Saturday, 28 January 2012

Life in the Slow Lane

An easy Saturday blog to try to ease myself back into the blogosphere. Having been silent for a month or so, there's a fair bit on which to catch up. I suppose I could probably launch into a spiel about welfare in general. We might talk about the underlying issues with our system. There were two things that used to encourage people not to live on benefits. The first was the stigma attached to permanently living off the state. The second was that welfare payments were generous enough to keep your head above water but not generous enough for anyone to consider it a good enough life to choose not to try to make even a few more pounds, even if it meant seeing their kids less of having to get out of bed before The Jeremy Kyle Show.

The fact that people choose not to work tells us both these previous factors now no longer apply. People are happy to not work and be seen not to work. Life is clearly comfortable enough without having to work. There is too a disgustingly large proportion of society who believe these handouts are 'owed' to them (read 'entitlements' rather than 'benefits'). The reality is they are the largess of a generous state doling out hard-earned taxpayer pounds. But that would get me too angry to enjoy my weekend, so we'll move on.

We could talk about housing benefit and the cap, or the most often relevant factor, the biological ability to have children and the apparently God-given right this gives people to have them housed wherever they wish by the state. But not only have we already 'discussed' this here, here and here, and nothing has changed since (except finding out the £26,000 cap is actually post-tax, meaning one can 'earn' the equivalent of a £35,000 wage under the cap by doing diddly squat), but it will also make me too angry to enjoy my weekend.

Incidentally note how when there is public vitriol directed towards someone rich, say Stephen Hester, all the media talk about his pre-tax bonus (£963,000), but when discussing the evil Tories' plans to bankrupt hard-not-working families, they talk about the post-tax amount (£26,000). Probably a mistake - they couldn't have meant to compare like to unlike and present it as inequality. Definitely not intentionally misleading to suit the sensationalist headlines. They wouldn't do that. Dicks.

Or I could talk about the obsession with relating the average wage to what a man earns who controls an enormous, multi-billion pound company with tens of thousands of employees. Now you can argue all you like about whether or not the bonus recently awarded to the RBS chief executive is a reward for failure (though remember he came in after the balls up to sort it out). What is certainly true is that he has a right to whatever the remuneration committee decide to award. They set the criteria. They decide. Shareholders, even those approaching 90% shareholders don't get a vote. So less willy waving please, Ed Milliwho, with your farcical "If I was Prime Minister, I'd bally well stop them paying that capitalist pig etc..." daydream.

As it is, the Government suggested it shouldn't be over £1 million, and it wasn't. Do remember though, that in finance, a bonus is a part of the wage structure. I think few people outside this industry understand this. They imagine that their basic pay forms the same part of their remuneration package as the basic pay of someone in the financial industry, when that is far from the truth. Therefore they struggle to understand bonuses being paid almost as a standard.

It is a better comparison to think of those in financial services as similar to car salesman who get a basic plus a commission-based bonus rather than it be equivalent to just handing a bonus to a guy who earns a set salary at the Home Office, the NHS or B&Q. The salesman still gets a 'bonus' from his commissions in a crap year of selling cars where he was massively under target. It's just less, and added to his basic is essentially his wage. It is just a different way of paying people. So if people could stop demanding individuals give up what is part of their pay when they have nothing but a share price in a company they do not begin to understand to go on as evidence, that'd be super.

Now concern over whether the total remuneration across the sector is a bit high, or a lot high, I can certainly understand. I just don't get going after one man. Incidentally, what did the no.2 at RBS get? It seems you don't suffer public scrutiny unless you're the CEO. It all just seems a little childish, and smacks of the politics of envy. By all means talk about boardroom pay, but go about it like envious hordes and you lose all credibility. So we definitely won't discuss that today either.

Or we could talk about the crackpots at anti-monarchist organisation, Republic, who think it is illegal to get school children to cook for the Queen. In their eyes, one can only do this if you also have an equal amount of time devoted to anti-Monarchical study. Celebrating a 60 year reign of a Monarch by cooking her chicken รก la turkey twizzlers is clearly too political. We wouldn't like to nail our colours to the mast and say this is what we as a country are and believe in lest you upset a minority of window lickers. By similar thinking you should also teach as much guerrilla- and anarchist-based politics as democracy in any discussions about Government. And probably give equal lesson time for learning about Satanists as for learning about the baby Jee. What a bunch of cocks. So we shan't discuss that either.

No, after that brief introduction, covering several of the topics I will not be covering today, I shall move onto the small Saturday nag. Wouldn't it be nice if caravans (or anyone who chooses to travel at 10-20 mph below all speed limits) pulled over every once in a while and stopped wasting our lives? Or even just stopped flashing you when you legally overtake them as if you have just emasculated them by  shagging their wife and weeing in their favourite slippers? It's just whilst I know the speed limit is a limit and not a target, you'd think it'd be nice if they peeked in their wing mirrors from time to time. If you're reading this and you're one of them, the 35 car tailback behind you is not a bunch of like-minded people queueing up to read your hilarious real ale-based humorous bumper sticker. They're just people whose lives you are holding up.

Perhaps we could have a rule: If you're a caravan, you have to go round all roundabouts twice to allow people behind to overtake. Or maybe we could have enforced lay-bys. Or we could just be allowed to mount missiles to our bonnets like James Bond. I shall be honest, I haven't thought these policies through totally to the finish, but I think there's enough to form a working group. Maybe we could get Republic to come up with some ideas - they clearly have a lot of spare time on their hands.