You Are A Bloody Moron

I wrote this entry in October 2010 when IDS and his Centre for social justice looked interesting to the media. Despite his apparent enlightened attitude it was clear to people who knew anything about the reality of benefits that he was either being excessively naive or, two weeks after being voted into government, seeking to lubricate what were to become far-reaching policies.

The media is entirely consumed with people who claim benefits, with people who make claiming benefits a lifestyle choice, with benefits scroungers and benefit thieves. The benefits bill is indeed enormous, and more money is lost through DWP incompetence than through fraudulent claims. Note that what little information is available comes under the banner ‘Fraud and error.’ They are two separate issues but linking them feeds a useful prejudice.Ian Duncan Smith meanwhile, describes the issue succinctly:

“The present benefits system is so complex and unfair that no one understands it. It leads at the bottom end to one of the most regressive tax and benefit withdrawal rates that it is possible to imagine.

“We ask people to go to work for the first time and then tell them to pay back 70%, 80% and 90% back to the state. These are levels none of the wealthiest bankers are asked to pay – they are moaning at 50%.

“If you are unemployed, and you come from a family that is unemployed, all you can see when you think about work is risk. It is a real risk because for all the efforts you make the rewards are very minimal and in some cases none at all.

“Socially, everyone says: ‘You are a bloody moron – why are you doing this? You don’t have to do this.’ So taking responsibility is a real risk for you.”

That he misses the single most important aspect of this mindset is testament to how deep our Hard Working Families rhetoric goes. If you’re a poor person and unemployed you keep a roof over your own and your family’s head. If you’re a poor person and you swallow propaganda you are very likely to become homeless.

Which person is taking responsibility?

What can we say about the messages being sent to the very poor?

How might this affect an external locus of evaluation?
Of the person on benefits?
On the working person who earns less than a person on benefits?

On you?

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