I’ve made my position clear about ‘benefits’ over the year. ‘Benefits’ are not really benefits at all.
I decided to look at the meaning of the word ‘benefit’ and found (according to dictionary.com)
[ben-uh-fit] noun, verb,ben·e·fit·ed or ben·e·fit·ted, ben·e·fit·ing or ben·e·fit·ting.
1.something that is advantageous or good; an advantage:
2.a payment or gift, as one made to help someone or given by a benefit society, insurance company, or public agency:
3.a theatrical performance or other public entertainment toraise money for a charitable organization or cause.
4.Archaic . an act of kindness; good deed;
Perhaps our national failing is that we still mentally see ‘benefits’ as a gift and not a right. The payments given to those who have some form of need should not be considered as an ‘act of charity’ by government. It is money necessary to live not money in the gift of the government.
Sometimes language is and can be important.
By Cameron and his Conservative-led coalition like spreading the rhetoric that ‘benefits’ as well as ‘public housing’ should somehow be related to ‘good behaviour’.
This article for example as a case in point which explains
David Cameron wrote in a Sunday newspaper that he wanted to look at going further in welfare reforms, calling for the child benefit payments of parents who play truant from school to be withdrawn.
He suggested a more ambitious welfare reform programme when he posed the question of whether the government should be “asking much more of people on benefits who should be looking for work – or imposing even stricter penalties on those who refuse job offers?”
Cameron moves in a no-doubt electorally pleasing but morally questionable path.
Calling for the removal of child benefit payments to the parents of children who play truant is morally repulsive. It further impedes those who rely more heavily on those child benefit payments. Lets not forget that child benefit will be means tested soon (in a pathetically haphazard way but no matter). Where is the proposal for penalties for those parents who don’t receive child benefit and whose children play truant? Or do they really think truancy only affects ‘poor children’.
It insults our intelligence to make these proposals but they play very well to a public crowd that has been increasingly weaned to divide our own population into an ‘us/them’ dichotomy between those who work and those who do not work.
The government (and the previous government too) persist with a ‘divide and rule’ policy of presenting those who are not able to work against those who do work – well, we should never forget that for those us who aren’t party to the millions in trust funds that most of our government members grew up with – there is a extremely tenuous link between being a have and being a have-not.
The Guardian article goes on to quote Cameron saying
“What about welfare? The old something-for-nothing system we had under Labour had a poisonous effect on responsibility in our society. Again, we’ve already taken bold action – we’re in the process of moving hundreds of thousands of people who are fit to work off incapacity benefit and are imposing sensible limits on the amount of benefit people can take. But again, given the scale of the problem, can’t we go further? Say by asking much more of people on benefits who should be looking for work – or imposing even stricter penalties on those who refuse job offers?”
Something-for-nothing? Really? Personally I believe that people are entitled to a level of support from the state in order to live and that Cameron is playing games with words and assumptions when he appeals to the ‘Daily Mail’ reading crowd. He makes much reference to ‘benefit cheats’ as talks about ‘taking away benefits’ as if it is a reward that we had to well-behaved dogs and it is insulting in the extreme.
I those doubt that reforms are needed but the language in itself in invidious and pushes our thoughts to regard ‘benefits’ and ‘benefit claimants’ in a particularly unfavourable light.
And as an aside, as was pointed out to me, the photo in the Guardian article – well it has a picture of Charles and Camilla. Now THERE’S a family existing on benefits with absolutely no public gain and I think their social housing should be taken away for the genuine good of the nation. But that’s another question for another day..