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Friends on Benefits

Fingers crossed I'll snare some people in to reading this blog with its almost sexy sounding title. It's fair to say though that 'friends on benefits' is a lot different to 'friends with benefits'. Simply, having a 'friend on benefits' means only one person is getting fucked.

Fingers crossed I'll snare some people in to reading this blog with its almost sexy sounding title. It's fair to say though that 'friends on benefits' is a lot different to 'friends with benefits'. Simply, having a 'friend on benefits' means only one person is getting fucked.

That simple, not to mention crude, joke could still be taken more than one way. Which in itself is another double entendre. Ding.

My suggestion is that if you're on benefits you are going to be having a hard time, thus the use of the term saying that they're getting 'fucked'. But, whilst to me that would be bleeding obvious, I cannot assume that is how everyone would understand it.

Many, it appears, would assume that by being the one not on benefits that you're the one getting 'fucked'. That you are a 'striver' as politicians like to say. You are working hard, and paying taxes, and it's actually the nasty, horrible 'spongers' on benefits who are living the life of riley.

This is the argument perpetuated by the Tories and their allies in the right wing press. We are being told that people on benefits are a drain on the national resources, meaning less for everyone else. Furthermore, there are many people who do not need to be on benefits. What absolute bastards!

In fact the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) calculate that benefit fraud amounts to around £1.2 billion, or 0.7% of the total costs of benefits (which include pensions) each year. Sounds like a lot, but by comparison HMRC (Revenue and Customs) themselves say that tax evasion means we lose out on around £4.1 billion pounds each year! Well over three times more. Even then, there are others who suggest the tax gap is in fact £120 billion!

It seems so strange to obsess over people on benefits when there are incredibly rich people not paying the tax they owe, and the money they owe is many times more. In the world of stand up there are a lot of professional comedians who are owed tens of thousands of pounds from big clubs that are not paying their debts to them. It would be like a comic spending all their energy getting annoyed at a friend asking to borrow £5 rather than the clubs who haven't paid their invoice from 6 months ago.

Why then are we so obsessed with benefit fraud? I think the truth lies in a couple of factors. One, it's much easier to relate to the concept of individuals 'sponging' benefits, because they will be people who live lives like ourselves - on similar incomes, in similar homes.

The second factor is that the right wing press is ramming it down our throats. When you hear something like benefits being referred to as such a problem so much, you believe it. It becomes 'common sense', like believing that immigration is a massive problem when clear evidence suggests that it is not.

Working people are not idiots, but they are people who work hard and have clear limits placed on their time. Every person cannot spend hours reading up on statistics to inform their opinion - that's why tabloid papers are so popular. For a small payment each day they let you know what's going on in the world, and also take time to entertain you on your break times as well.

I go on about the evils of the 'right wing press' like it's a conspiracy. Is it? Well, yes and no.

The Sun will mirror the opinions to a degree of it's ownership, which is ultimately Rupert Murdoch. Whilst generally an unpleasant guy (to say the least), I don't actually believe he sits down and purposefully engineers propaganda to keep the masses down.

As one of the richest people in the world, as a capitalist it is in his interests to believe that the problems in society are not connected to rich people like himself, but rather people at the bottom end. People on benefits, trade unionists fighting for better working rights, etc. I think he genuinely believes that.

The most horrifying thing is that it's in his interests to believe that people on benefits are a problem but it is absolutely not in the interests of working class people, who are by far the majority of the population.

But again, we take it as common sense because it's the super rich like Rupert Murdoch who control the media and get their point of view accross that way. It's not a conspiracy, but it is the system. Therefore, the system itself is corrupt.

I had a friend on Facebook post a status saying that a guy she works with told her that his sister doesn't work, has 5 kids, and is on £28k a year. Her partner also doesn't work. Needless to say, apart from a few exceptions, most comments following that were ones of disgust and horror. They agreed she was getting too much.

Now, from that information, do we actually know much about her circumstances? Do we know if she is registered disabled and receiving benefits for that? That aside, lets look at £28k as an income.

Me and my partner probably earn a similar amount per year between us. With that we live a comfortable, but by no means extravagant, lifestyle. However, that 'comfort' means living in one room together in a shared house with four other people. Some would allow that to fuel their anger that someone else could earn the same by not working, but instead I can use that to put in to context how much £28k actually is.

We live ok, but I cannot even begin to imagine how on earth I would be able to clothe and feed five children. Aside from the rights or wrong of having that many children, you cannot get away from the simple fact that bringing up children, even badly, costs a lot of money.

And time. Making dinner and packed lunches for five kids. Doing the school run back and forth each day for five kids. Sounds exhausting.

Also, don't forget, children grow up and become adults. You know, adults - people that work and pay taxes. No doubt cynics would expect that they would continue a cycle of never working, but we don't know that. Is it really likely that all the children from that relationship would never work?

Needless to say, I don't think people on benefits are the problem. Whatever this woman who is getting £28k from benefits is like, I simply do not care. Lets get angry about how many big companies and super rich individuals get to avoid paying tax.

People on benefits are not the enemy.

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