£53 a week? Of course we all could! - True grit in politics.
April 5, 2013 3:00 PM   Subscribe

On Monday, the British Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, made a rather rash claim on BBC Radio 4. Hijinks ensue. 'Duncan Smith came under pressure after he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Monday that he could live on £53 ($81/week) after he was asked about a market trader, David Bennett, who claimed that he had to live on that amount after his housing benefit was cut. "If I had to, I would," Duncan Smith replied." ' from The Guardian. Since then a petition has started challenging him to try it. Petition has gathered 440,133 signatures in 5 days. Original report. There is a secondary petition going: this one is guaranteed to be debated in Parliament if it gets 100,000 signatures.

There are a lot of details about the benefits system in comments to the Guardian posts. £53/week is the lowest rate of Jobseekers' Allowance, paid to claimants under 25, and includes no extras of any sorts. The background to this, apart from the recession, is the introduction of a new system on April 1st, which will increase the rent paid by council tenants with extra bedrooms.

Meanwhile other petitions have been springing up on the government e-petitions board.
posted by glasseyes (57 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
The Guardian twisting the knife:
He has spoken of how he signed on the dole after leaving the Scots Guards in 1981 at the height of the recession. He experienced another period of unemployment in the late 1980s when he lost his job as marketing director of the property firm Bellwinch.

The Daily Mail reported Duncan Smith as saying: "It was a shock – absolutely awful. I felt pathetic. I remember telling my wife. We looked at each other and she said: 'God, what are we going to do for money?'"

Duncan Smith's wife, Betsy, is the daughter of the 5th Baron Cottesloe who served as lord-lieutenant of Buckinghamshire in the 1980s and 1990s. Duncan Smith and his wife, who sent their children to Eton, moved into Lord Cottesloe's 17th-century Old House in the village of Swanbourne in Buckinghamshire in 2002. His in-laws moved into smaller accommodation to make way for the Duncan Smiths and their four children.
IDS later clarified that he lived partly from his savings during that period.

Little further comment was needed to eviscerate the man, I think.
posted by jaduncan at 3:09 PM on April 5, 2013 [28 favorites]

Both of them ?
posted by Pendragon at 3:24 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I actually don't think IDS should do this, for his own safety. Benefits are dangerous stuff. One fella round my end signed on last year, and within 8 weeks he was an axe-murderer. Poor sod, if only he'd kept off dole this never would've happened.
posted by Jehan at 3:26 PM on April 5, 2013 [25 favorites]

His wife is also the person he paid 15 grand a year to be his diary secretary while she did nothing of the sort, though he was of course later exonerated by parliament's tenacious watchdogs. So he can speak from direct personal experience about sponging off the public purse.
posted by Abiezer at 3:27 PM on April 5, 2013 [15 favorites]

Not that there's anything wrong with help from one's family or having saved; frankly I've relied on both at times, just as I've been able to help my family out at other times. I just wouldn't be able to sleep properly if I was the person dismissing how hard it is for people without those resources whilst gutting the already-minimal help they have. This government are destroying the NHS and the welfare state, and those form a large part of what makes me proud of my country.

I'd never have voted Tory, but I can safely say that the Lib Dems are now on my list of people I'd only rescue from a fire because someone has to have a socialist belief in equality and minimalisation of suffering.
posted by jaduncan at 3:29 PM on April 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

This was horrible to watch. Quite an experiment you guys have got going on.

Jobcentre sanctions: 'Your money is stopped, you go into freefall'
posted by KokuRyu at 3:34 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

The problem with this is that he could do it - for a week, as a publicity stunt, from which he'd re-emerge at the other end full of smugness and "see, it's possible, now let me show you the recipe for this cheap AND healthy Waitrose lentil and rocket soup!" He could do it for a week because anyone could do it for a week, anyone who knew they only had to manage it for seven days, and had a team of behind-the-scenes assistants to plan it for them, and got to pick the time and place and circumstances, and had a huge amount of support, and didn't have family relying on them, and knew they had a nice big safety net or nine anyway. It wouldn't be experiencing poverty any more than I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! is experiencing being hopelessly lost in a jungle. But wow, it'd be a good PR move.

So don't ask IDS to live on £53 for one sodding week, not unless we can find a way for him to imagine what it's like to be someone who's currently having to do it for real, someone with very, very different circumstances and chances and hopes and dreams than he's got. I would totally sign that "Make IDS Develop Some Fucking Empathy" petition, though.
posted by Catseye at 4:00 PM on April 5, 2013 [35 favorites]

Helen Goodman, MP for Bishop Auckland actually tried something similar to this, and spoke in parliament about her experience:
I was so shocked when I read what my constituents wrote to me about the implications for them of the bedroom tax, and about how little they would have left to live on, that I decided during the week of the recent recess to see if I could survive on £18 a week, which is what they will be left with to buy their food after 1 April …
Well worth a read.
posted by metaBugs at 4:07 PM on April 5, 2013 [11 favorites]

"If I had to, I would," Duncan Smith replied."

Yes! How very brave! If he had to, he would! He wouldn't just shoot himself in the face or step in front of a train if he had to live on 53 quid a week! if I had to, I would eat a pint of dirt or throw myself down a flight of stairs, but I certainly wouldn't enjoy it.

And as Catseye said, anyone can do it for a week, but there's a lot of difference between "choosing to" and "having no other alternative"
posted by dubold at 4:20 PM on April 5, 2013

I'm guessing he can always fall back on that Fine Arts degree from St. Martin's College.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:23 PM on April 5, 2013 [7 favorites]

He means well. Just watch Downton Abbey and you will see!
posted by srboisvert at 4:31 PM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Well, if Mitt and Ann Romney could do it in their struggling days, I'm sure Mr. Duncan Smith could do it, too.
posted by briank at 4:36 PM on April 5, 2013

I could probably live on IDS for a week.
posted by lucidium at 4:43 PM on April 5, 2013 [7 favorites]

shit, if I timed my Costco runs right, I could live on $0 for a week.

Last year, the pastors from my church all decided that they were going to spend Lent living on the maximum EBT benefit. One married couple, one widow, one single mother. Lent is almost 6 weeks long, which is long enough to really feel the pinch. They all reported that life started getting rough around week 3.
posted by KathrynT at 4:58 PM on April 5, 2013 [6 favorites]

They all reported that life started getting rough around week 3.

People rarely price in the spices, herbs, oils and paper towels (etc.) that they already have when working out weekly expenses.
posted by jaduncan at 5:00 PM on April 5, 2013 [6 favorites]

Or start this sort of experiment wearing only the worn-out shoes and clothes resulting from a couple of years of low income.
posted by glasseyes at 5:06 PM on April 5, 2013 [9 favorites]

Yes. I'd actually say that if there's one thing that defines poverty it's the constant stress of having no reserves.
posted by jaduncan at 5:08 PM on April 5, 2013 [29 favorites]

A friend of mine says, "broke is when you have no money. Poor is when nobody you know has any money either." The idea being that if you're having a cash flow problem but you can borrow $25 from a friend, that's a really different situation than if EVERYONE you know needs to borrow $25 at the end of the month.
posted by KathrynT at 5:18 PM on April 5, 2013 [19 favorites]

and glasseyes -- the married guy, he and his husband live in a very high-end, dense urban neighborhood (Capitol Hill in Seattle), and they decided that they would further complicate their experience by giving their car up for Lent too, meaning that they had to either do their grocery shopping locally or else by transit or bicycle. No driving out to Costco!
posted by KathrynT at 5:21 PM on April 5, 2013

I suppose that's why the petition is nothing more than a gesture really. Firstly, he'll never do it; secondly, there isn't really way to make sure he hasn't got access to anything more than that £53. Trying to create a short term environment that approximates what it's like to live on that amount in the long term would be quite tricky.

Having said that, Michael Portillo took part in a similar experiment as a result of which he left politics (they say) and wasn't ashamed to admit how difficult it was. Other politicians who have tried - Matthew Parris and Nadine Dorries - were famously found to have cheated.
posted by glasseyes at 5:22 PM on April 5, 2013

I'm guessing he can always fall back on that Fine Arts degree from St. Martin's College.

Hey, it's not his fault he had a thirst for knowledge.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 5:29 PM on April 5, 2013 [23 favorites]

The whole thing is complicated by the requirement to look for work while on Jobseekers' Allowance. Claimants have to apply for a given number of jobs per week and provide proof they have done so. Calculating whether the amount of the allowance is enough to survive on, people having been pointing out how much of it has to be spent on transport - to and from interviews; on clothes, haircuts, shoes, in order to look respectable for interviews; on having a telephone, so as to be able to be contacted for interviews; on the jobsearch itself, which entails travelling to places with free internet such as libraries - except that many of our libraries are closing, making this more difficult that ever. Also, since Monday, all new claims have to be made online.
posted by glasseyes at 5:32 PM on April 5, 2013 [8 favorites]

clothes, haircuts, shoes, in order to look respectable for interviews

Failing to do so will of course result in JSA being cut for a few weeks. The UK is really turning into a very vicious place.

I have to say that I can understand why people turn to crime; we are, without exaggeration, in a situation where some people have to steal, beg or starve.
posted by jaduncan at 5:38 PM on April 5, 2013 [6 favorites]

We are, without exaggeration, in a situation where some people have to steal, beg or starve.

The Tories are the party of Victorian values. Unfortunately, many people have not realised just how very literal and determined they are about it.

Riots in the summer, anyone? Followed by brutal suppression, draconian punishments of people in the wrong place at the wrong time, further regressive legislation, and then, in 2015, the election of the most right-wing Labour government ever - not that they don't have some competition from Blair and Brown - who will still seem like a breath of fresh air compared to this 'how far to Thatcher's right can we get away with being' bunch.

How long until 'Tory' just means 'politician'?
posted by motty at 7:05 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hey, isn't this the scene in Trainspotting where the member of Parliament snorts rails of crystal meth before his press conference, so no one can accuse him of not trying?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:17 PM on April 5, 2013

Can he live in New York City on a dollar a day?

Like a prince! He won't eat of course, but like a prince.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:44 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, please, tell me how we can lure our politicians to do the same in the U.S.
posted by _paegan_ at 8:05 PM on April 5, 2013

I'm all for it if they put him in a council flat as well.

Does the £53 include council housing, by the way?
posted by yellowcandy at 9:45 PM on April 5, 2013

Should mention that the petition asks for Ian Duncan Smith to be on a £53/week allowance for a year.

I've known university kids who tried to live on £50/week (in Bloomsbury) not including rent and study material and failed miserably. The consensus was that you need at least £70 /week, if only to be able to afford Sainsbury's in-house brand (granted, their *slightly* more expensive in-house brand, not the basic one and the odd pint at a cheapo bar.
posted by the cydonian at 10:21 PM on April 5, 2013

you'll never live like common people
posted by fzx101 at 10:23 PM on April 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

The most depressing part of the 'reforms' so far has been Labour abstaining the retroactive workfare bill which overturned the repayments from the Poundland slave labour workfare scheme.

The Tories will always do this sort of stuff, it's the whole raison d'etre for their party, it's the enablers on the centre and on the left who are to blame for the ongoing clusterfuck.
posted by brilliantmistake at 1:37 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Alex Harrowell points out why this is not a difficult thing to do for IDS:
Of course he fucking can; he owns his home, he pays his bills on monthly direct debits, his fridge is probably full, and if he’s any less daft than he looks he’ll fill up the car ahead of time. Of course he also has the use of a government car and driver, can take his calls at the office, and he’s married, so failing all else he can bum off his wife. The £53 would just be beer money.

The only possible outcome of this is that he comes up in a week’s time smelling of roses, and you know, you know the media will lap it up. Consider the vast unearned political capital gain he got from just walking around an estate in Glasgow in two-thousand-oatcake, smiling and nodding. He’s still dining out on that now.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:40 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

What happened to you, England? I used to be able to whimsically look and say, "see, that's a country that takes care of their own. Not like here in America."

Meanwhile, I think your politicians were looking at the US and saying "See, that's how you fucking over your citizenry; let's import that here."
posted by [insert clever name here] at 1:51 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

£53/week is the lowest rate of Jobseekers' Allowance, paid to claimants under 25, and includes no extras of any sorts. The background to this, apart from the recession, is the introduction of a new system on April 1st, which will increase the rent paid by council tenants with extra bedrooms.

To clarify, I think you mean "£53/week is the lowest rate of JA, paid to claimants under 25, though they may receive other payments." For example, they are still eligible for Housing Benefit, which pays their rent - which would make sense of your second statement, quoted above.

You may be eligible for:
* Jobseeker's Allowance. You will get more if you are older, or have been employed before (this is a hangover from the 1940s creation of the Welfare State). You have to be able and willing to work. You will also get some other benefits while on JA, such as free school meals for your children and free medicines (normally $12 for any medicine).
* Housing Benefit. This will pay for all or most of your rent: the recent scheme says that if you have spare rooms then this will be reduced, and you should get a lodger.
* Council Tax Benefit. This will pay all your local property taxes, although this is being pushed down to the local authorities so they may choose not to pay it all.
* Child benefit, if you have any children. This was a universal benefit until recently.

So the left-wing Guardian will find an unemployed single young man, ignore the fact his rent and taxes are paid for him, and say "OMG LOOK HOW LITTLE THEY GET!". The Daily Mail will find an older family with lots of children, add in every possible benefit and aid that they might conceivably get, and say "OMG LOOK HOW MUCH THEY GET!" (about $40,000pa tax-free for this, erm, very exceptional family).

It's all very wearying and unproductive. Labour struggled with the benefit system as well, and then there was lots of money floating around. No party is prepared to face up to the pensioners and cut their payments.

One of the factors around lower payments for young people is that if they don't get into the jobs market in the first place, they become unemployable, so there is a reasonable case for keeping benefits to a minimum for fit young people without dependents. Especially where EU migrants don't get the same benefits, so are prepared to do the crappy jobs because they don't have a welfare-based alternative.
posted by alasdair at 2:06 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sorry, but housing benefit almost never pays all of your rent. Even in places that are cheap. And council tax benefit often doesn't pay all your council tax. So you can often end up with less than that, because you're having to pay contributions to rent and council tax.
posted by Coobeastie at 2:21 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Especially where EU migrants don't get the same benefits, so are prepared to do the crappy jobs because they don't have a welfare-based alternative.

Oh! It's benefits being too high that stops people from getting into employment? I never knew. I guess the 1701 applicants for 8 jobs at Costa must have all been Polish or something then. Silly me, how naive I was being to imagine that it was a lack of jobs that made it hard for people to get work.

Jesus wept.
posted by howfar at 2:41 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yes, benefits absolutely interact with wages to affect employment. That's where the term "poverty trap" comes from. Your disposable income may fall if you move into employment. Here's a Guardian editorial mentioning it.

On the assumption that the poor aren't stupid, just poor, it's a hard sell to tell them "you should take this hard job, with all the extra costs that entails - like travel - and the time it takes up (what do you do about childcare?) AND you'll end up poorer at the end of it."

"You should take this hard job, because otherwise you'll have no money, or you'll have to go back to your poorer country" is a stronger sell.

You can resolve this with in-work benefits ("subsidising low pay!", expensive, hard to administer) or removing the benefits for being out of work (can we take it we agree this would be immoral?) or raising the minimum wage (which may or may not reduce employment, but certainly attracts more women and immigrants into the labour market - and we're back to where we were!)

It's a hard public policy problem. The Guardian's EVIL TORY narrative is as unhelpful as the Mail's SCROUNGING SKIVER one. And, forgive me, anecdotes about Costa Coffee aren't very helpful either.

Perhaps some kind of tax-free un-means-tested Citizen Income? I worry about the affordability after time, and how that interacts with immigration.
posted by alasdair at 4:10 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

The idea that people could choose to get work if they wanted to (or were forced to by arbitrarily cruel or low social security payments) is one of the key misconceptions. The current unemployment rate in the UK is about 7.8%. This means there are about 2.5 million unemployed people. There are simply not enough jobs for everyone. Every single person who doesn't work frees up a job for someone who does.

There are no scroungers and we make society stronger and better by supporting people not to work - for whatever reason. Low rates of social security payments seem to me to be as much about moral judgement as reason. There are a group of people, currently mostly conservatives and some lib dems, who regard poverty as both failure and intrinsically worthy of punishment. This explains things like the bedroom tax - it neither solves the problem of under occupancy (as it explicitly excludes those most likely to under occupy - the elderly) nor saves money (as we still need to support people to live somewhere and the cost of evictions, rent shortfalls, and replacement accommodation is higher than current costs.) what it does do is make the lives of poor people significantly more unpleasant, simply because they are poor and weak and vulnerable.
posted by Gilgongo at 5:06 AM on April 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

"There are no scroungers" seems to me to be the flip side of "they're all scroungers" and it never feels like a particularly useful road to go down. There are people gaming the system to maximum effect, but they're few and far between. I'm of the opinion that there's little point in going after them because the effect they have on the countries finances is minimal. But hanging your narrative on some halcyon world where all unemployed would work if they could polarises the argument as much as anything the Daily Mail can muster.

I'm a fan of a Citizen Income, but according to the Green Party (who quietly dropped it from their last manifesto), it's unaffordable. I love the idea of a post-employment society where people only work if the incentive is high enough, but the moral implications of such a thing frighten me. We're pretty much allowed a great standard of living in this country (rich and poor alike) because people in properly poor countries have a much laxer approach to caring for their peoples, and we can use that poverty to get the things we want for next to nothing.

I know a good number of people on benefits (I would say 50% of my friends claim some kind of out-of-work benefit), and with the exception of two people they manage fine. I'm not saying that things aren't tougher in the south of the UK and that people don't struggle on JSA, but the described levels of poverty aren't what I see on a daily basis. £20.00 (out of your £71) a week for food and sundries isn't trivial but you can eat well on this if you budget properly. Some people, it must be said, cannot budget properly.

The biggest thing stopping people from working is a system that punishes you for going back to work. alasdair is right here. If you make a little bit of money while you're on the dole, they'll firstly take most of it off you. And then - because they can - they'll take the rest and a little bit more off you - and then, because they're idiots and you inconvenienced them, they'll pull you in to the Job Shop an inordinate number of times over the next six months and treat you like dirt. It's stupidly difficult to make any extra income and get onto the job ladder when you're on benefits and it's frighteningly inconvenient to do anything other than just claim the same benefits. (This, BTW is no fault of the government. The DSS are an incompetent bureaucratic law unto themselves.)

Social housing and private landlords are a weird beast. The housing boom of the last twenty years has been fuelled in part by the destruction of the council house system, and a stupid amount of tax money goes from my pocket into the pockets of LandLords. Again - no easy answers, but social housing as it stands needs to be completely refreshed.

From my experience, I've never seen anyone pay more for their housing than they receive in housing benefit. Maybe this is a thing that happens in other parts of the country. This will change though. The so-called bedroom tax is going to hit a lot of people I know.

As ever, this story (and a bunch of other things that seem to be happening at the moment) is being spun by all sides to maximum political benefit. The political classes (left and right) have never cared for the poor and the disenfranchised except as ammunition. This story is no different.
posted by zoo at 5:43 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

And, forgive me, anecdotes about Costa Coffee aren't very helpful either.

But low-wage jobs really are hard to come by. The narrative that says we need to encourage people back to work by cutting their benefits neglects the fact that there aren't enough low wage jobs to go around. And while we agree on the Citizen Income thing, pretending that the current Tory approach is anything but ideological and political seems like a fallacious argument to moderation. Politicians really can be cheaply and meanly motivated, just like anyone else, and sometimes they're just wrong. There is no real economic argument for benefit cuts, no employment argument, no anything argument. The Tories rightly sense that being seen to hammer the poor will play well with a group of voters they fear losing to UKIP, that's the only rational justification, but it is in their party's interest, not the country's.
posted by howfar at 6:42 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've never seen anyone pay more for their housing than they receive in housing benefit.

I work for Shelter in landlord and tenant law, so my experience is pretty broad here. Many many of our clients top-up their housing benefit.
posted by howfar at 6:45 AM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

The biggest thing stopping everyone working (rather than some people getting work) is that there are not enough jobs for everyone. The benefits trap is real - but even if it didn't exist not everyone could work in our current system.

The biggest advantage of a citizens income, it seems to me, is that it would spread paid work more evenly - encouraging some people, currently working full time to reduce their hours and some people currently not working to take on part time work.

I'm not sure the moral hazard really exists. Most people want to do productive and interesting things - the rates of volunteering and community activity amongst people not in paid work show this clearly. And if people are labeled "lazy" this just tends to mean they are doing things the labeller doesn't approve of.

Unlike zoo I know significant numbers of people who top up their housing benefit (I live in an area with very expensive rental prices), I also know that lots of people find it hard to manage on benefits - and not just people who are "poor at budgeting." It's mostly parents with children, the additional expense is not in any way covered by child benefit.
posted by Gilgongo at 7:12 AM on April 6, 2013

From my experience, I've never seen anyone pay more for their housing than they receive in housing benefit.

Anecdata: myself, just post-uni. The difference was £200 a month.
posted by jaduncan at 7:54 AM on April 6, 2013

There are some really expensive parts of the UK, that's for sure.
How much does your rent need to be that you have to top it up £200.00 a month?
posted by zoo at 8:40 AM on April 6, 2013

It was £650. Trust me when I say that it was as cheap as possible; there were literally no flats available at the allegedly-market-rate £450 level.
posted by jaduncan at 9:23 AM on April 6, 2013

you'll never live like common people
posted by fzx101 at 6:23 AM on April 6 [2 favorites +] [!]
Most folk only listen to the shortened version of the song. The full version has another verse, and it really makes the point of the song, and the worthlessness of any £53 a week stunt:
You will never understand,
how it feels to live your life,
with no meaning or control,
and with nowhere else to go,
It's only a song, though.
posted by Jehan at 9:56 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

[insert clever username], that's exactly how a lot of people feel over here.

alasdair, if that is a reasonable no-frills living allowance it would be dead cool if some clever government minister could show us how it's done.

I can think of about 4 stunts over the years when better-off people tried to prove it was doable. Most recently Helen Goodman, Labour MP for Bishop Auckland has concluded that trying to do so is a soul-destroying effort that inevitably leaves people with no food, no light and no heat on the last day or days of the week. Think of the cumulative effect of that. Think of the cumulative effect on children. All this while our shared cultural capital: civic spaces, libraries, parks and museums - are being downgraded, closed, sold off etc.

Talk about slash-and-burn politics. How can an economy recover when the majority of its citizens' spending power is being systematically, and unnecessarily, diminished?

(At least we've still got free medical care - I mean free at the point of use, because we have all payed for it - but I wonder how much longer for?)
posted by glasseyes at 10:32 AM on April 6, 2013

> Helen Goodman, MP for Bishop Auckland actually tried something similar to this

From her piece: "It was also impossible to have five portions of fruit and vegetables a week." I'd like to think she meant "day" when she wrote "week," but I'm afraid she probably didn't.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:04 AM on April 6, 2013

glasseyes: We have free medical care (in the UK), but it is being systematically torn to pieces by the new Health Bill. A classic example: hospitals can now take 49% of their patients from the private market, thereby massively reducing the number of beds available to state-funded healthcare. Combining this with the massive cuts to the NHS, more and more people who can afford private health and health insurance will take it up, thereby reducing the demand for the NHS, and consequently the government will reduce the budget for the NHS.

The end result: we still have free at the point of use healthcare, but it will have huge waiting lists and not all operations will be funded by it.

There are, and have been documented links between the current Conservative leadership and The Koch Brothers and the Tea Party in the USA. This is all being done on purpose: the current goals are *not* fixing the economy, they don't give a shit about that.

The goal is to massively shrink the state.
If people starve, or die through poor healthcare - it's irrelevant.

Of course IDS will say he can live on £53/week. He'll say *anything* to achieve his goal.

Also, don't forget - IDS has form of being conservative with the truth: http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2002/12_december/19/newsnight_ids_cv.shtml.
posted by rolandroland at 11:11 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Maybe I missed something, but exactly what bills do I have to pay out of that UK-212 a month? (For us Americans, that's $359 a month) What is that benefit supposed to subsidize? My whole life? Just food? Everything minus housing?

If I had to pay for everything minus housing, that would be rough. But if it was just food for one person, that doesn't seem terrible.

On the other side of it is that this is the absolute minimum, for youths age 18-25, right? Older people get more, parents get more, etc. So I guess we have to make sure we are comparing apples to apples.
posted by gjc at 11:30 AM on April 6, 2013

Maybe I missed something, but exactly what bills do I have to pay out of that UK-212 a month?

£53 per week is actually more like £230 per calendar month. Health costs are virtually free, groceries and fuel are a bit more expensive than in the US. From that £230 you pay for food, clothing, utilities (water, heating, phone, internet), travel costs, your social life, and if you don't live with family then you will also have to find some money towards rent and local taxes, because the other benefits you might get from the local council probably won't fully cover rent and council tax (maximum housing benefit will cover the 30% cheapest shared room rents in your area). In practice, a single person under 25 can not afford to live independently on the state.
posted by wilko at 11:52 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

According to the Telegraph (I know, right) the quoted £53 was for a gentleman who got about £80. The £53 is what was left after he paid for his utilities. So in this particular situation the £53 was for food, sundries and fun. Not a huge amount, but not as terrible as some people are painting it.
posted by zoo at 12:18 PM on April 6, 2013

link for that
posted by zoo at 12:24 PM on April 6, 2013

This is true. That person is working, and draws some benefits due to low income. From the original report, linked above, in the Guardian: "Defending the vast array of welfare reforms being introduced this week as part of the government's deficit reduction programme, Duncan Smith was asked on BBC Radio 4 whether, following an example of a market trader* David Bennett, he could survive on £53 a week — the amount Bennett claimed he was left with to live on and roughly equivalent to the lowest rate of jobseeker's allowance given to adults under 25."

*market trader: small trader in vegetables.

Duncan Smith claimed he would if he had to. Fair claim for a challenge, I think. This is something I and lots of other people would be really curious to see. Of course if it is a reasonable amount to live on nobody should have any difficulty doing it.

I would never claim that I could do it - and I live modestly and walk everywhere, and made New Year's resolutions about reducing consumption. Iain Duncan Smith married into money; lives rent free; has faced queries about his Parliamentary allowances and expenses; and is known to have claimed expenses for a single breakfast which amount to nearly as much as this weekly allowance.

The context though is an ideological reduction of all aspects of the welfare state: benefits, education, training, healthcare, civic amenities. And, if I may add, the mass transfer of these assets from the population at large into corporate hands. This is coupled with a sustained and deliberate change in public discourse whereby the unemployed are demonised, sanctioned, and lose benefit. I don't think any studies have been done yet on what happens when people are sanctioned and have their benefit cut. Among my children's friends there are a couple of people who have disappeared and we have no idea what has happened to them.

However there are figures showing an estimate of what proportion of people denied invalidity benefit have died before their appeals have been heard. "Panorama also revealed that between January and August last year, on average 32 people died every week who the government had declared could be helped back into work in the medium term." I could quote The Mirror here but I shan't.

alasdair, I believe the reporting in the Guardian is better than most, it's below the line (comments) where people are all grar grar evil tories. There are people who abuse every system, but I believe in the UK we are being nudged into a mindset where all benefit claimants are criminal scroungers. This is a regressive and destructive way to approach the problems of low income and benefit reform (and related issues of taxation, social mobility, fair share of common resources and civil society.)
posted by glasseyes at 10:42 AM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


"There are, and have been documented links between the current Conservative leadership and The Koch Brothers and the Tea Party in the USA. This is all being done on purpose: the current goals are *not* fixing the economy, they don't give a shit about that.

The goal is to massively shrink the state."

That's the real long-term goal. Eliminate – or at least neuter and render compliant – the democratic state, and hence its citizenry, and let klepto-plutocracy off the leash.

It is already happening.
posted by Pouteria at 12:03 AM on April 8, 2013

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