Tag Archives: tabloid

Don’t believe Cameron’s claims; there is no need for austerity – and there never was

Flinging around the bling: Someone should have told David Cameron that he shouldn't surround himself with gold when he's rubbing the proles' noses in unlimited austerity. The horse impression may also have been ill-judged.

Flinging around the bling: Someone should have told David Cameron that he shouldn’t surround himself with gold when he’s rubbing the proles’ noses in unlimited austerity. The horse impression may also have been ill-judged.

David Cameron must think we are a nation of fools.

He came into office by the back door after failing to convince a majority of British citizens that his pal Gideon’s George’s plan to starve the economy of money would magically refill the Treasury’s empty coffers. Three and a half years of relentless pro-Tory propaganda from the tabloids later, and he tells us – at an opulent banquet, no less! – that austerity is here to stay.

Isn’t that because his policies have been a disaster, then?

Yes. But a disaster for us, not him or his bankster/financier/corporate masters.

As this blog stated more than a year ago, “people need to understand that the Coalition government’s fiscal strategy isn’t about reducing the national deficit at all. If it was, we would not have had a big tax break for the richest in society as part of the last budget. It’s a strategy to axe public services, selling off to rich corporations any that might be capable of yielding a profit. George W Bush followed this policy in the United States a few years ago; it’s called ‘starving the beast’.”

Look this up on Wikipedia and you will find that it involves cutting taxes in order to deprive the government of revenue in a deliberate effort to force reduced spending. In the USA, we are told, “the short- and medium-term effect of the strategy has dramatically increased the United States’ public debt rather than reduce spending”.

Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson’s tax-cutting plan was expected to be funded by lower government spending on social security and healthcare – and it is important that people here in the UK should see the similarities between that and the Coalition government’s privatisation of the National Health Service (we’re told the NHS is a registered company now), along with its many attacks on people who claim social security benefits.

We’ve had tax cuts for the very rich – the so-called “millionaire’s tax cut” that brought the top rate of Income Tax down from 50 per cent to 45 per cent. Corporation Tax is coming down from 28 per cent to 21 per cent while the corporations that write UK tax policy are using it to facilitate tax avoidance schemes. And the poorest workers in the country are being fooled into believing they are getting a good deal out of the policy of raising the tax threshold to £10,000 per year.

Let’s look at that. Nick Clegg wants to raise it still further, so that nobody is taxed on earnings below £10,500 per year, but this means the Treasury will be starved of £1 billion. That’s a lot of money. Meanwhile, the deficit – and the debt – keeps rising.

We’ve had almost no change in the national deficit, year on year. Michael Meacher’s latest blog entry tells us, “the UK debt overhang is growing, not reducing… the budget deficit is not going down appreciably either. In 2011 it was £118bn and in 2012 this had hardly fallen at all at £115bn. The 40% cut in public spending budgets and the £18bn cut in benefits and hence in consumer demand, plus the £40bn further intended cuts after 2015, has produced searing pain, yet next to [no] improvement in the national accounts which was supposed to be the whole aim of the exercise.”

It is also important to note that the effect of raising the tax threshold for poorer people has been completely negated by other changes in government benefits for people on low incomes, unemployment or incapacity support; in fact they are worse off.

It is against that background – tax cuts for the very rich and the corporates, “searing” pain for the poor and worsening national debt – that David Cameron announced, at the gold-trimmed Lord Mayor’s Banquet, “We are sticking to the task. But that doesn’t just mean making difficult decisions on public spending… it means building a leaner, more efficient state. We need to do more with less. Not just now, but permanently.”

At last he has admitted the point of the last three and a half pointless years. He has been starving the Treasury of the cash it needs to balance the books, and now he feels able to tell us that it isn’t going to happen unless public services are cut drastically.

He must be so happy.

Presumably he hasn’t realised that he has just told the British public that his policies, those of his political party and the Coalition of which it is a part, have been an abject disaster for the people of the United Kingdom.

He promised that he would get the deficit down; he failed.

He promised that the measures he took would be applied equally to everyone, from the highest-earners to the lowest; they weren’t.

Now he has promised to build a leaner, more efficient state, using examples from education and health, whose funding has been ring-fenced throughout his period in office; he is lying.

It is time, now, for serious-minded people to draw a line below the selfish policies of the last 30 years and start thinking about government for all the people once again.

When governments talk about making cuts, they’re not talking about help for the rich. Social or economic programmes, supported by taxes, are only ever put in place to level a playing field that would otherwise be tilted against the poor or disadvantaged. Removing such programmes means a less equal society; one that is more UNfair.

Remember that when Cameron and his cronies – especially people like Iain Duncan Smith and Esther McVey – talk about making Britain a fairer place to live and work.

Their words carry about as much weight as their leader’s 2010 election promises.

Fewer people are claiming JSA than should be. Why is McVey claiming this is good?

Evil eyes: Esther McVey seems to get a perverse thrill from pretending her government's policies are helping people; it is more likely they are driving the needy to despair and suicide.

Evil eyes: Esther McVey seems to get a perverse thrill from pretending her government’s policies are helping people; it is more likely she is driving the needy to despair and suicide.

Only Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions could claim that its success in bullying tens of thousands of people who deserve Jobseekers’ Allowance off-benefit is an achievement.

How are these people supporting themselves? Savings? The good graces of rich friends or relatives? In the long run, the British economy will suffer as this money is drained from the communities it should be feeding.

According to a government press release, there has been a “dramatic fall in the number of people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance”. The DWP says this is due to its policy entitled “Helping people to find and stay in work”, but this seems unlikely – as more people are out of work now than when the Coalition government took office!

“The number of people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance fell dramatically over the last month, by more than 40,000,” the article begins, stating that this is “the biggest drop in a single month since 1997.

“That contributes to a total fall of 450,000 in the number of people claiming out-of-work benefits since early 2010. And for the first time since the end of 1997, Jobseekers’ Allowance claims fell in every local authority in Great Britain over the last year.

“Minister for Employment Esther McVey said: ‘The number of people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance is down in every local authority over the past year. Off the back of a global recession, this is not something that should be sniffed at. It’s a huge testament to the tenacity and determination of business owners and workers in this country.

“‘Add to this the fact that the last month saw falls in both long term and youth unemployment – and the fact that there are now a million more people in jobs compared to when this government took office and we can see that this government is making good on our commitment to helping people get off benefits and into work.'”

Off benefits? Maybe. Into work? No.

The Office for National Statistics, in its Labour market statistics bulletin for July 2010, notes that the number of people who were unemployed between March and May that year was 2.47 million. That compares with 2.49 million unemployed between June and August this year.

So 20,000 more people are unemployed than in 2010 and Esther McVey is celebrating because 40,000 have stopped signing on.

This does not mean 470,000 people aren’t signing on but should be – statistics aren’t as clear-cut as that (unfortunately). But it does mean that there is a large amount of uncertainty that should be cleared up.

Several explanations present themselves. Firstly, a significant number of these people may have been sanctioned for a period of one month or longer – for such terrible crimes as attending a job interview when they were due to sign on (Jobcentre Plus staff habitually refuse to alter signing times to accommodate jobseekers attending interviews).

Many may be taking part in Workfare or Work Programme activities, for which they continue to be paid benefits but are not listed as being unemployed. Didn’t the Conservatives announce a plan to put long-term unemployed people into indefinite Workfare, in a bid to massage the unemployment figures in exactly the way highlighted by Ms McVey in this press release?

Alternatively, they may have been forced to apply for a sickness or disability-related benefit. Many jobseekers report worsening mental health including depression and suicidal thoughts as a result of encounters with unsympathetic Jobcentre staff. From this we can deduce that the policy title “Helping people to find and stay in work” is a misnomer. It should be “Forcing people to sign off and stay away from the Job Centre”.

This leads to the fourth possibility – that jobseekers have been bullied off-benefit by the attitude of DWP staff. I was having a conversation with a friend a few days ago, who said that he was fed up with the attitude of the people at his local Job Centre. They weren’t interested in what he had to say, and were only interested in threatening him with loss of benefits if he didn’t do what they said. My friend was increasingly of the opinion that it wasn’t worth going through this charade every week, and it would be better for him to stop signing before he became another mental health statistic.

Finally: Many may have committed suicide. The pressure may have been too much for them to bear, coupled with the shame – which has been magnified hugely by the right-wing tabloid press – of being on benefits in the first place. Suicides climbed by eight per cent in 2011 (the last year for which statistics are available).

Does Esther McVey tell us how many people have been sanctioned? No. Does she say how many have moved onto other benefits? No. Does she tell us how many moved into jobs (a statistic that Job Centre staff must have, as this is what they are supposed to be “helping” people to do)? No. Does she say how many have died – due to any cause, not just suicide? No.

This is yet another useless, make-believe announcement from the Department of Statistical Fiction.

If this is the best Esther McVey can manage in her new position as Employment Minister, then let us all wish her the shortest tenure possible, followed by an ignominious and humiliating departure.

Pat’s petition may fail because good people did nothing

If you’re thinking, “She doesn’t LOOK disabled,” you’re a fool. Many disabled people don’t LOOK disabled. They hide the pain and try to live lives that are as normal as possible. If you’ve looked at someone with a disabled badge, or who you know claims benefit for a disability, and decided they didn’t deserve it because they don’t LOOK disabled, you need to tell yourself, it’s time to grow up. (In fact, I chose the picture because it represents despair. I have no idea whether the person in it has disabilities or not. But the point deserved to be made).

As I type this, the petition calling on the government to “stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families”, informally known as “Pat’s Petition”, which requires 100,000 signatures to secure a debate in Parliament, has gained just a few more than 60,000.

With less than half a day left (deadline is 10.12am on November 1) it seems likely that it’s not going to make it.

I think those who have signed deserve a vote of thanks. If you are one of those people, then you stood up for what you believed in, and can count yourself one of an extremely select group comprising 0.1 per cent of the UK’s population. Well done. I sincerely wish there were more of you.

The trouble is, I sincerely think there are more of you. The message just didn’t get across – partly because it was choked off by a mass media that has been howling for the blood of the sick and disabled since the government first started suggesting it was going to cut their money.

We’ve all seen the articles about “those filthy benefit scroungers” in the tabloid press, and seen some of them get caught on certain television programmes, and yes – there are a few people like that. But they are a tiny minority and it is monstrous that the actions of 0.4 per cent of claimants – that’s right, less than one per cent – are being used to justify the victimisation of 87 per cent of disabled people – seven-eighths of the total number of claimants. Doesn’t that seem disproportionate to you?

This is the percentage of those who, after going through a so-called ‘work capability assessment’ that we know through – again – TV documentaries is rigged, either lose their benefits completely or are told they will lose them after a period of one year, in which they must find a way to recover from (in some cases) progressively degenerative conditions.

So, if you decided you wouldn’t sign the petition because you think everyone claiming disability benefit is a fraud, then you’re a fool. You’ve let yourself be spoonfed tripe because you were told it’s caviar. I bet you’ve got a bad taste in your mouth right now. You deserve to.

If you want to what is really happening, to people with serious conditions that simply will not get better – no matter how much an ESA assessor or Job Centre Plus desk-jockey says they should – read this.

After that, if you can bear it, you might like to find out what has happened to at least one disabled person who had the audacity to protest against the way she, and fellow people with disabilities, have been treated – by reading this.

But there you go. Protestors cannot rely on the mass media because television stations, newspapers and radio channels are almost exclusively owned by people with a vested interest in keeping the plight of these victims of prejudice well and truly out of the public gaze. Go to sleep, they say. Do what we tell you. You are free… as long as you do what we tell you.

And you suck it on down and swallow it whole, don’t you?

The people behind the petition had to find other ways to promote it – virally, by word of mouth (or by passage from one internet user to their friends) – but clearly the act of lifting a few fingers to put a name to the petition was too much effort for many. That’s all you had to do. Lift your fingers. Hit a keyboard a few times. You didn’t even have to get up out of your chair.

There was an effort to get celebrities to endorse the petition. I’ve tried a few – only those with more than a million followers because I knew the kind of numbers that count and the simple fact is that most people were never likely to sign the petition. But if only one in 10 did, then a person with a million followers would have delivered up enough to get the petition to the next stage. You can probably work out who some of these people are.

That didn’t happen. Maybe they never saw the messages asking for their support – it’s entirely likely, as a person with that many people sending messages to them and only a limited amount of time to respond can’t possibly see everything that they receive. Maybe they were advised against it, for the sake of their careers. Maybe they were as gullible as everyone else who was taken in by the mass media manipulation of the truth. They’re not necessarily bad people just because they did nothing.

But that’s the problem. Einstein put it best: “The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm but because of those who look at it without doing anything.”

Look at this: Thanks to a Freedom of Information request – to the government – we know that an average of 73 people a week are dying because their disability benefits have been removed by the government. In your name.

Think about that. Another 73 – on average – will die next week. In your name. Because you did nothing.

Alternatively – prove me wrong. There are still 12 hours left, as I type this. Get your name on the petition. Get your friends to sign it – stand over them until they do, because there really isn’t any time for “I’ll do it later” nonsense. Broadcast to as many people as you can that it needs help and use whatever arguments you need – including the one I just employed about the next death being your fault – to twist their arm and bring them to sign it.

There’s still time to do some good.

… Unless YOU make a conscious decision not to.