Tag: Moral panic

Generous welfare benefits increase the work ethic. The government is wrong about ‘perverse incentives’

Picture-of-newspaper-headlines-NW10

The UK establishment have intentionally created a scapegoating project. A dominant political and cultural narrative has targeted people needing social security support, constructing welfare folk devils and generating moral panic. This is to justify the dismantling of the welfare state, and to de-empathise the public to the plight of the poorest citizens. The government have misled the public, claiming social security provision leads to a “culture of dependency”. International research shows this is untrue.

Comparative research at an international level has undermined the government claim that the UK welfare state encourages “widespread cultures of dependency” and presents unemployed people with “perverse incentives”. 

study, which links welfare generosity and active labour market policies with increased employment commitment, was published in 2015. It has demonstrated that people are more likely to look for work if they live in a country where welfare provision is generous and relatively unconditional. Empirically, the research includes more recent data, from a larger number of European countries than previous studies.

The research also compared employment motivation in specific sub-sections of communities across countries: ethnic minorities, people in poor health, non-employed people and women, and adds depth to previous studies. It has been concluded that comprehensive welfare provision is increasingly seen as a productive force in society (Bonoli, 2012), that stimulates employment commitment (Esser, 2005) and supports individual inclusion and participation in society and the labour market, particularly among disadvantaged groups

Sociologists Dr Kjetil van der Wel and Dr Knut Halvorsen, from Oslo and Akershus University College, Norway, examined responses to the statement “I would enjoy having a paid job even if I did not need the money” presented to the interviewees for the European Social Survey in 2010.

In a paper published in the journal Work, employment and society, (published by the British Sociological Association and SAGE) titled The bigger the worse? A comparative study of the welfare state and employment commitment, sociologists compare the responses with the amount the country spent on welfare benefits and employment schemes, whilst taking into account the population differences between states.

The researchers found that the more a country paid to unemployed and disabled people, and invested in employment schemes, the more its population were likely to agree with the statement, whether employed or not.

They found that almost 80% of people in Norway, which pays the highest benefits of the 18 countries, agreed with the statement. By contrast in Estonia, one of least generous, only around 40% did. It’s also the case that the countries with the highest levels of financial support for those in need also have the highest employment rates, which challenges neoliberal antiwelfare narratives regarding so-called “perverse incentives” and their highly controversial and stigmatising “scrounger” rhetoric.

The UK was then considered average in terms of our generosity of benefit levels, and the percentage of subjects agreeing with the statement was almost 60%.  However, this research was carried out in 2010, prior to the radical changes to the UK social security system that happened with the Coalition Welfare Reform Act in 2012 and subsequent Conservative policies.

The researchers also found that government programmes which intervene in the labour market to support unemployed people in finding work made it more likely that those people agree that they wanted to work even if they didn’t need the money. In the countries with the most interventionist states, around 80% agreed with the statement and in the least around 45%. The UK’s response, though one of the least interventionist then (and is even less positively interventionist now), was around 60%.

In the article, the researchers say: “Many scholars and commentators fear that generous social benefits threaten the sustainability of the welfare state due to work norm erosion, disincentives to work and dependency cultures. 

A basic assumption is that if individuals can obtain sufficient levels of well-being – economic, social and psychological – from living off public benefits, compared to being employed, they would prefer the former. When a ‘critical mass’ of individuals receive public benefits rather than engaging in paid work, the norms regulating work and benefit behaviour will weaken, setting off a self-reinforcing process towards the ‘self-destruction’ of the welfare state. The more people are recipients of benefits, the less stigmatizing and costly in terms of social sanctions it is to apply for benefits.

However, other commentators suggested that because employment rates are higher in countries with generous welfare states, more people will have positive experience of work. People who receive generous benefits when out of work may feel more inclined to give something back to the state by striving hard to find work.

This article concludes that there are few signs that groups with traditionally weaker bonds to the labour market are less motivated to work if they live in generous and activating welfare states.

The notion that big welfare states are associated with widespread cultures of dependency, or other adverse consequences of poor short term incentives to work, receives little support.”

On the contrary, employment commitment was much higher in all the studied groups in bigger welfare states. Hence, this study’s findings support the welfare resources perspective over the welfare scepticism perspective.”

The UK government launched an unprecedented range of cuts on public services which happened between 2010 to 2015. However, the UK’s millionaires were awarded substantial tax cuts over that time period. George Osborne handed out a cut in tax that rewarded millionaires with £107, 000 each per year at the same time the welfare “reform” bill became policy.

The biggest percentage of cuts affected social security benefits and local government, which has adversely impacted on housing, local authority services and ultimately, on ordinary people in local communities. The cuts in social care and welfare fall disproportionately on two groups that overlap: people in poverty and disabled people. They fall hardest of all on people with the most severe disabilities, who need both benefits and social care.

Using an extremely divisive justification narrative peppered with words such as “workshy” and “scrounger”, and redefining what is “fair”, the government made out that UK tax payers were a discrete group from people needing welfare support, and that the latter group were a kind of economic free rider, sharing a “something for nothing culture”.  The government intentionally fostered resentment in employed people “paying taxes to carry the burden of those who won’t work”.

The Conservatives have persistently claimed that there are moral hazards and adverse behavioural consequences attached to providing poverty relief. This is a view shared by other neoliberal nation states, such as the US.

Policies represent perceptions and establish state instructions regarding how various social groups ought to be perceived and treated. They reflect how a government thinks society should be organised. They encode messages about how people ought to behave and how our individual degree of freedoms are defined, extended or restricted. Policies are always intentional acts that shape socioeconomic organisation.

The government have colonised left wing rhetoric, and conflated social justice and inclusion with work, making citizenship and human rights conditional, and contingent on a person’s economic productivity. They claimed to be “the party of workers”, yet the Conservatives have legislated more than once to undermine collective bargaining and trade unionism more generally. There has been a marked downward shift in wage levels and working conditions over the past six years, as well as drastic reductions in welfare support.

The word “reforms” is now a euphemism for cuts. Words like “support” and “help” are used as techniques of neutralisation, to divert people from the coercive, punitive and targeted elements of the “reforms”. These are semantic shifts of Orwellian proportions. 

The majority of unemployed people move in and out of work, indicating that policy, the economy and labour market conditions, rather than personal failings and dubious “cultures”, are the reason why people become unemployed. The tax payer/benefit claimant dichotomy is a false one. Everyone contributes to welfare, that is why national insurance was introduced: to pay for support provision that you may need in the future.

Furthermore, unemployed people pay taxes, and stealth taxes such as VAT contribute a significant amount to the Treasury. When social security benefits were originally calculated, they covered only the costs of food and fuel. It was assumed that people claiming support were exempt from council tax and paying rent. That is no longer the case, but benefit levels have not risen to adjust for this. 

The highest welfare spending has actually been on pensions, followed by in-work benefits. The latter subsidises employers paying low wages that don’t support families in meeting the costs of living. However, under the new Universal Credit, in-work support will be conditional and significantly reduced, especially for those families on low pay with children. 

The Conservative’s austerity cuts have disproportionally targeted the very people that a fair and civilised society should protect. This was justified partly by the global economic recession, though not everyone was expected to “live within their means” and contribute to reducing the national deficit. Remarkably, those that caused the recession appear to have got off free from obligation to contribute to the reduction of the debt, in a “low tax, low welfare society.”

The Conservative cuts were also justified by the perpetuation of a dominant neoliberal discourse based on small state ideology, antiwelfare myths and the purposeful creation of welfare folk devils and moral panic.

One consequence of the Conservative’s “reforms” has been the return of absolute poverty in the UK – some people cannot meet their basic needs and are going without adequate food and fuel. Many people have suffered distress, harm and some have died as a result of the government’s welfare regime. 

The Samaritan’s recent study – Dying from Inequality – links suicidal behaviours with socioeconomic deprivation. Their report says: “Suicide risk increases during periods of economic recession, particularly when recessions are associated with a steep rise in unemployment, and this risk remains high when crises end, especially for individuals whose economic circumstances do not improve. Countries with higher levels of per capita spending on active labour market programmes, and which have more generous unemployment benefits, experience lower recession-related rises in suicides.”

There is also a further extensive cost to human potential. As Abraham Maslow indicated, if people cannot meet their basic physical needs, they are not likely to fulfil psychosocial ones.

 christianity-and-social-justice-exploring-the-meaning-of-welfare-reform-29-638

Graphic courtesy of Dr Simon Duffy,  The Centre for Welfare Reform.

Related

A bad job is worse for your mental health than unemployment, say UK’s top psychologists

Dying from inequality: socioeconomic disadvantage and suicidal behaviour – report from Samaritans

The Minnesota Starvation Experiment provided empirical evidence that demonstrates clearly why welfare sanctions can’t possibly work as an “incentive” to “make work pay”


I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled because of illness and have a very limited income. But you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you. 

DonatenowButton cards

Health officials and sociologists voice concerns about the effects of tabloids on the general public

Image result for tabloids

 

Research has consistently shown that reading tabloid newspapers such as the Sun, Express and Daily Mail causes an obsession with borders, contagious fatalism, addictive irritable incoherence syndrome, an anxiety-inducing paranoia, a pre-occupation with foreigners and other people stealing tax payer’s money. It’s thought to be the fault of vagabonds, migrants, the EU and scrounging poor, everyone knows offshore banks and tax avoidance are run by the EU. A highly suggestible state results, presenting with swollen spite, distended misery guts, clinical resentment retention, rash folk devils and suppurating moral panic.

These symptoms usually precede the completely incapacitating open mouth of closed-mind syndrome, leading to premature, ejaculated brain death.

Sociologists have discovered that many unfortunate tabloid addicts have nasty outbreaks of brazen neighbours, usually from other countries, or with very dodgy disabilities. Some poor and self-rightously outraged readers even have suspiciously lazy single mothers, layabout, loutish students, suspected illegal foreigners wearing cunning disguises or daring unemployed bad sorts living right next door or just down the street. This is usually preceded by a malignant disdain that is difficult to contain.

Although there has been fierce debate about the aetiology of this condition, sociologists believe that it’s psycho-semantic. The cause also precedes the effects. In other words, it is the victims of these nasty epidemics of dodgy bad sorts that actually manifest those symptomatic phenomena, during fits of psycho-enigmatic, convulsive curtain twitching, whilst presenting further shocking symptoms of frank, febrile tutting. 

Health officials carried out research over many years, which revealed  that during the early stages of chronic tabloiditis, acute, screaming headlines bind to the victim’s brain and dopamine receptors, releasing a surge of bile and some other unidentifiable, free-floating, profuse bitter stuff. This has the unfortunate effect of oxidising the part of the brain ordinarily used to rationalise and the nubbin in the noggin that usually facilitates discernment. The deadly process also affects the vocal chords, leaving the poor patient with an over-developed sense of indignance and a hyper-reactive moral outrage. This culminates in excessive sweating, incoherent shrieking and convulsive knee-jerk responses.

The most alarming health survey reports have revealed that the process involves rapid shrinkage and withering of the gland that regulates reality uptake – the part of the body that scientists call the “getagrippe.”  This reduces the reader to thinking in unsound soundbites, leading to a terminal condition called “end-stage pernicious gullibility.” Once patients reach this stage, there is little hope for them. They tend to rapidly succumb to the malignant “cuttingyournoseofftospiteyourface” syndrome.

For example, many patients suffer a dreadful condition involving hallucinations that it’s better to have no welfare, human rights or NHS rather than have other people using them. In particular, patients tend to stipulate that unless they alone need to use tax-funded public services, they should be blown up or demolished, so no-one else can use them. Some have resorted to self-lobotomising, whilst other hopeless cases mimic end-stage Rumplestiltskinism.

Another symptom is that patients become clinically cynical. These poor victims become increasingly intolerant of everyone else, especially anyone claiming benefits, who chaf their considerably swollen sensibilities. This common reaction is a severe allergic response to others, along with a strong dose of feverish outrage manifested in the obsessive compulsive thought that anyone else should be punished regularly with public floggings, being hung, drawn and quartered and no supper. Or anything. 

Once a person is in a super state of autoimmunity to others, (a condition that some in the government Nudge Unit call “Pavlov’s delight”) the body rejects the spleen, which exits the body through the bile duct and vents. Transplants have been unsuccessful, with issues around host and grafting and NHS tourism, leading to further rejection, atrophic anomie and gonadotrophic adenoids, empathy deficiency heart failure syndrome, brought on by persistent exposure to viral epidemics of the protestant work ethic.

The patient becomes fixated on what they think everyone else has, particularly the poor, and it’s always thought to be a lot more than what the patient has, though this is usually fueled by short bursts of media stereotypes, acute delusions of impacted resentment with profuse sub-arachnoid diarrhoea, spasms of inferiority complexes and feverish exaggerations, culminating in the fatal vomited outcry of “they’ve got a flat-screened TV, an iPhone, and two scruffy kids and a packet of fags that I paid for, the cheeky scrounging b*stards.”

It’s a pernicious, humourless disease that leads to rapid degeneration and further distress through pustular outbreaks of inflamatory comments, extensive diversionary metastases, profound rectal aphasia and ultimately, to a terminal and toxic irrelevance leaking like pus from the brain and mouth. The patient is usually unaware that he/she is mortally offensive to other people at this stage. Painful class envy and terminal false consciousness follow, inevitably.

The contamination was believed to have originated from 2010, when an acute case of Murdochitis broke out and spread to other media. Some sociologists pin-pointed David Cameron’s government as the main source of the outbreak, though many public health officials have argued that Cameron’s lot were merely the original carrier of the deadly bug.

Evidence suggests that even some of the working class on the left of the political spectrum are succumbing rapidly to chronic, deteriorating narksism. This is usually characterised by a pitiful and repetitive cry of “Blair blah blah red Tory. That Nigel Farage speaks his mind.” Unfortunately, Nigel Farrage’s mind causes further contamination, which requires radical treatment in cultural isolation units, but there is currently no cure for having associated symptoms like phobias of God’s wrath and gay rain flooding.

Many narksists have succumbed to the terrible agony of massively enlarged bolsheviks. There’s been a reported number of tragic suicides associated with the condition, and so far, thirty people have been found hung by the baubles on christmas trees after their extreme state of delirium had inexplicably led them to vote for turkeys. What a terrible way to go.

There is no cure for these epidemics, and officials don’t think there is any hope for sufferers in sight until at least 2020. Then there’s a small chance of putting them out of our misery.

Iain Duncan Smith has denied that there is any cause for concern, and today, determined to demonstrate tabloid safety, he ate a full Daily Mail in front of cameras in a public place. Despite growing contrary evidence from experts in their field, government advice, meanwhile, is to keep taking the tabloids.

No automatic alt text available.

 


I don’t make any money from my work. But you can contribute by making a donation and help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others, if you like. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.