On a BBC London early-morning radio talk show that I listened to this morning, the ever touchy subject of junkies and deadbeats was brought up. It's all people phoned in to chat about.
The subject commenced when a caller, already well known to the host, phoned in an attempt to remind everyone what a good person he really is despite having watched violent films (such as Reservoir Dogs) all day long while smoking crack. For those not familiar with the caller, to be known for the purposes of this article as J., he lives alone with only a dog for company. He spends just about all of his welfare money on dog food, drink and drugs. He hardly eats, just boozes from sunrise to long after sundown. He hasn't washed in ages. He just sits in his garden, drunk and stoned, staring at the sky. About the only thing that could be said in his favor is that he's refreshingly honest about the state of himself.
Some callers rightly expressed outrage. While noting their desire that J. eventually clean himself up, physically, emotionally and spiritually, they wondered why his behavior is tolerated by society. One caller said with indignation, "He has a garden? I work my behind off and have to share a second-floor flat with two other people. I don't have a garden." Another asserted that J., and all others like him, are a drain on the system, that welfare should be used only for those with serious illnesses who are genuinely not able to work.
On the flip side, you also had the predictable contingent of the clueless who called to express their love and condolensces to J., wishing him well and saying that no-one had any right to judge him. In a Britain that has seriously lost its way, it's no surprise to hear some air-headed people defending this J.'s idle and drugged-out way of life. As far as they are concerned, it's J.'s valid choice to waste away on drugs and drink courtesy of the taxpayer — under a roof that's also provided by the taxpayer.
Think about that. In a society where we are encouraged to think of ourselves as our brother's keeper, liberals think it's a sign of enlightenment that we should let people destroy themselves.
You can play the blame game all you want, but it all comes down to one thing: If the benefits we pay to such people were reduced to just below the minimum wage, the addicts and the idle would be much more encouraged to sober up, find work and remain clean. But drug addicts are not the only story. They're just playing the system; and they are just one part of a bigger malaise — the entitlement culture.
The system certainly doesn't do much to discourage it. As it stands, people living on welfare are actually better off than people working a minimum wage job. Billions of pounds of public expenditure are spent on benefits for people assumed to be effectively incapacitated by mental or physical illness. In reality, the number of people who truly need the helping hand are a fraction of those who claim welfare to live a lifestyle that would be unsustainable if they worked.
Welfare is being handed out to layabouts who claim that they are too fat or depressed to work. The Department for Work and Pensions has a list of 480 illnesses and complaints under which someone could claim incapacity benefit. A bad case of acne is all you need in order for the Government to feel sorry for you and redistribute the working man's "wealth" your way.
When President Clinton signed into law welfare reform in the States in 1996 (The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act), the liberal doom-and-gloom predictions of a sharp rise in homelessness did not happen. Americans who formerly fed at the public trough shaped up, got jobs and survived. Homelessness and destitution did not dramatically rise, but welfare rolls were significantly cut, by as much as 57 percent. Labour was and still is content to follow the U.S. lead on foreign policy, so why aren't they making good use of lessons learned from American domestic policy?
Indeed, the Government's Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is still committed to "cohesive and prosperous society with fairness and social justice for all at its core" that will enable Britain to "combat property." The socialist language tells you all you need to know about how seriously they take welfare reform.
The DWP has crafted a report entitled "In Work, Better Off" which is truly risible when you consider that people on welfare are obviously not poor — go into any layabout's home and I guarantee that you will see LCD televisions with cable, state-of-the-art hi-fi systems, and the latest make of mobile phones. Again, what incentive for work do these people have when they receive an allowance that's worth more than an entry-level job salary and there is no time limit on how long they can claim said allowance?
I am not optimistic about the prospects for a shake-up in the system. Welfare "reform" in Britain is basically a revolving door. Even when an able-bodied welfare recipient does land work, there's a 40 percent chance he or she will land right back on benefits. This latest round of welfare measures is the 29th time such a package was announced by the Government since Gordon Brown became Prime Minister.
Every nation, every society, needs a welfare system to take care of those genuinely in need. I have no problem helping those who are incapable of helping themselves, through no fault of their own.
What I do have a problem with is that idea that, twenty years from now, working
people in Britain may well be a minority. When that day comes, the Government will still be stealing from those of us who work to fund the lifestyles and habits of the non-working class. Is that social justice?