Thursday, 17 March 2011

Passing the Buck

An old topic regurgitated today, thanks to the farcical remarks of a labour front-bencher. For a graduate of the London School of Economics with Masters in both Economics and Social Policy she has displayed an incredible lack of intelligence. Not only has she made a horrifically offensive slur in stating the Coalition's motivation in reducing housing benefit (which I wrote about here) is to cleanse London of black, Muslim and ethnic minority women, but she is also demonstrating her total lack of understanding of social policy, economics and indeed statistics.

I refer, of course, to today's news of self-satisfied, soon-to-be ex-shadow front bencher Karen Buck launching a bilious attack on the Government's housing benefit policy. I say soon-to-be, because surely even Miliwho realises he can't allow this kind of political point scoring by implying racial hatred. They should just stick to the classic Labour sexist and classist lines to fight on.

Ms Buck thought it totally appropriate to suggest the Coalition (and specifically the Tories) were out to make London an upper class shangri-la, where presumably the only people one might see there not earning six figures were commuting loo cleaners from the shanty-town suburbs. It never crossed her mind that it might be to try to make sense of a welfare system designed to entrap people and remove any incentive to make their own money. A system where you are often better off doing nothing than doing something. It never occurred to her, no doubt, that there might be a need to save some money since the Labour Government (which covered her entire 13 years in Parliament) used all of it, and then borrowed the moon. She probably doesn't know spending on housing benefits increased from £11 billion in 2000 to £20 billion in 2010. She probably doesn't realise that is a near £10 billion increase, or an increase equivalent to 1/3 of all education spending in the UK - still, seeing as education is the best way out of poverty, let's keep throwing money at landlords.

Yes, you might think that I have little time for Ms Buck's ilk, and you would be right. They are the same people who think that capping housing benefit at £400 a week is social engineering. They think that because this will force people out of homes they couldn't afford in areas they couldn't afford (and whilst we're on it, we as taxpayers can't afford), the Government is socially engineering. No, the opposite is true, and anyone who tries to tell you different is a fool or a liar.

The idea of free market economics can easily be extended to society and housing. It is exactly social engineering to place very poor people on benefits into a disproportionately rich area to make the social cross section more varied. The parts of the country who pay lots of tax and pay for their own housing have to choose where they should live based on where they can afford to live. Lots of them, in fact most, can't afford to live in Mayfair. Why we think the section of society who earn less than them and therefore qualify for housing benefits somehow deserve a better standard of living free of charge is beyond me. Welfare is there to make up the shortfall, to catch people who fall through the cracks. It should be a crutch to those who will permanently need help and a helping hand to lift the others up who fall on hard times. It should never though be there to lift them up to above the level we are willing to let people live at who don't qualify for welfare. This is what housing benefit has been doing for years.

So, I say again, if you think £1600 plus change a month for rent is cripplingly meagre, you're far too used to the good life. You won't be able to rent 1 Park Lane, but why should you? Who do you know that pays that much? If you're not on benefits and you choose to have a big family, you need to budget, so you will probably live in a poorer area to afford a larger house. It's free market housing. Returning to this concept is not a policy of social engineering, it is ending that exact policy. So let's grow up a little when looking at the real reasons for this totally sensible policy.

When we look at make-believe reasons for this policy to spout off at public meetings in Islington, it might be sensible to check one's facts. 87% of recipients of housing benefit are white, leaving just 13% of the apparently targeted ethnic minorities. Just 46% are single females, compared to 32% single males, and 22% couples. So, if you're going to spew some total crap to score some political points, at least try to get your numbers right even if your political reasonings are barmy. Tutors in Economics and Social Policy at LSE must be shuddering at the ignorance of one of their Masters graduates. For Miliwho, it's probably time to pass the Buck.

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