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“experts in life on the dole”
January 26, 2014 5:18 AM   Subscribe

Double serving of media critique on the proliferation of "poverty porn" TV (in the UK) over at Sociological Imagination with "A Summer of Television Poverty Porn" and "Pride, Propaganda and Poverty Porn: On Benefits and Proud." Programs under discussion include We Pay All Your Benefits, How to Get a Council House, Benefits Britain 1949, On Benefits and Proud.
We All Pay Your Benefits, a two-part July documentary in which four ‘taxpayers’ and four ‘claimants’ were paired up, ostensibly to learn from one another about work and worth...

Taxpayer Debbie for example accompanies Kelly on her weekly supermarket shop, and comes across as cold-hearted and miserly in her determination to find fault with spending habits. She repeatedly questions why Kelly’s children should have two hot meals a day, before criticising her for buying a whole chicken rather than chicken fillets and for buying “high-salt, high-sugar” supermarket brand tinned food. Their exchange ends in Kelly’s tears and is a powerful reminder to the viewer that the ‘skiver/striver’ rhetoric so enthusiastically embraced by some of the participants has upsetting consequences for those that are stigmatised by it.
posted by spamandkimchi (18 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
At some point in the near term future, employment will go below 50% on its asymptotic journey to zero. The means of production are getting so efficient, in terms of human labor, that we're all going to be redundant at some point.

I hope the powers that be can sort out how they feel about this, and start moving towards actual socialism before that tipping point... or it's going to get very ugly.
posted by MikeWarot at 5:34 AM on January 26 [5 favorites]


Right. Cough.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:46 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


Remember that making people feel valuable about only working forty hours a week took two generations. It will take a couple more generations before the value of labor and what quantity of it is redefined.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:47 AM on January 26


It will take a couple more generations before the value of labor and what quantity of it is redefined.

See the political and economic history of the US since Reagan for more evidence of the inevitable progress towards socialism...
posted by ennui.bz at 6:05 AM on January 26 [2 favorites]


I shudder to think what this "entertainment" will look like when it makes it to US television.


I hope the powers that be can sort out how they feel about this, and start moving towards actual socialism before that tipping point... or it's going to get very ugly.

There will always be great job opportunities in the ever-growing ranks of the military. Especially as it becomes re-deployed as a homeland security force, to protect the gated communities (and the powers-that-be) from the filthy rabble out to destroy our beloved way of life.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:18 AM on January 26 [2 favorites]


Couple of links about the related "Benefits Street".

It's nothing like the James Turner Street we researched:
Within a few seconds we had statistics quoted by a resident and the narrator – "only 5% working" … "almost everyone on benefits"...

I first went to James Turner Street in 2008 for my company, Vector Research. Specialising in researching what are known as "hard-to-access" groups and neighbourhoods, we had been commissioned by the city council and Urban Living...the results for James Turner Street showed that at the time, just under four in 10 (39%) of adults were working – more than were unemployed or on disability or sickness benefit (35%).
The neoliberalism in our souls?
The programme is not called 'Unemployment Street'; that is still, to a large extent, understood as a social problem. It is called 'Benefits Street'; that is increasingly understood as a lifestyle, and an ethos...

This is 'welfare dependency'. This is what Iain Duncan Smith characterised as a state of 'slavery'; ironically, and entirely logically from the neoliberal purview, the cure to this 'slavery' is to compel people to work for free.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:29 AM on January 26 [5 favorites]


From the Article: "But Cheryl and Debbie, despite some nudging from Margaret about the necessity of giving people more than mere subsistence, sternly drew the line at a system that could end up with the workless taking home more than workers."

Here we go. It's the "fuck you I ain't got yours"...

What I'd like to see is this perception (name brand shoes, iphone, etc) vs the reality of the actual income... I'd like to see before/after the welfare income, what percent of that stuff was bought before ending up needing assistance? It's not as though shoes themselves are money they are things bought at one point or another, and may have been bought before being on welfare. It's not as though all things you have previously bought are magically disappeared the second you go on welfare.

But... this is it... Instead of asking "Hey, why am I getting such little and getting conned out of the deal" it's "how come these lazy bums on the dole get a better deal than I do"... Maybe you should ask why you get such a shit deal in the first place? Maybe THAT is the problem. Of course, the problem is your answer is that the unemployed or working poor is stealing your tax money, and never mind the people who actually have even more money and who leach it via profit via capitalism.

halfbuckaroo: "Remember that making people feel valuable about only working forty hours a week took two generations. It will take a couple more generations before the value of labor and what quantity of it is redefined."

The problem here is that there are still way too many people who feel that 40 isn't enough or rather, similar to the "fuck you I ain't got yours" attitude above, it's that *they* work hard and more than 40 hours, why should we encourage even less work. It's good for the soul and all that or something. Not only are there not enough people feeling valuable about only working 40 hours, it wasn't as if 40 hours was handed down on high. It was a struggle and people died to get that...

What we have these days is nowhere near the energy or strength to fight for more, even though it will come to a point where that's necessary if we want "full employment" (or even low unemployment, if we're going to take the necessity of unemployment as some sort of mandate from on high via the invisible hand and elasticity in the labor supply), it will come, as I was saying, to a point where masses of unemployed will eventually have to rise up, the masses of the overworked will have to cut back. We will not magically have these 20 hour work weeks considered "full time" (let alone accepted, as you mention) unless/until people rise up and demand that.

The exploitation of the 3rd world labor supply + technological considerations is going to lead to some interesting dynamics in labor in the coming decades, but labor needs to understand its own power as labor. And it needs to shift the traditional legal union structure and go back to doing things illegally, like it used to be when we actually were making progress.
posted by symbioid at 7:09 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


It seems to me (from the outside) that the UK's welfare state had huge support when it was created, and parts of it, like National Health, still do. But in large part the dialogue now seems to be much more about dole bludgers and undeserving welfare recipients -- does that represent an actual large-scale shift in attitudes, or is it just a media creation?
posted by Dip Flash at 7:12 AM on January 26


does that represent an actual large-scale shift in attitudes, or is it just a media creation?


I'll give you a hint: rhymes with "Shmupert Shmurdoch."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:23 AM on January 26 [7 favorites]


I actually saw We All Pay Your Benefits this summer when I was in London. It was about as terrible as it sounds. What's interesting was that it came on immediately after a show about these 'vacation parks' for the poor - basically, they were like small, inexpensive resorts (almost like slightly nicer trailer parks with low end resort-like amenities), which sell very cheap vacation packages. I found the contrast between the two shows really interesting, because despite a focus on how poor the families (and they are almost all families) at the vacation park were, the message was very much "everyone deserves to take a vacation every so often, and isn't it nice that there's this industry to support that for people who wouldn't be able to afford it otherwise" (as opposed to We All Pay Your Benefits, which was very much "LOOK AT THESE LAZY POORS LIVING SO WELL").

In retrospect most of the people on the vacation show did work, just in highly menial, low-wage jobs, so it probably boiled down to more of the same "deserving poor/undeserving poor" shit we've been hearing forever.
posted by Itaxpica at 8:34 AM on January 26


is it just a media creation?

Murdoch's press... The Sun and the erstwhile News of the World (RIP)... have been banging on about so-called 'benefit scroungers' for at least a couple of decades. Their persistence has paid off.
posted by Mister Bijou at 8:35 AM on January 26


I knew about the Undercover Boss show; we've got it stateside now.


This stuff is just gross. This is like Storm Saxon level stuff.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:54 AM on January 26


I shudder to think what this "entertainment" will look like when it makes it to US television.

It looks like this.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:50 AM on January 26


Some of these shows seem to be focusing on the working class, rather than the recent Channel 4 controversial show 'Benefits Street' which deals with the underclass, or 'lumpenproletariat.' There is a world of difference.

I enjoy watching Benefits Street because scammers gonna scam and it's interesting to see them put one over the police or have a few beers sitting on a sofa in the street etc.

But the underclass are a group in society who are so hopeless, so damaged by the system, and so beyond all hope (drugs, crime, illness) that they will almost certainly never achieve class consciousness or have the capacity to join with organised elements of the population in order to change things. The main reason they get welfare payments is because it would create too much social unrest among productive workers if the ruling class were to simply kill them off (although this does happen in places like Brazil a fair bit).

Marx was very harsh about the underclass, too harsh in fact - I have human empathy for people in dire situations. But if you hitch your hopes for society in general to more enlightened treatment of them you are likely to get more demoralised than ever.
posted by colie at 10:40 AM on January 26


At some point in the near term future, employment will go below 50% on its asymptotic journey to zero. The means of production are getting so efficient, in terms of human labor, that we're all going to be redundant at some point.

About 55% of Americans have received at least one of the following benefits: unemployment benefits, Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, Medicaid and welfare.
posted by srboisvert at 12:50 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


srboisvert: what do those numbers look like without Social Security or Medicare? It feels disengenuous to post that in response to the quite you did, since the quoted post was talking about unemployment and those programs are used by retired people, regardless of their employment status pre-retirement.
posted by Itaxpica at 1:25 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


In fact, several of those other programs are used by employed people in low-wage jobs, but that's another story. There are plenty of people who made plenty of money during their working years who benefit from SS and Medicare.
posted by Itaxpica at 1:27 PM on January 26


A big problem with these programmes is that they give the public a false idea of how benefits fit into the economy.

Firstly, most people on unemployment benefit use it just in the short term:
For a sample group of 32-33 year olds who claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) in 2010-11, 40 per cent of them had not made a claim before in that period. Sixty three per cent had spent no more than six months of the previous four years on JSA. And almost four out of five claimants had spent at least three quarters of the past four years off the dole. The idea that these claimants are 'trapped' in a 'dependency culture' is absurd.
The average person receiving unemployment benefit uses it as a short term measure in a tough time. But the TV shows never show these normal people on unemployment benefit. They only show the minority who are long-term unemployed. That's convincing the voting public that all the unemployed are permanent "scroungers".

Secondly, only a tiny amount of the benefits bill goes on the unemployed anyway. The big items are state pensions for the elderly, healthcare for the elderly, and increasingly in-work benefits for the low-paid.
Here we can see what is pushing up the cost of social security. Pensions and tax credits are two of the biggest increases. One is for retired people, the other is mostly for people in work.
Increasingly people seem to think government spending = benefits for long-term unemployed. But the long-term unemployed are taking only a fraction of the money spent on the short-term unemployed, who in turn are taking only a small fraction of benefits spending in total.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:51 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


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