The morals of poverty

20 Feb

The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, has made a public statement saying that government reform of the welfare system is leaving people in destitution.
Prime Minister David Cameron has responded by saying that reform is giving people new hope and new responsibility. My own position is that the welfare system should provide a safety net, but not a trampoline. Government cuts have affected all areas of spending, not just the benefits system. It is proved that over the past four years the rich have become significantly richer while the poor have become much poorer. The vast majority of people in work are significantly worse off than they were before the start of this government. The unemployed and those on contracts which pay below starvation wages are the worst off of all. There has been a significant rise, a huge rise, in the number of soup kitchens and other means of feeding the very poor. This is because many people can no longer afford sufficient food to feed themselves and their families.

If you are very poor, with no means of improving your chances, you will probably have very little hope. Getting out of the shackles of poverty is very difficult, and not helped by fat cats telling you that your problems are your own fault. So much for hope. If you were educated at Eton and Oxford and were a member of the Bullingham Club*, known for smashing up restaurants, you are just the kind of privileged brat who can have no ability to empathise with the less fortunate. The best that can be hoped for is some kind of sympathy. The ethics of poverty are survival. As for responsibility, the poor are responsible for the survival of their family, and to the community which supports them.

The government has deliberately put gaping holes in the welfare safety net. It is now preaching to the victims in the high-minded and brutal tones used by the Victorians. Perhaps we should bring back the workhouses now. There is also the prejudice of grass-roots Tories who think anyone receiving benefits of any kind is a scrounger. As for the unemployed, well the speech goes out, ‘In the depression my dad got on his bike and found work’. Do we really want to go back to the standards of the Great Depression? Many jobs available do not provide a living wage, or anything like it, not even by the standards of the nineteen thirties.

There will be a General Election within fifteen months. Let’s vote in a government of a very different complexion. As for David Cameron, learn the answer to the question ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ (The answer is, yes you are).

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*Prime Minister Cameron, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne and Mayor of London Boris Johnson are examples. These are the three most powerful men in Britain.

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