This is our truth, tell us yours
One of the most infuriating things if like me you have been campaigning against the bedroom tax is a lie that is trotted out every time a Tory tries to defend it. They begin by claiming this is about equality, that they are only treating social housing tenants the same as private. This is as they would never say on Newsnight, complete bullshit. Imagine you are a family of four looking to rent in the private sector, the local council will have set a level of housing benefit it will pay for a family of your size, which in a series of arcane calculations may be related to the size of a 3 bedroom house in your area. The definition of area will most likely include places you have no connection with and which does not mirror social, or geographic boundaries ( the way that hurts people in rural areas is perhaps for another blog). However should you find a 12 bedroom mansion for the maximum benefit level, you are free to take it. This lie, that the bedroom tax was about tacking unfair treatment of private sector housing has as far as I know never been challenged. The Tories wanted to build on the idea that existed that some people were getting a easy ride, that social housing tennants had an unfair advantage over the hard-working, tax paying, Daily Mail reading masses.
Which brings us to the suggestion by Iain Duncan that some benefit claimants are going to be paid by smart cards.It is apparently because families on benefits spend money on cigarettes and alcohol instead of government approved things like ISAs and duck houses.
Transactions would be automatically stopped if people tried to buy anything on them but essentials.
This would prevent people from purchasing alcohol, cigarettes or spending money on gambling, in a system Mr Duncan Smith claims will help lift families “on the margins” out of poverty because their benefits would not be spent on addictions.
I do think Iain needs to look up the word addiction in the dictionary to see how this is possibly the worst way ever of trying to treat one. Of course this is nothing to do with addiction, or treating it, but about hitting the same notes as the bedroom tax, of feeding into the same beliefs about those in social housing, that some people are getting an easy ride, are playing the system and living a life of luxury on the backs of tax payers.
Lets look at that family of four again, Mum was a SAHM before dad lost his job, so he claims for both of them, they get child benefit, child tax credit and live in privately rented accommodation. The myth that the Tories want to push is that somehow this family have so much spare income that they are partying every night, smoking and drinking whilst watching their HD flat screen TV and using their ipads. It’s a picture, like the one created around the bedroom tax that is intended to make people feel badly done by, that something unfair is going on. It ignores reality in favour of demonizing those who are out of work.
This reality is something the cards are not intended to deal with, which can be shown simply if you think about the day-to-day life of surviving on a low-income, of the demands that are made and ways people survive. To just give a few examples of things that these cards will not, or probably will not cover;
This is not an exhaustive list, it took me around 20 minutes and a quick look at twitter. But then this is not about helping anyone, it is about increasing the stigma around being unemployed, punishing those who are and shoring up the core vote before the election. Just like the bedroom tax it is based on demonizing one group in order to say to another we are the party you should vote for.
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