Wednesday 3 April 2013

The "Making Work Pay" fallacy

I've written a number of articles detailing the right-wing propaganda war aimed at justifying the economic persecution of the unemployed. Yet, even after having the meaning of the term "scrounger narrative" explained to them, tribalist tories and the cognitively illiterate simply retort with more facile "scrounger narratives" and reactionary justification fallacies.

One of the most commonly heard justification fallacies in conjunction with the scrounger narrative goes along the lines of:

"Why should idle unemployed scroungers get more than working people. The Tories are 'making work pay' and I agree with the welfare cuts"
There are countless problems with this kind of simplistic pseudo-opinion (a political stance taken directly from the pages of the right-wing press and presented as one's own, as opposed to a genuine opinion based on critical analysis of facts and statistics) however I'll try to just stick to the fact that the "making work pay" rhetoric is ridiculously counter-factual.

Tory ministers repeat variations of the "making work pay" theme over and over again, like some kind of religious mantra. Here's an example from the Tory Minister for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith:
"We are modernising the welfare system so that work always pays"
The problem with this position is absolutely obvious to anyone that has paid the slightest amount of attention to the bills that have been passed through parliament by the coalition government. Take the widely celebrated 2013 Benefits Uprating Bill, which is a great example of Orwellian use of language. The title of the bill includes the word "uprating", yet the purpose of the bill is to impose real terms cuts on all  forms of welfare payment, a more honest name would have been "the 2013 Benefits Downrating Bill".

The justification narrative in support of this attack on welfare payments was the same tired old "why should the unemployed get more" appeal to the public sense of injustice. Yet, the vast majority of welfare payments to be slashed in real terms are benefits that get paid to working people. The benefits that will be restricted to below inflation rises include; Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Child Benefit, Maternity Pay, Paternity Pay, Council Tax Benefit and Statutory Sick Pay.

It is absolutely astonishing that a huge swathe of the public have accepted the utterly misleading narrative that this bill was about cutting benefits payments to the unemployed, when the vast majority of people to lose income through this benefits cut will be the working poor and 90% of families with children! The evidence is absolutely clear to those that can be bothered to look for it; the amount of money that gets paid out in unemployment benefits is absolutely dwarfed by other welfare payments such as Pensions, Housing Benefit and Working Tax Credits.

This attack on in-work benefits isn't the only example of Tory policy flatly contradicting their narrative that they are striving to ensure that "work always pays". Ever since they got into power, the Tories have rapidly expanded the Neo-Labour policy of treating the unemployed as a source of free labour via various mandatory unpaid "workfare" schemes. The narrative that you are striving to ensure that "work always pays" is completely and totally undermined if you design a load of unlawful Labour party approved schemes to force people to work for free, often at highly profitable, foreign owned corporations at the taxpayers' expense. Is there any clearer example of making sure work doesn't pay" than forcing people onto mandatory unpaid labour schemes?

In March 2013 George Osborne announced in his budget that the Bank of England will be made to give the fight against inflation a lower priority. This comes after 33 consecutive months of average wage rises being outpaced by inflation. For 33 consecutive months of Tory rule, the costs of living has risen faster than the average wage. For almost three years, high inflation has made working people poorer.

Instead of understanding that this disparity is eroding the disposable income of millions of families, causing a fall in economic demand, and then doing something about it; Osborne is doing the opposite; he's essentially giving up the fight against inflation.

Osborne actually seems happy that because of high inflation, millions of working families are significantly worse off in real terms than they were three years ago; that millions of families have less disposable income; that economic demand is being stymied because millions of families are cutting expenditure in order to make their salaries (that are shrinking in real terms) stretch further. It seems very odd indeed that a government with a commitment to "making work pay" would allow inflation to erode the salaries of millions of workers doesn't it?

In April 2013 the Tory party began attacking the National Minimum Wage, claiming that it should be frozen, or even cut. This too seems like a very odd stance for a party that won't shut up about "making work pay". It is obvious that the National Minimum Wage is not actually set high enough, because the vast majority of state benefits are actually paid out to the working poor. 

These in-work benefits are paid to low paid employees as a form of government subsidy to businesses that refuse to pay their staff a living wage. Yet the Tories are keen to slash the level of poverty wage that employers are allowed to pay their staff and to slash the in-work benefits that low paid workers receive from the state to save them from destitution. This is a pretty bizarre way to demonstrate their commitment to ensuring that "work always pays" is it not?

The Tory narrative that they are "making work pay" is brazenly dishonest. They have used it in conjunction with scrounger narratives to launch a massive raid on in-work benefits; they have allowed inflation to soar above wage rises for almost three years straight; they have begun attacking the National Minimum Wage; and most brazenly of all, they have coerced hundreds of thousands of people onto mandatory unpaid "Workfare" schemes, which are the clearest possible demonstration of their absolute commitment to ensure that work doesn't pay.

I've presented four absolutely clear cut examples of how the "making work pay" rhetoric is a lie (real terms cuts to in-work benefits, unpaid "Workfare" schemes, soaring inflation and attacks on the National Minimum Wage) but such is the scale of confirmation bias with the Tory besotted right-wing reactionary, that they'll be able to read all of this and respond with another reiteration of the simplistic propaganda that they plucked directly from the pages of the S*n/Mail/Telegraph and adopted as their own political opinion. They'll retort with the same kind of counter-factual fallacious reasoning that has been utterly demolished before their very eyes. It seems that these people are beyond help. My reliable evidence, statistical proof and critical analysis are as meaningless to them as their rhetoric, anecdotal evidence, cherry picked data and scrounger narratives are to us thinking people.

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