welfare

Bee's picture

Middle

Sat, 11/27/2010 - 03:25 -- Bee

Between genuine economic woes and the efforts of the coalition government to push through hasty, misguided, and largely ideological reforms, we have the rare moment of hilarity.

Like former Tory party vice-chairman and new life peer Howard Flight, personally selected for the honour by David Cameron, wading in with commentary like (paraphrasing headlines) cuts will encourage the poor to breed.

When my maniacal giggling subsided I pursued the point and found that technically he said "We're going to have a system where the middle classes are discouraged from breeding because it's jolly expensive, but for those on benefit there is every incentive. Well, that's not very sensible."

Jolly expensive! How quaint!

Setting aside our obvious political differences, he has a point. The child benefit was income-blind precisely because it was felt that every child, regardless of background, deserved nominal support. This idea plays well to the British notion of gamesmanship. If everyone has the same base funding, same healthcare, same right to housing and schools, then it is jolly well your own fault if you fail. I say, old chap, what what?

Personally I think it is all just a fiddle. I spend more than £1,000 per year on coffee - I don't need child benefit, and I don't claim it. Other people would call that sum the difference between life and death, and they won't lose the money under the reforms. Somewhere in the middle (hence the term 'middle class') are the people who will indeed feel the pinch. And you know what will happen to them? They will claim elsewhere - they will require, and the government will provide, a program that covers services they would otherwise pay for out of that £1,000. Let me make a spooky prediction: within the next three years the number of children seeking free lunches will go up.

Not to mention the fact that right now the administration of child benefit is simple - every legal resident who asks for it gets it. With means testing, the government will need to assemble a massive bureaucratic structure of clerks, supervisors, advisors, and directors (drawing salaries and benefits) to hassle parents for proof of household income.

Of course that is one way to create jobs. Though I suspect it would be easier and cheaper to continue funding the current child benefit system.

I have a few Tory friends. One family shells out to send their "bright" child to private school, waving the other three off to the local and markedly inferior school. While, and this is the bit that amazes me, they openly discuss the bias in front of the children. I wonder if they will reflect on the wisdom of the policy a few decades from now, when those same children are making choices about elder care.

Caveat emptor and all that.

Regardless, it is nice to have an opportunity to reminisce about old projects. Ten years ago:

Bee's picture

Structural

Tue, 10/05/2010 - 21:00 -- Bee

The government is taking away my child benefit? But I never bothered to claim it! Drat. And this is surely just the first of countless other social supports that will be destroyed in coming months.

The longer I remain alive, the more I am aware of structural barriers to success. From the vantage point of 39 years of age, it is obvious that my scummy little urchin self was not meant to accomplish much of anything. I was certainly not meant to smash my way to the other side and start shouting that I was shackled, subverted, sabotaged. What have I ever asked for?

Feeding the Family by Rosemary Werring

It's frightening to be poor. It's much more frightening when you have a family with five young children. My husband's mental illness had exacerbated into schizophrenia. He'd applied for Social Security Disability, which was then -- as now -- slow at being approved. We had to accept welfare from the New York City Department of Social Services.
 
Feeding the family was difficult. In the 1970's, with food stamps, coupons, and careful shopping, we just about managed.
 

Wedding Bells and Welfare Bucks by Alana Kumbier

Attention, Single Mamas: George W. Bush has a proposal for you: a marriage proposal. That's right, he wants you to get married. You're particularly encouraged to don a bridal veil if you're on welfare and/or parenting as part of an unmarried couple. If you act now, you might even be able to get hitched before Congress makes its decisions about Bush's plan to fund marriage initiative and abstinence-only education programs with welfare dollars.

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