“Our welfare “reforms” will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities.”
Anyone with a degree of sociological imagination, an interest in what happens in our society, a conscience, and a mind of their own, will know that this is lie of unprecedented magnitude. One of many Tory lies. We know that “reform” is Tory-speak for CUT.
How can any of these savage CUTS improve the lives of the growing numbers of already poor people in this Country? CUTS that are falsely named “reforms” by our deceitful, shameful, lying Government – CUTS to people’s already subsistence level income.
We must not lose sight of the fact that it is our money, paid via taxes, that funds our social security. And that basic subsistence level income is just enough to ensure we meet basic survival needs. Food, fuel and shelter. Basic Department of Work and Pensions linked benefit rates were originally calculated with the assumption that people will also receive full housing benefit and council tax benefit. The amounts were carefully calculated by officials and specialists to cover those costs of our fundamental survival needs – enshrined in “the amount the law says you need to live on”.
However, the cost of living has risen by 25%, and our benefit rates have not. People are struggling to survive now, and the impact of the cuts in April hasn’t yet become fully apparent. We have lost entitlement to full housing benefit because of the bedroom tax, and the Local Housing Rate policy, and eligibility to council tax benefit is now a postcode lottery, the amount you pay depends on your Local Authority, full exemption for those on other State benefits no longer applies.
The massive welfare cuts, unemployment, insecure work, benefit sanctions, and rising costs of living – all caused by this Government – have had a devastating impact on the most vulnerable citizens. Does anyone actually believe that the only people in this Country that fail to see, and who seem unable to accept that there is a growing social crisis driven by the these brutal cuts under the guise of austerity, and the rapidly rising cost of living, is the Government? The same Government that is responsible for the accelerating, deepening social crisis? I don’t.
Not one bit. Bloody liars.
How can they NOT know that their massive cuts to social safety nets and lifeline benefits have gone much too far, leading to destitution, hardship and hunger, and sometimes, death? This IS economic violence. This IS deliberate and calculated, and not “short-sighted”, or down to simple incompetence. This Government knows exactly what they are doing.
Your money and your services ARE being stolen so that a handful of millionaires can have £107, 000 extra each, every year, and so that ruthless self-serving big businesses and greedy, self-serving, irresponsible and anti-socially behaved rich people can carry on avoiding their tax contributions and social responsibility. The same people have taken a lot from our society, and benefited greatly from it. They don’t want to give anything back. Poor people pay the most tax in the UK.
Income tax forms the bulk of revenues collected by the Government. The second largest source of Government revenue is National Insurance Contributions. The third largest source of Government revenues is value added tax (VAT), and the fourth-largest is corporation tax. A good question to ask is how does this Government spend our money on improving the lives of the citizens of this Country? What is this money for – OUR MONEY – if not to provide services and support those who need it?
US millionaire Stephen King said recently: “The majority would rather douse their dicks with lighter fluid, strike a match, and dance around singing Disco Inferno than pay one more cent in taxes to Uncle Sugar.” Set aside the sexist presumption that all unwilling tax payers are men, stop visualising the unlikely scenario of someone singing Trammps classics with their genitals on fire and realise the truth that tax-gathering institutions are rarely headed by men with pimps’ names.
King has a point: no one wants to pay taxes, least of all the very wealthy. They go to great lengths to avoid their obligation. Worse, some think that what they have been taxed is their money and should be returned to them lickety split or faster. His other point, that stayed in my mind was that the tax system is supposed to stop “rich jerks favouring jerk-off projects” and making our society even more disgustingly inegalitarian than it already is. That’s what democratically elected Governments should do, isn’t it?
Not ours though. Our Tory-led Government with no mandate has truly turned back the tide of social evolution. There are people now living in caves around Stockport, the UK is the world’s six largest economy, yet 1 in 5 of the UK population live below the official poverty line, this means that they experience life as a daily struggle for survival.
This is the reality of the situation: poverty is now more acutely absolute, and becoming more widespread because of an enormous wealth transfer from the taxpayer to private interests, and a bogus ideological austerity programme, sold as a fait accompli. But how do you sell such a thing to civil society?
The battle is being won by propaganda. Disability hate crime is up by 25% after the Government’s attacks on disability benefit claimants, claiming that they are all committing benefit fraud, that these are people pretending to be ill to avoid work. Negative day-to-day reporting, with political endorsement and open support from malevolent individuals such as Mark Hoban and Iain Duncan Smith, constantly portrays people with disability and those facing unemployment as a burden or drain on society.
This method of constructing “Otherness” by the politically powerful colluding in social narrative, commonly via the mainstream media, is a recognised method of social exclusion, minorization and marginalisation. Constructing “Other” social identities involves highlighting difference, rather than acknowledging our common, shared human qualities, characteristics and needs, and typically involves the demonisation and dehumanisation of specific groups, which further justifies political attempts to “civilise” and exploit these “inferior” others. It is a method of propaganda that is commonly employed by authoritarian Governments to justify atrocities such as ethnic cleansing.
A recent TUC study in the UK revealed people’s perceptions about the scale of the welfare bill and welfare fraud were entirely unrelated to the reality. This method of crass negative labelling, demonisation and scapegoating clearly works. Tory – created , “Others”, folk devils and moral panics, to justify the dismantling of our social security and support for the vulnerable. That is an outrage. So where IS the public outrage?
We need to constantly confront the lies with truths and facts, and replace the propaganda with a compelling narrative of our own.
The Tories use a distinctive propaganda technique – much the same as Orwellian “doublespeak” – for example, calling unemployment “worklessness” to imply individual blame and responsibility for a socio-economic phenomenon caused by Governments, and calling benefit sanctions – which condemn those desperate enough to need to claim the pittance “benefits” to survive (just) – “helping people into work”.
What kind of “help” is starvation, destitution and deliberately inflicted pauperisation? I have never come across any theory in psychological research that even suggests that punishment and calculated, callously inflicted impoverishment will motivate anyone at all to get a (none existent) job. In an economic recession.
Actually, it tends not to motivate people on ANY level at all. Maslow points this out, in his well known work on the hierarchy of human needs. He says basically that if people are struggling to meet their basic survival needs, such as finding food, fuel and shelter, then they can’t do anything else but try to survive.
The Chicago Mafia used very similar “techniques of neutralisation” – a series of methods by which those who commit illegitimate acts temporarily neutralise certain values within themselves which would normally prohibit them from carrying out such acts, such as morality, obligation to abide by the law, and so on. In simpler terms, it is a psychological method for people to turn off “inner protests” when they do, or are about to do something they themselves perceive as wrong. Some people don’t have such inner protests – psychopaths, for example, but they employ techniques of neutralisation to manipulate, and switch off those conscience protests of others.
Language use can reflect attempts at minimising the impact of such wrongful acts. The Mafia don’t ever commit “murder”, for example, instead they “take someone out”, “whack them” or “give someone their medicine”. But the victim ends up dead, though, no matter what people choose to call it.
In a similar way, the Tories attempt to to distort meanings, to minimise the impact of what they are doing. For example, when they habitually use the word “reform”, what they are referring to is an act that entails “removal and cut”, and “help and support”: Tory-speak that means to “punish and take from”.Targets for such punishment and cuts translates as Tory “statistical norms” or “not targets but aspirations” and “robust expectations of performance”.
So let’s explore the “help” and “incentivisation” that the Tory-led Coalition have provided for jobseekers in the recession, at a time when jobs are scarce, full-time work is also scarce, and decent jobs that pay enough to get by on are like …well…Tory statistics. Conjured from the aether, a very cheap trick – an illusion. We know that unemployment and underemployment are rising.
The number and length of benefit sanctions has risen hugely under the coalition. This is because the Government have set sanction targets. This means that the sanctions have been decided in advance of any possible reason for them to be applied. As such, they cannot possibly be deemed “fair” or reasonable. When we see they are combined with persecution, media lies and political scapegoating, we see clearly that this is nothing short of economic terrorism.
Two and a quarter million JSA claimants have had their money stopped, and sanctions are for a minimum of four weeks and a maximum of three years. ESA claimants can have 70% of their benefits stopped indefinitely. Imagine being without any income for a month, when your annual income is less than £4,000 a year – no chance of savings to fall back onto.
Here are a few cases gathered from a variety of sources online, in newspapers and parliamentary debates. Remember that sanctions are supposedly there to “incentivise” claimants to find work. As we see, the State is imposing a Kafkaesque, existential attack on benefit claimants, as well as committing acts of economic terrorism. (Gathered originally by Birmingham Against Cuts, reproduced here with thanks.)
- You work for 20 years, then because you haven’t had the process clearly explained to you, you miss an appointment, so you get sanctioned for 3 weeks. (source: Councillor John O’Shea)
- You’re on a workfare placement, and your jobcentre appointment comes round. The jobcentre tells you to sign on then go to your placement which you do. The workfare placement reports you for being late and you get sanctioned for 3 months. (Source: DefiniteMaybe post on Mumsnet forums)
- You’re five minutes late for your appointment, you show the advisor your watch which is running late, but you still get sanctioned for a month (source: Clydebank Post)
- You apply for more jobs than required by your jobseeker’s agreement, but forgot to put down that you checked the local paper (which you’ve been specifically instructed to do via a jobseeker’s direction) so you get sanctioned (source: Steve Rose on twitter – part 1 . part 2)
- You’re on contributions based JSA (which is JSA paid on the basis of National Insurance you’ve paid in, not on your level of income) and get your appointment day wrong and turn up on Thursday instead of Tuesday so you get a four week sanction (source: Cheesy Monkey comment )
- It’s Christmas Day. You don’t do any jobsearch, because it’s Christmas Day. So you get sanctioned. For not looking to see if anyone has advertised a new job on Christmas Day. (source: Poverty Alliance)
- You get an interview but it’s on the day of your nan’s funeral. You have 3 interviews the day before, and you try to rearrange the interview, but the company reports you to the jobcentre and you get sanctioned for failing to accept a job. (source: @TSAAPG on twitter – part 1 . part 2)
- You get given the wrong forms, get sanctioned for not doing the right forms. (Source: Adventures in Workfare blog )
- You’re sick and miss an appointment, but you’ve already missed one so you get sanctioned (Source: @thinktyler on twitter. Rules actually state you can miss a grand total of two appointments for illness each year – particularly harsh if you’re sick and have been wrongly kicked off ESA by ATOS)
- You don’t apply for an IT job that needs skills you don’t have so you get sanctioned. (Source: Geminisnake on Urban75 forums )
- You volunteer in a youth club. For some reason the jobcentre thinks this is paid work so they sanction you. (source: @ukeleleKris on twitter )
- You attend a work programme interview so you miss your jobcentre appointement and get sanctioned (Source: CAB )
- You’ve got no money to travel to look for work so you get sanctioned (source: CAB)
- You have an interview which runs long, so you arrive at your jobcentre appointment 9 minutes late and get sanctioned for a month (source: jsdk posting on Consumer Action Group forums)
- You’ve been unemployed for seven months and are forced onto a workfare scheme but can’t afford to travel to the shop. You offer to work in a different branch you can walk to but are refused and get sanctioned for not attending your workfare placement. (Source: Caroline Lucas MP)
- You attend a family funeral and miss your jobcentre appointment so you get sanctioned. (Source: Derek Twigg MP)
- You have a training appointment at the same time as your jobcentre appointment, you tell the jobcentre you won’t be coming but they say you have to, and to get a letter from your new training organisation. Your training organisation says they don’t provide letters. (Source: Russell Brown MP)
- You are easily confused or have poor English language skills, you will be disproportionately targetted for sanctions (Source: Fiona Taggart MP)
- You retire on the grounds of ill health and claim ESA. You go to your assessment and during the assessment you have a heart attack, so the nurse says they have to stop the assessment. You get sanctioned for not withdrawing from your assessment (Source: Debbie Abrahams MP)
- You get a job, isn’t that great? The job doesn’t start for two weeks, so you don’t look for work in those two weeks, and get sanctioned for it. (Souce:The Guardian )
We know that benefits are calculated to meet basic living requirements only such as food, fuel and shelter needs. To take away that basic support is devastating for those people having to then struggle for basic survival. The Labour Party managed to secure concessions recently that ensured that the right of appeal for those sanctioned is maintained. Iain Duncan Smith wanted to remove that right. But appeals take months to happen, and meanwhile people are left suffering as a result of having no money to live on.
Sanctions are not “help” for jobseekers, sanctions are punishment and persecution. It doesn’t matter how hard you look for work when you are one of 2,500,000 unemployed people and there are only 400,000 jobs available. If we want to help people into work we need to create jobs, not punish individuals for being out of work during the worst recession for over 100 years.
Under Universal Credit rules, it won’t be only the unemployed, sick or disabled people facing sanctions, but everyone dependent on some form of support, such as Tax Credits or Housing Benefits. Part-time workers earning less than the minimum wage for a full week’s work will be placed under the same “conditionality” regime for in-work benefits as those currently claiming Jobseekers Allowance. This is intended to to “incentivise” low paid workers to continuously look for “more or better paid work”.
This conditionality, already experienced by sick and disabled people and those facing unemployment is known as “Work Related Activity”, and will include regular interviews at the Jobcentre, and people will be expected to spend a few hours every day searching for additional work hours. That’s in addition to the hours they already work. How can workers be held accountable and responsible for the work hours that are available to them, when that is a matter decided by employers?
This is not a reasonable policy at all. Sanctioning is senseless, brutal and cruel and serves only to make vulnerable people suffer terribly for the mess that the Tory-led Government are creating by their redistribution of wealth to those who need it the very least.
Not content with “helping” sick and disabled people and the unemployed, the Government is now turning it’s extremely anti-social, baleful Basilisk-styled glance at those in work. They are “making work pay”. That same baleful stare is petrifying society, group by group, starting with the most vulnerable. Martin Niemöller had the measure of this process when he wrote of his pre-Holocaust observations. Group by group. We think we are free, but we are not.
Well I’m getting the hang of this new Tory language, and I can translate, loosely, quite well now: “Tory Ideology is all about Handouts to the Wealthy paid for by the Poor“.
I believe that when the State initiates, perpetuates and encourages mocking and bullying of the vulnerable, and all in an attempt to justify State economic terrorism and theft, then WE NEED TO OPPOSE AND CHANGE IT.
Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his brilliant graphics