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British Haves and Have Nots

British Haves and Have Nots

Beveridge and the Royal Family

Sara Ibrahim

Sara Ibrahim

There are two things that have really struck me this week: Osborne’s proposals to make real term cuts to welfare and the impending arrival of a new royal baby. To my mind these things are inextricably linked. Before you ask this isn’t bourn of too many mince pies and mulled wine before Christmas.

We are increasingly living in a polarised society of haves and have nots. The Tories are trying to weave a narrative that pits ‘strivers’ against ‘scroungers’. However, our attitude to the news of a royal baby to me shows how confused our attitude to the state and state provision has become. The British Monarchy is a cornerstone of our social structure but one that is arguably funded by the public purse. Currently, the monarchy receives 15% of Crown Estate income amounting to about £200 million a year.  Debatably this land isn’t private land but land kept in trust for the public. Further, there are myriad costs of running the monarch including security and special occasions such as the Jubilee celebrations. While the public subsidy for the monarchy has been subject to trimming, few have expressed anything but delight at a new addition to ‘the firm’.

This piece doesn’t seek to make the case for a Republic but instead to probe why we can express unreserved joy at the impending royal birth and simultaneous disgust at so called scroungers and their families. Osborne’s decision to increase welfare benefits by 1%, under the rate of inflation will mean real term cuts for many. One of the groups who will be adversely affected by these cuts are mums (and dads for that matter) who will be hit by below inflation rises to child benefits and working tax credits. This has been termed the mummy tax by Labour. The term seeks to highlight the impact of Osborne’s tax cut on real families who rely on these benefits to work and support their families.

The author, Sara Ibrahim, works in law like me. I find her juxtaposition of royal family and welfare recipients to be clever and I recommend you read it in full.

The problem of haves and have nots is not a purely British phenomenon. The United States has increasingly become two societies with different laws, expectations and responsibilities for the different classes. Single mothers with three convictions for marijuana possession can wind up with fifteen years in prison while bankers who launder nine billion dollars in drug money are unprosecuted.

Business ethics under these circumstances become more and more a matter for humor. Business ethics cannot exist in a moral vacuum. There has to be support from the press, the church and the state. Having two societies moving in different directions complicates that support and promotes the moral vacuum.

There maybe some of my readers who may find some justification for very large differences in income. But is it so easy to justify two standards of law, one for the great mass of Americans and another for the one percent?

James Pilant

From around the web –

From the web site, The Guardian:

There’s nothing new about the attempt to divide “benefit claimants” from deserving working people. Tough settlements for the welfare system have long been justified by claims to be cutting largesse from an undeserving poor. But neat categories like these have long been confounded by reality, and changes in the welfare system over the past 20 years have made them all but nonsensical. As Resolution Foundation analysis shows, 60% of the chancellor’s benefit squeeze hits working households. Whatever the rhetoric, it’s so-called strivers that bear the brunt of the cuts.

Why is the formula of “skivers and strivers” showing signs of age? One reason is Labour’s system of tax credits, which changed welfare by supporting low and middle income working households – the group the chancellor claims to be talking to. Tax credits themselves were in part a political move, to change the debate about welfare and poverty. But they also reflected new economic realities: childcare costs had soared, and many parents, particularly women, could not afford to work. Meanwhile, low pay had crept up to epidemic levels. For the one in five working people who now earn below £7.50 an hour, in-work support is vital.

From the web site, Alex’s Archives:

Plenty of political announcements made at this time of year are little more than conference fodder. They grab a headline and a round of applause and that’s the last we hear of them. But George Osborne’s proposals to cut another £10bn from welfare don’t fall into that category. They were buried in the detail of previous policy statements and it was only a matter of time before they bubbled to the surface. Conference season is the ideal time because it allows some posturing against the modern folk devil – the feckless scrounger.

We only have media reports of Osborne’s speech at the moment, and we’ve no idea what’s going on behind the scenes, but a key element to this story is going to be how it plays out within the Coalition.

Clearly the New Victorians of the Conservative party are full-speed ahead for cutting welfare, with a strongly Malthusian undertone that if we lose a few scroungers along the way through starvation then that’ll save us a bit of money.

And finally from the web site, Liberal Conspiracy:

At the Autumn Statement we were told that the Chancellor is increasing spending on infrastructure whilst cutting spending on welfare. Such statements are confusing “infrastructure” for “lumps of rock”.

There are two reasons that you would increase spending on infrastructure. The first is that you believe that the spending itself will be good for the economy: the money will create jobs, the newly employed people will buy new things, shops will employ more people, etc.

The second reason might be that you believe that the underlying framework of your system could be more efficient. The classic example would be that late trains cost people time working, so you invest in better train lines.

However, in practice, I see very little notable difference between what Osborne sees as ‘welfare’ and what he sees as ‘infrastructure’ – other than who it is for. What the Chancellor calls infrastructure, I could call corporate welfare.

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Rick Scott’s Welfare Drug Test Saves No Money: Judge

Once again, we find ourselves in the wonderful world of the upper class mind set. Obviously, people on welfare must be on drugs. Why? Because it obvious.

You might that “obviousness” wouldn’t be enough but that didn’t stop the State of Florida from charging in and creating a drug testing policy. It is a disaster with the state paying out far more money for tests than gaining in benefits.

Why do people like Rick Scott think these kinds of things are good ideas? Because people like Rick Scott are worthy. That’s right. If you earn money at a job, it’s people like Rick Scott who made it possible for you to have a living. You owe everything you are to people like Rick Scott. That’s what they believe.

Rick Scott and his friends are part of the top 1 percent in this nation.

Rick Scott got to the pinnacle of success through contacts and the manipulation of the laws that allowed him to turn once public hospitals into private facilities firing workers, reducing care and introducing fascinating new ways of billing Medicare.

Without elaborate connections, large sums of money and a willingness to forego traditional concepts of morality, these things are not possible. Those people willing to do these things consider themselves to be creators of wealth – “job creators.”

To them, that American workers are losing ground is due to the workers’ own inability to work intelligently and hard. Yes, they believe that.

They are unable to consider the circumstances of people who live without their enormous array of contacts and knowledge about how to use the levers of power. To the friends of Rick Scott, it is always a matter of hard work and initiative, for if it were anything else their enormous advantages would have to be taken into consideration, and their successes would appear more inevitable and unearned.

But those who do not have regular employment, the friends of Rick Scott only have disdain. “If there are want ads in the paper, anyone can get a job.” I’ve actually heard that. I have had many reports of people saying it and those stories astonished me but to actually hear it was still a shock. In their world, anyone can either find employment or can create an entrepreneurial job working out of the home or their car or something. Millions of Americans are unemployed right now with little chance of getting a job anytime. That is a fact, but not in the world of Rick Scott.

So, if you are unemployed, something must be terribly wrong with you. And it must be drugs. Of course, they also believe that the unemployed eat, drink, smoke, watch television and play video games too much and these also figure as candidates for these people’s unworthiness. But as I said, it is obvious that they must be using drugs. That they aren’t isn’t going to change anything in the world of Rick Scott.

Studies will be produced explaining that the dismal effects of Florida’s were actually a rousing success. (There’s already one out.) They will be trumpeted on sympathetic web sites, talk radio and Fox news. New studies will be commissioned for sympathetic academics to generate preordained “studies” which will justify further restrictions on the poor. Maybe next time, it will be tests for alcohol use, evidence of a stable marriage or a requirement for multiple approvals from the school, the county and the State before some one can get aid. The media, academia and the government have enormous sympathy and compassion for the Rick Scott’s of the world continually reinforcing their worthiness with awards, studies, gushing front page tributes, and favorable laws.

One thing that Rick Scott feels every day of his life is worthy. He has been a blessing to his fellow Americans because of his drive, his ambition and his successes. No grant, no loan, no use of a State or county road, no aid from a sympathetic relative was a critical element in his success. He will freely admit that they eased the way but he would have succeeded in spite of every obstacle on his own without help. So would the others of his class and since they did not need Social Security, student loans, publicly funded institutions of any kind, etc., etc., you don’t either.

They cannot understand why you do not understand this. They are the job creators. They are the makers of this society, the useful members. Weighing them down with obligations like taxes is a tax upon yourself because you stop them from being successful so they can help you by being more productive. It is clear to them that you should bear total responsibility for any problems without any aid whatever (save in a charitable sort of way) because that produces the best possible outcome. The spur of your pain, your struggle, will make you more like Rick Scott.

And in their eyes, then and only then, will you become worthy.

James Pilant


Rick Scott’s Welfare Drug Test Saves No Money: Judge

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