Saturday, November 18, 2023

Opting Out? Government says NO!


In September 2023 SOYMB posted ‘Huddled Masses Opting Out.’

In a supplication reminiscent of the entreaty at the base of the statue of liberty in New York harbour, the UK Work and Pensions Secretary appeals to those of the working class who, through no fault of their own, are unable to offer themselves up to full-time, long-term exploitation, to help reduce the financial burden of running this particular capitalist entity.

The MailOnline reports: ‘One million people on sickness benefits could be forced to start looking for jobs including thousands with mobility and anxiety problems as the Government gets set to slash billions from its welfare budget.

More: ‘Up to a million sickness and disability benefit claimants are to be ordered to seek work. Unveiled by Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride the blitz is aimed at slashing the £26billion welfare budget’.

Moving on to November, now comes the big stick.

BRITS on benefits who refuse to look for work risk losing their right to free NHS prescriptions, dental care and help with energy bills.

The move, set to be announced in next week's ,Autumn Statement forms part of Jeremy Hunt's major plan to crackdown on economic inactivity.’

Around nine million Brits of working age are currently unemployed.

On Wednesday Mr Hunt will unveil a £2.5bn “back to work plan in an effort to bring the figure down. Fresh funds will help up to 1.1 million people find work. Under the scheme benefit recipients who don't look for jobs risk losing access to free NHS prescriptions, dental care, legal aid and energy bill support. And sick notes will be approved by civil servants instead of doctors in a trial where patients will be treated by therapists working for DWP.’ The Sun 17 November

To anyone who thought the Labour Party represented the British working class:

Millions of out-of-work Brits are a “horrible, painful toll” on the public purse and are “dragging” down the economy, a top Starmer ally declared last night. (speaking at Labour Party Conference).

Whose economy?

Shadow Cabinet Minister Peter Kyle said: “There are 2.5million people that are just unknown to the economy for reasons that we don’t understand, and there’s no exercise to go find them.There are 700,000 young people who are not in education, training or work. And that figure has been growing, not diminishing.”

The shadow science and tech secretary hit out: “All of these things are personal tragedies, but they’re also taking a horrible, painful toll on our economy.

It is dragging our economy down. So we need to get cracking on it.” ‘

The Sun 8 October

The Guardian has; 'Speaking on Thursday afternoon, Hunt said the government wanted to address the “rise in people who aren’t looking for work” to help grow the economy.

These changes mean there’s help and support for everyone – but for those who refuse it, there are consequences too. Anyone choosing to coast on the hard work of taxpayers will lose their benefits.”

Confirming the plans for a benefits crackdown, the Treasury said it would be taking steps to strengthen the current universal credit sanctions regime to incentivise claimants to comply with their work-search requirements and move into a job.

Under the current system, claimants can be subjected to open-ended sanctions if certain requirements are not met, such as attending a meeting with a work coach. These sanctions can result in benefit deductions until a claimant re-complies.’

From the Socialist Standard, April 2014; ‘The Times (15 January) reported that George Osborne was to tell a conference organised by the think tank Open Europe that ‘Europe will face further economic woes if it fails to cut welfare spending’:

As Angela Merkel has pointed out, Europe accounts for just over 7 per cent of the world’s population, 25 per cent of its economy and 50 per cent of global social welfare spending. We can’t go on like this.’

He didn’t explain why not, but the implication must be that, to compete on world markets against the products made in countries which spend less on welfare, Europe has to reduce its welfare spending towards their levels. In other words, a race to the bottom.

One dictionary definition of ‘welfare’ is:

1. good health, happiness, and prosperity. 2. the maintenance of persons in such a condition; money given for this purpose.’ (Oxford Reference Dictionary)

On this definition, Osborne was in effect saying that, due to competition on the world market, all countries are forced to reduce the ‘good health, happiness and prosperity’ of their population. What an indictment of capitalism! And what a confirmation of the futility of reformists’ attempts to make capitalism serve human welfare.

But is it true? One thing Osborne ignores is that ‘welfare spending’ is not motivated by a desire to improve human welfare but by a desire to improve the productivity of the workforce – a better educated, more healthy workforce feeling less insecure can produce more profits. This was in fact the capitalist rationale behind the introduction of the so-called Welfare State and why the drastic reduction of such spending to the levels in China or India which Osborne and Merkel seem to be proposing could prove to be counter-productive.

Osborne probably knows this and doesn’t regard such spending as an unnecessary burden that has to come out of taxes that ultimately fall on profits any more than he does military spending which also comes from this. For him, both will be part of the necessary costs of running capitalism. What he will be against is welfare for those who can’t or don’t work and so are useless from a profit-making point of view – the sick, the disabled, the mentally ill, the old, the unemployed and the unemployable. In short, the most vulnerable members of capitalist society.

The fact that welfare has become a dirty word for capitalism shows that it is not a system geared to improving human welfare. If it was, then as productivity increased (as it does slowly from year to year) more resources would be devoted to services and amenities that enhance the welfare of everyone. But this is not what happens. Far from it. The pressure is downwards not upwards.

The fact is that capitalism is a system geared to making profits and accumulating them as more and more profit-seeking capital. That’s the logic which is imposed on all countries through competition on the world market. In this sense Osborne and Merkel are right, but that’s a convincing reason to get rid of capitalism and to replace it with a system in which the welfare of all can and will be the priority. Which is only possible on the basis of the common ownership and democratic control of productive resources and the end of production for the market with a view to profit.’

The Sun is part of Murdoch’s News Corporation.

The United Kingdom is the world’s sixth largest economy.

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