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Thursday, January 19, 2006


Our 'radicals' are reactionaries

I have heard people talk of the twin vices of ‘benefit dependency’ and poverty. Such rhetoric is used when promoting ‘reform’ [the cutting] of incapacity benefit. Apparently without a trace of humour, politicians and right-wing commentators make the argument that people on incapacity benefit live in poverty AND that they are better off than if they were in work.

To any humane person, this would suggest that incapacity benefit needs to be raised. People should not be bound to live in poverty because they are ill. We can make more sense of the concept of being ‘trapped’ on incapacity benefit if, rather than the language of dis/incentives (for the poor, remember, the ‘incentive’ is the avoidance of utter destitution), we remember that incapacity benefit involves a person who is already ill being cast into a state of material deprivation.

Further, if people who are living in poverty are better off than people in work, then our wages system needs to be examined. Perhaps the minimum wage needs to be raised. Perhaps aspects of the social wage need to be improved. A fair day’s pay ought never to be a poverty wage. If your free market ideology leads you to accepting that a portion of the population must be reduced to a state of deprivation, then you are the follower of a wicked ideology.

The idea that a benefit that leaves people in poverty needs reform is a good one. The idea that it needs to be cut to push people into work that further reduces people’s material conditions is a reactionary notion. The radicals in our politics are those who seek to dismantle the great leaps of the past century; our welfare state, our universal health and education systems, our tolerance, our opposition to imperialism. Reactionaries all.

I think one could talk about benefit dependency in other welfare cases beside disability. There are many Britons who seem to be perfectly find and likely on dependency. Every ATM on High street will have a heroin junkies sitting next to it.

As for incapacity benefit, what conditioned incapacitated. While no one would argue with a quadropeligic being on incapacity benefit and having a substantial benefit at that.

A BBC article said that a million people are on incapacity benefit. I find it hard to believe that 1/60th is severely incapacitated. Surely good benefits may make it easier for some to stay on disablity that return to work.

The more money that "not really ill" people take from the government, the less that the really incapacitated will have. Whilst you are proud of your welfare state, there is only so much money
I do doubt that the average Heroin junkie is on disability, though there is a case that they ought to be. Arguments that run along the lines of 'they get their money for nothing while I have to earn mine', beg the question, why don't you quit and take benefits.

The answer to this is because life on benefits is miserable. Even the government argues that benefits leave people in poverty. This is why there is no sense in the argument that people are disincentivised by the level of benefits, unless you accept that wage levels are so low that government intervention is demanded in that area also.

There is only so much money, but there is a lot of it about. Pity most gets corralled by a small number of individuals, who then scream 'envy' while attempting to grind the poor even harder into the dirt.
Arguments that run along the lines of 'they get their money for nothing while I have to earn mine', beg the question, why don't you quit and take benefits.

While the rest of what you write seems basically sound, this is easily answered.

1. Because most people realise that work gives us more than just money in our pockets: a sense of self-worth, contact with a wider society than our narrow range of friends and family, and so on.

2. That plenty of people, those especially who don't expect to earn much due to poor skilling, poor education, or poor "character", do precisely that. I've known a few (though in fact, those I've known have worked cash-in-hand, too).

You're bang on that social wages need addressing (if by that you mean in-work benefits like (reformed)tax credits, personal allowances for low earners or more radical measures like Basic Incomes, then I'm right with you). However, I don't think that's necessarily incompatible with wanting the kind of reform to incapacity rules that prevents lazy fuckers from claiming it because they "won't" rather than "can't" work. Such people aren't stealing from the rich but from low-income working people.
I don't know if the Heroin junkies were on welfare, but they do beg at every ATM. It was always the same ones every day. Then I would see them go home to their flats. I wouldn't doubt that in Britian they get some sort of money from the government for not being employed.

Why should life on benefits, unless you are truly incapacitated, be easy? If people are working and get hurt there is disability pay for awhile. People should have savings too. People need to be self reliant and not depend on the government for everything.

In Germany, there were complaints by resturant owners that they can't get any waiters. People make more money on welfare than they would being a waiter. So the German economy is further hurt.
TC, so, a living on benefits reduces people to poverty (this is a plank in the 'reformers' arguments). Yet, this money is enough to 'disincentivise' people to seek employment. So the wages for the sort of jobs people on benefits can get are very low. Yet people ought to have savings! Wow.

I didn't say that a life on benefits ought to be easy. But if you present unemployment as if it is the result of personal choice then you have engaged in some kind of ahistorical mumbo-jumbo. How do we explain times of high unemployment and low unemployment? People getting lazier, or more hard-working? Nonsense, and this is underlined by your use of anecdotal 'heroin junkies' as if they were somehow representative of the unemployed.

According to the kind of analysis that you perform, TC, economies are hurt where people are not willing to work for poverty wages. But this is just a one-eyed view of the world that results in a race to the bottom.

People deserve a decent wage. And that, for no job, ought be a poverty wage.
I am always amused when those who clearly have never had to live on benefit - and those who don't even live here - talk in such lofty terms about these things. Remember that the upper limit for IB is £76.45 ($134.23 at today's rate). As our host points out, life on benefit - even at the rarefied level of $135 bucks - stinks. And IB is not automatic. I was tipped out of a six-figure salary because of ill-health, but could not get IB. This "reform" is right-wing, reactionary, kill-the-poor and noone gives a fuck about them so we can get away with it, pure and simple.

The government has been spinning this, softening the hard-working voters of Britain up for this for months. It's theft, and quite disgusting.
Just a note for any American or international readers looking at nobody's figures: the cost of living is much more expensive in Britain than it is the US, right across the board, from housing, food and transport to consumer goods.
Andrew, The US has unemployment rates of 4-5% while France and Germany have 10-14%...and they've had these high unemployment rates for decades.

People have also gained a sense of entitlement. They think they are owed certain material goods or a lifestyle even if they cannot afford it. My grandparents didn't go to college. One was a machinist and the other a baker. Yet they worked hard and long so their children could. Nonetheless, they still were able to save money.

I see people with mediocre jobs buying expensive electronics or designer clothes. Then they don't have any money left over (if not get into debt) and then they whine.

Nobody, I haven't lived on welfare, but I've worked mininum wages jobs during college. I've worked really nasty jobs. I've also lived in the UK, so I am familar with the poltics and life of the UK.
I know some people on welfare here from middle class families, but they rountinely quit job after job. They had spent 6 years in college Then they have babies out of wedlock and get on welfare. Now, I'm not saying ALL welfare cases are from laziness, but if at least 1 million people out of UK's 60 million are on IB, then there is a problem.

Some people who can work are not. So how do you get them off welfare then? What is an alternate solution?
Andrew, I do agree that the cost of living is expensive in Britian.

Generally the cost of every in Britian is the same number as in America, but in pounds instead of dollars. So that $40 shirt is £40, or that $15 CD is £15. This is partially due to the VAT tax. VAT (value added tax) is sales tax on every stage of of production, not just the final sale like in the US. It's a rate of 17.5%. So if you compound that rate over the course of several stages of production, it can get quite expensive.

Income tax rates are rather comparable at typical salaries. Since income tax rates were a Tory campaign point, income tax rates remained low under the Blair administration, but have been replaced by "stealth taxes."

Salaries are much lower though. The same job in the UK is usually about 33% less than in the US.
Comparing unemployment rates hides the fact that rates of poverty (and associated statistics, such a child mortality, illiteracy and crime) are higher in the US than for Western European countries with social welfare economic models.

It all depends what you want your national economy to do. The US wants it to apportion wealth according to what you can wring from it, and damn those who fail. The social welfare model is an attempt to distribute the fruits of the economy between the people.
Yes, it is essentially that. Are you trying to create equal opportunity or equality. From each of their means to each of their needs? On the other hand, America is known as the "land of opportunity". Although there are drawbacks, in America people have a better shot of becoming rich. There aren't many poor Europeans who grow to be rich. High taxes and regulations prevent it.

Some stats (stats on crime were hard to find):

child mortality 6.5 deaths/1,000
population below poverty line: 12%
unemployment: 5%
literacy: 97%
per capita GDP: $41,800

child mortality: 5.16 deaths/1,000
unemployment: 5%
literacy: 99%
population below poverty line: 17%
per capita GDP: $30,900

child mortality: 4.26 deaths/1,000
unemployment: 10%
literacy: 99%
population below poverty line: 6.5%
per capita GDP: $29,900
Actually, TC, social fluidity/mobility rates are higher in Europe than in the US. Try this extensively peer-reviewed book for the evidence.

So, not only is the US more unequal but its class system is more ossified than Europe's.
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