Taking a stand for truth

by Elias Blum

What follows is a statement issued on Facebook by Occupy London. I thought it summed up a key part of our current economic and social debate, and was worth reposting here:

I would just like to clarify some factual misrepresentations made by David Cameron during the special leaders’ BBC Question Time.

1) The welfare bill is not large because of “people leaving home at 18 to claim benefits”. 47% of the welfare bill is spent on state pensions. Only 3% is spent on Jobseekers’ Allowance. There are, in fact, two areas of growing spending: housing benefit, and working tax credits.

To resolve working tax credits, a higher minimum wage is required. This is because, at the moment, these benefits fill in the gap between exploitative low wages and effective pay, simply to save employers money.

To resolve housing benefit, building more social housing is required. This is because, due to the lack of social housing, the government must instead pay rent directly to private landlords. Private landlords currently pocket around 40% of housing benefit. For example, a Tory MP, Richard Benyon, receives more than £625,000 a year from housing benefit alone.

This is how you truly tackle the welfare bill, and help the economy and British people at the same time. Not by scapegoating an underclass, demonising the poor, and using isolated incidents as justification for entirely unfair and inefficient regimes.

2) It is embarrassing to pretend to care about the NHS by utilising personal experiences, whilst having witnessed a top-down reorganisation which cost the jobs of more than 5,000 nurses, shutting down of A&Es, and the severe slashing of social care.

3) To purport that this has been “difficult for everyone” is an outright lie. The 1,000 wealthiest in Britain have seen their wealth double over the past five years. Meanwhile, everyone else has witnessed the biggest decline in real wages since records began. Also, 1 million visited food banks within the past year.

Furthermore, the rich have received massive income and corporate tax cuts during this government, whilst everyone else faced a disproportionate impact under the raise in taxation of goods and services (VAT). This has resulted in a disgustingly regressive tax regime whereby the poorest 10% of households pay more of their income in tax than anyone else. The poorest are literally paying more than the rich in tax.

A regressive tax regime of this kind is a violation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights Article 2. In essence, a breach of human rights law.

4) “2 million new jobs” is a vague and misleading phrase. It neither connotes the reality that many of these jobs are temporary, nor that they are usually underpaid. Also, due to huge public sector cuts, many of those previously well-employed, will now be settling for far less security in their employment.

5) Repeatedly asserting that we now have “a strong economy” whilst slandering previous Labour spending, is politically dishonest and economically questionable.

Economists have described this as Britain’s slowest economic growth in history. In fact, even that growth has halved during the first quarter of 2015. This means that the slowest economic growth in history, just got slower. This is no surprise given the severe cuts, lack of disposable income, and repression in wages. If you deprive the economy of all stimulus except for the richest 1%, the illusory figures represented will undoubtedly crumble too.

Furthermore, the Conservatives had planned to match Labour’s spending pound for pound until 2008. At one point, they promised to spend more. Hence, retrospectively implicating Labour’s spending plans whilst ignoring the very same view taken by your own party, is no presentation of a better alternative at all.

6) To imply you want a “more accountable government” after curtailing judicial review, cutting legal aid in areas of public law, and levying court fees to prevent access to justice, is laughable at the least. And a display of sad indifference and deliberate dishonesty at best.

– Rabah Jtl