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Maliciously not breaking the law

The delightful UKUncut have raised the issue of legal tax avoidance, which means not paying tax that one is not obliged to. A silly position, one might think, because who pays more tax than they are obliged to? Frankly, most of us pay the amount that is removed before we ever see it, and then try to remember to pay our council tax before we get a court summons. We don’t offer to pay more and there’s really no mechanism in place to do so. I’ve tried paying too much council tax, due to a serial inability to count when it matters, and they send it right back to me, or at least refund it at the end of the year.

So can it possibly be fair to label those who have not broken the law as malicious anti-social thugs who wreck the fabric of society and destroy the lives of ordinary people through their selfishness and greed?

I don’t know. Can it, Mr Cameron?

The branding of recipients of welfare payments as work-shy fraudulent scroungers is not Mr Cameron’s. It has been a mainstay of the right-wing press for years now and was pandered to pitifully under Labour. But Mr Cameron has added an entirely new layer of mythology to this fable. Mr Cameron has sought to blame welfare recipients for an international recession.

And that, my friends, is pretty fucking impressive.

I mean, seriously, I am impressed. Awed, really. I’ve read my Orwell, and I’ve seen some really impressive backtracking and arse-covering in my time but this has been my first genuine sighting of the 1984 experience.

Back in early 2010, the people of Britain were still generally under the impression that the international recession was caused by diabolically run banks. Through a subtle understanding of context clues and sheer, bloody-minded repetition, they had also grasped that this was something to do with lots of countries. There was a clue in the ‘international’ bit. Four months later, there was the sudden revelation that in Britain, the international recession was caused by the welfare state, unemployment benefits and probably Disability Living Allowance with its 1% recorded fraud rate.

And while blaming Labour for ‘giving all the money away’, there is a simultaneous attempt to blame the recipients for receiving it.

Let’s be clear about one thing – this goes beyond ‘clamping down on benefit fraud’. This is about linking receipt of benefit with a vast array of pejorative and slanderous terms – because these people are all malicious anti-social thugs who wreck the fabric of society and destroy the lives of ordinary people through their selfishness and greed.

The inability to find or keep a job during a period of international recession, and then to claim the benefits to which you are entitled makes you a malicious anti-social thug who wrecks the fabric of society and destroys the lives of ordinary people through your selfishness and greed.

Losing your job right now in any of the inevitable rounds of redundancy brought about by drastically reducing the size of local government or the civil service? That’s right, unless you’re independently wealthy and were only working because of your personal passion for the job in question, this will make you a malicious anti-social thug who wrecks the fabric of society and destroys the lives of ordinary people through your selfishness and greed.

Every mention of ‘hard working families’ means one thing – anyone not working is to blame for your hardships. You aren’t a person having a rough time during an international recession – you are a Hard Working Family, you have an identity. So do They. And They’re to blame.

At some point a logical circuit has to break in this cycle of unholy nonsense. I’m not sure how or when that’s going to happen. For many people it will come when they lose their job, possibly after years of working, perhaps having never received any state benefits before, or not in any way they appreciated as such.

I don’t know what percentage of the population will need to be unemployed before the miserable reality of making ends meet on welfare payments reasserts itself in the national consciousness. I do think we might find out, but it’s not something I’d wish on anyone.

In the meantime, querying the extent to which multimillionaires avail of their own brand of benefits, questioning their contributions to society during a time when we are repeatedly told ‘there’s just no money left’, asking why this government has not stepped up to close these loopholes with the same remarkable alacrity as they show when it comes to welfare benefits? Well, that seems quite a sensible thing to do under the circumstances.

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