Monday, 23 January 2012

The benefits cap is an attack on the victims of austerity

You have to hand it to the political right. They are the real masters of the politics of divide and rule. Recently they have been busy dividing public sector workers and private sector workers over pay and pensions. Now they are dividing those in work against the unemployed over the benefits cap. Cleverly, they have come up with, as they always do, a simple ruse to get the support of those in work, for their attack on the victims of austerity - the so-called benefit scroungers. This is typically simplistic right-wing distortion of the truth and is very effective.

In case you want to jump to any conclusions about my views - I think that people should find work if they can. But the whole issue of work is far more complicated than the media would have you believe.The problem for people in the UK is that they live in a capitalist economic system which creates unemployment, which increases in time of inevitable periodic crises, thus preventing the unemployed  from getting meaningful work. There are three important issues which those who support a benefits cap don't want to discuss, they are;

1. If benefits exceed the average wage, that clearly means the average wage is too low. Low pay has been a chronic problem in the UK for many years. The introduction of a minimum wage under the Labour government helped to redress this problem, but the minimum wage is still not a living wage. If workers were realistically rewarded for the work they do this wouldn't be a problem.

2. Unemployment; the real issue which underlies this whole debate about benefit caps is the unemployment caused by the Coalition's austerity programme. The capitalist economic system has always produced unemployment. It was Marx who identified this problem as the 'reserve army of labour'. We need a government which has the guts and gumption to create jobs, rather than destroying them through austerity. In the Green Party, we explained how this could be done in our manifesto with a call for a Green New Deal to create one million jobs.

3. Housing benefits payments at £20 billion wouldn't be so great if we had enough social housing with controlled rents instead of reliance on the rip-off private sector. Over the past 30 years successive governments have failed to provide social housing on anywhere near the scale needed. The UK has a chronic shortage of homes with many of the poor living in substandard housing because of the market ideology pursued by New Labour and the Tories. Promises to build new homes simply haven't been met.

New Labour and the Tories have sought to hide their neoliberal economic failures by blaming the victims, and dividing the nation, through bashing the unemployed, and now, a benefit cap. What we need is real economic and social change to create a society where jobs are the priority, and hard working families receive the real benefits of the wealth they create. The only political party in the UK which has a costed and coherent programme to bring about that change within the context of the growing threat of climate change is the Green Party. Come and join us in making that change happen.

1 comment:

LJWNorth said...

Thanks for such an excellent post. We need more people like you in parliament. The Green Party is now the only party calling it as it is.