New Internationalist

Britain has gone to war – and the poor are in the firing line


Cost of living is going up three times as much as benefits. Photo: Images_of_Money, under a CC License.

Shameless is too honest a word to describe the decision, voted through Parliament on Tuesday 8 January, to cap benefit rises to just one per cent over the next three years, although the cost of living is going up by almost three times as much.

Vicious more accurately sums up this latest volley in the campaign against people that this cabinet of millionaires has decided are ‘scroungers’ and ‘shirkers’.

Sadly, the mythology that welfare recipients are at the root of our economic ills has traction in a mainstream media that is shockingly lax when it comes to truth-telling. And that affects public opinion. According to a recent poll, people think 27 per cent of welfare is claimed fraudulently. The government’s own estimates put it at just 0.7 per cent – or just one seventieth of the amount the treasury loses through tax avoidance and evasion.

And, as repeatedly pointed out by the Institute of Fiscal Studies and other reputable bodies, 60 per cent of those who will be affected by the raft of new measures affecting welfare and child tax credits are actually in work.

They are claiming benefits because wages are too low and rents are too high. The publicly funded welfare system has been used to bolster companies that drive down workers’ wages while ramping up senior executive pay to obscene levels. It’s putting money in the pockets of greedy landlords and property speculators.

As US billionaire Warren Buffet famously remarked: ‘There’s a class war all right. And it’s my class, the rich, who are waging it.’

There’s a reason that governments like Britain’s are targeting the poor and recruiting mainly middle-earning ‘strivers’ to their cause: it’s so that we do not look too hard at what the rich are up to. That is, feeding off economic crisis and getting ever richer as they let money make money and behaving, well,  like ‘scroungers and shirkers’, to coin a phrase...

It’s time to turn the tables we argue in the January/February issue of New Internationalist entitled ‘The Feral Rich – how can we stop them?’

Only when we focus on the real problem will start finding the real solutions.

You can buy the January/February issue of New Internationalist, read the Feral Rich keynote, or, to get stories like this one through your door every month, subscribe.

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