War on "benefit scroungers": stop Lib-Con attacks on the poor and powerless!

Submitted by Matthew on 19 August, 2010 - 10:08 Author: Tom Unterrainer

The Sun has gone into tabloid overdrive in support of a vicious government attack on claimants. Anyone on benefits — people they say “refuse to work”, people they say have had “too many children”, people they say are “robbing hardworking Sun readers of their cash”.

The government is backing that campaign — they want the same things. The Sun says “scroungers” deserve to be “named and shamed”. So do the government. The Sun is stirring up a vigilante drive among its readers, asking them to file reports of cases of “benefit cheats”. This is just what Cameron means by a “big society”.

This government is proving to be just as nasty as Thatcher’s, finding scapegoats among poor, powerless and vulnerable people and doing that despite the “input” of Lib Dem junior coalition partners. They are constructing a long list of people to stir up hate against — it already includes migrants, refugees and gypsies.

Many working-class people gripe about how easy they think life is for benefit claimants. Often this is an expression of sadness and frustration with their own live — their own struggles to stay in work or to earn enough to support themselves. But newspapers are owned by millionaires, and they express the view of… millionaires — people who want to keep the profit system running to benefit themselves. The Sun and other tabloids radically distort the reality for those living on benefits. It is never easy and it is very different from the lives of luxury portrayed in the papers and elsewhere.

Our message has to be clear — working-class people whether we are in work or not, should stick together. We should unite against the real parasites — the bankers, the rich, the people who will not suffer at all from the cutbacks, who will benefit from the low taxes on profits brought in by this government...

Prime Minister David Cameron claims that £5.2 billion is “lost” each year in the benefits system as a result of “fraud” and “error”. He does not say that the vast bulk of this amount is “error”, he does not mention the vast amount of money “saved” by the state because many people do not claim the benefits to which they are entitled.

None of that matters in his determination to be “tougher” on those who “exploit the system”, to prosecute the “cheats” and send them to jail.

What sort of “fraud” has the Sun and its readers uncovered? On Mon 16 August, the paper “exposes” a mother of eleven and her partner. Their crimes are that the father is on incapacity benefits and the mother is unemployed. Add to this the fact that they live in a five bedroom house and claim £30,000 per year in benefits.

Let’s de-construct this story. Thirteen people living in a five bedroom house. That’s 2.6 people per bedroom. The family gets £44 per week, per person to pay for food, clothing, travel, rent etc... The only wonder of this story is how this family manages to survive.

The fact a national newspaper is allowed to subject this family — not just the parents but the children too — to such a witch-hunt is a disgrace. Do the Sun expect this family to be chucked out onto the streets — the children taken into care perhaps?

What really disgusts the Sun and other tabloid papers like the Mail and the Express, what really scandalises Cameron and his ex- Etonian chums, isn't the money, but the people. Their hatred of working-class people shows through every time.

The Tories claim the £5.2 billion clawback from the benefits system will boost the British economy and make all of use “better off”. The economic realities of Britain tell a rather different story.

Britain is still the sixth richest nation on earth. Personal wealth exceeds £9000 billion, which averages out to £4 million per household. But not every household has that sort of money! That’s because the richest 10% hold £4000 billion (about £1.6 million per richest household), 44%, of the total amount. The poorest 50% of households owns only 9% of the total wealth.

There are clear, stark, disparities in wealth and the economic crisis has done nothing to dampen it. In fact, the gap keeps getting bigger under these conditions. The Sunday Times Rich List 2010 showed that the personal wealth of Britain's thousand richest people increased by 30% from last year, an increase of £77 billion.

These are the only people in Britain today who can afford to give some money away for the national good.

A 20% one-off tax on the richest 10% would yield a total of £800 billion — virtually eliminating the government’s stated need to tackle the debt. Such a tax would still leave these people filthy-rich. They won’t do it of course because such an act would “scare the markets”. It would be “bad for British business”. And that is code for “bad for our class”.

And that is the reason why they have to come after us, after working-class people, whether it is cutting our jobs, taking away our benefits; we, that is, working-class people are all in it together. They make us the scapegoats and lay the blame for the crisis of the economy and government institutions at our door.

Our response should be clear: stop the scapegoating, end the lies, make the rich pay for the crisis.

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