Here’s a good, succinct analysis of the general dynamics of the threat to the (already-eroded, never totally egalitarian) European model of welfare, from the British Medical Journal:

The assault on universalism: how to destroy the welfare state
Martin McKee and David Stuckler watch aghast as American examples are followed to destroy the European model of the welfare state.

http://www.bmj.com/content/343/bmj.d7973

They say:

a crucial and longstanding difference [between the US and Europe] was the role of race in society. In America, the rich could never fall to the bottom of the ladder, because that position was already taken. African Americans faced persistent and widespread discrimination. […]. Europeans knew they could go to bed rich and wake up poor, but a rich (and, by extension, white) American could be confident that they would never wake up black.

(It might be added that in European countries, the rich have to spend money, continuously, to establish and maintain a “racial difference” between themselves and the poor, which comes free, as it were, in the USA.)

The article draws out the major investment now being undertaken to “other” the poor – and also to remove commitment to the welfare state among the “squeezed middle” by removing universal benefits (family allowance, publicly funded higher education, state-supported public transport …).

Coincidentally, an exchange on Radstats yesterday highlighted a new report on the incidence of criminal records (of any kind presumably) among people on state benefit, whose only purpose could have been to criminalise claimants – and indeed the Express has seized on this for that purpose. As one writer says:

What is most striking to me is that I can see little use for this data as presented by the MOJ except as material for press misrepresentation and as policy based evidence for further initiatives to blame the victims of the financial crisis for their plight.

The criminal class = the undeserving poor. Or as the Daily Express put it

“Figures show that 1.2 million of the 4.9 million who receive unemployment benefit have criminal records … With Britain’s annual bill for unemployment benefit standing at £5billion it is essential that this kind of state-sanctioned scrounging is brought to an end. It is costing the country a fortune and it is a slap in the face to those who – in these difficult economic times – find themselves without a job through no fault of their own yet doggedly continue to seek work”

The original report, “Offending, employment and benefits – emerging findings from the data linkage project” was published on 24th November month by the Ministry of Justice and the DWP. The link is at:

http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/publications/statistics-and-data/mojstats/offending-employment-benefits-emerging-findings-1111.pdf

For Radstats, go to:

http://www.radstats.org.uk

The only thing I’d say was wrong with McKee and Stuckler’s article, is their assertion that the rich get nothing from the state – but they get loads! I think the statement “socialism for the 1%, capitalism for everyone else” gets it about right.

Bob Hughes

 

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