Wednesday, April 03, 2013

I'm Entitled



Yes, we know: we can't judge our entire welfare system on the basis of Mick Philpott. But what we can say is that if it hadn't been for our welfare system, he wouldn't have been able to live like that. He wouldn't have been able to get a living from fathering 17 children. There wouldn't have been any benefit in cramming two entire broods into his 3 bed Council semi to boost his income and his case for a bigger house. The incentive simply wouldn't have been there.

We've blogged the issue of children as meal ticket many times (eg following the Shannon Matthews case). And to some degree it is an inevitable consequence of any welfare system that seeks to protect poor children from the fecklessness of their parents: we pick up the tab because we don't want the children to starve. But we don't have to sit back and accept that such parents can just carry on being as feckless as they like.  

Yet according to the welfare administrators in Derby, there was nothing to flag up Philpott and his domestic arrangements as being a concern. In other words, it was deemed perfectly acceptable for him to carry on taking the money and fathering even more kids. All that mattered was that the kids were not obviously being abused.

Why? Why when Philpott was clearly able-bodied, was he allowed to spend his entire life sponging off the rest of us? Because he wasn't some unfortunate casualty of the recession: come rain or shine, boom or bust, he'd always expected us to support him, and our welfare system did absolutely nothing to stop him. Instead of making the dosh conditional on him, say, clearing the rubbish strewn around outside Mr Mundair's Derby shop (and all those other neighbourhood jobs that never get done) he was just given the money. 

This appalling case highlights once again how the culture of entitlement has ramped up our welfare bills. And lest we forget, welfare spending doubled in real terms between 1990 and 2010. Doubled to over £200bn.

In the case of Housing Benefit, that's grown even faster, nearly trebling over the same period. And once again, entitlement has been driving up costs - the entitlement of recipients not just to a roof over their heads, but to remain in the same subsidised accommodation irrespective of how many spare bedrooms they have. And judging from the outcry over the government's attempt to tighten the rules, that sense of entitlement is deeply felt and shared across large sections of the media. 

Yet the government's rule changes are pretty modest, with prospective savings amounting to less than 5% of the total £24bn bill. They will certainly not result in widows and orphans being cast out into the snow.* As for forcing children of the same sex to share bedrooms, I personally shared a bedroom with my two brothers right up until I finally left home in my early twenties - it was no hardship whatsoever. 

Of course, much of the reporting we get on these welfare changes is filtered and spun by the BBC. The R4 Today programme did a great job of stitching up poor old IDS on Monday, getting him to claim he could live on £53 per week. It later turned out that their case study - a market trader who claimed he only gets £53 per week to live on - was being somewhat economical with the actualit√©, but by then the damage had been done.  And that stunt was only part of the BBC's big campaign against welfare reform, and indeed all Coalition attempts to curb public spending.

Which is hardly surprising, given that the BBC is Britain's biggest tax-funded business. Accountable to nobody except themselves, they are as steeped in entitlement as any Mick Philpott. And they can see that if the rest of us start asking the right questions, it won't be long before their £3.5bn subsidy will be seen as a luxury we can no longer afford. Best to stop such questions being asked in the first place, and hope their guys get back in 2015.

*Denham Senior recalls witnessing the eviction of an elderly widow from her home in the early 1930s. She was carted off to what had once been the workhouse, and her possessions were piled up on the pavement for passers-by to help themselves to. Nobody is suggesting a return to that, or anything even close.

PS How long has the BBC been using our taxes to advertise themselves on YouTube? Personally I find much more to interest me on YT than on the BBC's six (six!) channels put together. Yes, there are ads - ever more ads - but I'd much rather put up with them than the BBC's telly tax... especially when it's being used to advertise on YT. 

46 comments:

  1. The BBC have been talking about themselves all day. The general gist is "We are accountable to those we serve and strive for excellence, tell us where we are going wrong" only to argue with, dismiss or ignore constructive criticism they receive.

    I have complained a couple of times about news items. They found no fault in themselves either time. Has anyone EVER had a complaint about news reporting acknowledged as justified by the BBC, apart from Alistair Campbell?

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  2. Anonymous6:41 pm

    But our spin isn't spin, it's facts ....

    "Of course, much of the reporting we get on these welfare changes is filtered and spun by the BBC. The R4 Today programme did a great job of stitching up poor old IDS on Monday, getting him to claim he could live on £53 per week."

    Yeah, right completely "stitched him up" - just by asking him the question ...

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  3. Wasn't it the case that Mick Philpott wasn't sponging off the state but sponging off his wife and mistress, both of which had gainful employment but Philpott had forced their wages to be paid into his bank account. There's no evidence that the Philpotts would have been affected by the benefits cap but even if it would does the fact they are bad people mean that all people in a similar financial situation to them should be punished as well.

    I don't remember you being so critical or even mentioning the case of Christopher Foster who murdered his wife and child before burning his house down, but then again Foster was as middle-class as you are. One suspects that if Hans and Eva Rausing had been living in a council house in Halifax you would be damning the reckless drug addicts, but as Hans is a billionaire that's okay.

    What on earth gives you the right to wage your class warfare over the bodies of six dead children. We're politically poles apart but despite that we've had some reasonable discussions over the years. Your post here is just disgusting.

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  4. Budgie10:11 pm

    "What on earth gives you the right to wage your class warfare over the bodies of six dead children".

    You mean BOM must not comment merely on your say so? Presumably it saves you from having to formulate a coherent response. What a ridiculous poseur you are Andy Dowland.

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  5. Budgie10:18 pm

    Lilith, the BBC is irredeemable. It should be privatised, using a pay to view model. Then those that think so highly of the BBC can pay for it themselves instead of dishonestly thieving my money to prop up their statist agitprop department.

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  6. Budgie, at least I'm not hiding behind a false identify. It is Mr Denham who is using the deaths of six children to further his political aims. It's a democracy, we all believe in freedom of speech, he's entitled to do that, but equally I'm entitled to believe that he is vile for that.

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  7. This is nothing more than a typical leftist response in order to shut down debate over welfare reforms. The events were tragic but why should it be wrong to point out that this man fathered 17 children, not one of which he was willing to support by his own efforts. Instead, those who are foolish enough to pay for the bringing up of their own offspring have the additional burden of being forced to pay for an army of parasites like him.

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  8. "And to some degree it is an inevitable consequence of any welfare system that seeks to protect poor children from the fecklessness of their parents: we pick up the tab because we don't want the children to starve."

    And yet we condemn kidnap for cash and users of human shields and declare it imperative we don't pay the ransom so as to discourage it.

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  9. You misunderstand me andy. I am happy for this discussion to continue because it shows up you people in your true colours.

    Did the welfare state turn Mick Philpott into a person who would kill his own children in what seems to be a botched attempt to frame his ex-mistress for murder? Clearly not, he wasn't on benefits when as an employed young man he attempted to murder his ex-girlfriend. Mick Philpott demonstrated that he is a violent misogynist whatever his circumstances. If the welfare state hadn't exist Philpott would still have been a danger to society.

    So with the role of the welfare state as nuturer of evil ruled out, why the anger on the right against this man. It's not that he killed his children, the Daily Mail did a sympathetic piece on Christopher Foster, the middle-class child murderer, that included the line The position of his body suggests to Enid and others his motive was one of love - trying to protect Jill from the humiliation of his financial troubles."

    It can't even be that Mick Philpott lived off the labour of others. Hans Kristian Rausing, heir to the Tetra-Pak fortune has worked even less than Mick Philpott has and lived in a more profligate manner, supported by the wealth that his father and the Tetra-Pak workers created. That's no different to Mick Philpott living the life of riley off Mairead and Lisa's two jobs. So Mr Denham believes that Mick Philpott should have been picking litter up off the streets. Does he believe that the stay-at-home mums should do the same? If not why the double standard, is it because one's middle-class and one's poor?

    If all welfare claimants were like Mick Philpott, feckless and not wishing to work, then I might be in your camp. But they aren't, I grew up on a council estate, living with good neighbours, that's why I'm upset at Mr Denham's post, he's using the deaths of six children to demonise real people that I grew up with. I don't wish that he hadn't written it though, I just wish that he would think it over and leave behind the class warfare. I support this blog, I don't want taxpayers' money to be squandered, so in that regard it's good that there's someone spotlighting it even if there's some waste that the TPA seem perfectly happy with. But we're a wealthy enough society to give all of us a decent chance in life and I'm not going to stand by when people like Mr Denham actively seek to make children in the same boat as the Philpott kids' lives worse.

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  10. Blue Eyes9:05 am

    Andy, good bit of misdirection there. All credit to you.

    Nobody is saying that Philpott murdered his children because of the existence of the welfare state. Lots of people are asking whether he would have had 17 children if the welfare state had not paid him to have 17 children.

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  11. Anonymous10:51 am

    @Andy. I think you're missing the point that the Rausings funded their own lifestyle whereas I fund the Philpott's. He called his 6 dead kids 'those little shits' and was obviously incentivized to have more. He burned the house down in order to expedite a move to a larger property, he hatched this scheme in order to bring back his estranged partner and 5 other children to again obtain the funds brought with them. I'm not sure what you're confused about.

    How can it be that most working people can't in any way afford to have 17 children yet a man in receipt of benefits is encouraged to do so - and the bedroom tax is a further incentive to procreate. I think perhaps your knee jerk reaction to what is a structural perversion highlights an inability to separate emotive considerations with the critique of policy. The benefit system is a factor which is pretty much bleedin' obvious, really.

    DtP

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  12. Budgie1:02 pm

    Andy Dowland said: "What on earth gives you the right to wage your class warfare over the bodies of six dead children". and "I am happy for this discussion to continue ..."

    Make your mind up, Andy Dowland. You weren't originally "happy" to have the discussion about the actual issue, you attempted to shut down the debate. As is the wont of statists.

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    2. Budgie, you make half a fair point - I'll try and explain more clearly. I would be happier if the concept of supporting the most disadvantaged members of our society was universally accepted and I still believe that Mr Denham is being malicious in the way he uses the deaths of the Philpott children in order to promote his political ends. But I have never said that he shouldn't be allowed to say what he's said and I don't think you can twist my words to even get close to that sentiment, I just thought that he would have some sense of common decency. Now that he has said it, I'm happy to have the discussion to defend the class I belong to from his attack.

      Mr or Ms Anonymous - I can see where you're coming from with regard to the Rausings. But from my point of view, the Rausings and Mick Philpott are both parasites on society. People like the Rausings are rentiers, people that produce no wealth of their own, but because of their command of capital attract more wealth to themselves. That's starting to get into the realms of Marxist economics, but surely even for rightwingers, the benefits of wealth should go to the entrepreneurs and the innovators, not the ones who by accident of birth found themselves not needing to work. Both Mick Philpott and Hans Kristian Rausing are idle and both sponge off society, but Philpott's benefit cheques are a little more obvious than Rausing's interest on his capital.

      Blue Eyes - It's obviously hard to say how things might have turned out if the welfare state did not exist, but it's at least conceivable that Mick Philpott would have had just as many children. Philpott clearly had a desire for lots of children that wasn't solely motivated by his wallet but rather something else in his trousers, he liked being seen as Derby's version of Casanova. Something that keeps getting overlooked, the Philpott/Willis household was a two income family, both Lisa and Mairead worked to support Mick, their income was supplemented by working tax credits of the sort that Conservatives pretend to support, isn't that the whole point of "making work pay". The larger house was an aim, but seems to have played a very small part of this tragedy, if the larger house was the major motivation to burn down his house, why not do it when the kids were out, why not before Lisa Willis left the household? Instead it was evident in court that the motivation was to appear a hero on the day of the custody hearing for his kids by Lisa Willis.

      One general thought, thinking about this sad case today and reading some more right-wing punditry, it feels as if the nub of this matter is that "responsible" parents have to think about having children, "irresponsible" parents don't have to think before having children. If all children were equal that wouldn't matter. But we all know that all kids aren't equal. The kids of Victory Road, Derby don't have the same life chances of whatever leafy suburb Mr Denham brought his kids up on. If they hadn't had their lives cut short, the Philpott kids would have been more likely to leave school without qualifications, more likely to be unemployed, more likely to live in poverty, more likely to suffer a chronic disease, more likely to die early. Now, only the most exceptional members of the working -class have a chance to succeed in life, far less chance than even the working-class kids of my generation. I don't understand why capitalists wouldn't want to harness the full talents of all our people to Britain's success. Instead Mr Denham seems obsessed with pulling up the drawbridge to make sure that the middle class kids don't have any competition from any bright kids from the class below.

      One final point, I'm disgusted about the lenient sentence that Mick Philpott's received. But maybe the judge just thought that the deaths of working-class kids where only worth 2.5 years each.

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    3. "...I just thought that he would have some sense of common decency..."

      I'm curious why you seem happy to demand a much higher standard of common decency from him than from Philpott or any of his brood sows?

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    4. "...I don't understand why capitalists wouldn't want to harness the full talents of all our people to Britain's success. Instead Mr Denham seems obsessed with pulling up the drawbridge to make sure that the middle class kids don't have any competition from any bright kids from the class below. "

      Excellent, Andy! You support grammar schools and scholarships, then?

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  13. Budgie12:51 am

    Indeed Andy Dowland your words "what gives you the right?" and invoking the image of the "bodies of six dead children" were exactly designed to poison BoM's freedom of speech, as well as diverting the focus of attention. Your comments were specifically not addressed to the issues raised by the BoM post, which was almost exclusively on Philpott's thieving of taxpayers' money, not the murders.

    There is not a single thing in your sub Marxian apologia that is worth having, as was rubbed in to even the dimmest statist after the fall of the Berlin Wall. There is no point working hard unless the fruits of that labour can be passed on to one's children (not "kids" - they are goats).

    After all, you must admit that taxation is theft, otherwise you would not be instructing me to use my money to support your political objectives. Moreover, Marxist spite towards those with capital and property is the original watermelon - red on the outside and green with envy on the inside.

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    1. Budgie, you make the easiest allegation against the left. If the left-winger had a privileged upbringing they can be dismissed as hypocrites, if they didn't then they are obviously envious. In neither case does the right-winger have to address the issue. But that simple argument doesn't work here. I don't have an envious bone in my body, I'm perfectly comfortable, never been on benefits apart from a spell of unemployment in my 20s which was as brief as Iain Duncan Smith's brush with the "breadline". Envy is a desire for oneself for something possessed or enjoyed by another, my feeling is a desire for a third party to have the same chance to possess something owned by another. I want the kids growing up now to have the chance to make lots of money and help make the world a better place. You should want that as well. What if the next Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg or James Dyson is currently 12 years old and living on a slum estate? Can we really afford to ignore talent because it's fallen on stony ground?

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    2. "I want the kids growing up now to have the chance to make lots of money and help make the world a better place."

      We all want that, don't we? But just how do you plan to achieve it?

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    3. Blue Eyes11:04 am

      Andy, those on the "right" want it more than those on the "left" I find. See Polly Toynbee for the consensus left-wing view which is "they'll never make much of themselves so we shouldn't try to encourage them to try".

      How do you suppose trapping people on benefits with huge marginal withdrawal rates and sums which could never be earned in a first job encourages people like Mick Philpott to develop himself as the next Mark Zuckerberg??

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    4. Anonymous12:07 pm

      Pendulum Poll is the left wing concensus view - oh please ... Pendulum Poll has provided ample evidence over the years of not knowing what she believes ..

      I am right with you (and IDS) on the "ending the trapping of people on benefits etc." and Universal Credit is a step towards that. Unfortunately IDS and his cronies don't seem to worry over much that the way they've been going about "sorting out welfare" has seen rather a lot of people who actually warrant and deserve "the safety net" casually having it pulled away ...

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    5. Everything someone receives without working for, is something that someone else works for without receiving.

      I'm rather tired of having a very tight budget (having worked for over 45 years) whilst seeing others who I know just don't want to work having a better lifestyle than mine - and once a month when I see the amount the state takes forcibly from me, then I bloody well resent it!

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  14. Anonymous5:13 pm

    The welfare budget doubled in 20 years. Doubled.

    Last time I checked, you have free education and free health care for children. So its not like there is nothing. About 10 hours flight from here, there are people and children with none of these things. So when you talk about pulling the safety net, get a sense of perspective.

    The principal problem of the welfare state is the disconnection between those who pay, and those who receive.

    And funnily enough, I have not seen any initiative on the left for raising money to replace what is "taken away", which would surely raise billions because of all those people just itching to contribute more. No, much better to steal it from people like me.

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  15. Anonymous5:53 pm

    "Get a sense of perspective" ... "No, much better to steal it from people like me". I think I can spot your "perspective" ...

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  16. (Note, I wrote too much for one comment post, apparently 4,096 characters is the limit and I did over 6,000 hence this is split into two, apologies for the wall of text)

    Blue Eyes, I don't think Polly Toynbee is the best person to go to for the average left wing view. Actually Toynbee is a good example of the problems of the working class. Toynbee had a privileged upbringing, but wasn't a great student and only gained one A-Level. No matter, young Toynbee got into Oxford. There she wasn't much better, dropping out without completing a degree but still managed to get work for The Observer. People from the working class can get to the heady heights of being a columnist too, but usually have to do a lot better at school. Often one misstep, some failed exams, the wrong job taken, can doom a career before it has even started.

    (Note to Budgie - this isn't an example of envy, I don't want to be a columnist for the Guardian. But maybe there's someone who would have been better than Polly Toynbee but never had the connections to break into The Observer and was forever lost to journalism. Talent wasted is what I'm angry about)

    As one of the anonymous authors rightly said, the welfare budget has doubled in 20 years. I don't look on that any more kindly than he or she does. Welfare hasn't become more generous except in one specific area, but the need for welfare has increased. Why is that? Mainly due to the explosion in housing benefits, that money doesn't go to the poor themselves, but to the rentier class. The Anonymous author at 5:13pm's money isn't going into the feckless poor it's been channeled to people probably more wealthy than he or she is.

    The one specific area touches on something else that Blue Eyes said. The marginal withdrawal rate. I assume that everyone here is aware of something called the Laffer Curve, a theory that beyond a certain rate of taxation discourages people from actively seeking to increase their earnings. Such a point most likely does exist and is somewhere between 0% and 100% but where exactly is a matter of heated debate. The marginal withdrawal rate is the amount of each pound earned by a person on welfare benefits that the government allows that person to keep.

    In the recession of the early 1990s I was temporarily unemployed and became quite an expert on withdrawal rates. After a couple of months, I saw that Woolworths were recruiting for extra shelf stackers for the christmas shopping season, it was part time, low paid and temporary, but I figured that some job would be better than having no job and applied. At the time I was getting about £45 per fortnight income support and the rules on withdrawal were that if I worked under 16 hours/week the first £5/week of any earnings didn't count but thereafter for every one pound of pay, one pound would come off my benefits. So for a few weeks I worked something like 12 hours a week for the net benefit of about £6, it would have been about £8, but I remember being stopped some national insurance on that. The effective withdrawal rate for me ended up being about 80% but for me that wasn't much of a problem as my benefit rate was so low that a full time job was a big jump in earnings for me. My part time job didn't lead directly to me being kept on but provided a good reference that might have helped clinch that full time job later. That kind of circumstance leads some to talk about being "trapped by the welfare system" people who are scared off from taking the first step into a job and thereby never take the chance to take the second and third steps into a stable and well-paying career. There's an element of truth in that, but the proposed solutions are misguided at best.

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  17. (2nd part)

    At the time I knew a friend who was in a rather different situation to me. She was a single mother and living away from a family who wouldn't or couldn't house her so got significantly more benefits than I did as I was childless and living with my parents. But she would face an equal withdrawal rate of her income support, a withdrawal rate of about 40% of her housing benefit and pay tax and NI on a full time salary. Her effective withdrawal rate worked out at about 150% and on top of that would have to get some childminding support for her when she did work. I think she was smart, she would have been a great employee, but she couldn't possibly afford to work. That was wrong. Remember that withdrawal rates of 150% were overseen by a Tory government that officially believed that marginal rates for the wealthy must be no more than 40% but had no problem with the poor facing marginal rates of 150%.

    Gordon Brown's introduction of Working Family Tax Credit (later Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit) might have been complicated but reduced the marginal rate down to 70% (a withdrawal rate of 39%, income tax 20%, national insurance 11%). That's not great, but people were never in a position that they were better off on benefits than in a job when combined with the grants for childcare provision.

    One would expect a Conservative government so concerned with the Laffer Curve that they reduced the top rate of income tax from 50% to 45% and so concerned with "making work pay" that they would reduce the marginal rate faced by people moving from welfare to work. But they haven't, they've increased it, the withdrawal rate has gone up from 39% to 41%, the national insurance rate from 11% to 12%, making the total marginal rate up to 73%. Iain Duncan Smith's Universal Credit puts that up to 76.2%. Added to that, benefits agency staff will be incentivised to punish people in work who are deemed not to give enough effort into increasing their income. As the Disability debacle has shown, the professional skivers will know exactly what they need to do to satisfy the officials, they have the experience to give the right answers, it's going to be the genuine claimants that will suffer.

    Until we sort out the housing problem and deflate the housing bubble that generates vast amounts of parasitical activity we'll be in trouble. Instead George Osborne is spending £120b of our money on propping up the housing bubble and printed £375b of new money to give to the banks and the vastly rich while blaming the very poorest for the state of the country. Now George Osborne and David Cameron have joined Mr Denham in using Mick Philpott's dead children as a moral smokescreen for their pre-planned squeezing a little more from the poor to give to their rich friends.

    You'll all be aware of Micawber's dictum about happiness and misery. For Micawber five pence was the gap between the two states; even though the sums involved for today's welfare claimants are small, they live so close to misery that I'm scared how they are going to live.

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  18. cascadian7:27 am

    How lucky are we? To have Andy Dowland here to lecture us.

    I have spent a fair amount of time reading and commenting on various blogs, indeed I recognise some commenters from Anna Raccoon here. Most commenters can say what they need to, in 100 to 200 words, it takes the special talent of (what I assume) is a liebour party operative to write 6000 words. What are they so scared of?

    Mike Denham did not make any comment related to the general population of welfare recipients, but Andy had to introduce that meme to suit the standard liebour party response. Mike in fact made a perfectly simple comment, why was Philpott not required to do some beneficial task for the community to justify his welfare? Aneurin Bevan or William Beveridge might well have asked the same question. What is the liebour party's proposal to tackle Beveridges fifth giant evil-IDLENESS?

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  19. Cascadian, I'm rather disappointed in the effort of your response. While I do not have the skill to distill the argument into a hundred words, it was important to be accurate in refuting the claim that Iain Duncan Smith's reforms will do anything to help the poor. Blue Eyes condemned the high marginal withdrawal rates that the Labour government imposed, I showed they were higher in both Major and Cameron administrations. You haven't challenged anything I've said, you've just accused me of being scared and of being a Labour Party operative (whatever one of those is).

    Was Philpott idle? Yes, of course he was. But he managed to coerce two women into working for him so he didn't need to work, that wasn't anything to do with the welfare system and everything to do with Philpott's personality. Philpott was, officially at least, a house-husband to 11 children, the state couldn't have known that he was shirking his responsibilities and leaving all the cooking, cleaning and cleaning to his two working lovers. If you are seriously claiming that all house-husbands and housewives must do unpaid community work then say it but you're not are you.

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    1. Cascadian1:34 am

      Andy, you can be as disappointed as you like, fill yer boots.I am also disinterested in discussing marginal withdrawal rates or the relative merits of one party over another, or enduring lectures thereon. Lets keep this real simple-welfare for able-bodied applicants should only be available to those who work for it, that essentially is what Beveridge and Bevan intended.

      I have not implied you are scared-I implied the liebour party is scared to discuss idleness amongst a large voting bloc of it's supporters.

      If you wilfully argue that Philpott was a house-husband and ignore the facts that the group worked the system to maximum advantage, then there is little to discuss.

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    2. I'm not arguing that Philpott was a house-husband, but that to the system he was what he claimed to be. Looking after a household of 11 children while the wage-earner is out at work does take a lot of time. Unless we had an omniscient state or Minority Report style precognition, some people who don't deserve benefits will receive them. For me it's better that one person gets funding who doesn't need it than a thousand people not receive it who do.

      Philpott was unusual even before he decided to burn down his home with his children inside. He was famous or infamous because he was unusual, if there was a Mick Philpott on every street no-one would have thought him odd.

      I'll ask you what I asked Budgie, what would you do to solve our welfare state?

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    3. Cascadian5:07 pm

      "For me it's better that one person gets funding who doesn't need it than a thousand people not receive it who do." ....so you are quite relaxed about hundreds of thousands of layabout fathers squatting for free in taxpayer-supported housing, is that liebour policy or a personal opinion?

      Let me repeat my former question which you ignored, What is the liebour party's proposal to tackle Beveridges fifth giant evil-IDLENESS?

      We can then discuss what I would suggest to solve major structural problems with welfare.

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    4. Cascadian, there aren't hundreds of thousands of layabout fathers squatting for free in taxpayer-supported housing so the question about am I relaxed about it doesn't apply.

      I don't know what the Labour Party proposals are, you would have to ask Liam Byrne or Ed Miliband for the answer to that question. However I'll say briefly what my proposals would be.

      1) Tackle the explosion in Housing benefits - As the amount of social housing available has shrunk, more recipients of housing benefits are living in private rented accommodation. Paying for people to rent privately is more expensive than providing housing through local authorities. The policy of Blair, Brown and Cameron governments to reduce the maximum spend was supposed to reduce landlord prices but hasn't seemed to work yet. The Bedroom Tax will ironically increase the total benefit bill, it's only aimed at Social Housing tenants, but there's not enough available smaller properties in the Social Housing sector. But if they decide to move out into the private rented sector their benefit will be higher as well as drive up demand and therefore rents. The government have assumed that only 5% will do that, 95% will stay in their homes and suffer the reduced income saving £500m/year, but if half moved the total bill would go up.

      My proposal would be to scrap the Right to Buy scheme giving a year's notice so that anyone thinking of it won't miss out (also pulling in a bunch of capital), end the Help to Buy scheme before it's even started and use the £120b earmarked for that to build 1.2 million new homes over the next four years. That's a boon for house builders, will reduce the demand and therefore the price on the private rented sector.

      2) Reduce the bureaucracy - Making work pay is a good slogan, but make it mean something. At the moment people on jobseekers allowance or income support are discouraged from taking very low hours work or very short term work. Real story, a friend of mine was unemployed, he had the chance of working full time for 2 weeks to cover while someone was on holiday. If he took it, his benefits would stop for those two weeks (fair enough) but it would take three to four weeks to process his forms and restart his benefits after he stopped working. Yes, they would backpay the benefits, but generally unemployed people don't have the savings to allow them to go three or four weeks without any income coming in. Make it simpler so as not to discourage people from finding work where they can.

      3) Benefit fraud - Fraud isn't a huge financial cost to the system, but inflicts huge moral damage as "everyone" knows someone who fiddles the benefits. But the courts don't meaningfully punish anyone who does it. Paying back £2 a week over the next hundred years isn't a punishment. Anyone who knowingly defrauds the welfare state ceases to have a moral right to benefit from it. I would dock 50% from any future welfare payments for convicted fraudsters, 100% if they are stupid enough to do it twice.

      There are other tweaks I would do, restructure the withdrawal rates, simplify the benefit system (IDS is to be applauded for his work on setting up the Universal Credit - I think that will help), and investing in education for people in work as well as out of work.

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    5. By the way, I am not ignoring your question about idleness but I don't believe that the state can change the nature of people's souls. If someone is prone to idleness then I don't think the state can modify that, if it could I think it should. I assume that as you're not a statist, you wouldn't believe that to be a good idea.

      What the government can do is increase the incentive to get work as outlined in point 2. Working only a few hours per week if the withdrawal rate is reduced will increase income enough to make life a little more pleasant. But any proposal that I've so far heard doesn't distinguish between the idle and the unable. I'm not willing to punish the unable for not doing something they can't do as collateral damage to get the idle for not doing what they can do.

      Living on benefits isn't a "lifestyle choice" or at least if it is a lifestyle choice it's a particularly stupid one. I've lived on benefits, I don't know if you have, luckily I wasn't on benefits long but I know enough to know that no sane person would truly choose that life. Why do you think lottery scratch cards are predominately played by the poor; it's because they are so desperate to get out of their "choice" that they will even accept the massive odds against them winning their way out.

      Delete
    6. Cascadian5:59 am

      Andy, idleness is NOT about peoples souls, it is about their character and unwillingness to contribute to society.

      Idleness is a learned trait, given strong negative incentives I know it can be unlearned. The welfarists now form a large voting bloc and most politicians are loathe to tackle the problem.

      You assume correctly that I am not a statist, however when "state" (taxpayer) funds are being disbursed, then the taxpayer must be consulted. The current system is too remote and subject to political whims to reward "victim" groups, it is an area central government should vacate.

      Better selection of those unable to work is key and one of Mr Duncan Smiths sensible initiatives that the socialists kick against. Anybody physically able should be provided with 35 hours of work-sweeping and cleaning streets, mowing lawns, clearing snow etc-workfare.

      I disagree with your last paragraph, unfortunately for far too many, benefits is a lifestyle choice, not saying it is glamorous but it sure is easy, especially if the "girlfriend" has a council house where you can stay.

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    7. Cascadian6:24 am

      Reply to 6:54 am.

      Andy, the number of squatting layabout fathers is admittedly unknown, so humour me, if there were a thousand would you be relaxed about that level of fraud?

      You suggest I should target my question at Ed Miliband, OK I'll play along, you obviously have better contacts than me. How can I direct my email so that it gets directly to Ed, not some flunky or autoreply function at the HoC?

      1. Hmmmm, more tower-blocks? Too bad liebour did zilch in thirteen years.

      2. Reduce bureaucracy-c'mon when has govt ever done that successfully, even Margaret Thatcher avoided that. See my proposal in previous email.

      3. Benefit fraud IS huge, the govt need to come down hard.

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    8. Cascadian, thanks for replying, however I do need to be brief in my answers to you.

      Contacting Ed Miliband - I fear that you think I'm more connected than I am. Ed did call me once, but that was in the leadership election when he wanted my vote, nice guy though even when I said that he was only my 2nd preference. If I had a direct line to Ed he would soon get fed up with me. You're better off writing to Liam Bryne, he's probably less busy and his politics are likely closer to yours than mine.

      More housing - you're right to point out that Labour failed in this area, that's why it's what I would do rather than Labour's. But right now is a good time to do it, government debt is cheap and if we're spending it to generate more money (or technically to enable us to spend less later) that's good.

      Reduce bureaucracy - it's tough to actually produce the savings expected as in large public sector organisations the work always expands to keep busy the people employed whether that work is useful to society or not. But my savings weren't generated on that side of the desk, it was with the unemployed themselves. To be able to take on short term work, even one shift behind a bar and declare it later, keeping some of the money earned, those sorts of jobs can lead to permanent work in the future.

      Benefit fraud - I'm glad that you can agree with me on something, another thing did occur to me, transparency, if you receive anything from the state that information should be should be freely available. That would help detection of some types of fraud.

      35 hours of work sweeping - As Iain Duncan Smith said, looking for a job is full time work. We already have the mandatory work programme where people can be tasked to work seven days a week for their out-of-work benefit. I'm not sure where the advantage of making the MWP more onerous is as it's already being counter productive.

      Squatting layabout fathers - If there's a thousand, that's still only one in a thousand of the number of fathers on out-of-work benefits so I'm still relaxed, my hunch is that we're talking about some number of hundreds. It's not fraud though, whatever else we say about Mick Philpott, there's never been an accusation that he obtained benefits by deception. Both Mairead Philpott and Lisa Willis worked tirelessly in their jobs and at home to bring up those children and they deserved every penny they received. But they were controlled so much that they gave every penny over to Mick Philpott. Apart from providing more women's refuges, there's not much the state can do about what a person does with their benefits after they get them.

      Delete
  20. Budgie1:00 am

    I have no idea what Andy Dowland means by "left wing". What is clear from his too extensive manifesto is that he is a statist and a Labour party supporter who is strangely unable to recall the years 1997 to 2010.

    Moreover he is the man who tried to shut down the debate - and was found out. And the man who tried to whitewash his failed attempt - and was found out. His are typical statist tricks: control the language to control ideas to control people.

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    Replies
    1. Budgie, I am a Labour Party supporter, as I post under my own name, my surname's uncommon and I've stood for election as a Labour Party candidate that's not a secret. Would you like to disclose your political affiliations?

      I note that neither you or Cascadian have even attempted to argue your case instead resorting to name-calling. I've done some name-calling too, but I've also engaged in detailed discussions of policy. Would you please do the same? What would you do specifically to fix the welfare state?

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    2. Cascadian4:50 pm

      Well done Andy, you are getting the hang of it.

      I can understand why you would consider "labour party operative" as name-calling, it is indeed a loathsome thing to be called, but in the event quite accurate.

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    3. Cascadian, I'm not saying that it's a loathsome thing, I'm saying it's not true and it's tiresome and a bit silly for you to lie about me.

      Delete
  21. Budgie2:48 pm

    Oh no, Andy Dowland, you gave up any moral right to a debate when you attempted to prevent BoM from even expressing his opinions. As for your long winded manifesto, it is chock full of statist assumptions which you treat as grounds but are in fact emotional positions or beliefs. Consequently what you write literally makes no sense to me.

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  22. Cascadian,

    "...the liebour party is scared to discuss idleness amongst a large voting bloc of it's supporters..."

    Because the welfare those supporters receive is the price Labour has paid to buy their support.

    Despotic & tyrannical Roman Emperors adopted the same tactic - "Bread & Circuses"..

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  23. You can google this, or take me on trust:-

    There are 2.5m+ registered unemployed in the UK, and at any one time there are approx 400,000 job vacancies. Thus there is a permanent shortfall of two million jobs.These figures ignore geography (high rates of unemployment up north but few local vacancies) and the actual nature of the jobs on offer (rates of pay, full/part time, perm or temp).

    All the debate about 'welfare lifestyle' is a smokescreen, misdirection. The real question is why succesive govts are unable or unwilling to create the jobs needed. After all, they still mine coal in France and Poland, make steel and aeroplanes in Germany, ships in Italy and Sweden. So, why not here?

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    Replies
    1. MoscowEast4:54 pm

      Bobo - when you ask 'So, why not here?' I presume that you think these things should be done in the UK. I'm sure they would if a profit could be made. Do you have a suggestion as to how this could happen?

      Delete
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