Entitlement instead of responsibility? No deal

Whether it was tapping his foot to his music, or under a public toilet cubicle divide, George Michael made his name performing in public.  But since his death there have been many tales of his anonymous philanthropy, doling out cash to members of the public whose causes he deemed worthy of his largesse, including giving tens of thousands of pounds to people who couldn’t afford medical treatments, while trying to keep his actions away from a ravenous media. One way or another, he enjoyed discreetly pleasuring anonymous strangers.

One of the recipients of Michael’s hand-outs was a leg-up for a lady who’d appeared on Deal Or No Deal, the luck-based game show where people reveal the contents of their boxes, hosted by Noel Edmonds who has recently launched ‘Positively Pets’, a radio station for pussies.  After George Michael’s death the shows producer, Richard Osman tweeted: “A woman on ‘Deal Or No Deal’ told us she needed £15k for IVF treatment.  George Michael secretly phoned the next day and gave her the £15k.”

Whether it was through being horrified at the thought of someone shooting their load up a woman rather than through a gloryhole, or genuine compassion, our hero’s donation will mean that, subject to complications (multiple births, spread of disease and birth defects) the victim (everything has to be somebody’s fault, see) will have been able to make the same lifestyle choice as those who can conceive naturally (subject, of course, to the less than 1 in 3 chance of success).  The thing is, although GM (appropriately enough) will have donated £15,000 for the IVF treatment, the “mother” will receive almost double that in child benefit and tax credits.  And guess who’ll be paying for that?  Yeah, YOU, hardworking plebs.

YOU.

This raises two issues: the first is that with over 5,000 children awaiting adoption placements, it would have perhaps been more ethically and morally responsible for the “mother” to have adopted a child who needs a mother and a stable family to help with their life chances and mental wellbeing, rather than the mother undergoing unreliable and costly treatment because she “needs” a child like her next fix.  A child which would be statistically more likely to develop mental illnesses including autism, ADHD, clinical depression and hypertension, to fill the gaping, empty hole in her life (and not the one between her legs) without a thought for the child (should it materialise) or anyone else.

Secondly and more generally, should people have children – naturally or not – and have that child financially supported by other taxpayers to the tune of almost £30,000 in benefits and tax credits alone? Having children is a lifestyle choice: holidays, cars, a dog or a new iPhone are all lifestyle choices, and a common sense principle of “if you can’t afford to have it, don’t” is not unreasonable.  So why do people think this shouldn’t apply to having children?  Let’s look at the history of state-sponsored spunkery.

After a brief spell in the late 18th century, child tax allowances were introduced in 1909 and were paid only to taxpaying, working people.  In 1942, when you’d be forgiven for thinking there was something more pressing, an additional Family Allowance (FA) was introduced, but there was disagreement among Labour and Conservative politicians about the way it should be implemented.

The Beveridge Report, written by the civil servant William Beveridge, proposed an allowance of eight shillings per week for all children, which graduated according to age, to be non-contributory and funded by general taxation.  After some debate, the Family Allowances Bill was enacted in June 1945, which provided for a flat rate payment funded directly from taxation. The recommended eight shillings a week was reduced to five and the FA was introduced in August 1946.  In an arse-over-tit move which seemingly encouraged frequent rather than limited unprotected irresponsible fuckkery, it was only paid for the second child onwards.

After some Tory-tinkering in the 1950s, in 1966 the Labour Government considered the respective merits of an increase in the existing family allowance, or a new means-tested family supplement that was supported by then Chancellor, James Callaghan, but it took the Conservative electoral victory in 1970, when Sir Keith Joseph introduced Family Income Supplement (FIS), designed to replace further increases in family allowance with a means-tested supplement for the poorest families, to see the implementation of a scheme similar to that devised by Callaghan under Labour.

When back in power, Labour had originally intended to merge family allowances and child tax allowances in a new benefit called Child Benefit (CB) in the mid 1970s, but under financial pressure decided to abandon these plans.  Following inevitable pressure from the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) amongst others, Labour succumbed and in 1975 the Child Benefit Bill was born, which replaced FA with a benefit for each child, paid to the mothers, phased in from 1977.

In 1984, there was a major social security review, announced by the Conservative government and leading to a Social Security Act in 1986, with a new system being introduced in 1988.  Many supporters of CB believed that it might be abolished (correct), means-tested (a start) or taxed (meh).  CPAG was the catalyst behind the formation in 1985 of ‘Save Child Benefit’, a grouping of something-for-nothing-ists who don’t understand that “free” actually means “paid for by those who work harder than those who’ll benefit”.  This mixed bag of worthier-than-thou slackers and spongers ranged from women’s groups to trades unions and from churches to children’s charities. In the event CB was retained.

Many proposals were put forward to restructure, reduce or radically change child benefit, but in 1990 then Prime Minister and Syd Little doppelgänger John Major declared that child benefit “is and will remain a strong element in our policies for family support”. I never really liked him, and his overbearing fat sidekick was rubbish.  Major restructured child benefit to introduce a higher rate for the first or eldest eligible child which at least reversed the most irresponsible of the Beveridge scheme introduced almost half a century previously.

In July 1998, the Labour government under then pre-war mongering Tony Blair abolished One Parent Benefit (yes another one, yet more money for lone parents originally introduced in 1976). They did this by incorporating One Parent Benefit into the main CB. It was abolished for new claimants and existing claims were frozen. Between April 1997 and April 2003 the rate of CB for the first child increased by a staggering 25% in real terms.

In 2010 neither the Conservative nor the Liberal Democrat General Election manifestos mentioned CB. The country was in the middle of a huge recession. Austerity and cuts were the wankfodder of choice for the feckless and left-whingers everywhere, but somehow CB was to survive, cone what may. In his Budget speech on 22 June 2010, then Chancellor George Osborne said that the Government had had to take a “difficult decision” about CB:

“I have received many proposals about this benefit. Some have suggested that we means-test it; others that we tax it.  All these proposals involve issues of fairness. The benefit is usually claimed by the mother. To tax it would mean that working mothers received less than the non-working partner of higher earners. To means test it, we would have to create a massively complex new system to assess household incomes. I do not propose to do those things. I know that many working people feel that their child benefit is the one thing that they get without asking from the state. So instead, to control costs, we have decided to freeze child benefit for the next three years. This is a tough decision, but I believe that it strikes the right balance between keeping intact this popular universal benefit, while ensuring that everyone across the income scale makes a contribution to helping our country reduce its debts.”

All benefits are popular, particularly with those receiving them. But they are being given to people who have made a particular lifestyle choice. It is funding frivolity, more so in cases where people choose to have many children. In his speech to the Conservative Party conference on 4 October, Osborne did little to put this right when he announced that CB would continue to be paid for all children, but that it would be withdrawn from higher rate taxpayers:

“We still pay over a billion pounds a year in child benefit to higher rate taxpayers. Believe me, I understand that most higher rate taxpayers are not the super-rich. But a system that taxes working people at high rates only to give it back in child benefit is very difficult to justify at a time like this. And it’s very difficult to justify taxing people on low incomes to pay for the child benefit of those earning so much more than them. These days we’ve really got to focus the resources where they are most needed. We’ve got to be tough but fair. That’s why we will withdraw child benefit from households with a higher rate taxpayer.”

I find it impossible to justify taxing hardworking people on any income to pay for the CB (and the various tax credits) of those making a lifestyle choice to have children.  Undoubtedly there will be people saying that it is their right to have children, and I would never question that. It is my right to go on holiday, own a car, a dog and an iPhone. But if I can’t afford them, I don’t scrounge off others. I go without.

There’s a disturbing sense of entitlement that’s crept into society, particularly in the last ten ears, often taking the place of responsibility.  It has become far too easy for people to live their lives – often to the full – on the back of the hard work of others, where working harder and longer to earn more money has been replaced by working out how many hours you can work without jeopardising tax credits.  Stories of people on benefits having children, often more than one and sometimes half a dozen or more are commonplace, as is the expectation not only from the claimants themselves but from a left-leaning media that “free” stuff should be paid for by “those who can afford it”.  In other words, if you think of society as a chicken, what benefit claimants contribute would be represented by the Parson’s Nose, and at the same time they’d happily ravish the bird down to its carcass.

In spite of well-meaning gestures from well-intentioned celebrities, from the philanthropy of anonymous chequebook cottager George Michael, to the socialist students’ Metropolitan Manc pin-up and professional publicist and poverty campaigner Owen Jones, who swallows £40,000 a year from The Guardian for writing Twitter-baiting pieces on the back of the poor plus, according to Media Guido, Jones has also generated around £1.35 million in book sales which, based on conservative royalties of 35% means he will have earned almost half a million pounds), at the end of the day it is hardworking taxpayers who have to pick up the £25 BILLION a year tab for child benefit and tax credits, the cost of the lifestyle choices of others.

No deal.

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