Thursday 28 June 2012

The blame the victim fallacy

This graph demonstrates that any "savings" created through
 arbitrary attacks on the benefit entitlements for the under-25s
 would be drops in the ocean compared to other factors
in the current economic situation.
One of the core Tory tactics since at least the 1980s has been to drag out the blame the victim fallacy, otherwise known as scapegoating

Tory governments tend to create nasty spikes in unemployment. In the 1980s unemployment rose dramatically as the Tories waged economic warfare against the unionised heavy industries, working people that Thatcher famously called "the enemy within". The current administration are waging war against the public sector, using the mantra of austerity to justify their plans to create nearly half a million public sector redundancies. and impose harsh real terms salary cuts on the rest (whilst gobbling up huge salary hikes for themselves).

After creating pockets of extremely high unemployment in the formerly industrialised regions in the 1980s the Tories began to create a narrative that these people had no jobs, not because of deliberate Tory policies but because they were feckless and idle. In the 1980s Norman Tebbitt famously told the unemployed to "get on your bike and look for work" and the current Tory Prime Minister loves to demonise the unemployed and under-employed as idle scroungers. Cameron's latest initiative is to arbitrarily cut housing benefit for the under-25s, an utterly bizarre scheme given that 80% of people claiming housing benefits are the working poor. Stripping them of their homes and sending them back to live with their parents hardly seems like a sensible economic strategy, especially if it means that they have to give up their jobs.

If Cameron really wanted to cut the cost of housing benefits he could introduce simple measures such as ensuring that all employers pay a living wage (so that the state doesn't have to constantly top up wages via housing benefits and tax credits), to introduce rent controls to stop private sector landlords siphoning billions of taxpayers' cash by renting shit houses to the working poor and the unemployed and to invest in the construction of affordable social housing so that a greater proportion of housing subsidies go straight back to local governments via council rents. Of course this would never happen under Tory rule, since the parasitic rentier class is one of their key demographics and they have an ideological opposition to state spending, no matter how economically beneficial it may be. Another problem is that Cameron doesn't really give a damn about resolving the current situation, he is just casting around for another group to demonise and scapegoat, he can't attack pensioners, since they are the most likely to vote Tory, so he cynically decides to attack the young. The scale of government spending on housing benefits when put into perspective (see the table above) shows that any potential savings there are minuscule in comparison to other economic factors such as the banker bailouts, tax dodging and toxic PFI debt legacies.

It is undeniable that there are some "idle unemployed" but the vast majority of people in receipt of housing benefits are actually the victims of the Tories insane socially and economically destructive "cut now, think later" austerity death cycle and exploitative employers paying poverty wages in the knowledge that the state will top-up via housing benefits and tax credits. Arbitrarily removing the social safety net for under-25s is a classic example of blame-the-victim, since very few under-employed under-25s were responsible for the implosion of the global financial system that caused the ever growing UK budget deficit. 

It is amazing that the arbitrary punishment of the victims of three decades of barmy monetarist, neoliberal gibberish in lieu of sustainable economic policy gets so much public support, given the inaccuracy of painting all benefits claimants as "idle scroungers" at a time of extremely high unemployment. This public tendency to blame the victim is a classic example of the just-world-fallacy. It has been shown that observers of torture victims have been shown to derogate the victims, the greater the level of torture, the higher the level of abuse that the observers aim at the victim. When the observer is abusing the victim it is actually an attempt to pretend the world is naturally fair, and that because the victim is suffering, they must therefore deserve it. Thus the unthinking reactionary can support arbitrary and unfair attacks on the under-25s by pretending that all claimants are idle scroungers, rather than the working poor and economically destructive government policies.

The real problem in the UK is the "idle rich". Tax-dodgers cost the UK economy between £70-150 billion per year,
reckless financial sector gamblers (£900 billion in bailouts, £325 billion in quantitative easing), corrupt politicians who sign up to astonishingly wasteful and inefficient PFI schemes and outsourcing deals,  and idle buy-to-let parasites. The buy-to-let slumlord is the perfect example of the idle rich in this case, since, a huge proportion of the £20 billion annual cost of housing benefits end up in the pockets of the buy-to-let parasites that did so much to over-inflate the UK property bubble and rental prices in the first place. Housing benefit rarely rewards the idleness of the poor, it is in fact a form of direct taxpayer subsidisation of the profit margins for idle and parasitic property spivs.

Cameron and the Tories will never do anything to resolve the economic situation since their core financial donors are bankers, corporatists and tax-dodgers and the exploitative rentier class are a core Tory demographic, hence reform of the banking sector has been booted into the long grass, there is no discussion at all about the chronic lack of affordable housing, no real effort to clamp down on tax dodging, no effort to regulate the private rental sector and all the Tories seem to offer is yet more vindictive scapegoating of the unemployed and the working poor.

Blaming the victims of the recession that the Tories were instrumental in creating is just another example of Tories using the Great Neoliberal Lie strategy, the absurd and inaccurate claim that the cost of welfare rather than the reckless gambling of the deregulated, neoliberalised financial sector caused the current economic crisis. 

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