Benefits Street on Channel 4 has enraged and, presumably for Channel 4 producers, delighted many with its tale of the alleged work-shy. It chimes with that great British bugbear: fairness. We hate it when people push in our queues. To do so is an offence worthy of being hung by your own intestines. Such is the sensibility, and rightly so, to fairness, any odious naif who thinks they can pull a fast one deserves all the tempestuous torment they get. Scroungers are scum.
But who are the scroungers in this country? Are they the people who fiddle the licence fee? The ones who take disability payments when they're fit enough to referee Sunday League football matches? They certainly are. And such dirty, dimwitted tricksters deserve the burning rage of the rest of the country, which slogs its way from one week to the next, often not in the job they fantasised of in childhood. 'Mummy: one day I want to be an accountant' would be a dystopian dream. Apologies to my bookkeeping brethren. The point is that, right when we're being squeezed, right when house price increases are making a joke of pay packets - it just drives you bonkers that some people out there are such greedy reprobates. And we burn them in the press and social media for it.
Yet there are two types of scrounger. The one who takes something from us, a 'positive' scrounger, and then there's also a 'negative' scrounger: the one who denies us something we were due from them in the first place. Our welfare cheat is the former, a tax dodger is the latter. Truly, is there any difference between someone who sets themselves up as a limited company to avoid their fair share of tax and Dorris lying about her ailments? Perspective-wise, yes. Financially, no. It all comes down, rightly so, to the money. Our money. The same crime is merely committed from different routes.
Now, we can't focus on everyone all the time. It's simply too exhausting. So, logically, the right thing to do is to find out which blighter is robbing us the most. According to the Department for Work and Pensions, their figures showed that £1.3bn was fraudulently claimed in 2012/13. That's 0.8% of the total £166.1bn benefit bill. This is a rough idea of the damage done by our 'positive' scroungers. But how about the 'negative' scroungers? Well, it's harder to track what you can't see. Yet at the high-end, according to Tax Research UK, it's £125bn. At the low-end, according to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, it's a mere £35bn.
£35bn vs. £1.3bn. Even an embryo could work out which is worse. While both scroungers are scum, perhaps it's time we recognised the brown elephant in the room of the 'negative scrounger' who is pilfering our pockets. They deserve all our loathing, if not more so, too.