Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Can I get these words out painlessly? Simon Jenkins - a good article? Surely not. I don't think that I have ever put these words together before. Oh well, here goes.

Simon Jenkins has written a nearly good article in today's Guardian. OK, there are a few of his pet obsessions, sweeping statements, some dubious economics and the conclusion has a comforting familiarity to it, but the main thrust is spot on. The context is the response to the Channel 4 'reality' show, Benefits Street, but what Jenkins points out is that we are all on benefits, the rich more than anyone. He writes:
We are all on the game; some of us are just smarter at concealing it. I have a book on my shelf by the Americans Mark Zepezauer and Arthur Naiman called Take the Rich Off Welfare. It glares down at me whenever I think of writing about poverty. It shows how well-heeled Americans, starting in the Reagan years, cornered the lion's share of public spending. They had capital depreciations, fiscal reliefs, muni bonds, fuel subsidies, bailouts, price supports, cultivated waste and tax frauds. It was called "wealthfare".
This was no leftwing tract. It merely pointed out that "wealthfare costs the American taxpayer some three and a half times the cost of welfare for the poor". The relentlessness of the rich lobbying Congress for tax breaks and subsidies meant "the US government today functions mostly as a huge Robin Hood in reverse". If there is money going begging, those who beg loudest get most.
And some of the things these scroungers get up to are shocking,
Running down the Guardian's interactive guide, Visualising Whitehall, I am not sure what is meant by "corporate development, change delivery, compliance strategy". They sound like upmarket benefits scrounging to me.
This is the missing element in the depressing coverage of the welfare state, that it goes far beyond health and services for the poor to the extent that we are all beneficiaries and that those who gain the most are the already wealthy. Whilst the poor are subject to stringent examination and moral censure, the bulk of the benefits paid to the rich and to corporations never seem to catch the eye of The Daily Mail.

There are two critical responses to this state of affairs. Jenkins is undoubtedly in the anti-subsidy lobby. The other accepts the necessity of subsidy and spending, but questions the equity of its distribution, its priorities, and the competence and probity of governments in spending wisely.

Whatever, those who scream 'scrounger' loudest, who resent paying taxes the most, would do well to sit back and calculate just how well they are doing out of a system that is massively skewed in their favour.

1 comment:

Anton Deque said...

I have always thought if you want to be serious about fleecing the Treasury you need to be in the money first.