The welfare debate and the end of reason
The way in which the entire debate on benefits seems to be taking place entirely outside the realms of logic seems unprecedented, says Alex Andreou.
I am quite frightened. There have always been some unreasonable people in politics. However, the way in which the entire debate on benefits seems to be taking place entirely outside the realms of logic, seems unprecedented. The way in which evidence is openly sneered at, is nothing short of medieval. The End of Reason.
People going to work early in the morning were stopped outside a London tube station and "vox-popped" by Channel 4 News.
"What do you think about the proposed cap on benefits?", they were asked. "If I have to get up and go to work, I don't see why they shouldn't have to", said one person. "I think it's fair," said another. Challenged by the reporter on whether it's fair on someone who has just been made redundant and has been paying tax and NI for years, she added "well, obviously not them".
The debate earlier in the House of Commons displayed equal levels of Daily Mail common sense. A hissing Kris Hopkins MP suggested that unemployment was "a lifestyle choice". Aidan Burley MP - you know, the one that thinks Nazis are an appropriate theme for a party - read out a letter from an unnamed constituent, relating how she had heard from an unnamed friend, that she was claiming five hundred pounds a week in benefits.
Asked about trial schemes today, Chris Grayling - the dude in charge of Justice, no less - said: “The last Government was obsessed with pilots. Sometimes you just have to believe in something and do it.” That's right. None of your namby-pamby, pinko-leftie evidence rubbish. YEAH. We just think of stuff and do it. And, as the last budget proved, then hastily undo it.
And so it goes, the End of Reason.
A national debate, orchestrated from the top down, which cares not a jot for facts or evidence. Facilitated by the poison pumped daily through our television set, which has seeped so deep into our national muscle memory that we are no longer able to distinguish between Jeremy Kyle guests, chosen because they make for good voyeurism, and ordinary decent people. Our reaction as considered as that of a patellar ligament to a doctor's reflex hammer.
So, how do we fight it? Anger may well provide the energy, but it is not the whole answer. Reason, logic, truth are - and have always been - the precision instruments for dissecting hysterical phobias.
The Conservatives will continue to speak the language of fear. It suits them; it is all they know. They released this image yesterday.
Look at that little arrow. You're only getting that now. Look at that BIG ARROW. Someone else is getting that. Look at what all that scrounger waste can win you. Iain, show the contestants what is behind door number 1. Doctors! And behind door number 2? Teachers! And let's open door number 3. A tax cut of ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY POUNDS!
How exciting. So, what are we getting for sentencing two million innocent children to hunger? Well, in fact, none of the above. NHS frontline staff numbers are declining, education is being hung, drawn and privatised and the tax burden on the majority of the electorate is higher than when the coalition took over.
But at least my arrow will get bigger, right?
Guess again. Quite contrary to the rhetoric of "making work pay" this measure does absolutely nothing to improve what work pays. As a matter of fact, making the 9 unemployed people chasing every 1 vacancy that much more desperate, is likely to have a deflationary effect on your wages. Your arrow is shrinking.
But at least this will get people back to work - the government keeps saying that. That's true, isn't it?
Wrong again. This bill does not create a single job. Indeed, the IMF recently admitted that cutting of precisely this sort has a disproportionately negative effect on growth. Essentially, by reducing the spending power of people who spend all their income on necessary goods and services (rather than those who squirrel it away in tropical island tax havens), local businesses sell less and the economy contracts.
What's that, Channel-4-News-lady-outside-the-tube-station? You work in a shop? Not for long. Soon, you will get your wish fulfilment. In a way. You won't have to resent those who don't get up to go to work. You will join them; with the added bonus of having the government that made you unemployed call you vermin. It may not be economic growth, but it is an opportunity for personal growth, don't you think?
So, what does it actually do, this bill? The short version: it attempts to plug a hole in the Government's forecasts, which keep getting revised down and down and further down, as if calculated by an over-enthusiastic limbo dancer. Only the savings are small, the hole is massive and their policies (including this one) are making it bigger. So, it's more like throwing a single shrimp into a shark's gaping mouth. Bad news for the shrimp, little effect on your chances of survival.
The added bonus is that nobody seems to be talking about huge multinationals paying no tax in this country, about which everybody seemed to be talking a month ago.
The End of Reason.
Several coalition MPs even suggested a link between rises in tax credits and the financial crisis. "Is there a direct correlation between the time that tax credits started," asked Marcus Jones MP, and "the start of the financial crisis"?
I would love to tell you that Hansard recorded the response: "Which crisis? The global one? The one that started in Iceland in financial institutions, spread to US financial institutions and eventually reached the financial institutions of the UK? Of course there is no correlation, direct or indirect, you fucking numpty."
Sadly, the response by Alun Cairns MP was: "My Hon. Friend makes an excellent point". Pretty much any point is an excellent point, when you are witnessing the End of Reason.