Have you seen how fat this guy is? It's kind of ridiculous, almost to the point of parody. If you want to get a guy to argue for poor people to tighten their belts, at least make sure they can actually buckle theirs.
He was the poster child you rich boys picked up? Him? I know Alec Shelbrooke is supposed to have worked a vaguely blue collar job -- a mechanical engineer if I'm reading right, so I guess that makes him one of the few Tories that has actually worked a day in his life. So maybe he seems the most relatable person in the party right now.
But seriously? He's the man you picked to tell people to stop indulging? Him?
Sorry, I kind of wanted to keep this blog apolitical (at least this first month) but this type of thing really burns me up. It's hard for me to write about this without lapsing into insults. It just pisses me off. It's such an insulting proposal so it's kind of hard not to respond in kind.
Job Seeker's Allowance is set at about £71 a week. There are other benefits that you can get when unemployed that can top that up, but I think it'd be rare to find anybody who brings in more than £600 a month (even that is is quite a high estimate on my part, I think, it's probably much less than that but let's round up for the sake of argument). You can't exactly go on weekly benders or even have any kind of 'lifestyle' on money like that. I think you can maybe afford a drink or a few packets of cigarettes now and then, but if you want to eat, pay your rent and keep wearing clothes (I don't, but whatever, your body your rules) then you have to abstain from the fun stuff even if you desperately want it.
Even if there are people out there that are just gaming the system, taking their £71 and then immediately spending it all down at the pub and the betting shop while their children starve at home in dirty nappies. Even if these people do exist, do you think sticking all their benefits on a card will stop them? They're already starving their kids to death whenever they get a tip on a decent horse, do you think they'll bat at an eye at just swiping what they want right off the shelf? Or even worse, breaking into your house to pawn your TV and jewellery? Crime's going to go up in response to this.
All this does is punish everybody that is forced to live on benefits. Most of 'em scrimp, save and sacrifice in order to make that £600 a month (or less) last as long as possible. If they have a little bit of money at the end of the month, where's the harm in having a drink or whatever your poison is to unwind a little? If you can afford it, you're entitled if you ask me, very much so.
How would they enforce something like this? I've worked behind tills before. Card transactions are usually the most difficult, or at least the most time consuming, things that you need to process. This would just eat up so much time at the tills in supermarkets. People will be waiting longer, till staff will be frustrated and confused. Then there's the shame involved. Thanks to the Conservative Party's pals in the right wing media, anybody claiming any sort of benefit at all is demonised as a feckless, lazy scrounger (except for the pensioners, who actually get 53% of the welfare bill. But then they're the only ones who buy newspapers anymore, so you can't piss them off). Handing over one of these cards in place of money just marks you, especially in the eyes of all the people you've just made to wait even longer. Even if you are using one 'responsibly' then you're probably going to be made to feel like a bit of a shit. People on benefits probably don't need any more help feeling depressed and anxious.
Oh yeah, and this would cost money too. The technology for these cards needs to be developed (I assume it'd be some sort of CHIP and PIN system, which isn't cheap), then they needed to be printed up and sent to every job centre in the country. None of this stuff is free. It'll cost the taxpayer a lot of money and probably inflate our welfare spending, instead of reducing it.
Also, have you ever tried giving up smoking? It's horrible. Yet, people won't be allowed to pay for cigarettes on a benefit card so they're pretty much forced into giving up. Quitting cigarettes is only possible if you actually WANT to give them up yourself. You can't be bullied or coerced into it. Yet this system would do exactly that.
Booze and cigarettes also have some of the highest rates of VAT. If you force benefit recipients not to buy then we'd actually be losing a chunk of tax money. Maybe not all that much, I'm not convinced that people on benefits buy as much booze as fags as the media claims, but it'd be significant. We'd wouldn't be lowering our welfare spending, so we'd still be giving these folks the same £71 a week. Only now that money would only get spent on the low to no VAT items. We'll actually be bringing in less money in taxes than we are right now.
I mean, I guess George Osborne could just borrow more money to cover the losses. Borrowing is already going up (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/public-sector-borrowing-increases-8428467.html) so it's not like we'll notice a couple extra billion on top of that. But if they're fine with throwing away tax money like this, why are they so pissed at anybody claiming benefits at all?
This is just so elitist and bigoted, it's just the rich boys telling you how to live and what to spend your money on. The same ones that have the swanky, tax payer subsidised bar; the fat expense accounts that pay for their food, drinks, rent and transport; a whole mess of holiday pay (you won't find many MPs at parliament now, they're all on Christmas break). All this on top of a starting salary that's nearly four times the national average (http://www.parliament.uk/about/mps-and-lords/members/pay-mps/) all paid for by the taxpayers too, I might add. Being an MP might be tough work but I don't think there are many benefit recipients that'd mind swapping places. There are a lot of perks to the job. Shit, I'm tempted to run for some kind of elected office myself.
Although that might cut into my writing time, plus, can you imagine me in Parliament? I'd blow through that taxpayer subsidised bar like a fucking hurricane. I'd be naked and challenging the entire Tory party to a fight before I even try to push through my 'let's all stop being such dicks' reforms.
Now I just feel tired and depressed. I don't think I've even begun to cover all the reasons why this benefit cards proposal is wrong. It's exhausting hopping between here and google to fact check. I don't know how all these smart bloggers do it!
Also, here's an interesting article about the benefits system that might help dispel some of the myths;
Now I have so much stuff to do and this blasted thing took me forever, but I saw that video up there, thought of that fat joke and I felt like I had to say something. I'm not a thin man myself and I needed to justify it with half arsed facts and hardly researched opinions.
But even I've put more thought into this proposal than Alec Shelbrooke has (and if I have to go up there one more time to find out how to spell his name again, I'll hate him all the more).
I can promise you that the next blog will be less twatty.
I can promise, but much like a politician, I rarely keep my promises.