What’s going on at the Daily Telegraph? First we find that the paper has been spreading falsehoods that the boss of a supermarket chain that keeps its groceries as cheap as possible and pays its workers more than most has blamed the minimum wage for inflation (he hasn’t); now this:
“It raises the question, just how much of our hard won salaries are spent on the benefits of those who do not work?”
It raises the question, just how much of a role does the media play in fuelling disability hate crimes? And what do early eugenic arguments look like? pic.twitter.com/btRfVRkU0j
— Frances Ryan (@DrFrancesRyan) June 1, 2023
Prem Sikka has archived the article so you can read it for yourself:
The Telegraph inciting hatred against the disabled, low-paid & pensioners because they claim benefits & state pension.
Silence on £450bn-£1500bn taxes dodged since 2010, profiteering, exec pay, corporate subsidies, PPE and Covid loan rip-offs.
— Prem Sikka (@premnsikka) June 3, 2023
And the website to which Samuel Miller links, here, pulls no punches – claiming the tool to calculate “how much of your salary bankrolls the welfare state” is “straight out of the Nazi handbook”:
British Newspaper Attacks Disability Benefits With 'Calculator' Straight Out of the Nazi Handbook | The Mary Sue https://t.co/yAVBD2auyP
— Samuel Miller (@Hephaestus7) June 2, 2023
The Telegraph article states: “Of the 5.2 million people claiming out-of-work benefits, roughly 3.7 million have been granted indefinite exemptions from finding a job, following a surge in claims of mental health issues and joint pain during the pandemic, it emerged last week.”
The Mary Sue piece responds [boldings mine]: “As a propaganda piece, it’s not subtle. “Roughly 3.7 million have been granted indefinite exemptions from finding a job” is a funny way of saying that 3.7 million disabled people, who cannot work due to their disabilities, have been awarded up to £515.40 a month (maybe going all the way up to £782.35 if they’re severely disabled) in order to keep them from starving to death on the streets.
“Putting this number down to “a surge in claims of mental health issues and joint pain during the pandemic” is derisive and clearly intended to diminish the reader’s perception of what are, in fact, disabling conditions to live with that, yes, actually were caused by the pandemic—either a result of infection with the virus itself or the psychological impacts of lockdown, mass death, and the other sociological effects of a global pandemic.”
The Torygraph continues: “On top of this, the controversial decision to maintain the state pension triple lock is estimated to cost taxpayers £1,000 each over the next four years, according to calculations by the TaxPayers’ Alliance, a think tank.
“It raises the question, just how much of our hard-won salaries are spent on the benefits of those who do not work? With the calculator below, Telegraph Money can now reveal how much of your salary goes towards bankrolling the welfare state.”
In fact, none of our salaries are spent on benefits. The system doesn’t work that way. The government of the day sets its spending levels and then taxes us enough to keep that spending from pushing inflation too high (not accounting for interference from external influences like foreign wars and Brexit).
But let’s not allow trifles like the facts to get in the way of the Torygraph‘s argument.
Back to Mary Sue: “Note the emphasis on “do not work” and how it conflates the people who cannot work due to age or disability with the fantasy figure of the refusenik, who lounges around at home, wilfully choosing not to work, all on the government’s tab. It should be clear by now that the purpose of this article is to raise outrage against both the welfare system itself and the most vulnerable people who are dependent on it, but still, there’s more.”
The Torygraph states: “Despite Rishi Sunak’s insistence that he is a “low tax conservative” who wants to “bring people’s taxes down”, his chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has implemented a combination of frozen thresholds, removed investment incentives, and increased corporation tax – all while keeping welfare spending close to £300bn a year.
“Economists now predict it will be decades before the tax burden returns to pre-pandemic levels.
“At the same time, welfare spending was the single biggest component of public sector expenditure in the financial year 2021-22, at £298.7bn out of a total of £952.3bn. For the typical taxpayer, this amounts to close to a third of their annual tax bill of £6,500 paid directly towards benefits.
“Using the latest public spending data, our analysis shows someone with the average UK salary of £33,000 sees £2,000 a year spent on welfare.”
Mary Sue responds: “The authors of the piece, Alex Clark and Tom Haynes, go on to object to the marginal and long overdue increase of corporation tax (even though the U.K. still has the joint highest uncapped headline rate of tax relief among G7 countries), the freeze on higher rate tax thresholds (meaning the wealthiest aren’t getting a tax cut), and the fact that this didn’t coincide with a lowering of government welfare spending, as if the former requires the latter as a form of penance.
“They seem outraged that most public sector spending goes toward the welfare state, with around a third of the average individual’s tax bill going toward it—this despite acknowledging that the percentage of public spending that goes toward welfare benefits has actually gone down while overall spending has gone up.”
The Torygraph: “Many high earners are now paying relatively more towards the welfare state because of the lowering of the 45p tax threshold in 2023-24, which now stands at £125,000, down from £150,000 before. Telegraph analysis shows 6pc of the average salary goes towards paying for benefits, compared to 13pc of a high earner’s salary.
“Someone earning £150,000, five times the average salary, contributes close to £19,000 towards the welfare state – more than nine times the contribution of someone on the average salary.”
Mary Sue: “But of course, the greatest outrage in this piece is reserved for the very wealthiest, who, due to earning significantly more than people in lower tax brackets, accordingly pay more tax and therefore contribute more to the welfare system. Leaning heavily on the fact that the highest tax bracket’s threshold was lowered from £150,000 pa to £125,140 this year, requiring the people in that gap to pay a whole 5% more on anything they earn above that limit, Clark and Haynes bemoan that a larger percentage of their tax bill goes towards maintaining the welfare system than lower earners. Someone earning five times the average U.K. salary pays up to nine times the amount towards the welfare system, we are told, as if this isn’t the entire point of staggered tax rates and how the system is supposed to work.”
Mary Sue then makes a hugely important point [boldings mine, again]: “It’s incredibly difficult to successfully apply for disability benefits of any kind in the U.K. According to a recent government study, the release of which is suspiciously close this particular Telegraph article’s publication, “the health assessment system for deciding if someone can claim disability benefits is grueling and often incorrect.” 90% of PIP (the most common benefit) claimants are denied on their first attempt with 89% of them denied again on their second round.
“The difficulty and sheer mental and physical stress involved in first applying and then attempting an appeal has led to a significant number of disabled people giving up, not because they don’t need the help after all but because the process is simply impossible for them to navigate with their disabilities. Reasons for denial are frequently absurd, and many disabled people have been reporting for years now that their assessor wrote down and submitted completely different information than they provided—misinformation that led to their claim being denied.
“While 3.7 million people considered too disabled to work may seem like a lot, when the total number of disabled people across the country is taken into consideration, 12.1 million, it suddenly seems a lot more reasonable. There aren’t too many people in receipt of benefits, or capable of working but given a pass not to—it’s the exact opposite, and the amount of money disabled people are awarded by the government is, in most cases, barely enough to live on.”
Mary Sue then goes on to consider the comparison it has made with Nazism: “This kind of rhetoric is dangerous, and comparing this calculator, and the article that accompanied it, to Nazism is neither figurative nor hyperbole. One of the very first things that the Nazis did, as a deliberate first step on their path to the Holocaust, was stir up hatred and resentment of disabled people based on the idea that their continued existence is a financial burden to the state.
“Labelling them as “useless eaters,” people who required care and support while being unable to contribute to the state, the Nazis distributed a flurry of propaganda focused on presenting disabled people as a financial burden to everyone else—a burden that prevented “good Germans,” who worked and paid taxes, from being able to access the resources they needed. This propaganda was so ubiquitous that it even made its way into children’s maths books.
“How many steps is a calculator—designed to let you know exactly how much enabling disabled people’s continued survival costs you personally—removed from this? How far off is an article dedicated to decrying the expense of disabled lives as an undue burden, especially on the upper classes?”
Charitably, the author of the Mary Sue article doesn’t believe those who wrote the Torygraph piece were deliberately trying to stir up hatred: “it seems very likely that the authors have bought into the British right wing cultural obsessions of benefit frauds and disability fakers, a group of people that are vanishingly rare but which conservatives see as boogeymen around every corner. I’m sure they believe all those people now experiencing joint pain and mental health problems, as a result of a mass disabling event which caused those specific medical problems on a large scale, are just lying to get out of having to work.
“It’s a very convenient thing to believe if you want to pay lower taxes and are resentful of having to share even a fraction of your wealth with people less fortunate than yourself. It ties in very nicely with all the other conservative ideals that The Telegraph and its readers stand for, and that’s why it’s so dangerous: That’s exactly how and why it worked so well the last time.
“Painting a group of people as too expensive to keep alive is literally the first step to genocide, and given the political environment, in which hate speech against a number of groups as well as legislation targeting them has become normalized, in both the press and parliament, its very concerning that The Telegraph felt comfortable publishing an article that so openly expresses these sentiments.
“I wonder how many people’s disability benefits the coronation could have paid for instead. Funny how papers like The Telegraph didn’t have an issue with taxpayers funding that.”
In fact, some of us would suggest that the genocide has been happening, quietly, for more than a decade – since before the Conservatives came back into office in 2010, in fact.
Back in 2015, after This Writer (that’s me) forced the government to honour a Freedom of Information request I had submitted, we all learned that 2,400 people had died between dates in 2011 and 2014 – within two weeks of being denied the sickness benefit ESA on grounds of being “fit for work”.
Nobody knows how many have died over a longer period after being found “fit for work” because the Department for Work and Pensions has never bothered to check. But the newspapers have been full of stories telling how people have died of starvation, of ill-health due to their disabilities, or simply committed suicide in despair because of the cruelty of the system.
Changes to the way ESA is assessed – removing the admittedly-hated “Work Capability Assessment” in favour of the even-worse Personal Independence Payment assessment – are expected to deprive a million people of the benefits they need to survive.
And benefit sanctions – which have been proved to be useless in getting people with long-term illnesses and disabilities back to work – are to be stepped up, pushing more vulnerable people towards taking their own lives.
As This Writer has stated many times over more than a decade in which I’ve been writing about it, this is genocide by proxy. The government creates conditions that force sick and disabled people to die, and then claims to be totally innocent of causing the deaths.
And it is at a time when these changes are being introduced that bosses of a national, right-wing, newspaper decide to publish an article demonising the sick and disabled (together with other benefit claimants and pensioners).
Going back to Mary Sue‘s “Nazi” motif, everybody know by now (don’t they?) that before World War II the Daily Mail actually supported Hitler’s regime in its articles.
Now it seems to be the Telegraph that has taken up the baton of the fascists.
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