In the last fifteen years there has been a disturbing trend among politicians and pundits to behave in a punitive manner. Not just in dealing with criminals but in the over all attitude in policy. Like the worst high school teacher who punishes the whole class because one person misbehaves, systems are now geared towards treating everyone as if they are out to cheat the government.
They make a great deal of noise about the few people who have abused social programs, while conveniently ignoring the many who don’t. Programs that were designed to make life easier for life’s unfortunates; welfare, government disability programs, employment insurance, and refugee status, have gone from taking each case on its particulars to assuming that everybody applying is trying to cheat the government.
Whilst corporations rack up huge profits and pay little tax, and individual executives receive salary in tax-exempt stock options, politicians claim to be protecting the interests of taxpayers by vilifying those easiest to blame and least able to defend themselves. Welfare mothers, refugees, the disabled, and the unemployed are the ones who will rob you blind if you give them half a chance.
Since aside from refugee claimants these people have all contributed to the tax pool and employment insurance programs (in Canada you can’t apply for employment insurance unless you have worked a certain length of time and contributed a certain amount of money) shouldn’t they be given the same consideration as those the government is trying to protect? Or does applying for any sort of assistance automatically make you suspect?
Have you ever heard a politician worrying about taxpayers when corporations are applying for tax credits to establish a business? Five years latter when they move the plant to a country with out a labour code or environmental laws does anyone mention abuse of the system?
Corporate Welfare Bums (the term was coined by Canadian politician David Lewis back in the seventies in reference to the ridiculously small amount of taxes paid by corporations and their executives) don’t seem to incur the rancour of political parties in the same way that a single mother does. Well look at all the good corporations do. They provide jobs and stimulate the economy by producing goods that people will buy thus increasing our tax revenues.
But if they are paying no taxes and in fact receiving government grants and credits for operating, and they are owned in a foreign country (which in Canada is more often than not) is there any real positive impact on our economy? The employees, unless it’s an auto manufacturer, are usually non-union and making between $10 and $15 per hour without benefits which in today’s world is just about subsistence level. Aside from the essentials like food and clothing, what big contribution to the economy does their salary offer?
If the goods produced by the factory are destined for a foreign market, or if the profits are going into the coffers of a head office in Bonn, Huston, or Tokyo, how many tax dollars do you think our government will see from this venture. Of course that’s not the case for all corporations, in fact I’m probably overstating the case. Sound familiar. It’s exactly the same arguments that are proffered for cutting welfare and making it more difficult for applying to be a refugee or receiving a disability pension.
Every so often there is someone who cheats the system by faking an illness or receiving a welfare check when they don’t merit it. Or perhaps they really aren’t in danger of their life if they are to be sent back to their country of origin, but those people are not even a significant minority let alone a majority of the people who are applying to use the systems in place to help the unfortunate.
Just as most businesspeople aren’t out to fleece taxpayers, neither are the poor. Yet in the past fifteen years the poor and the unfortunate have been blamed for everything from the recession to terrorism. When a person applies for assistance now it is assumed that they are out to try and take advantage of the government, not that they are in genuine need.
Doctor’s warn their patients when they apply for disability that the chances of their being approved in Ontario on their first go are slim (although in fairness this seems to have improved with a recent change in government) The irony is that this doesn’t save the government any money. All applications are retroactive to when first received. So even if it takes three years for you to be approved you will be paid from the date of your initial application.
The only purpose served is to make it as difficult as possible for people to apply. This is meant to cut down on fraudulent applications but in actuality ends up making the legitimate applicant suffer. How many disabled people are able to exert the effort to seek out the legal assistance required to file the appeals and gather the materials necessary for a tribunal hearing?
For a person unable to work appealing a decision in Ontario is like having a full time job. I’m surprised they don’t automatically turn down everybody who manages to make it to the appeals tribunal for that very reason.
Of course this is nothing compared to what refugees have to go through. They have to show there is just cause for them to fear for their well being, or that they will suffer from persecution if returned to their country of origin. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to obtain copies of your arrest warrant when you’re fleeing a country? Or torturers don’t seem to hand out appointment cards that you can use to show that you’re next on their list?
But refugee boards are now demanding paper proof. That may be all right if a government is open and above board in it’s habit’s of persecution, but so many like to put on a good front that they make a point of not advertising their less savoury policies. Even harder to prove are political persecutions, especially if your government is being propped up by the country your trying to gain refugee status with.
Of course today that’s especially true if you are Arabic or Muslim. First, it’s more than likely you’re related to a terrorist or are one yourself. Even if they let you in as a refugee you stand a good chance of being sent back home again to be tortured at the request of the Canadian government because you were caught with a tourist’s map of the city you just moved to.
What’s the best way for a government to make it look they are doing something? First they take a real issue and than they blow it right out of proportion. Next they impose draconian policies that only hurt the innocent, because the real criminals aren’t going to be affected by anything they try and do anyway. Then they give it some pop psychology name like tough love and they look caring and compassionate, not like a bully, and everybody is happy except for those who try to use the system.
I guess it’s an old tradition for governments to create scapegoats for the problems of society. Blame all the country’s woes on them and then set out to deal with the scapegoats instead of the woes. It gives the appearance of action without having to anything real.
When the economy, which no government can affect no matter what they say, changes for the better again they can simply say our plan worked. If it worsens they can look for other scapegoats like healthcare and a humanities education. Both of which are sinkholes for money and provide no bang for the buck in return.
Once upon a time governments actually did things for their populations to try and make their lives better. Now what they do is search out people they can blame society’s problems on and enact legislation that supposedly curtails their activities and solves all out troubles. How convenient.