Friday, January 27, 2012

On welfare

Long time no post. Lots to write, but I think I'll start with politics. So the govt have been impressively mean on several levels recently. I'll discuss benefits for now.

The coalition has the country on their side here. British people, and indeed most people, dislike the idea of unfair play. The idea that someone should get something for nothing does not sit well with most citizens, and, indeed, it seems like many people are doing this in our economy. But a few pointers.

The key argument has hinged around the £27,000 benefit cap: the median household wage. That sounds reasonable: why should someone get that benefit if they are not working? Well. Households vary in size and cost. A household with 10 members will have far more costs than one with 3, and households in geographic locations vary in cost. London costs a lot more than Liverpool. Housing costs, and particularly rent, have only been rising, thanks to poor housing policy in general, and lack of social housing in specific. Whenever sweeping laws are made to simplify a law, they ignore the reasons that the complications arose in the first place.

Also, there is an argument that cutting someone's benefit will force them to work. I am not aware of evidence for this assertion, and some weak evidence to its contrary (the 50s, which saw some of the highest benefit/wage ratios, saw very low unemployment). If said individual fails to get work, do we just let them starve? No, because we have a requirement to not do so, and we will often end up paying in other ways- particularly local councils may be forced to take up the slack.

On the other major arguments. No money for cancer patients past the first year. Really govt? Really? And charging people money for not getting money off their wealthy partners? Stay classy coalition, stay classy.

That the Lords have noticed all this (and many conservative peers have rebelled!) and not the Commons seems to be a massive indictment of the primacy of parliament. Too often parliament is simply a vehicle for the legislation the govt wants to pass, whether it makes sense or is workable. I had hoped that with the liberal democrats in the coalition we might see some sensitivity, but their tactic has been to blindly vote through laws and occasionally let their lords deal with it. This is not healthy for democracy. A parliament with no/weaker whips would be a parliament which makes better bills.

If Clegg cannot stand on these issues there is little point to the lib dems in the coalition. I don't want to have to see these kind of laws passed by a party that claimed to represent me.