A week into the new year and enough time to realise we need 2020 to be a lot better. “Better” is hard to define but in this instance I just mean be better to each other. Expect better from those in power and have a better reaction to those who are struggling. And for starters, stop treating the poor like shit just because things are going down hill.
Throughout the election one of the main topics of debate surrounded the Conservative’s defence of austerity. Spokespeople gave many reasons for their actions with their favourite being they needed to pay back the debt of the last Labour government. “It was their fault, not ours, and things are going to get better now.” A decade has passed and they still choose to blame Gordon Brown.
When you consider the economic situation of the country in 2010, some of the initial austerity plans were reasonable. Spending had been too much under New Labour and the worldwide financial crash meant purses needed to be tightened. What has followed however is a decade of cuts, suffocating those that need it the most, rather than the world’s fifth biggest economy finding the money from elsewhere.
The thing that hits hard the most for me is that when the debt of our country is mentioned the real reasons are nearly always ignored. Excessive government spending and the extreme interest on PFI contracts led us into a pit and then the financial crash pulled away the ladder. However this is never properly analysed by the press, they’d rather go for a different target. The poor and the immigrants.
The truth about benefit frauds
Blaming those on benefits for the continued cuts is an argument I am seeing an awful lot more on Twitter recently. The whole “if people weren’t lazy we wouldn’t need the cuts” rubbish raising its ugly head. Putting everyone on the welfare state in the same cruel bracket.
Personally, I think this argument can be made to look very silly with a few numbers. In 2017 it was estimated around £3.3bn was over paid to the public in benefits, £2bn of which was classed as fraudulent, the rest “admin errors.” £1bn of this was eventually recouped by the government and in the same year there was £1.7bn underpayment on benefits due to claimant mistakes and admin errors. That means that the treasury are £600 million down a year if we take that as an average. I know that is not an exact maths but for arguments sake, bear with me.
With this in mind, consider that social spending in this country has been cut by £7bn since 2010. Disability spending £5bn. School budgets, another £7bn. 3 services that the most vulnerable desperately need the help of – a total of £19bn. Now take that £600 million a year and multiply it by 10, that’s £6bn in wastage. So that’s £13bn less than the cuts mentioned in the same time period, is it really the “lazy” people’s fault?
What we need to take from all this is that no matter what people say, it is not the crooks and the scroungers that have got us in this mess. Yes benefit frauds are taking the piss and yes it is a great drain on our society but not everyone is the same. The welfare state is something that needed to be scaled back and reorganised, not ripped apart to leave the population in despair. And when you look at the numbers the cuts are just so much more severe than what we are saying we need to recoup back.
It’s that Polish fella’s fault!
The other dangerous rhetoric that is so prevalent on the streets of Britain is the idea that our services continue to suffer because of the rising numbers coming in. It is true that decisions from New Labour led to a tidal wave of immigration from Eastern Europe but it is not as simplistic to just say the pot of money is being ate up by the extra people. This being said, immigration control should not be ignored due to a fear of being called racist but I just think people are looking at in the wrong way.
Firstly, according to national statistics, there is around 3.5 million immigrants working in the UK. This is a large chunk of the 32.7 million estimated to be working in this country. Just under 50% of the UK national population is in work in this country, which is lower than the percentage of non-British which lies at 60%. So even though there is over 2 million non-British people unemployed in this country, when you take off things like 500,000 students, this is not as high a number as The Sun would wish you believe.
Employment statistics can be easily skewed, that’s a grievance for another day but if you look at what jobs immigrants normally take on, it adds more food for thought. 30% of all non-british born workers are in a sector that is described as “highly skilled.” This is 2% higher than the UK born percentage and highly skilled normally means higher paid. Higher pay = more taxes = more money for services.
Another interesting stat from this study is that only 15% of non-British workers in the UK are defined as “low skilled”, therefore adding more questions towards the people that say immigrants take all the basic jobs. So they’re not stealing all the low paid jobs and they’re also providing more taxes per person. Doesn’t sound that bad does it?
Now you can argue with these numbers if you want. I know I have bridged the gap and you can make your own conclusions, but it adds illustration to why I think certain opinions are just so flawed. Immigrants are essentially paying their way and on average provide a lot for our economy. A statement supported by the 2018 study from the government which shown, on average, EU national immigrants pay £2300 more than British born adults per year.
Who is really to blame?
The statistics that I have brought forward are obviously not the only things to consider but they do show that the message may not be as true as you believe. The campaign against those that are already in the shitter, though, will be horribly difficult to break. As government priority continues to reside over expanding already successful business instead of replacing the industry that was gutted in the 80’s, whole communities are left redundant.
These communities have no tangible target to blame. The anger of the 80s is forgotten, a new generation has came forward, a new generation that can’t really see many options. So who do they take their frustration out on? Those they consider are not trying as hard as them or the newcomers into their community. A hatred born out of fear and pessimism.
This is a hatred that has been fed and watered by the press in this country. Constant propaganda about how people take advantage of the system rather than highlighting the quality work it does. No matter your politics you cannot ignore the fact that it is the right wing press who choose these targets with no real data behind them. Stripping people of their empathy for those who have fell on hard times.
This country was in debt and this country did need to make spending changes. But do not let anyone tell you the levels of austerity we have faced was the only way to fix this. Those at the bottom of the pile have been stood on for too long so don’t let them take the piss out of you too. Get smart and start wondering what interests those telling you to blame your neighbour have in the way your area is ran. They don’t care about the fight you’re fighting, they just don’t want you looking at them.
YZ 🙂 x
Cartoon for the featured image is by Ted Rall