Happy Birthday

Here we are, the morning of my 40th birthday. I still have all my own teeth, which was pretty much my only ambition for 40 (though it was also my ambition for 30 – I have really troublesome teeth). 

What does the world have to offer me today? Well, Obama *might* actually try and legislate for decent gun control in the States, but only because 20 tiny children died in Newtown, less than 2 weeks before Christmas. And England are doing well in the cricket, ending a year of sporting success, or should that be excess? Nick Clegg is seeking to define how the Lib Dems are different from the Tories, but still utters the mantra that ‘working families shouldn’t earn less than those on benefits’. No Nick, anyone who needs benefits should receive an amount that ensures they have an income equal to a living wage, which everyone should be guaranteed. See how it works? We aim for the highest common denominator rather than the lowest. It’s called redistribution of wealth in a fair and just society. Oh but I forgot, people on the fringes aren’t the swing voters you need to appeal to in order to hold on to some semblance of power.  

Which brings me to the issue that has been circling in my head this morning (that and bloody ‘Hall of Fame’ which I like, I do, but I could do without the earworm). Yesterday I filled in this wonderfully biased survey on the Tories website: ‘Have Your Say on Benefits‘ it proclaims. 

They begin by asking ‘should benefits increase more than wages?’ I shan’t even begin to address the bias in the question, because what makes me most angry is the blind failure to accept that wages are not increasing. And that the ‘minimum wage’ is so ridiculously low that I have no idea how people get by, and then ‘benefits’ are even less than that. The question is not should benefits increase more than wages, it’s ‘should we have a fair system of rewarding work and providing for those who are unable to work?’

It gets better though… the next question is ‘Do you think it’s fair that people can claim more in benefits that the average family earns through going to work?’

WTF?

The fact that it is possible that ‘the average family’ is earning so little that people receiving benefits might have a higher income is a failure of the market economy. D’oh. The thing you said would fix everything. And why do people receiving benefits claim such massive amounts (says you), mostly it’s housing benefit. Um, let me think, why are rents so high while wages are so low… oh that’s right, it’s the market economy that will make sure everyone is equally entitled and we all live according to our means and get what we deserve. 

And the implication that ‘the average family’ is not receiving benefits. Please. Even David Cameron claimed the benefits he was entitled to (as he should, that’s the system). 

The benefits system is supposed to be a safety net. A way of ensuring that we can all live a comfortable existence without fear of poverty. FYI – IT’S NOT WORKING. The market economy is supposed to mean that work is valued fairly and we all spend money in a way that keeps the economy healthy and we pay taxes so we can keep the benefits system available for those in need. FYI – IT’S NOT WORKING. And the Government is supposed to represent the interests of the country, all of the country, not just the handful of folk whose decisions are all powerful, whether because of their constituency or their money or their lineage or their associations. Guess what, IT’S NOT WORKING. 

So for my birthday I’d like everyone to fill out the Tories wee questionnaire and tell them that ‘yes’ benefits should rise more than wages, and ‘yes’ it’s fair that some people get more benefits than ‘the average working family’. Because those people are entitled to that money. And what we need to fix is the shoddy wages. 

And then, because it’s my 40th so I deserve an extra special gift… Could we maybe accept that the market economy isn’t working so could we stop relying on it to fix society? And instead maybe, just maybe, could we think about social justice, equality, fairness and the hope of eliminating poverty and recognise that valuing everything through it’s cash worth is stupid? Cos I could have bought false teeth, but I value my own, even if no-one else would give me money for them. 

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