Posts Tagged ‘Jobseekers’ Allowance’

John Strachey on Using Welfare Spending to Break Capital’s Control of Working People

July 12, 2016

Strachey Socialism pic

Yesterday I put up John Strachey’s six point programme for a radical Socialist reform of the economy from his 1940 book, A Programme for Progress (London: Victor Gollancz). In the same book, Strachey makes the point that spending money on welfare services and public works is, contra to the Tories and classical economists, not wasteful. He then goes on to make the point that the state, by giving welfare provision to workers in the form of pensions and unemployment benefits, breaks the absolute grip of the employers over them. He writes

Welfare Spending Is Not Wasteful

Before going on to the underlying theory of the function of money in such a society as ours, it is necessary to establish that this is no less true of our third, last, and most startling plank – the proposal of giving people newly created money as a remedy for unemployment. For there is a very strong prejudice in our minds which almost compels us to suppose that giving away money for nothing in this way (by way, say, of old age pensions or children’s allowances) is a wild proceeding; that a government which did that would be for instance, far more profligate than on which spent a like sum on public works; that to give money away is sheer waste; that such a government would “get nothing for its money”. But this is not the case. The truth is that a decision to give people money is a decision to have more consumers’ goods and services produced, while the expenditure of money on a public works programme is a decision to have more means of production produced. That is the difference.

All talk of it being waste and squandering to give otherwise destitute or severely straitened people money with which to buy consumers’ goods is nonsense. The money will circulate through the system at least as well if it is put in at this point as it will if it is put in at the means of production end. If it is given to the ultimate consumers, it will flow first into the hands of the producers of consumers’ good, next to the producers of producers’ goods, next to the banks, and finally back to the Government itself, just as surely as if it were spent on building new factories in the most orthodox manner. It is necessary to insist up this point, for our minds have been so condition that we almost all tend to believe that money given, say, to the unemployed, or the old, is spent and gone, used up once and for all-if not actually wasted-in a sense in which money invested (a much more respectable word than spent)in a new factory, or in public works, especially if they are of an income-producing type, is not.

But there is not a word of truth in it. The one sum of money is spent on consumers’ goods, the other and producers’ goods. And that is all the difference there. (pp. 93-4).

This is a point which the Keynsian economists cited by Mike over at Vox Political, and by the Angry Yorkshireman, have been making time and again. It’s entirely correct, and was one of the reasons Roosevelt’s New Deal was so successful.

Breaking the Employers’ Grip

Of the effect of welfare spending breaking the stranglehold employers have over working people, Strachey writes

Is it, then, mere intellectual error which makes the dominant, ruling, financial section of the capitalist class so vehemently oppose all policies of this sort for re-employing the factors of production? We shall find, on the contrary, there is quite a rational explanation of their opposition. We have seen that private enterprise knows no way of getting extra money into the hands of the ultimate consumers except by employing them on the production of producers’ goods, or of durable goods such as houses. But now look at the proposition from another standpoint. From the point of view of the ultimate consumers, this means that they cannot live until they can get some private entrepreneur to employ them. It expresses, in a word, the dependence of the people of a capitalist society upon those who own the means of production. It expresses the monopoly of economic power which rests in the hands of these owners. It is precisely because all those who do not own, and have no independent access to the means of production cannot get money into their hands in any other way than by selling their ability to labour, that the owners are enabled to dictate the terms of sale of labour power. it is this which enables them to reap for themselves a rich harvest of the fruits of the labour of others. But what if a new channel is dug by which money can come into the hands of the mass of the population without their having to sell their ability to labour to the employers? To the extent that this is done the employer’s hold over the population is weakened; his power to dictate the terms of employment, rates of wages, hours of work, etc., is qualified. For the worker can now live without him. Nor is there the least doubt of the immediate, strong and practical effect which the provision of decent scales of old age pensions, children’s allowances, and any other distributions of purchasing power will have upon the bargaining power of the wage-earners. The real reason, then, which the great capitalists, and those who consciously or unconsciously speak for them, will always feel that direct distributions of money to the ultimate consumers are a grossly unsound measure, is that it weakens the absolute character of their control over the working population. The capitalists are bound to object that if you give the workers money for anything except work in private profit-making industry, they will get “out of hand”. And so they will; they will get out of their employer’s hand. Surely no democrat will deplore this? But if the employer’s capacity to impose dictatorially the obligation to work upon the rest of the population is ended, it will ultimately be necessary for society to devise a democratic form of self-discipline by which the natural obligation to labour is enforced by society itself.

Experience tends to show, however, that this necessity is far more remote than might be supposed. the conservative’s nightmare that if, for instance, the Government paid really adequate relief to all the unemployed, no one would come to work the next day, is grotesquely incorrect- though no doubt the strengthening of the bargaining position of the workers which would result would be remarkable. Moreover, it is perfectly possible to arrange the giving of money to the ultimate cons8umers in such a way that any tendency to enable the slacker to live without working is reduced to a minimum. For the money can be given to sections of the population who are not required to work in any case. The obvious sections are the old or the very young. Really adequate old age pensions, or children’s allowances, paid out of newly created money, are a most valuable part of a programme for re-employing the factors of production in the conditions of economic stagnation which have recently obtained in contemporary Britain and America. (pp. 98-100).

And this is what the Tories do indeed fear, and have done. One of the first things Thatcher did was to cut the entitlement of striking workers to social security benefit. It’s why they have been so hard on the unemployed, and replaced unemployment benefit with ‘Jobseekers allowance’. And it underpins the whole of workfare and the sanctions system. It is part of keeping a cowed, powerless workforce desperate to accept any job, no matter how tenuous and poorly paid. And it needs to stop. Now.

Shirley William on Demands for Cutting Tax and the Myth of the Social Security Scrounger

May 26, 2016

SWilliams Book Pic

Yesterday I put up a couple of pieces from Shirley Williams’ book, Politics Is For People, in which she attacks the free market ideology of Milton Friedman, and notes how bureaucracy actually grew under the Tories, despite their declared concern for cutting it in the name of efficiency.

The former Labour MP and founder of the SDP also has a few critical observations of the various campaigns to cut taxes, and the myth that people on social security/ jobseeker’s allowance/unemployment benefit/the dole are scroungers.

She writes

A second line of attack, clearly closely related to the reaction against ‘big government’, is on the high public expenditure necessitated by the welfare state. The taxpayers’ revolt began in France with the Poujadist party, wand was later taken up in Denmark, where Per Glijstrup’s anti-tax party had a remarkable, if brief, period of success. it was an element in the 1976 defeat of the Swedish socialist government, and then reached its high-water mark in the triumphant passage of California’s Proposition 13 in 1978. Proposition 13 tied local property taxes to their 1976/7 level, and imposed a 1 per cent maximum on the annual increase, effectively halving the property tax yield. But as the effects of Proposition 13 have been felt on education and other publicly financed services, public enthusiasm for tax cutting has waned. An attempt to pass a similar proposal, known as Jarvis Two, to halve California’s state taxes was heavily defeated in June 1980. The recent history of anti-tax movements is one of dramatic advances which are not then sustained.

One particular form the attack on high public expenditure takes, one that is popular and easy to get across in electoral terms, is the allegation that many people are living off the welfare state who could perfectly well survive on their own. Popular newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic give a lot of space to individual cases – and there always are some – of people proclaiming how they have milked the social security system of thousands of dollars or thousands of pounds. Everybody has heard of somebody who can’t be bothered to get a job, or who stays at home living on welfare because his wage in a job would be little more than his welfare cheque. The ‘poverty trap’ – incomes-related benefits which are lost or reduced as the breadwinner’s income rises – provides a rationale for ‘scrounging’. It really is true that some heads of large families may be better off not working.

Yet the evidence for large-scale ‘scrounging’ is thin; most people much prefer a job to enforced leisure. Nor is the popular hostility against scroungers a by-product of the welfare state. It has a much older history. Ricardo himself inveighed against the Speenhamland system, under which wages were subsidized by the parish if they fell below a minimum level which was linked to the price of bread. ‘The principle of gravitation is not more certain than the tendency of such laws to change wealth and vigour into misery and weakness’, Richardo wrote in On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (1817). It might be Professor Milton Friedman speaking. At the end of the eighteenth century, the indefatigable Utilitarian Jeremy Bentham turned his mind to the rehabilitation of convicts, many of them indigent people without work. He proposed to establish a panopticon, a sort of multi-industry establishment, which he described, chillingly, as ‘a mill to grind rogues honest, and idle men industrious’. Similar wishes are still expressed on the floor of Congress or the House of Commons by ardent Conservatives; only the language alters. (Pp. 30-1).

Williams here is exactly right. Mike over at Vox Political, the Angry Yorkshireman and many other bloggers have noted that Thatcher and the Conservatives have consciously adopted the Victorian principle of ‘least eligibility’ in their welfare reforms in order to make living on benefit as humiliating and degrading as possible for those on it, such as the disabled and the unemployed. The incident Mike reported on his blog on Tuesday, in which a woman with dementia was insulted by a member of the DWP, when she failed to answer a security question due to her disability, is an extreme example of this attitude. This just shows how long the Left have known about the extremely illiberal attitude to poverty at the very heart of Thatcherism and its explicit Victorian antecedents.

As for the Poujadists, they were a petit-bourgeois, anti-Socialist, anti-trade union party founded in the 1950s. Poujade was a French shopkeeper, who launched a campaign encouraging shopkeepers not to serve striking workers. One of the books I read a few years ago on Fascism included them as one of the forms it took in the post-War period. And Michael Heseltine was less than impressed with them, and used them as an insult in his spat with the Leaderene when she was goose-stepping around Downing Street. He called her a ‘Poujadist’, which accurately reflects her socio-economic background as the grocer’s daughter, and her petty hostility to the organised working class. It was a reference lost on the gentlemen of the press, however, who thought he meant she was a ‘putschist’. Well, that too, when it comes to petty Fascism.

Williams in her book has many good ideas. It was too bad that she and the rest of her cronies were more interested in splitting away to form the SDP and attacking Labour than squaring up to the Tories.

Vox Political: Stephen Crabb, IDS’ Replacement, Believes People with Progressive Degenerative Diseases Able to Work

March 26, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has written about how the latest sputtering from the new head of the DWP have effectively ended satire. Stephen Crabb, apparently an expert on such diseases, has declared that sufferers of brain tumours and progressive degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Motor Neurone are able to work. And so, presumably, they should not get any PIP or ESA, but the normal jobseeker’s allowance, until they are eventually sanctioned for not trying hard enough to get a job.

Mike states that this is beyond satire, because he commented in an earlier post about Crabb’s bizarre views on homosexuality. Crabb believed that homosexuality could be cured, and supported CARE, a Christian organisation that claimed it could cure gay people. In fact, gay cures don’t work. There have been a series of scandals in American involving these organisations, as well as concerns in the UK apart the potential harm they can do to the mental health of vulnerable people. Mike commented after Crabb announced his belief that there was a cure for gayness, that perhaps the new minister thought that Parkinson’s could also be cured.

And now he does.

Mike quotes Tom Pride as saying that satire died the moment this vile crew took power. Just like the pianist and satirist, Tom Lehrer, pointedly gave up satire after Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize after the bombing of Hanoi.

Mike’s article can be read at:http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/03/25/after-this-blog-joked-about-it-stephen-crabb-has-said-people-with-parkinsons-can-work-satire-really-is-dead/

Go there and be amazed at this pratt’s immense medical ignorance.

Now, I’m aware that some people might be able to work with Parkinson’s and Motor Neurone disease. Many years ago, I was interviewed for a place at Uni by a lecturer, who suffered from Parkinson’s. As I was told about his condition by one of the students, who was showing us around. He kindly told me about this gentleman’s condition so that I would not be alarmed when he did not stand up to greet me. It wasn’t because he was being hostile. It was because he was physically unable. I’m sure there are others like him that are able to keep working.

However, one of my own uncles, as Mike has already mentioned in the comments to his piece about Crabb, suffered from Parkinson’s. He was, like the lecturer, confined to a wheelchair and very definitely could not work because of the disease. It’s a progressively degenerative disease, which means it gets worse. It’s the reason we no longer see the American actor, Michael J. Fox, on our screens any more. He also suffers from this disease. It’s why he had to leave his hit series, Spin City. Crabb possibly believes people with Motor Neurone Disease can work, because he’s seen the severely disabled Stephen Hawking zooming around in his wheelchair and talking through his computer. Hawking is able to do so because he has the benefit of excellent care and computer engineers, which most people probably can’t afford. He has also been lucky enough to outlive vastly other sufferers from the Disease. I’m not expert, but from the reports about it on TV and the papers, it seems to me that most of the poor souls, who contract it only live for about two or three years at most.

My point here is not that there aren’t some fortunate souls who are able to carry on working, but that many, the majority of sufferer’s, can’t. And this should be enough for the government. If a doctor, a properly qualified doctor, not some paid clerk with Unum or Maximus, who just ticks boxes, says that a sufferer cannot work, then that should be enough for them. Anything else is pure bureaucratic quackery and pseudoscience based on right-wing wishful thinking.

As for Crabb himself, his occupation of the place vacated by IDS reminds me of another quote from the Surrealist artist, Fascist supporter and pervert Salvador Dali. During his sojourn in America, Dali declared that his aim was ‘to cretinise the public’. Dali was, however, despite his considerable personality flaws, one of the greatest painters of the 20th century. Looking at the Crabb and the current members of the cabinet, his desire to reduce the public to sheer imbecility seems to be pointless. Cameron and his big business paymasters have clearly found a better way to lower intellectual and moral standards by promoting the culpably stupid, like IDS, Osbo, and now Crabb.

The Last Leg’s Alex Booker on Ian Duncan Smith’s Cuts to ESA

March 13, 2016

This is a clip from the Channel 4 news review show, The Last Leg, in which the disabled co-host, Alex Booker, says exactly what he thinks about Ian Duncan Smith’s plan to cut Employment Support Allowance to the disabled and long-term sick by £30. Mike at Vox Political put it up on his blog after one of the good people at Channel 4 put it up on Youtube after Mike asked them. This cool deed should not go unrewarded, so I’m also putting it up here.

As Mike reports, there is strong language, but it’s a highly emotive policy. I think it deserves all the vitriol expended on it. It’s a cheap attack one of the very poorest groups in society, who most deserve help and support.

Booker for his part points out that Ian Duncan Smith is far removed from the people he governs. He’s a millionaire, who lives in a mansion. He recommends that aIDS should be put in a wheelchair, made disabled, and then see how he gets on living on £73 a week and finding a job.

Part of Booker’s suggestion – that aIDS should try living like the people his Department is trying to prevent being supported – has been made before. Someone asked the Gentleman Ranker to try living on Jobseekers’ Allowance. Of course, the Stinker turned it down, declaring it to be ‘a stunt’. He was no doubt very aware of how someone had made the same request to one of the Tories under Thatcher. He took it up, and lasted exactly one week before finding himself in a house without food, electricity, gas or water. IDS knows that he could never support himself on the money he expects the disabled to live on, and so doesn’t dare. He’s an immense hypocrite, a coward and a preening bully.

Jobseeker’s Allowance and the ‘Work Commitment’ – Another Return from the Pre-War World

March 7, 2016

I’ve got a feeling it was Major’s government back in the 1990s that had the bright idea of renaming Unemployment Benefit the ‘Jobseeker’s Allowance’, in order to placate the foaming Tory hordes convinced that the unemployed are all workshy scroungers. Instead of benefit being granted to the unemployed, simply for being unemployed, it is now an allowance given on the understanding that you are ‘sincerely seeking work’. The process has gone further under Cameron. When you sign on, you’re expected to sign a contract stating that you are doing so, and binding you to agree to the terms and restrictions imposed by the government. In infraction of these terms, no matter how small or imaginary, gets the ‘jobseeker’ thrown off benefit, either to beg from friends and relatives, go to food banks, or starve to death.

It’s another return to the wretched, dismal world before the welfare state. After the introduction of some kind of unemployment relief by the Liberal government in 1911, unemployed workers seeking such government support also had to show that the were ‘genuinely seeking work’. Eric Hopkins in his Rise and Decline of the English Working Classes notes that the phrase was removed by the Labour party in their second government in the 1930s. Hopkins states that this made it much easier for the unemployed to get benefit.

So, under Thatcher, Major, Bliar and Cameron, we’re going back to the pre-War world of insecure and temporary benefits and poor and costly medical provision. All for the enrichment of the very Tory middle classes, desperate to put those pesky oiks from the working and lower middle classes in their place.

Vox Political on BoJo, Gove and Somebody Else Demanding Public Clean Up Britain for Free for the Queen

February 29, 2016

This is a very bizarre story. The government has, in what it thinks is its infinite wisdom, that we should all get off our backsides this summer and celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday by cleaning up the country for free. Mike over at Vox Political asks the obvious question why the poor should be expected to work free of charge for a multi-millionaire monarch. The scheme was launched today by Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, and someone called Rory Stewart, wearing hi-vis jackets matching T-shirts with the slogan ‘Clean for the Queen’, and posing next to a giant banner of the slogan. Mike points out that this is particularly hypocritical, given that BoJo, Gove and presumably Stewart would never, ever, absolutely do anything themselves unless they were being very generously paid for it.

Go see Mike’s blog for his comments, piccies of the three Tories and the poster, and further information on the way this has been greeted on Twitter. Even one of the hacks on the Graun has had a dig at this.

Tories line up to demand free labour for our multi-millionaire monarch

It’s a bizarre idea. The Tories have clearly decided that something should be done to celebrate Brenda’s longevity. My guess is that in previous ages this would probably have resulted in pageants, fetes and parties up and down the country. Roughly the same kind of jollification that was de rigueur under the Victorians when the Queen (Gawd bless ‘er!) reached a particularly venerable age. They have, however, clearly decided that this is not acceptable in today’s economic climate, because it would cost money.

And as the government’s policy is based on cutting services, and getting the rest of the population to perform them for free, let getting old age pensioners to run libraries under ‘localism’, they’ve clearly settled on this policy instead. So, no street parties like we had a few years ago when it was the anniversary of D-Day. Instead, we’re all being told to get to work, and like it, because it’s celebratory.

It all reminds me of the corvee, the system of forced labour that was part of the serfs’ feudal duties to the lord of the manor during the Middle Ages, and which survived in France and elsewhere until the French Revolution. The Queen is a feudal monarch, and once again, her loyal subjects are being asked to toil for her for free on public works. No doubt Cameron will be making notes, wondering how he can fit it into some kind of universal, neo-feudal system. How about placing each citizen of this glorious nation under the personal authority of a leading businessman, who can use them anyway they like, putting them to work for free, on the pretext that this is somehow promoting public spirit and teaching them how to be good employees and submit obediently to the authority of the upper classes. Or is this too much like workfare?

It also reminds me of one of the more bizarre Communist rituals that used to go on in the former Soviet Union. Every year in February, in the depths of the Russian winter, there was a national cleaning day, when good Soviet citizens had to clean the streets and spring clean their places of work. That included cleaning the windows, and opening them to the bitter Russian cold. You were also expected to bring out of storage – or hiding – all the old statues of Lenin and the tat celebrating the Bolshevik Revolution, putting them proudly on display. The busts of Lenin came in a variety of materials, to suit the pockets of the Soviet purchaser. The really expensive busts were in stone. The cheaper alternative was papier mache. I can remember reading a description of the kerfuffle that broke out during one of the spring-cleans in a travel book on the Soviet Union in one office, wear they discovered that their papier mache bust of the great Soviet leader had got damp and sprouted mushrooms.

This was the Soviet Union, one of the archetypal monolithic totalitarian states. For all that Cameron, BoJo, Gove and their odious cohorts represent the direct economic polar opposite in capitalism, they share the Soviet state’s authoritarianism, its need to control absolutely and its rigidly hierarchical social order. This was a society where the party elite had access to a range of goods and services, including special, curtained shops, from which the ordinary Soviet citizens were barred. This was a state built on slave labour, where the leaders of the various industries had actually put in orders to the KGB for the numbers of new people they wanted arrested to work for them. Workfare has been organised very much on the same lines, where the unemployed are effectively rented out to the ‘work providers’ as unfree workers, who are paid only their jobseekers allowance. And not even that, if they’ve been sanctioned. Mike and the other bloggers have shown that, by law, you are still liable to perform workfare, even if you’ve been sanctioned and are not being given your Jobseeker’s Allowance. This is true slave labour, of which Stalin would be envious.

And it seems this initiative, to get us all cleaning the country up for the Queen, is pretty much more of the same. Now I’ve no objection whatsoever to campaigns to Keep Britain Tidy, like there were in the 1970s. I wish more people had respect for their environment, and there was less littering and fly-tipping. But I don’t see why we should be expected to do it for nothing. And I am very suspicious in case the government suddenly announces that it is very impressed with how well this has worked, and now wants to roll it out as a national scheme.
I can see that coming all too easily.

Vox Political Asks the People of Broxtowe If They Really Want Their Tory Candidate

March 21, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has post this piece, whose very title asks a very, very good question Broxtowe: Do you really want Anna Soubry as your MP?. Soubry is a right-wing, true-blue Tory reactionary, who now occupies the seat. It had been Labour since 1997, and although now Tory, is a marginal.

He points out just how right-wing and nasty her views and voting record are. She has voted for the punitive welfare cuts that have sent hundreds of thousands into poverty, including the bedroom tax. Against this, she supports tax cuts for the rich, and the transfer of the tax burden to the poor through raising VAT. She also supports the privatisation of the NHS, the forests, Royal Mail, and Britain’s schools. She doesn’t, however, seem to believe that further and higher education should be free, as she voted for raising tuition fees and ending the support for ‘A’ level students. She also support further military actions overseas and purchasing Trident. As for justice, she supported the ending of legal aid, secret courts, and the further expansion of the powers of the security services to spy on citizens’ private emails and telephone conversations without warrants. She is also an opponent of devolving further powers to local authorities, as well as a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. Given this record, it’s to be expected that she also hates green energy and supports the badger cull.

The article begins

Anna Soubry has been among the more vocal Conservatives in the Coalition government – which is interesting as she represents the extremely marginal seat of Broxtowe.

The seat had been Labour-held since 1997, and it seems likely that the Tory victory here in 2010 was a sign of dissatisfaction with the then-current Labour government, rather than interest in anything the Tories had to offer.

How would residents vote if they knew Ms Soubry’s voting record? Let’s find out.

She is against increasing income tax paid by the extremely rich; against a bankers’ bonus tax; supports cutting Corporation Tax (even though this does not make companies more likely to invest in the UK or its workforce); and supported the increase in VAT. Clearly she believes in taxing the poor to pay for the rich.

She is strongly in favour of the current government’s creeping privatisation of the NHS.

She strongly supported the Bedroom Tax.
She strongly supported cuts to social security benefits including Jobseekers’ Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Disability Living Allowance, the Personal Independence Payment and so on.
She strongly supported the benefit uprating cap, ensuring that benefits do not rise in line with prices.
She voted very strongly for making local councils responsible for helping people afford council tax – and for reducing the amount available for such support.

She is thus a typical member of Cameron’s Tories, who believes in grinding the poor into desperate poverty and rolling back the frontiers of the state in order to make life even better and more profitable for the rich.

Mike states that people of Broxtowe need to know this information.
They do. Then they can judge if they really want this woman to represent them.

Brady on the Fascism, Business and the Contempt for the Unemployed

February 23, 2015

In my last post, I quote Robert Brady on the similarity between Fascist attitudes and those of American businessmen. Both of whom viewed man as a rapacious predator. He observed how American businessmen were quite content to see the US invade and attack other countries purely from economic interests. The same attitudes also led the US to send in the army against domestic protestors, such as strikers, share-cropper and hunger marchers.

Brady also considered that business would prefer autocratic rule, and remarked on the business class’ absolute contempt for the unemployed, and their indifference to poverty caused by poor wages.

The condition of society in which the business men would rule would be that one which is natural to them. It would, as a matter of course, be centralised, autocratic, and intolerant, and it would be so constructed that each would get exactly what he deserves for the simple reason that according to the rules he deserves whatever he can get. It is the well accepted business view that most, if not all of the unemployed are shiftless, worthless, irresponsible, and undisciplined. It is taken as axiomatic that the lowest wage-earner receives all that “is coming to him” since if he could get more by any means which does not disturb business routine it is obvious that he would. His failure is the measure of his incompetence, and with that all has been said about it that may be mentioned by gentlemen of good breeding and respectable station!

Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic are passing legislation, under the guise of reforming electoral registration, designed to strip the vote from the poor, ethnic minorities and the young. The idea that unemployment is due to personal character defects is behind the ‘less eligibility’ attitudes towards welfare benefits, in which workfare and sanctions are used to force the unemployed off jobseeker’s allowance, DLA and ESA. It’s behind the work capability assessment and the planned use of CBT by ‘job coaches’.

And the same attitude is also behind the Tories’ manufacture of a low wage economy, in which workers are forced into part-time work, zero-hours contracts, or compete for internships and are placed on workfare, all to provide cheap labour for business.

Vox Political: Now Tories Want to Strip Benefits from Fat People

February 15, 2015

Fat Cameron

David Cameron, showing off the toned physique for which the Tory front bench is known.

Just when you thought the Tories couldn’t get any more mean-spirited, bullying and petty, they prove you wrong. Yesterday they announced that they would strip benefits from people they considered obese. Mike over at Vox Political has put up this story about it Tories say the obese should ‘lose weight or lose benefits’. Pot, kettle, black. It begins

The Conservative Party seems determined to sink itself into the deepest, blackest hole ever created by a political organisation for itself.

While other parties unveil attractive policies designed to bring voters onboard, the Tories have said they want to remove benefits from people they have decided are fat. Here’s the Independent story, and for good measure we’ll throw in the BBC‘s coverage too.

You might be thinking to yourself, why not? They’ve already attacked people on Jobseekers’ Allowance, ESA and DLA as scroungers; they’ve pushed pensionable ages back by years; and they’re about to attack people who are on pensions, already. Why not continue proving what a bunch of spoiled little schoolboys they are by picking on fatties as well (oh, along with druggies and alkies)?

Perhaps because, as ‘Neti’ pointed out on Twitter: “Medication can mean that people gain weight and not be overeating.”

He notes that the British Medical Association attacked the plans of Westminster Council to deny overweight people benefits on these grounds in 2013 as ‘draconian’.

He quotes David Cameron as saying of this new Tory strategy:

“It is not fair to ask hardworking taxpayers to fund the benefits of people who refuse to accept the support and treatment that could help them get back to a life of work,” he said.

The good folk of the Twitterverse are much less impressed. One of these is John Wight, who commented that it was ‘a wheeze designed to appeal to the smug middle classes’.

The Social Snobbery of the Slave Owners

It is. And it shows the arrogance, the preening sense of superiority of Cameron and his crew, as they sneer at those they consider to be physically as well as socially inferior. And lying even further underneath is the assumption of the feudal elite that we are chattels, and they should have absolute control of our bodies as well as our labour.

Private Eye published a revealing piece of gossip about the sneering mentality of the Tory grandees towards the plebs back in the 1990s. One of their contributors or spies had been at the special dining hall set up for the very rich at the Cheltenham Festival that year. This was lavishly laid out with the very finest cordon bleu cuisine. In the room at the time was one of the Tory bigwigs. I’ve got a feeling it was Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mud, but I can’t be sure. The Tory looked out of the window at the rest of the crowd below, eating the meals they’d bought from the burger stand. ‘Oh, look at all those people with their little bits of plastic,’ he sneered.

It’s the same mentality. “Oh, look at all those fat chavs! They clearly don’t eat their greens, and especially not those specially picked and cultivated by elite chefs somewhere in Tuscany or the Vale of Evesham. And they don’t know what balsamic vinegar is! How dreadful!”

butterball001_jpg

Hellraiser’s ‘Butterball’: Not known to be a relation of Eric Pickles

Now this is, of course, as Mike points out, deeply hypocritical considering the physiques of many of the Tory party. Like Nicholas ‘Fatty’ Soames, or Eric Pickles, who looks to me like nothing less than the ‘Butterball’ Cenobite from Hellraiser. And whatever it is about, it’s really not about getting the nation healthy or back to work.

The Alternatives: Changing British Shopping and Food Labelling

There are ways you could get people to eat healthier food by changing the way people shop and work. One suggestion was to label very clearly the fat content on foods, so that people were aware of just how many calories they were putting in their bodies. One other suggestion was to levy a ‘fat tax’ on fatty, unhealthy foods, like pizzas, fish and chips and so on.

You could also encourage people to eat better by bringing back local shops close to where they live, rather than supermarkets to which they have to drive. This was brought out in one of the series with Jamie Oliver, where he went to one of Britain’s fattest cities to encourage the townspeople there to lay off the chicken McNuggets and eat their greens and muesli instead. One of the mothers he enlisted in his campaign actually burst into tears about this. She bought her kids KFCs and McDonalds, not because she was lazy, but simply because that was all she could afford. She could not afford to travel outside her area to go to the supermarket to buy the super-healthy greens and foods Jamie was recommending.

The Poor, Depression and Diet

And there’s also another, emotional reason why the very poor and the unemployed eat fatty foods: they make you feel better after another depressing, dispiriting day. This was discussed again back in the ’90s by the American broadcaster and columnist, Joe Queenan, and his guests on the Radio 4 show, Postcard from Gotham. This was the time when the news had just broken that America had an obesity epidemic. They noted that, in contrast to Britain and Europe at the time, America really was the ‘land of plenty’, where the food portions were massively bigger. But they were aware that the poor ate badly because of the miserable condition of their lives.

Cutting Fatty Foods and Resistance from the Food Industry

Now the last thing the Tories actually want to do is start putting taxes on food, or have the fat content, or anything else in them clearly labelled. Many Tory MPs have very strong connections to the food and drinks industry. It’s why, for example, John Major’s government did precious little about dangerous alcohol consumption for so long, and consistently blocked legislation to limit consumption. That’s state interference, which is by nature Wrong and Oppressive. Worse, it may damage profits.

Similarly, blocking supermarkets and encouraging a new generation of Arkwrights to set up their own, s-s-small businesses, as greengrocers, family butchers, bakers and so on is another idea that definitely ain’t going to get anywhere with the Tories. Not when the supermarkets seem to be on the march everywhere, driving out their smaller competitors.

Levelling the Playing Fields

And this is before we get to the way successive administrations following Maggie have sold off public sports facilities, like school playing fields, public baths and sports centres. Private Eye has again been covering this scandal for some time in its ‘Levelling the Playing Fields’ column. This has been such as scandal that even the arch-Tory Quentin Letts has pilloried it and the Tory minister responsible in his book, 50 People who Buggered Up Britain.

All of this means challenging vested commercial interests, and reversing decades-old developments in the way people work, exercise and shop. It’s expensive, would require careful thought and planning, and could take years. Besides, it would attack the very industries that fund the Tories and provide their MPs with an income. It’s far easier for them to do absolutely nothing, and go back to doing what they do best: sneering and attacking the poorest.

Westminster Council and the Homes for Votes

It’s no surprise that this move also came two years ago from Westminster Council. The Tories there have been on a very long campaign to cleanse the area socially of the poor. In the 1990s there was the ‘Homes for Votes’ scandal, where the leader of the council, Tesco director Dame Shirley Porter, and her minions arranged for good Tory voters to be housed in good building, while the poor were removed to an asbestos-ridden tower block. This seems to be have been another ruse to drive the lower class and poor out of the area, so they could keep it as a low council tax, pristine area for the very rich.

Seasoning the Slaves

And ultimately, behind all this – the class snobbery about the bodies of the poor and the poor quality foods they consume, is an even more sinister, essentially feudal assumption: that the slave master should have absolute control over the bodies and physical fitness of his slaves. During the slave trade, the captains of the slave ships during the long journey across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and America would take their slaves up on deck and make them exercise. This was to keep them just fit enough so that some of them might survive, and fetch a good price. Once there, the slaves could be seasoned for a year so that they could recover and be fit enough to be a worthwhile commercial investment for their purchasers.

That statement by Cameron about it not being fair to ask ‘hard-working’ people to fund people who are too fat to be available for work shows something of the same mentality. It’s the attitude of the feudal lord complaining about the laziness of his peasants. John Locke, the founder of modern liberal political philosophy certainly was no opponent of slavery. He worked for the Board of Plantations when the English government was expanding their colonies in America and the Caribbean. The constitution he drew up for Carolina was strongly feudal in character. Nevertheless, he believed that free people should have absolute control over their bodies, to the point where military commanders could only ask troops to risk their lives, not command. This latest move by the Tories undermines this fundamental principle. It shows they still have the deep-seated feudal assumption that they have the absolute right to control the bodies of their serfs.

Acting Out Totalitarianism

I also wonder how far this new move is an attempt by the Tories to discredit the welfare state by being as totalitarian as possible in its name. For many Americans, the welfare state is just about synonymous with totalitarian Communism. A little while ago American Conservatives opposed to Obamacare were looking at the various campaigns of the Blair government to cut down on obesity in the name of saving the NHS money as examples of the totalitarian assumptions of the British welfare state. “Look! They actually tell you what to do at that level! That’s what Socialism is really like!” It looks to me that the Tories have taken over those arguments, and decided to act them out and push them as far as possible, in order to cut down on ‘welfare dependence’.

The Nanny State vs. Nanny Cameron

And finally, let’s call out this latest measure for another piece of hypocrisy. Quite apart from the fact that the Tories have their fair share of gutbuckets, remember how the Daily Mail and the other Tory rags screamed blue murder when Blair’s government started trying to get people to be more health aware.

Such as the various posters that were stuck up on hoardings up and down the country, telling you not to overdo the amount of salt you put in your food.

They immediately shouted that this was the ‘nanny state’, and that it showed the overbearing, micromanaging mentality of New Labour. The Tories were against all that. They stood for sturdy self-reliance against such petty meddling with people’s personal affairs.

Except now, they don’t. Not when it reinforces their middle and upper class prejudices. Not when it humiliates the lower orders even further. Not when they can deprive people of benefits, make the poor and sick starve, and force them out of house and home.

Well, here’s a musical response to this. It’s the mighty Motorhead’s ‘Eat the Rich’. Enjoy!

Vox Political: How Many Deaths Have Tory Welfare Cuts Caused?

February 12, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political the other day published this article, How many deaths have Tory evidence-free policies caused?. It reports the Guardian’s article on Labour MP Anne Begg’s questioning of Esther McVile and Chris Hayes of the DWP over whether they actually carried out any studies into how this would affect the benefit claimants on whom it was inflicted. Mike writes

Yesterday’s Guardian article by Zoe Williams about evidence-free government is strangely muted about the main headline-grabber: The fact that she is writing about policies that kill.

“Recently, Dame Anne Begg had some questions for the employment minister, Esther McVey, on the Welfare Reform Act of 2012,” the article states.

“She wanted to know about cuts to benefits, having carefully gathered evidence from charities and food banks in advance. ‘Minimum JSA [jobseeker’s allowance] sanction,’ she began, ‘went from two weeks to four weeks and the maximum went from six months to three years. These are quite sizeable lengths of time, so what evidence did you have on the likely impact on claimants that these extended sanction periods would have?’

“Were there any reasonable grounds that could be shared with any reasonable person to think this policy would be effective – any attempt to visualise how it would look?… There were not. There was a lot of faffing, and some broad and extraneous evidence about sanctions in general. ‘I take it from your failure to answer the question that you did not do any research,’ the chair finally concluded, having grilled McVey and the DWP’s Chris Hayes for long enough.”

Mike then gives his estimate of the number of people dying per year due to government sanctions, based on the available figures and the examples of two claimants, who died within two weeks of each other after being sanctioned by Ashton-Under-Lyme Jobcentre. One died of starvation and exposure, the other joins a long list of people, who took their own lives. Given these examples, Mike suggests the number being killed is 53,040 people per year. This is more people than were killed by William the Conqueror during the Harrowing of the North following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The north had been the centre of Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Scandinavian resistance to the Norman invasion. The north of England had been a Viking kingdom, the Kingdom of Yorkshire, and still retained strong Viking sympathies for the Danish kings. In response William’s troops razed whole villages, reducing vast tracts to wasteland. The result was massive famine. William’s repression of the north was so severe, that even centuries later the villages razed by the Normans were depopulated. Mike’s comparison of the government’s attack on the poor and disabled with William the Conqueror’s Harrowing of the North isn’t a piece of romantic historical hyperbole. It graphically shows the depths of despair and deprivation that this government is forcing on its citizens.

He also quotes Samuel Miller, an academic who has researched the effect of the welfare reforms, who states that there was very little investigation of just how the benefit changes would affect people. This did not, however, stop the creation of the harshest sanctions system in the developed world.

To add insult to injury, Iain Duncan Smith has now crawled out of whichever festering pit he calls home, to spew out another self-aggrandising lie. This time he claims his benefit cuts have saved £50bn.

He’s a liar and genocide. It’s long past time he was thrown out of government, along with the rest of this cruel, corrupt and thoroughly degenerate administration.

Mike’s article can be read at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/02/10/how-many-deaths-have-tory-evidence-free-policies-caused/.