish they actually are. Occasionally some MP or journalist does the "living on welfare" experiment, which is entirely bogus because they have a well-padded lifestyle to return to.

Nick said...

Agent - Well, I have to accept that you know a lot of people who do abuse the welfare system (and by implication that there are a lot more people doing the same). Of course there are abuses, but according to official statistics they are much lower than is commonly assumed. The US Department of Labour estimates for example that around 2% of all unemployment insurance payments are fraudulent. In the UK the official figure for welfare fraud is around 1%. The amount of money lost through tax fraud by the wealthy is many times higher.

But you're probably right that the welfare system could be managed more efficiently and what abuses there are could be reduced still further.

Nick said...

Monk - I would never say there are no abuses. Any official system will be abused. But the abuse is simply not on the scale that many people like to think. The average size of families on benefit is actually quite small, and the huge families the media love focusing on are not at all typical.

But I totally agree that people who demand the right to have as many children as they want are utterly irresponsible and should not be entitled to infinite state support.

Wisewebwoman said...

I would respectfully disagree on the number of children thing.
It is a citizen's right and an erosion of further rights like this, IMO, is dragging us closer to 1984 and the Handmaid's Tale.

My MO has always been and continues to be:

"My rights end exactly where yours begin."

And that includes the number of children you have.

The education of women is where we all need to focus. This will end child poverty.


Nick said...

www - I don't really see why people should be entitled to as many children as they want, any more than they should be entitled to as many houses as they want, or as many cars as they want. There's no social need for huge families, so I don't see why there should be state support for more than the first two children.

Surely the huge families that were typical of previous centuries were in most cases just a massive burden on the mothers?

But I do agree the education of women is a priority if they are ever to gain equality with men.

Wisewebwoman said...

More feed for the frenzy:,0,4036567.story

Wisewebwoman said...

Boy, whose blog is this anyway?!!
Education of women results in a drastic reduction of births. Equality is another story.

Macy said...

I should go off and double check the figures here - but, from memory, the value of benefits paid to cheats is dwarfed by money not paid in tax avoidance schemes.
Having said that, there are cheats. Worse, there are people who have never worked a day in their life who still have a bigger tv... er family than I do

Nick said...

www - I heard about the Tennessee father of thirty. Los Angelista just posted about it. If education leads to a drastic reduction in births, that can only be good. And it ought to lead to equality also.

Macy - You're right, the money lost through tax avoidance is astronomical. And sure, there are cheats. But we don't condemn exams because some students cheat. And we don't condemn jobs because some job applicants cheat.

Anonymous said...

I'm very worried.
If the woman in that picture moves, she's going to end up sitting in the bowl of Ferrero Rocher. Just think of the stains.

John Gray said...

people should get help ALWAYS if they need it.. but I do worry that this bloody political system has produced a certain number of INSTITUTIONAL "helpless"

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Yes, it is breathtaking. I didn't realize the extent of such unconscionable cuts in Europe, which is happening to a shocking degree in the US. We have become a feudal state in which the few ultra rich not only control everything, but are somehow considered more valuable than everyone else, especially those who need help to survive. It seems the human race is devolving at a very rapid rate.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I wonder how those stats for system abuses were calculated. Because the people I have worked with who are abusing the system (eg., working for money under the table while collecting disability benefits) so so completely undetected by the government. How can you count what is apparent?

I also know that you can't regulate childbirth. A woman has to have the absolute right to govern her own body. But you can provide free birth control and you can also not reward unlimited progeny. I have had patients who deliberately have more children to collect additional benefits. That's just wrong.

Secret Agent Woman said...

(That should have been "go completely undetected")

Nick said...

Blackwater - Yes, and then she'll have to apply for a grant for a new sofa....

John - Oh, I think you exaggerate. I'm sure there have always been plenty of people who don't want to work or put themselves out in any way. And there are plenty of people who would much rather work for a living than depend on benefits.

Nick said...

Heart - There's a report out today in the UK about the total lack of social mobility. Lots of people have no alternative but to claim benefits because the rich are preventing them from climbing the social and financial ladder.

Nick said...

Agent - You have a point about how the authorities keep track of undetected fraud. I don't know the answer to that!

I totally agree that a woman has the right to govern her own body, and I shudder at the idea of regulating childbirth. I'm only saying that it's irresponsible to crank out huge numbers of children that the rest of us have to pay for. It's true that some women have babies in order to get benefits, but again, is this type of fraud very prevalent?

speccy said...

Recently, Girl2's class were in line for a national prize which would have involved a trip to Downing St. Girl2 told her teacher not to ask me to go along to help because I wouldn't shake Cameron's hand :)

The cuts to welfare and the NHS are a disgrace: global recesssion caused by bankers who seem to be eperiencing no consequences for dumping all over the rest of us.

Rummuser said...

Indians outside the charmed circle of the meritorious know a different austerity. Food inflation in double digits. Vegetable prices rising 60 per cent in a year. Child malnourishment double that of sub-Saharan Africa. Families cutting back sharply on milk and essentials. Massive increases in health costs bankrupting millions. Farmers unable to afford inputs or access credit. A drinking water scarcity for many, as more and more of that life-giving substance gets diverted for other purposes. How much nicer to practise the austerity of the elite.

A rural Indian spending Rs. 22.50 a day would not be considered poor by a Planning Commission whose Deputy Chairman's foreign trips between May and October last year cost a daily average of Rs. 2.02 lakh

If you want to read more,

Nick said...

Speccy - Good for you, not wanting to shake Cameron's hand. Why would you, when he's happily protecting all the millionaires like himself while at the same time making life even harder for those on the poverty line.

Nick said...

Ramana - Very interesting. We Brits are told India is now a booming economy with rising prosperity for all. Clearly, as you explain, the reality is rather different. Even the worst-off in Britain are not facing the sort of conditions you describe.

So 2.02 lakh rupees is actually 202,000 rupees? This is income inequality big-time.