Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Culture of Entitlement

"Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" - John Lydon

In a speech today, UK Prime Minister David Cameron will announce a Conservative party plan to slash benefits, specifically housing benefits for people under 25 and support for single parents of multiple children.

Cameron is leaving old age pensioners free from the cuts, proving that he has learned from the budget debacle when George Osborne and the rest of the government were pilloried for the 'granny tax', and also that he is well aware that older people are more likely to vote Conservative, while the young, poor and unemployed are not.

No surprises there: Cameron is just a politician, and politicians are conditioned to do anything that will enable them to survive at the polls. Far more important is the fact that this is just part of a sustained attack on the young, the unemployed, the poor, the sick and the disabled, and that it is a microcosm of a much larger war.

Cameron will not try to push these changes through in the current coalition government, but instead intends them to be part of the Conservative party manifesto in the 2015 election.

The buzzword of the last couple of years has been 'austerity', a responsible-sounding little euphemism that bleeds out none of the viciousness it embodies. It is a word designed to make people think: 'OK, we've spent beyond our means and it's time to buckle our belts and be more responsible', a perfectly reasonable thing for anyone to believe.

Reasonable, of course, as long as we are all in it together(TM).

The UK deficit is high because of the recession, which has reduced revenues as less people are in work and also are spending less, while government expenditure has increased, again due to unemployment, as people are entitled to benefits.

As of March 2012, net UK public debt, which has greatly increased due to the interventions into the financial sector after the 2008 economic crisis, stood at 2.3116 trillion pounds, 147.3% of GDP. While this is not as large as that of some other countries, it is still a hefty sum. It is reasonable to accept that the government needs to bring the debt down somehow.

In his speech David Cameron will say that his government is looking for an additional 10 billion pounds in welfare cuts. Again, OK...we're all in this together, right?

Wrong.

Cameron will talk in his speech of a 'culture of entitlement', namely people expecting to be bailed out by the system if they can't find a job or otherwise need state aid, and it is a statement of truly staggering hypocrisy. George Orwell, who wrote of the twisting of language by authorities, often so that it means the opposite of reality, will be nodding sagely in his grave.

Because the true culture of entitlement can be found among the traditional supporters of Cameron and his party: the rich, the very well-off, the corporations, and the upper classes. On a touching personal note, Cameron's father made the family fortune in tax havens.

The reality is that the government could save a great deal more by dealing with tax evasion and avoidance. In this very informative article, we can see that the tax gap, namely the amount of tax evaded, avoided and not collected, is estimated to be over 120 billion pounds.

Tax avoidance is overwhelmingly carried out by the wealthy, aided by clever and very well-paid accountants who take advantage of loopholes in the law. These are the people who really live in a culture of entitlement, and for Cameron to suggest otherwise is frankly disgraceful and destroys his credibility as a representative of a nation.

Cameron and his rich chums, along with The Daily Mail, like to vilify those on welfare as lazy scroungers and benefits cheats. As can be seen from a chart in the same article, benefits fraud accounts for less than 1% of that lost in the tax gap. If Cameron was truly serious about reducing the debt and deficit, he would address tax justice at the very least, but as this would upset his support, don't hold your breath.

It is not only the tax gap that can be worked on; huge sums of money are wasted on private consultants in the armed services or in education and multiple other areas, fields that could be easily staffed by the armies of unemployed with proper training. Again, this would not please the Tory donors so...keep holding that breath.

Even more money is thrown into the totally unnecessary Trident program, not to mention the bottomless hole also known as the Afghanistan War, and let's not forget our proud military adventures in Libya, where we saw costs like 183,000 pounds for a Brimstone missile and 50,000 pounds per Paveway guided bomb (see article for the full scandalous list).

No, instead we are told young people and single mothers have to pay instead.

And what will happen to young people when you take away their benefits and not create jobs for them? This comment from 'Obbsie' in the Guardian, who says he/she is a retired police officer, sums up one ominous route (edited slightly for punctuation):

"As an ex-cop, I can only say that this will drive more young people who live in inner city areas into the arms of the gangs who, despite what senior police and politicians say, control swathes of territory in those areas where poverty is prevalent. Gangs thrive where hopelessness exists and this announcement itself will build up the pressure of resentment. When it all explodes again, Dave 'we're all in this together' Cameron, his expense fiddling MPs and tax dodging millionaire supporters will once again hide behind the ‘old bill’ who now loathe Cameron and his government. As a recently retired police officer I never thought I'd be making this sort of statement."

It is not all bad news, of course: the much-loved Queen Elizabeth will receive an annual 20% pay rise to 36 million pounds. She does a great job, does she not?

There is no point asking in outraged tones why the government is doing this? If you don't know that this is quite simply an unprecedented power and money grab by the rich at the expense of the poor and democracy itself, you're either staggeringly naive or you have not been paying attention. Or perhaps you don't care. Well, unless you are one of the beneficiaries of said grab, you most definitely will care very soon.

We have been brought to these straits by a hopelessly flawed election system that allows parties with only around 35% national support to force radical policies on a nation that doesn't want them. The system of representative democracy has proved easy to rig in favor of the people with the power, money and will to do so.

There is only one escape from this: to create a grassroots system which puts at the very least the power of veto over government policy directly into the hands of the people. Even digging out the old pitchforks will not work in the long-term, as in most cases, even revolutions lead to regimes which are no better than those that came before, Egypt being one glaring example.

We must all, ALL, work to discard these old and rigged systems, along with the cynical, opportunistic politicians and their enablers in the media, and urgently consider a more direct form of democracy.

'The 99.99998271% - Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy’ by Simon Wood is available for free download. In this 70-page book, the current state of human rights and democracy is discussed, and a simple method of implementing direct democracy is suggested.
Simon Wood on twitter (simonwood11) and Facebook or at his blog.

1 comment:

  1. It's all well and good for the government to search for ways to decrease the benefit burden in this country, but it's also right and proper for the tax & NI payer to know what financial support the government is going to provide for their contributions. There comes a point when the state provides so little support that the tax payer must start to question whether it is worth all of the expense.

    I'm sure that most tax payers would agree with me, we don't work hard and pay tax just so politicians can go to slap up dinners and spout off about how expensive the country is to run.

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