Three-quarters support £23k benefit cap - but why?

Fri, 03/10/2014 - 13:31 -- nick

It may seem an unlikely source, but the Shropshire Star is running an online poll which tells us how much ground needs to be made up in the battle for fair benefits.

At this week's party conference, George Osborne revealed a central plank of the Tory party's offer for the next election, reducing the benefit cap from its current £26,000 to just £23,000.

The Star followed this up by launching its poll, which shows that 73% of voters support this reduction.

This comes as no surprise; the drift of anti-welfare opinions has been rightwards for years, and only gets more judgemental.

The explanation for why so many are willing to see their fellow citizens living in absolute penury has a few parts.

Firstly, no organisation of any scale is making the counter-case for liveable benefit incomes.

A band of small fish like UnemployedNet and others online, a couple of thinktanks and research groups, the TUC and The Guardian - both of which are focused on other things - and a couple of campaign groups, and that's about it.

Set against this is the might of both major political parties and the populist new kid on the block in UKIP, all large-circulation newspapers, and the network of Tory backers in well-resourced thinktanks.

It is no wonder that so many support any measure to nobble claimants when most will never hear an opposing voice.

Many of these sources deliberately mislead those who listen to them, with Iain Duncan Smith one of the worst examples, having been pulled up three times for misusing statistics to claim successes for his policies that simply aren't proven.

The other main issue is that working people have been getting poorer for so long - real average wages have been falling since 2003 - that they are understandably angry at those they believe to be costing them.

When you look at your payslip each month, you can see a big chunk disappearing in tax, and with 'guidance' from Tories and tabloids you may have become convinced that unemployed people take a huge chunk of this, and that cutting their money will make you personally richer.

The fact that Tories talk of 'the £200 billion benefits bill' and 'unemployment' in the same speeches is a deliberate move calculated to make people believe that this is the cost of unemployment.

In fact, only 2.7% goes on Jobseeker's Allowance, while the biggest element by far is pensions which the government has increased above inflation.

No cuts for the older folks, who entirely coincidentally are also the group most likely to vote.

Next time you look at that payslip, you might like to start by considering why the top figure is so low.

If you work in the public sector you have been subject to real-terms pay cuts, but these are a choice by the government.

If you work in the private sector, consider that those at the top of companies have seen their pay rise 20 times faster than regular workers in the last year, while their firms have been hoarding hundreds of billions in cash.

The Tory protectors of the wealthy have helped them out with a tax cut from 50% to 45%, effectively giving the money they took from the poorest to the richest in the country.

At UnemployedNet we have tried to popularise the hashtag #lookupnotdown, with the aim of encouraging people to focus on the real culprits for their poverty.

The alternative is only entrenching UK poverty even more, and eventually replacing our precious safety net with a Victorian system of charity that ends universal care and destroys the lives of those least able to look after themselves.