...a blog by Richard Flowers

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Day 4194: Mr Balloon and the Culture of Entitlement


"I want to screw with COMMON PEOPLE," as Mr Balloon might have put it in his speech about abandoning ALL under twenty-fives in the pub toilets*; "Common people like YOU," as he might have announced to the assembled dignitaries at... it says here Bluewater Shopping Centre.

I know we're hard up as a Nation, but is the Prime Monster REALLY reduced to opening the latest branch of LIDL for a fee?!

"And I Would Have Got Away With It Too If It Weren't For Those Meddling Liberals!" he is believed to have added as the police led him away.

When times are TOUGH and the SQUEEZE is on, it's very, very easy to pick on one group, especially one that is too weak to fight back, and to say that THEY are the ones to BLAME. This week Mr Balloon is picking on those receiving benefits. (Just as last week, losing lots of points, Mr Milipede was shamefully picking on IMMIGRANTS.)

There are a lot of MADE UP stories – mostly HORROR stories – about what an EASY life it is living on BENEFITS, especially if you've got six kids, two ASBOs, a noise abatement order and a council debt collector chasing you. Millions of people IN work (they claim) would gnaw off their own fluffy feet for such luxuries.

The technical term for this is: "a load of old HONK!"

But if you WANT horror stories, here comes Mr Balloon putting the VIDEO NASTY back into the NASTY PARTY.

"Woo, look out!" he tells us. "You might be a couple earning twenty-four thousand between you and unable to afford kids, but the family on benefits down the road has FOUR children already and gets twenty-SEVEN thou (soon to be capped at twenty-SIX) for the privilege." Of course that means they're getting by on four-and-a-half grand per head, compared to twelve-grand a head for our poor put-upon workers, but we'll ignore the details...

"Shivers!" says Mr Balloon, "what about the GOOD GIRL and the BAD GIRL! Good girl went to college, got her qualifications and got a job, but STILL can't afford to leave home. While Bad Girl (let's call her SUSAN – she wears MAKE-UP and probably doesn't believe in ASLAN any more) she went on the dole and got a free house!" Though, obviously, by "free house" we actually mean "grotty bedsit" in a concrete tower block or some suburban terrace where the hugely over-inflated rent goes straight into the pocket of the landlord. Look, he's got a string of buy-to-let properties and votes Conservatory so HE can't possibly be to blame!

"Nightmare!" the Prime Monster reminds us. "Some of us have to commute for hours and stare longingly at properties we could never afford, some of which are occupied by benefit claimants! The horror! The horror!" Though, naturally, by "us" he means "you proles" what with the State providing HIM with a FREE HOUSE, right OVER THE SHOP (and ANOTHER one in the countryside, convenient for the PUB where you can leave unwanted offspring behind**).

And WHO'S fault is that? After YEARS and DECADES of successive Governments (yes, including THIS ONE to our SHAME) colluding in a plan to keep house prices inflating on the grounds that (a) "An Englishman's Home is his Castle (even when he's mortgaged to the eyeballs)" is very popular and you don't mess with very popular and (b) the housing bubble is all that's keeping the British economy afloat at the moment. We can't have the bank taking ANOTHER hit, can we. And remember it was NEGATIVE EQUITY as much as Black Wednesday that nuked the Conservatory reputation for economic competence in the early 'Nineties.

This CONSPIRACY has entailed squeezing SUPPLY to keep prices HIGH through massive under-provision of SOCIAL HOUSING (all those people are on the Housing Benefit in private accommodation because there are not enough COUNCIL HOUSES for them) and a conspicuous LACK of private development while building companies have sat on their land banks and watched the price of their assets INFLATE.

When it comes to OLD people (you know, the ones that VOTE and complain loudly about GRANNY TAXES when told they might not continue to get even more on top of everything everyone else gets) Mr Balloon says this:

"If you have worked hard all your life, then you deserve real dignity and security in your old age."

But you know what? I think EVERYBODY deserves real dignity and security.

And ACTUALLY, as one of the richest countries on the face of the planet, we SHOULD really be able to afford that. No, let me REPHRASE that. As a county that earns more in a year than the one hundred and thirty poorest countries COMBINED, we damn well OUGHT to be able to afford that.

Where's the DIGNITY in asking someone in a wheelchair to walk across a room? Or a heart-attack victim to pick up a pencil? Where's the SECURITY for the young woman or man thrown out of their home for being pregnant or gay or just not getting along? Or just for losing their job? Or because the Royal Bank-that-WE-own of Scotland decided to upload PACMAN instead of their new BANKING SOFTWARE?

And, you know, maybe if Mr Balloon had been a bit less GAGGING FOR IT to cut the 50% tax rate to 45% then he wouldn't HAVE to be talking about finding ten billion squids of benefit cuts.

(Because if Mr Jimmy Carr-crash's tax avoidance scheme was legal but MORALLY WRONG, what does he think about the MORALITY of giving all those rich people another legal way to avoid a great chunk of their tax?)

Look, it's LORDS REFORM WEEK, so this may all be TACTICAL, a bit of FLIRTATION with the Bonkers-in-the-Nut Brigade to keep them onside, tossing a bit of, as they say, red meat to the Howling-at-the-Moon wing of the Conservatory Coalition.

(A dozen points adrift in the polls, it would be RIDICULOUS to think that he might be preparing the way for a snap Autumn election – perhaps on the pretext that he lets the Lords Reform Bill fail and forces us to collapse the Coalition.)

No, far more likely this is a case of crying "Who Will Rid Me of these Troublesome Lib Dem Priests!" and then denying any suggestion he's egging on a rebellion against Cap'n Clegg's reforms when they get stabbed to death in the Cathedral.

(And the Beardy Weirdy of Canterbury is discovered over the body... no, that's Midsomer Murders.)

But if he's POSING as Conservatory TRADITIONALIST, the questions for Mr Balloon are these: what happened to LOYALTY to our fellow citizens? Weren't we all supposed to be in this together?

What happened to sticking by FAMILY through thick and thin? Weren't we all supposed to a part of that Big Society?

And what happened to, dare a militant atheist fluffy elephant suggest it, CHRISTIAN DUTY to the poor and in need?

The Welfare State has, he says, "sent out some incredibly damaging signals."

(More damaging than "we hate young people"; "we hate disabled people"; "we hate poor people"; and "yes, we ARE the Nasty Party"? That IS incredible! No, sorry, back to Balloon...)

"That it pays not to work.

"That you are owed something for nothing...

"...It created a culture of entitlement."

It's not very "One Nation" is it?

This is CHURCH OF THATCHIANITY, blue in tooth and claw. You can spot it in the LANGUAGE: "aspiration", "self-reliance", "evil bloodsucking vampire overlords", er...

I COULD say that it really DOESN'T "pay not to work", unless you've been given an ESTATE IN SCOTLAND by DADDY, and only someone whose privilege has left him totally insulated from reality might think so. A few ludicrous and largely-hypothetical counter-examples do NOT disprove this rule.

Or I COULD suggest that actually we ARE owed "something for nothing", even if it's only our FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS. Though I would say that anyone lucky enough to be in Great Britain (whether they were born here or immigrated) deserves at least a small share of the MASSIVE NATIONAL WEALTH that we inherited through no effort of our own (and which our forebears largely STOLE in the first place).

But instead, let me reply with some of the "incredibly damaging signals" that THATCHERISM has sent out:

"That being very, very lucky is the same as working hard."

(It's not, and privileged white males who got where they are thanks to an enormous leg up from their parents and the perverse way that our society values parasitical city jobs over CREATIVE or CARING professions should remember that more than most).

"That people who don't want to slave away at a conventional job in the rat-race (and yet are not landed gentry) are somehow dangerous subversives who are a threat to OUR WAY OF LIFE!"

(If they are it's only because OUR WAY OF LIFE desperately needs threatening! Endlessly repeating the cycle of boom and crash in the hope that it will do something different is, as they say, economic MADNESS. In the end, we'll ALL need an alternative lifestyle.)

"And that there's nothing wrong with putting your own interests ahead of other people and Devil take the hindmost!"

(There surely IS, as Mr Carr-crash discovered to his personal shame and cost, and it's a pernicious reversal of Hobbes to think that Government has no business interfering in the "war of all against all".)

"Compassion isn't measured out in benefit cheques," says Mr Balloon.

Perhaps not, but people will COUNT these CUTS as a measure of Conservative CRUELTY.

(Not that ALL Government spending is GOOD and RIGHT, not all cuts are WRONG. A fifty percent cut in the subsidy to the privatised companies that run our railways badly would save as much money as Mr Balloon's slashing of benefit to younger people. But we can't have shareholders taking the risk as well as the rewards, can we!)

Mr Balloon's proposed solutions – flying kites – include cutting all under-25s out of the Welfare State, like we don't already tell young people we don't value them; indexing benefits by the LOWER of wages or prices, so benefit recipients are always going to fall behind; and, asking for a "contribution" from people who are still getting benefits after a couple of years. So, workfare then. Which is neither "work" nor "fair". And then we cut their benefits until they fade away. Or, presumably, they're rounded up and shot.

Thank goodness he ADMITTED that the Liberal Democrats would NEVER STAND FOR THIS.

And with Hard Labour TROUBLINGLY unable to answer the question "what would you do differently", it seems like we are the ONLY Party that still believes in a bit of COMMON DECENCY.

If Mr Balloon is going to talk about people with a culture of entitlement, well, he could START by having a look around HIS OWN CABINET TABLE, and just count the privately-educated underachievers with no more excuse to be there than their own self-importance and imagined right to rule. I really don't think people need lessons in "no one is owed a living" from a man who has never done a proper job and has enough inherited wonga that if he got bored of swanning about Number Ten he wouldn't ever have to work again.

"Dieu et mon droit" doesn't mean "My god, what a load of right-wing hooey". But it SHOULD.

*Yes, that again.

**No, I'm really NOT letting that one go, am I.

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