Ad Fontes

Politics, Theology and Christian Humanism


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We are being cheated about benefit cheats

Clamping down of benefit cheats, those who fraudulently claim government benefits, has been a oft-repeated mantra of the political right in Britain. By ‘right’, I include the neoliberal New Labour project. Much of the mainstream media, not just the usual hard-right press, have merrily chimed in without needing too much encouragement. The usual news item focuses on some benefit claimant who is holidaying on a luxury yacht, or some other eye-catching headline. This follows the usual methodology of the populist right, use an individual story, even hearsay, to illustrate your point.

There have been various government strategies to encourage us to ‘shop the scroungers’, and now the ConDem government will be entrusting the credit-rating agency Experian with tracking down benefit cheats — all performance and profit led.

However, David Osler has posted on the statistics show that benefit fraud amounts to less than 1% of all benefit payments. So, the greater fraud is that perpetrated by politicians and journalists who have vastly exaggerated the problem. In absolute terms, that 1% translates into £1 billion, but even then, as Dave points out, the bank bailout was £850 billion.

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Chile’s woes

The Chilean government has so far confirmed that 795 people are confirmed dead following Saturday’s earthquake, and two million have been made homeless. More have been killed and made homeless by the following tsunami. However, our media coverage always gets round to talking about looting, just as it did in Haïti and New Orleans. Focusing on looting is demeaning to the people who are caught up in the crisis, many of whom have lost homes and livelihoods. If disaster should strike this leafy borough of West London, I would not expect orderly queues outside of Waitrose either.

Looting is theft whatever the situation, but entirely forgiveable given this situation. However, in the city of Concepción, population 500,000, the Chilean army has deployed 7000 soldiers to prevent looting and protect property. It strikes me as a peculiar prioritisation to use military resources for property protection rather than humanitarian assistance. To underline the perverse decision to prioritise stuff over people, the army shot and killed a citizen two nights ago. Socialists often describe the military as primarily mobilised in defence of property rather than human life, and this is an example of such an abuse of state force under the guise of ‘rule of law’. Read David Osler’s article for more on this.

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