Skip to main content

Mr Duncan-Smith offers a disingenuous and divisive comparison

Some time ago, actually it was a long time ago when I was in my early teens, someone close to me bought a table. It was an early flat pack variety. It came with a top and four legs. He followed the instructions to the letter screwing the legs into the top. But when he had completed it the table wobbled. One leg he explained was shorter than the other three; so he sawed a bit from each of the other legs. The table wobbled. One leg, he explained, was longer than the other three. So, he sawed a bit off. The table wobbled. He went on cutting the legs, but the table continued to wobble. Cut, cut, cut! By this time he had convinced himself there was no alternative to it.  He ended up with a very low table indeed, supported by four very stumpy legs and a bit of cardboard placed under one of them to stop it wobbling on the uneven floor. 

Mr Duncan-Smith argues that we need a 1% cap on benefits to be 'fair to average earners'. Average  earners have seen their incomes rise by less than inflation whilst benefits have increased in line with inflation. That he says is unfair. One leg is too long, so he is going to cut a bit off. The table will of course continue to wobble. And it will wobble because the floor is uneven. The reason this time is that what he thinks is a separate leg isn't separate at all. It is a kind of category mistake.  It is a neat category, those on benefits, as if they are a different kind of human being.

Cutting benefits in this way will simply drive many hard working families deeper into poverty. Five million workers receive less than a subsistence wage. In the longer term, cutting benefits is counter productive. The cycle of poverty and disease, particularly child poverty, simply adds to the burden of health costs. It is less than fair because it makes the poorest pay disproportionately for the financial mess they had no hand in creating. They are paying through cuts in benefits and cuts in services upon which they rely the most. The government are missing the point about fairness, and the poorest are paying for the government's lack of policy to stimulate growth, get Britain working and cut the deficit. That is unfair.

Nearly 7 million working-age adults forming 3.6 million families in the UK are living in extreme financial stress. They have no savings, no equity in their homes and they struggle to feed their families. Furthermore the poorest 10% have seen their incomes fall in real terms for over a decade. This contrasts with the richest 10% who have seen their incomes rise in real terms. Now that is unfair. The gap between rich and poor is ever wider. Having given a break to the rich by cutting top rate tax, it is disingenuous for the government to now justify a cap on benefits by arguing for fairness. 

There is another problem with the argument about fairness. It just doesn't stack up. Mr Duncan-Smith gets his maths wrong again.  John Leech, the Liberal Democrat MP for Manchester Withington got it absolutely right in the parliamentary debate. It is unfair, he said, to equate a 1% limit on benefits worth less than £100 a week with a 1% pay rise for someone on a salary of £25,000 a year. Some Liberal Democrats, such as Charles Kennedy, have vowed to continue to fight this "divisive and unfair policy".  If they do so, they deserve credit and support for that. 

Most of those receiving benefits are in work, and most of them also  have received less than inflation increases in earnings. They too have been squeezed by the recession, and now the government wants to squeeze them further. 

Mr Duncan-Smith prefers a disingenuous and divisive comparison. It fits the 'shirker' and 'striver' categorisation, which Mr Vince Cable finds distasteful. It is wrong. it is unethical.  It is a bad policy and a bad argument. 

 

 

Comments

  1. I find myself explaining to so called intelligent people exactly how money works. The working poor the unemployed get benefits, we cant save as we have to spend it to live. Now IDS, and his ilk think money just comes into our hands and stops, it doesnt we buy food which pays companies to employ more staff, who pay more tax, they pay the producers money who hire people who pay tax. Money doesnt just stop it flows and moves, the only time it stops is in tax avoiders the money vanishes. So the unemployed and the working poor actually help the economy keep moving. If we had no money we wouldnt be able to buy things so less money for those businesses, which means less jobs there. Trying to get people to think beyond the rhetoric of they get money and its wasted its hard

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes it strikes me as counter-productive that the Bank of England on the one hand pumps money into the economy with quantitative easing whilst the government pumps it back out again through cuts in spending. Meanwhile the economy stagnates and unemployment remains high.

      Delete

Post a comment

Popular posts from this blog

The lion and the wildebeest

Birds flock, fish school, bees swarm, but social being is more than simply sticking together.  Social groups enable specialisation and a sharing of abilities, and enhances ability, learning and creating new tricks. The more a group works together, the more effective they become as a team.  Chimpanzees learn from each other how to use stones to crack nuts, or sticks to get termites.  All around us we see cooperation and learning in nature.  Nature is inherently creative.  Pulling together becomes a rallying cry during a crisis.  We have heard it throughout the coronavirus pandemic.  "We are all in this together", a mantra that encourages people to adopt a common strategy. In an era of 'self-interest' and 'survival of the fittest,'  and 'selfish gene', we lose sight of the obvious conclusion from the evidence all around us.   Sticking together is more often the better approach.  This is valid for the lion as it is also for the wildebeest.   We don't

No evidence for vaccine link with autism

Public health bodies are worried that an alarming drop in childhood vaccinations is leading to a resurgence of diseases in childhood that we had all but eradicated.  Misinformation and scare stories about the harmful effects of vaccines abound on the internet and in social media.  Where they are based on 'science', it is highly selective, and often reliance is placed on falsehoods.  Conspiracy theories also abound - cover-ups, deception, lies. As a result, too many parents are shunning vaccinations for their children.  So, what does the published, peer-reviewed literature tell us about vaccincations? Are they safe and effective, or are there long term harmful effects?  A new report now provides some of the answers. New evidence published in the Cochrane Library today finds MMR, MMRV, and MMR+V vaccines are effective and that they are not associated with increased risk of autism. Measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (also known as chickenpox) are infectious diseases cau

Therapeutic animal stress

Interacting with animals is known to be therapeutic,  particularly in reducing stress.  But do we consider sufficiently the effects this may have on the animals involved?   We might assume that because it is calming for us, then it must be so for the therapeutic animals, but is this so?  New research suggests that it isn't always without stress for the animals involved.  Positive human-animal interaction relates to changes in physiological variables both in humans and other animals, including a reduction of subjective psychological stress (fear, anxiety) and an increase of oxytocin levels in the brain.  It also reduces the 'stress' hormone, cortisol. Indeed, these biological responses have measurable clinical benefits.  Oxytocin has long been implicated in maternal bonding, sexual behaviour and social affiliation behaviours and in promoting a sense of well-being .  So far, so good.  We humans often turn to animals for stress relief, companionship, and even therapy.  We kno