Tag Archives: cuts

Why we need Citizen’s Income

This was offered to the Citizen’s Income Trust  for their newsletter – but ironically, was withdrawn because they wanted to take the copyright without fee for unpaid reproduction.  One of my greatest bugbears – and manifesto points – is that too many are asked to work for free. We have work we value and expect to pay for, and things that are “lifestyle choices”, “for the love of it”, “community spirited”. Often the latter are creative, spiritual, helping endeavours – values we ought to want to endorse in our society of money exchange.

Here’s the article in support of Citizen’s Income (CI):

I’ve found that means tested government support doesn’t understand the unconventional – the ad hoc, the artists, the writers who have to work at long projects but don’t make money constantly. They don’t understand lack of contracts, time sheets, wageslips. They expect work to be all profit focussed and very tangible and narrowly defined. They know many self employed people can’t prove their hour-to-hour activities. They don’t understand the importance of networking. They don’t understand the sense of averaging changing income for assessment purposes.

I can illustrate that last point with shocking outcomes, though it is more about housing benefit than CI – evictions, suspensions – suffered by people I know.

It often feels as if they hope we’ll conform or die on the streets. None of us should do either. I shan’t.

I believe that working tax credits and benefits and ombudsmen to be in collusion, and not a just accountable open system.

I believe passionately that our worth is not measured by the taxable income we generate or our compliance and conventionality. I detest the anti benefits mindset that despises those who cannot support themselves in this expensive oligarchy.

CI is the Green Party’s best policy and I was dismayed by the Guardian’s recent attack – strategically stupid when Green Party supporters make up many of its readers. They could have used that space for CI profile raising in a positive way. CI needs to not be a pipe dream sometime but something that comes into force very soon, instead of Universal Credit. It would mean that no-one falls out of the bottom – I know that the circs I’ve heard about where people are left without income are common and that appeals are overwhelmed by complaints. A CI type system gives people choice. It recognises diversity. And it supports, not badgers the people – Citizens’ Income recognises our worth and part in this country.

However…the Citizen Income Trust’s website contains ideas that I am not happy with, about the Beveridge report and the ethos behind welfare. Labour is well named and it’s why I don’t support that party. It seems much of welfare is about socialisation into a particular work ethic, making sure we need and want to work.

No spiritual catechism or tenet would agree with the presumption that we are here to work – especially in the tax-generating, conformist (to government) manner that has become approved in Western society. It is not the point of human life and what really matters. I’d like my epitaph to be far more than ‘worked hard, claimed little, owned lots, owed nothing’. I think CI can help support people to live more freely than our current welfare.

Life is about living abundantly. That was a Jesus paraphrase, not a politician.

 

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A political triptych

I’ve promised to post on various things but think I can squeeze many of my recent political thoughts into one piece.

Re the justice secretary wanting to give the Court of Human Rights less power – I found that a frightening manipulative speech designed to get the people to give away their right to a court higher than our own country’s. The Rule of Law is supposed to be an equaliser, but it is not in practice because

-law is not made or influenced by most ordinary people

-ordinary people need professional assistance to use the law

-the cost of this is beyond most peoples means, because we pay our lawyers and judges comparatively too much and cut out legal aid. I am so glad to hear of an unprecedented walk out by lawyers today about that – some of them are on the people’s side! or are they… is it more about wanting their proper (ie extortionately high) pay for legal aid work than truly wanting a justice system that’s fair and open to all?

We need a system where we are involved in decision making and where law is affordable and not influenced by politicians and businesses serving their own agenda. And we most certainly need a court beyond our supreme court!

The other big thing wrong with our society is capitalism. I read a book about philanthrocapitalism – an oxymoron! because these big businesses and bosses who claim to care and want to sort out the world’s problems have only one way of solving them: imposing their system on the poor and others who don’t fit, and getting community groups like churches and charities to become like them. Their whole language is about venture, human capital!! and growth… and growth is the key to doing just the opposite. Unlike nature, greed knows no sensible cut off. The only thing we should grow without limit is spiritual and personal development, and that in short would be growing in wisdom and love. If you stopped the need to grow business and constantly improve on last year’s profits, you would find the pivot of the world’s problems was destroyed and you’d be in a place to truly stop them.

The biggest problem, at its fulcrum, is imbalance of power and resources, and the need for growth and the insecurity of the powerful which causes it to look after its own needs and placate or control everyone who is other. It’s not just the environment which suffers from the need for more, it’s people too. If we ceased growth for growth’s sake and the need to always get something back (the basis of debt, which is worth a post in itself) then we would be moving away from this harmful model.

The final piece of today’s trilogy is the news from the lovely Mr Osborne about Britain having further cuts to its welfare budget. Even his critics are trying to run the same ship on the same wind, and what’s really needed is to rebuild the boat. I am angry that no politician from one of the main parties is questioning why the people are paying for the government’s borrowing. why is the deficit really our problem? and it’s especially not the poorest’s. The whole nature of what is work and that our worth comes from the being part of that narrow definition needs to be questioned too. And of course, the cuts are coming out of the same greed powered, oligarchical, plutocratical growth based opaque system.

Yes, the world can be changed and no it’s not too complex or naïve to do. People saying otherwise are helping the system continue, whether they mean to or not. What does evil need… good people to do nothing (Edmund Burke). And for the belief that change is too great and is not my problem. Well it isn’t and it is.

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My Proposed Austerity Law Cuts

Those who endorse David Cameron’s latest rounds of proposed cuts show themselves to be ignorant and are being tools of the government’s propaganda. It’s so harsh and ridiculous that it barely requires or deserves comment, except to show how far removed the government is from people, and how cruel. This idea of feckless shirkers – certainly for most – is utter rubbish; and comes from the financially secure, or the unambitious, and those very much part of the system. Anyone who cares what they do and doesn’t fit the drop down menus at the job centre might find that work-finding is rather more difficult, and the greater the cuts, the less jobs, the less funding, and yet higher debts…

I’d like to pass a law that all prime ministers and their cabinet who have been in power for over 2 years and who weren’t elected, and who damage the country, should resign with immediate effect and no severance package. I suspect the public would support that in droves. And perhaps Cameron might have to face his own austerity messages.

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Winter is Coming

My last piece on my first impressions of Game of Thrones was somewhat cynical. I still stand by many of my comments and feel more strongly against the disgusting sexual abuse by men  – what I read of season 2 and poor Ros the Pros made my blood boil! But I have been wondering about my final premise – to read it like a myth. Whether intended or not, it makes a story into something meaningful and empowering, and rather topical.

 

The watchword of season 1 is “Winter is Coming”– a phrase meant to frighten those younger characters who had never known what real hardship is. Just as I watch this, Britain has brought in a new round of austerity measures. The media are making their own ‘winter is coming’ clarion call, adding a bass note to the government warnings about cuts as savage as the Dothraki. We are encouraged that there are threats from fearful outsiders, just like those from over the Wall and across the Narrow Sea.

 

Winter is Coming means get ready – as those wise disability benefit claimants who have renewed before the new harsher rules came in. It doesn’t mean just brace yourself, but to prepare. In metaphorical winter, it is not a case of endure it and see if you come through: unlike a season, we can affect whether winter comes and do not have to accept it.

 

I am encouraged that so many characters in Game of Thrones are disadvantaged, yet no-one gives in. They turn disaster into opportunity instead of cowering and resigning themselves.

 

Tyrion the dwarf advises to wear one’s disadvantage like armour. He doesn’t languish saying: my family don’t love me, my father is ashamed of me, I’ve only ever been with women I’ve paid…. I will be lonely and an easy target so I mayaswell just die. He twice states his love of life. He knows he is not a strong fighter, so he trains his mind instead by constant reading and uses his wit to help save him. He has a soft spot for others whom society rejects; he designs a saddle so “cripple” boy Bran can ride a horse. Although he cannot play as he did, Bran relishes that he can still look at the world and enjoy that.

 

When Daenerys is sold to a violent warlord by her controlling brother, she could have felt her world was over. But she not only ends up with a loving marriage, but a loving people, and she becomes the leader her brother dreamt of being, learning her powers and realising her potential. She is empowered through loss, transformed through tragedy and treason.

 

Arya names her wolf for a queen she admires and takes after. When her father is killed before her and she’s rounded up by a rough man, Arya must have also feared for her life. But by disguising her as a boy and taking her to the Wall, Arya is made safe from Queen Cersei and avoids the arranged submissive marriage she dreads. Her ‘dance’ teacher Syrio taught her to tell death “not today;” even bravely when he realised it may call for him, he saves her and imbues courage and a buoyancy in her that will keep her going. Arya tells her father that Syrio said, “every hurt teaches us a lesson, every lesson makes us stronger.” I think I might make that my sigil and motto.

 

Jon Snow is so fed up of being the half acknowledged bastard son that he goes to the Wall to join the Night Watch of brothers. As a nobleman with sword training, he looks forward to military duties – only to be relegated to manservant. But his friend Sam points out that being a steward to the chief commander has huge advantages and opportunities.

 

This is what Game of Thrones.net says of Sandor, the Hound:

Once Sansa has lost everything, he tries to show her the lessons he had to learn alone: how to survive, how to keep going when dreams are dead. He tries to protect her and help her to protect herself.

 

Even a slimy character (Ser Petyr) has something worth hearing: “Only by admitting what we are do we get what we want.” It seemed to refract some spiritual manifestation and growth books I read recently.

 

I realised that life in Westeros can feel more akin to our current world, especially in the countries with so much violence in them at present. Many countries have leaders who want power for its own sake, not to lead for the good of the people. Houses may not be about blood families, but about other alliances which means you help your own, at cost to others and regardless of ethics. As Cersei tells her son, when you are in power, you can create the realities that will be circulated and believed. But the truth will be revealed and karma has a way of dealing out justice.

 

What follows winter is coming in Game of Thrones…? The fight back*, not simply being crushed by undemocratic tyrants with dubious justice systems. And those who seize their power and treat their people cruelly never keep their seat.

 

*I am not suggesting for a moment it ought be a violent one; I am against taking up arms

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Further thoughts on forced labour for claimants

After reading today’s Observer (not my usual paper but more me than most others) I feel I should repost this, as further workfare for jobseekers is being proposed. I’m interested that the Observer‘s view is that it’s a backlash against government reforms not working. Hardly a logical one!

And I’d also like to comment on what I think of employers who are taking on staff without paying them. You don’t need me to spell that out, do you?

https://elspethr.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/eco-echo/ – a response to an article in favour of this practice.

See also my thoughts on “Hatred of Housing benefit claimants” and “Government gripes”

 

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Government gripes

What does Royal Mail think it will achieve by raising the price of postage so? If it is already struggling to compete how will this assist it? In my experience delivery is slow and often inaccurate – misdelivered items are regular. In times of cuts, passing one’s own struggles onto the public is immoral and also does not make business sense. it is claimed that too many of us are using other methods to transport things and that RM are not viable – so how is making a radical price increase going to help?

The cuts continue to be ridiculous and eating at those who need the money most. Housing benefit claimants are slashed each year without warning as a kind of warped anniversary present. Just because one has been claiming for a time does not mean you can magically waft in more money at the government’s behest. It’s still a system where it makes claimants worse off for working. These moves are going to make some homeless and make those with a home in very unsuitable living situations. It also passes on the shortfall to landlords, some of whom might do very well for doing very little, but the people really responsible for this so called deficit are not in any way taking any of the strain. They’ve no idea about being poor and now the quite well off are also struggling financially. The Guardian reported that East Cheshire council is paying over £200,000 per year to its top two council leaders – one of whom is off sick. Paying them a more suitable salary would mean alot of people on benefits (as well as all the other axed services and needs) could be paid. Leaders don’t understand the anguish and fear and the spiral they are putting onto people. Or are they like Scrooge, hoping the poorest will just die in the gutter?

We shouldn’t let them.

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Dickens’ Christmas Carol

I feel sorry for Scrooge.

His workspace is intruded on by presumptive, manipulative money grabbers.

Christmas cheer is an irritating concept and to many, salutations can be cloying, especially if said without meaning, and if your season is anything but merry.

Scrooge, as the Muppets point out, is alone and has been for many years. It is pointed out that he thinks of no-one, but who thinks of him? His partner is long dead and he since youth has never had any of the romantic kind; friendless, his business is all he has to focus on.

His cruelty is stuff of pantomimes, throwing people out of homes and jobs at Christmas and almost relishing it.

I enjoyed the insight into Scrooge’s past – a lonely boy sent to school by a volatile father. What really turned him so nasty?  Love of money does not seem suffice.

Scrooge makes an interesting point: he gives to a system – why should he give again to charity canvassers? Does he mean through taxes, or is he referring to private gifts?

Such an attitude to workhouses and prisons for the poor is not at all far from government and right wing thinking – work or starve… it is very close to how we think about animals, including those in ‘rescue shelters’. It is frightening that an old story often filmed, dramatised and even Muppetised feels so fresh.

Dickens’ Christmas Carol feels very apt this year especially. It is easy to update Scrooge. But he seems more complex than the villain who has given his name to meanness, who goes from hard master to a giddy weak character, enjoying silly games. His is not a religious conversion and if he finds a true meaning in Christmas it is a surfacey one, having little to do with the Nativity and more to do with fear of death, loneliness and being reviled. He gives into Christmas by buying large carnivorous gifts, joining in party games, and smirking benignly at all he meets, by making a large donation to the poor, and drinking. That sounds like commercial festivities rather than anything profound.

Scrooge is a charismatic man, who we enjoy booing but don’t really hate, although our modern real Scrooges incite a different reaction.

It is right that a change of heart is what Scrooge most needs and an understanding of what people really think and what his decisions do to poorer people. But the twee, unspiritual end of conforming to a false jollity is not a satisfactory wrap. What then instead? Perhaps a question for the Occupy camps as well as the literary adapters and analysts.

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Hatred of housing benefit claimants

I am incensed by another example of irresponsible, crowd whipping reporting from my local rag. Archant owns most local rags in England now, and has been behind other thoughtlessness in the same group of papers about overweight campaigns (see next blog) and got a man reburgled due to describing his home in such detail and the ripeness of the opportunity at his secluded, treasure ridden abode. Mostly I find the headlines so incendiary in their mix of rustic low brow and propaganda that I rarely read it. I could give other examples from around the country, including the way that this journalism monopoliser treats its staff.

A front page headline of a multiple million pound housing benefit overpayment is designed to make those not in the welfare system angry, saying that the overpayment is not only caused by deliberate fraud but those who fail their responsibility to tell the council of changes of circumstances. Reading on – as far as I could bear – it is clearly meant to couple this large figure with all the anger the public feels about the recession and the cuts in Britain. It lists other local amenities being lost due to the cuts, as if it is housing benefit claimants’ fault, saying that the council’s announcement has come against a ‘backdrop’ of all the other suffering.

I would like to remind what that backdrop really is. It’s worldwide greed and disproportionate power and wealth, forgetting what it really is to be human. Our governments and banking systems, along with others, are the manifestation of this.

The next day, the sister paper also carried an article. It revealed that it had (mis)used the freedom of information act to find this out.

On one page, the opinion is clearly against cuts and for caring and being humane. Yet on another, we get this contradictory message. The council is quoted to say that most people on HB actually need it, but the last word of the article makes clear what the paper and journalist thinks – that our council’s deficit is due to wasted welfare.

It is actually evil to lay such problems at the feet of those too poor to be able to pay their own way in a society of ever rising costs and make them the scapegoat. Estate agents forever pushing prices up, insurance companies making legally sanctioned money through fear, large newspaper groups who buy up independents, and councils who not only unquestioningly conformed to the cuts they were given from their capital but have implemented them in a thoughtless and underhand way – these would be fairer groups to cast aspersions on.

I would also like to inform – without causing personal embarrassment or scrutiny for those concerned – that this particular council is 6-7 weeks behind with housing benefit changes of circumstances. It then freezes the money whilst it investigates, leaving many claimants in the high risk of getting evicted. I found one who actually had been, due to the severe underpayment due to the council not making a change of circs in the opposite direction. In April, HB cuts were brought in nationally and without warning to individuals that meant most claimants are now not having their full rent covered. Yet claimants are meant to declare and lose any extra money they earn.

Is it any wonder if some claimants do not declare? Honesty should never make one worse off, and neither should working.

The problem is also that in a target driven office with the fear of job loss that claims are not being handled properly and that is why overpayments occur. More staff, better treated and with less pressure would alleviate this.

People on welfare are among the very vulnerable most affected by cuts, while council chiefs earn high salaries and government ministers who have no idea about what it’s like to be on low or no income make emotive statements and making cutting – in all ways – decisions affecting these people’s lives. (I have already the response of a chief minister about this matter, most unsatisfactory).

This same council has been one of the worst I’ve lived under, failing to deal with many aspects of its role, including regularly missing bin collections – one of its most simple functions.

I wrote before about Welfare here (https://elspethr.wordpress.com/2011/10/08/the-truth-about-benefits) and it remains something I care about, as does our right to speak out without being silenced or punished and our right to remaining private.

This is also a call for responsible journalism who should be a voice for the people, not a right wing rag to incite anger against those who need support.

Strangely enough, this leads nicely into my post on Dickens…

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