Comment, Comics and the Contrary.
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.