I went to the cashpoint first thing, and found the evidence of the last budget. Luckily I was expecting. This year, for the first time in my life I didn’t watch it. I didn’t watch the highlights, I saw come commentary. Had a flick through, was as expected.
Today has been busy, I should have asked someone their opinion on the budget. My door started going at just after 9, and between 9 and 1 I had a steady stream of visitors. One visitor had been self employed for 4 months, earning less than £50 a week, yet had received a bill for £400 unpaid tax that he can’t even fathom how he owes never mind how to pay. Another crying, because she doesn’t owe BT money, but an error on her account led to BT outsourcing the ‘debt’ and the only conversation the people ringing her house on a two hourly basis, want to have is when she will pay it. Another has found that her housing benefit, which never touched the deficit she lived at if she wanted to pay her rent, was overpaid. And they are taking it back. The deficit she lives at just got much bigger. The cut in tax credits which came through this week, weren’t expected by another. Another has a heart condition, which means he can’t work. I know his last boss, who tried to keep him on for over a year after it was apparent he was just too unpredictably ill to do so. ATOS say he can work. The jobcentre only have to listen to that. The ’employer’ he has been sent to, threaten him when he says he can’t lift. They don’t need to use a HR department, the jobcentre will do it.
I spoke to my friend who works at the Jobcentre, but I know the problem there. The days of them being able to offer ‘help and advice’ were eroded by Labour, long before the election. The CAB are struggling, and it isn’t their knowledge that is needed. It is the knowledge that communities in the 80s developed, about to how to work within the cracks of systems designed to fuck you all over. Because there is no doubt now that is what this system is designed to do.
None of these people have done anything wrong. They spent their formative adult years in a credit boom, where the plentiful jobs made it appear we had never had it so good. They did the ‘right’ thing. They knew things were going to be tricky over the next few years. As everyone did. But the bureacratic cosh that is coming down is mindblowing. A year ago many were still buying that there was a difference between them and the scrounging unemployed of the tabloids.
We talk about welfare and the minute that word is used the discussion tangents onto the moral deficiency of the poor. Major economic changes have happened, and those changes come with changes to the way people are living. They are not the changes you make adjusting to poverty, they are the changes of people trying to navigate a web of bureacracy and control which takes away your life. That bureacracy what prevents communities from making the adjustments required to deal with poverty.
Control offered by debt, low wages(if there is any pay at all), and the absurd conditions of welfare. Unavoidable control in an economy with no jobs.
It is beginning to feel like the 80s. People are suffering. The tories are untouchable, Labour are complicit this time and the left are too busy having a party and discussing which of the working class are allowed into their book group . I personally blame the return of electro to the music scene, or whoever brought rara skirts back. On the upside, for those who coveted rara skirts first time round, this is a lifetime of economic and social policy knowkedge consolidating as part of their history. Which means the shock and awe which made Thatcherism possible no longer has that effect. This is at least a hopeful sign.
Oh yeah. This post was about the budget. Doesn’t seem much point in commenting, the important bits were lost under soundbites about granny taxes and fiscal neutrality.