Of the £160bn annual benefit budget nearly £75bn goes towards pensions. This in itself isn’t anything to complain about – many pensioners rely on these payments to live – but there plenty of others who do not need a penny of it. These wealthy pensioners tend to vote for a Tory party that is happy enough to keep giving the pension to them, in fact to keep raising the amount. Strangely, young families with just as much money have child benefit taken from them – perhaps they don’t vote for the right party.
Meanwhile tragically poor families are being robbed due the detestable bedroom tax and other squeezes on benefits. This disgusting bedroom tax policy could never have made a change to the way housing stock is used, there just aren’t the smaller houses for people to move into. The cold hard mathematical facts are against the policy – there really isn’t the housing stock. The government would have known this when drafting the policy – instead the bedroom tax is a deliberate ideological and financial attack on the poorest members of our society. The plan is to dismantle the state and to do so first one must attack those that rely on it. So the poor are demonised, the NHS and education systems vilified. Look at how much money we waste on these broken dreams, the Tories say, let us abolish them.
Some of you Telegraph, Daily Mail and Express reading old folks are probably disgusted with the poor, the way all the money is spent on them and believe it is ruining our economy. Do you know how much jobseeker’s allowance costs the nation? From the annual benefit budget of £160bn it is just over £4.8bn. That is a mere drop in the ocean compared to how much you pensioners are getting, remember you lot get £75bn. These are facts, but not something you’ll find in the Daily Mail. Do you like being manipulated into hating others by these papers? How does that make you feel?
So why do we hear so much about benefit fraud, see posters and TV campaigns surrounding the issue? Because demonising the poor is politically useful. There is a growing working poor and it is in the interest of the government to keep the unemployed poor and working poor from joining forces. What if all the disenfranchised of this nation acted together? It’s a scary thought – they might engage in the democratic process. And so the working poor are fed a lie that our economy would be so much better if people weren’t cheating jobseeker’s allowance.
How big is benefit fraud? The Department of Work and Pensions estimates it is in the region of £1.2bn. Hardly pocket change, but in terms of the overall budget not a major cost – that’s still you pensioners. But wait a minute, it seems that according the DWP’s own figures it accidentally overpays people £1.4bn. So rather than the benefit cheats being the biggest drain on resources the DWP’s own ineptitude costs the nation more. We don’t see any demonising posters about that do we?
Meanwhile the HMRC fails to collect tax from some of the biggest avoiders. The HMRC’s own figures put this at £30bn, meanwhile Tax Justice and the PCS put this figure at a higher £120bn. What can we gather from this? The very rich aren’t doing their bit. They are avoiding paying tax and the government is putting less effort into collecting it than it does to demonise the very poorest in our society.
In our supposedly civilised society we have food banks springing up everywhere. There are always going to be the kind of feckless parents who would rather buy cigarettes than feed their children – but imagining these are the cause of the growth of foodbanks is living in dreamland. Our nation is deeply divided. In my local town there are wealthy people who are unaware of the poverty that exists in that town. They genuinely don’t know the poor streets and estates exists. And some that do aren’t too pleased about the “sort of people” they should allow to use the foodbank.
We have the rise in food banks and the massive growth in legal loan-shark companies such as Wonga. There is no coincidence in the existence and growth of both of these. The government you voted for is crushing the poor to the point where they have to go stinking up your nice little church food bank or borrow money at 3000% APR from Wonga. There’s an irony in the design of the puppets Wonga uses in its advertising campaign – the very sort of people who voted for the state our nation is in. Saying a prayer for the poor on Sunday doesn’t really cut it. It is the irony and tragedy of West Dorset that so many wealthy older people that live here are involved in the church, yet vote for the very enemy of everything their faith stands for. So many good people seem to leave their goodness and their faith outside of the polling booth.
Some of these people are extremely generous with their time and money towards the poorer members of the community. That is a great thing. But that’s not enough. Let’s look at it another way. Imagine we had a national problem in that the poor were being attacked by rabid wolves. Every week a government van would arrive in poor areas and wild mad wolves would be unleashed to attack people. You, being a decent church going type are horrified by the suffering this causes. You do your best to help those who have been attacked. You give them shelter, tend to their wounds, feed them. You offer them all the generosity in your heart – and it makes a real differences to these people – you ease their suffering. But then every four years you walk into a polling booth and tick the box marked “I want rabid wolves released on the poor”.
Why keep voting for a party that’s doing its best to ensure your own children, grandchildren and ultimately their children will never have the health service you enjoyed, can use a library, get inexpensive health care, or a state pensions. Why do you do it?