The Right Question?

The first question on the last edition of the BBC’s Question Time was:

    “Why should some people get more than £500 per week on benefits when I only earn £450 a week working 46 hours?”

Well, derr, I don’t know… Maybe you’re not very good at your job? No, of course, you’re good at your job! Hmm… Maybe it’s because you have an exploitative boss? Perhaps you should ask him or her. They will probably cite Government, tax and employment regulations, reduced profit margins and tell you that the Economy makes this a hard time for business etc…

Whatever this chap’s personal circumstances, or those of his boss, it is shocking that £450 for 46 hours of work a week – 46 hours! – is under this magical £26,000 and is becoming acknowledged as not enough for an average family to live on in 21st Century Britain. Either the cost of living is ridiculously high or wages are too low. Take your pick, but it’s both really, isn’t it?

Quite frankly though, dear Reader, I cringed. I mean, for Pity’s Sake!  What the hell is wrong with people? Why do they ask such ridiculous questions?

Given current context, the notion implicit in the question is that it’s the fault of those pesky lower levels, draining the ‘good’ citizens of their hard-earned dosh. Christ! If only being employed was all it took to create ‘good’ people, eh?! Well it’s not! Besides, we’ve all worked with that type who are paid well in spite of the fact that they rarely pull their weight and are just clever at looking busy and we all know people who work damned hard and don’t get paid at all.

We also know that half of the benefits bill goes on pensioners. I’m not complaining, by the way: it’s what they were promised and most of them have even been fortunate enough to be able to contribute their share to The Man. We know that most of those in receipt of housing benefit and those who receive tax credits are in work. And we know that Disability Living Allowance is not remuneration for work but an extra, assistive income that also happens to help many of the disabled find and maintain some measure of employment. We know there is insufficient social housing. We know there aren’t many decent jobs. We know most employment is short-term, casual or zero-houred. We know that most jobs are poorly paid. We know that the ‘workfare’ scheme promotes slave labour. The Government knows all this. The Media knows all this. All politicians know this. How come the general public doesn’t? Do their brains ignore or misplace their critical thinking skills? Are they so fazed, shocked and/or brainwashed that they can’t see through the couriers and their layers of bull?

Make work pay? Yeah, right. Doublespeak.

Rational interpretation: provide employment that remunerates labour with an amount sufficient to live comfortably, save a little bit and still have enough to contribute some tax.

Government’s interpretation: reduce benefits to a level that’s completely inadequate so that even the crappiest, worst-paid job is better than the dole.

Never mind that ever-decreasing numbers of taxpayers have to top this abysmal wage up because it’s not enough. I know! You couldn’t make it up, could you?

Does the public not get the simple fact that Government sets every single benefit available at the lowest rate it can get away with? No benefit covers the things for which it’s been designated and the incredible rise in Life’s basics means it covers less and less each month. There are very, very few who deliberately choose such a lifestyle. You see, Cameron and his cronies say: “‘Welfare’ shouldn’t be a lifestyle choice” but he’s in charge and his government is doing a magnificently shoddy job of providing any alternatives. So: whose choice is it, exactly? Tragically, this attitude is not held exclusively by the Conservatives, for there are prominent MPs within Labour who spout the same view. It’s difficult to wholly discern Labour’s motives: whether they be populist and therefore cowardly or consumed by Blatcherite ideology.

Why is it so difficult to grasp that there are not enough houses; that rents are extortionate; that there are hardly any decent jobs with the hours and pay to cover a life worth living? Why is it so difficult to grasp that the poor, the infirm, the underemployed and unemployed didn’t and never do engineer such a hostile climate? Is it so hard to fathom that policies and economic practice are divined and applied by the Government and not the poor? Yes, those representatives, to whom we gift the authority to run our country in all our interests.

It’s infantile – ignorant, simplistic and shallow to moan about benefits being capped at £500. Wouldn’t the man in the audience have served himself better – and us, therefore – if he had asked: “What are you going to do to really ‘make work pay’ because I only get £450 for 46 hours of work?” This would at least have shifted the onus upwards to those in charge: to where it actually belongs.


Have You Drawn Your Curtains, Dearie?

And what time did you get up?
Or are you still in bed?
Quick! You have to raise your blinds –
The Government said.
Apparently you’re lazy
If your curtains remain closed
(Even though it keeps the heat in
And the frostbite from your toes).

You haven’t booked some time off
And you can’t have just forgotten
And you certainly are not ill in bed
And feeling really rotten.
No p.m. naps for pregnant mothers,
‘Itches’ scratched in daylight hours –
Sod spontaneous, ardent lovers!

No more privacy from others
Peeping through your windowpane:
Hey Striver! Are you On the Game?
Hey Skiver! Are you on the take?
What do you mean, your carer’s late?
Don’t start that ‘bedroom tax’ complaint!
Disabled people: show restraint!
Stop whining about challenges
When everyone else manages.

Night-shift/shift-workers, why despair –
The Government don’t know you’re there –
‘Coz only daytime work is counted:
Idlers sleep once Sun has mounted.
Night-owls? Oh, they’re just Life’s scroungers,
Welfare cheats and baked-spud loungers.
Diktats raining from on high,
Rein and reigning by and by…

Designers from that Ivory Tower
Seek to make you bend and cower.
If you can’t prove that you are up
You’re just not striving hard enough.
If you conform to homily
You’re one hard working family!