How to answer the Tory benefit mantra

First the Conservative mantra on benefits:

1) we can’t afford current benefits levels
2) tax credits are a disaster
3) huge estates are full of people who can work but don’t
4) high benefits are a migrant magnet
5) work is good for your health and wellbeing
6) IDS is recognised across the political spectrum as having a genuine desire to tackle the vicious cycle of benefit dependency
7) high benefit areas are also high drug dependency areas
8) the growth in disability claims was driven by that benefit route being the most financially generous

We can’t afford the current position?  What is your solution?

Dr.M replies:

You are right…. We will never agree on anything, but here goes trying to refute every single point that you made:-

1. The largest proportion of the benefits bill is spent on pensions.  The government dare not touch this because it would directly hit its voters.  Jobseekers’ allowance is one of the smallest proportions of the benefits budget.

2. Tax credits are a disaster.  They reflect the refusal of businesses to pay decent wages and result in the taxpayer subsidising the private sector.  How can it be right to punish those in work who are paid inadequately?  It is incredible that we have such widespread employment and yet the state still has to subsidise people to work.

3. When Thatcher decided to sell off council housing but deny councils the opportunity to build replacements, those who could buy their properties (wealthier council tenants) did so leaving the poorest people in council accommodation.  That had the effect of concentrating poverty and the problems associated with it in specific areas.  Much of that poverty is to be found in towns which once had vibrant economies based on various local industries. (e.g. steel, coal, textiles, potteries etc, etc).  The move to an unbalanced service-based economy, the decline of manufacturing and globalisation has meant that there is no sustainable employment in many of these areas any longer.  Rather than recognise the problem, it has been convenient for successive governments (New Labour included) to blame the victims of economic decline for their situation.  It is not the fault of the majority of poor people who live in inadequate housing in areas where there is no work.

4.There is no direct evidence on whether welfare has acted as a “magnet” encouraging migrants to come to the UK, and such evidence would be hard to gather.  Because most non-EU citizens are initially ineligible for benefits, benefits are unlikely to be a meaningful draw for significant numbers within this group.  EU citizens can access benefits more quickly, but the majority are working so out-of work benefits are unlikely to be a draw for them either (the unemployment rate among EEA nationals was 5.2% in the last three months of 2014, according to Migration Observatory analysis of the Labour Force Survey).  EU immigrants are more likely to be employed and claim significantly less in benefits than people born and brought up here.  This is according to all of the evidence and data that I could find on the subject.  I would be very interested to see some independent data which suggests otherwise.

5.  I completely agree that work is good for health and well-being provided that it is not exploitative and that it is sustainable.

6.  IDS is recognised by SOME as having your stated objectives.  He is NOT recognised across the political spectrum.  Many (including myself) regard him as misguided at best and thoroughly ignorant and dangerous at worst.

7.  Your statement that high benefit areas are also drug dependency areas is probably the weakest of all of your attempts to defend benefit cuts.  To begin with correlation does not imply causation.  Let me give you another ‘fact’…. the more fire engines and the more firemen who attend a fire, the worse the resulting damage to the property.  If you sell off the best housing stock to people who can afford to buy it, then poor housing stock to accommodate the poorest people remains.  Thus, there is an undue concentration of people who may may be unemployed for a variety of reasons which might include mental ill-health, physical ill-health, forced unemployment because they are carers, a lack of sustainable employment in the area and, of course fecklessness (your favourite).

It may interest you to know that the number of registered drug addicts rose from less than 3000 in 1980 to 43,000 by 1996 when the tories lost the GE.  Addicts of the 1980s were young, out of work, single with few qualifications.  This was the FIRST time that drug-taking had become associated with working class youth in disaffected and isolated communities.  Previously drug-taking had been the province of the middle class.  Martin Barnes (CEO of Drugscope) is in no doubt that the collapse of the old industries is to blame.

It is also interesting to note that whilst South Wales is recognised as the area with the worst heroine problem, Sussex and Somerset are the worst hotspots for Cocaine and Ecstasy respectively.

Once again, the idea that simply cutting benefits will address the drug issue is symptomatic of the flawed nature of IDS’s priori assumptions about the causes of poverty.

8.  I am sure that there is much wrong with the way that disability is assessed and compensated for.  However, simply cutting the benefits of those who need it is hardly a solution is it?  A system in which 80% of decisions on disability benefits are reversed on appeal is fundamentally flawed.  Just how much money has been wasted employing unqualified and incompetent agencies to carry out these assessments?

9.  The bedroom tax is an excellent example of the cruelty/ineptitude of IDS and Esther McVey.  This policy has caused untold hardship and misery to large numbers of people required to move to smaller properties (good idea) that do not exist (the reality).  The amounts that it was supposed to have saved have been downgraded and downgraded again and it is now thought that the cost of dealing with the fallout of this ill-thought through idea has cost more than it has saved. In other words… another example of IDS ineptitude.

10.  Benefit fraud and/or overpayments by the DUP cost the taxpayer £4.6 billion in 2016.  The NAO also reported that the utterly inept DWP had UNDERPAID £1.6 billion leaving desperate people even more vulnerable.  About £1.3 billion is estimated to be the cost of fraud.  By contrast, the estimates for unpaid tax is about £34 billion!  And the government response to this????  To CUT the number of Inland Revenue staff collecting it!  Indeed for every pound that an Inland Revenue officer is paid, they collect about £96 in tax…  So there is one area for improvement would you not agree?  The bottom line is that is more popular with the Daily Mail and the tories to rubbish whole communities of people than to get their priorities straight and focus on collecting tax from the people who probably vote for them!

3 thoughts on “How to answer the Tory benefit mantra

  1. Pingback: How to answer the Tory benefit mantra — Think Left | kickingthecat

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