Sunday, 2 March 2014

Iain Duncan Smith's "profound moral mission"


I've written before about the Orwellian Tory assertions that Iain Duncan Smith's ideological attacks on the social security system represent some kind of "moral mission" (here). However I'm going to address the subject again, but this time I'm going to examine the thoughts of people that are delusional enough to believe this ludicrously Orwellian distortion.

The primary piece of evidence I'm going to refer to in this piece is an utterly ludicrous piece in the Daily Telegraph by Peter Oborne, which was published in the first week of April 2013, which was the most symbolic week of Tory malice. That was the week in which they introduced "Bedroom Tax" designed to further impoverish hundreds of thousands of the poorest people in society, whilst simultaneously handing a £100,000 per year tax cut to the 13,000 income millionaires in the UK.

The mind-boggling title of Oborne's article is "George Osborne can’t claim credit for Iain Duncan Smith’s virtuous reforms" so lets have a quick look at some of these supposedly "virtuous reforms".

Bedroom Tax: This malicious policy was introduced in the very week that Oborne penned his article. I've written about "Bedroom Tax" several times (here, here, here and here) but perhaps the most damning evidence is the death of Stephanie Bottrill, who committed suicide after being driven into debt by "Bedroom Tax". It was only discovered months after her death that "Bedroom Tax" had been implemented in such a cack-handed way that, like some 40,000 other victims, Stephanie Bottrill should have been exempt all along.

What kind of Orwellian definition of "virtuous" would you have to be using to apply it to a "Bedroom Tax" regime that was implemented so incompetently that it drove someone to suicide, even though they should never have been made to pay it?
Forced Labour: Another one of Iain Duncan Smith's favoured "welfare reforms" is the economically illiterate policy of using the unemployed as a source of free labour, often for highly profitable foreign corporations. The hundreds of thousands of people that are herded onto these schemes under threat of absolute destitution, are removed from the official unemployment numbers, despite the fact that they have no paid work and are they still in receipt of unemployment benefits. After Iain Duncan Smith's workfare schemes were declared unlawful by the courts, he had the law retroactively rewritten, so that his schemes would have been lawful had the law been written that way at the time. This grotesque abuse of parliamentary process was carried out in order to stick two fingers up at the courts and keep the estimated £130 million he stole from his victims.

What kind of Orwellian definition of "virtuous" would you have to be using to apply it to Iain Duncan Smith's Stalinist Workfare schemes, and his "I'm Above The Law" retroactive legislation?
The Atos WCA regime: Iain Duncan Smith's forced labour schemes are not the only parts of his supposedly "virtuous reforms" that have been condemned on multiple occasions by the courts. The Atos administered Work Capacity Assessment regime has been condemned by the courts as discriminatory on two occasions, yet Iain Duncan Smith, the DWP and Atos have carried on with their discriminatory regime regardless. The WCA regime is notoriously inaccurate, the constant flood of bad decisions made by Atos have resulted in a cost of £50 million per year in appeals, which is borne by the taxpayer (rather than the company that made all of those inaccurate assessments in the first place). Yet another consideration must be the 10,600 people that died between January and November 2011 within six weeks of being declared "fit for work"by Atos. Unfortunately it is not possible to provide more up-to-date death statistics since the Iain Duncan Smith and the DWP are stonewalling numerous Freedom of Information requests to release the data for 2012 and 2013.

What kind of Orwellian definition of "virtuous" would you have to be using to apply it to the discriminatory WCA regime, that results in countless thousands of people being told they are fit-for-work within weeks of their death and costs the taxpayer £50 million per year to deal with all of the appeals against these disgustingly inaccurate "fit for work" judgements?
Sanctions: The number of people being stripped of all all of their social security payments (often for absolutely ludicrous reasons) has risen to an all time high of 874,850.  Between 2010 and 2013 Iain Duncan Smith and the DWP repeatedly lied to parliament and the public that there was no such thing as Sanctions League Tables. In March 2013 (a month before Oborne declared IDS's reforms "virtuous") the supposedly non-existent Sanctions League Tables were leaked to the press. DWP whistleblowers have explained that the sanctions regime resulted in the unintelligent and mentally ill being tricked into committing sanctionable offences, whilst the small minority of hardcore benefits cheats were left well alone (because more often than not they know the rules better than most of the DWP staff). One of the most shocking cases is that of Mark Wood, who starved to death four months after being declared fit-for-work by Atos and being stripped of his benefits.

What kind of Orwellian definition of "virtuous" would you have to be using to apply it to a sanctions regime with targets to drive vulnerable people off benefits, resulting in people actually starving to death?
Wasteful spending and mismanagement: One of the most ludicrous aspects of Iain Duncan Smith's welfare reforms has been his ludicrous profligacy with taxpayers' money. His Universal Credit scheme is way behind schedule and way over budget. Already £120 million has been written off on botched IT procurement and staff working on Universal Credit have described working on the project as "soul-destroying", "unbelievably frustrating" and "a complete nightmare". Other staff complained of "a near complete absence of anything that looks like strategic leadership in the programme" and "a divisive culture of secrecy" [source]. Another area of extraordinary waste is Iain Duncan Smith's Work Programme, in which private companies are paid ludicrous bribes for finding people work. It has been shown over and again that these companies claim their bribes from the taxpayer even when their clients found work entirely independently of, or even despite their interference. If it were a Labour minister responsible for this kind of grotesquely incompetent financial mismanagement, Peter Oborne and the Daily Telegraph would be screaming blue murder, but because it's Oborne's mate IDS, it is instead described by them as "wonderful and virtuous"!

What kind of Orwellian definition of "virtuous" would you have to be using to apply it to welfare reforms which ensure that ever larger slices of the welfare budget end up in corporate pockets, instead of in the pockets of the people the welfare system was actually designed to help?
So now to Peter Oborne's ludicrous Daily Telegraph article. Here are some selected quotes, and my responses:
"At the heart of Mr Duncan Smith’s programme is a profound moral vision"
The only way that these welfare reforms could be considered "moral", is if you are the kind of ruthless Social Darwinist that believes that the poor and vulnerable should be hounded to death like Stephanie Bottrill, Mark Wood and the countless other victims of Iain Duncan Smith's "virtuous reforms".
"I can confidently assert that Mr Duncan Smith’s inspiration is less political than religious."
If Mr Duncan Smith's inspiration is religious, then it is certainly difficult to figure out what religion is responsible, given that there has been a chorus of condemnation of his "virtuous reforms" from all kinds of denominations, including the Catholic church, the Church of England, the Quakers, the Church of Scotland, Unitarians, the Baptist Union, the United Reform Church, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Moravian Church and many more. It is absolutely clear from this chorus of condemnation, that the teachings of Jesus Christ are fundamentally incompatible with modern Conservatism. The truth is that Iain Duncan Smith is driven more by his ideological adherence to neoliberal pseudo-economic dogma than anything derived from the teachings of Christ.
"Mr Duncan Smith fully accepts that a civilised society must always extend a helping hand to those who, often through no fault of their own, fall on hard times or are genuinely in need"
In my view, Iain Duncan Smith's reforms demonstrate precisely the opposite. They demonstrate his determination to distribute ever more of the welfare budget to corporations and the idle rentier class, instead of to the people that have "fallen on hard times or are in genuine need". As the welfare budget has been ruthlessly cut, the amount paid out as subsidies to private landlords via Housing Benefit has continued to skyrocket, and the amount being paid out to parasitic corporate outsourcing companies (Atos, A4E, Ingeus,  G4S, Serco, Avanta, Seetec ...) has also skyrocketed. If the welfare budget has gone down, yet private landlords and corporate outsourcers are getting more than ever before, it is beyond obvious that the people the welfare system was actually designed for must be the ones losing out.
"All of Mr Duncan Smith’s changes reflect a determination to enable everyone to live free and morally autonomous lives."
What could possibly promote less "freedom and morally autonomy" that Iain Duncan Smith's Stalinist Workfare schemes that work on the assumption that the labour of the individual is a commodity which belongs to the state which can be extracted, under threat of absolute destitution, by the state for distribution to highly profitable foreign owned corporations like Warburg Pincus, the giant US based private equity firm that operates Poundland. It is absolutely clear that this is another attempt by Oborne to dress up brutal Social Darwinism and ruthless exploitation of the vulnerable as something "moral".
"Mr Duncan Smith is in the process of making a series of momentous and inordinately ambitious reforms to our welfare system. They bear comparison to Margaret Thatcher’s great economic reforms because they involve a recasting of the relationship between the individual and the state."
They certainly do bear comparison to Margaret Thatcher's destructive economic reforms. Just as she used the power of the state to crush British industries and transfer ever more wealth from working people to corporations and the idle rentier class, Iain Duncan Smith's "welfare reforms" use the power of the state to crush the most vulnerable in society in order to transfer even more wealth to the corporations and the idle rentier class.

Conclusion

By describing Iain Duncan Smith's brutal ideologically driven welfare reforms as "a wonderful and virtuous idea", Peter Oborne is one of the people that feeds into Iain Duncan Smith's psychotic delusions that his "war on the poor" is some kind of virtuous moral crusade, rather than a disgusting Tory project to divert funds that are meant to protect the vulnerable into the bank accounts of corporate outsourcing parasites and the idle rentier class.

Iain Duncan Smith is clearly a dangerously delusional individual. However, in my view, the people that actively feed into his delusions like Peter Oborne are even more contemptible. The evidence is absolutely clear that the Tories know how incompetent Iain Duncan Smith is, because they didn't dare let such a cognitively illiterate charisma void lead their party into the 2005 General Election.

It illustrates exactly how much contempt the Tories have for the poor, vulnerable and disabled they now champion the man that they didn't trust as steward of their own political party with such Orwellian superlatives, when his track record of failure, incompetence, malice, arrogance and obfuscation is so incredibly clear.


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