From immigration to the economy, Curtis Daly busts some of the most harmful myths propagated by right-wing politicians, pundits and the media.
With everything that’s going on in the world, and all the mis-information around it, this week I want to tackle some right-wing myths that have seemingly convinced many.
Myth 1: Benefit Scroungers
We’ve all heard it, from a friend, family member or maybe you believe it yourself. Is the welfare state bloated and are millions of people lazily claiming lots and lots of benefits in houses nicer than yours? No.
First of all, the biggest expenditure of the benefit system is spent on pensions coming in at £163.1 billion, we wouldn’t want to remove that now would we? Those that have worked hard their entire lives, should be looked after. Although under this government we are seeing it deteriorate.
Then there are people who are claiming whilst already in work. Work in Britain doesn’t pay, therefore the state has to support people. Due to a lack of collective bargaining, in 2021 we still have employers paying workers under the living wage. Then you also factor in the rise of the cost of living, housing prices, and so forth.
Then there are of course the unemployed, which is what the system is designed for, so there really shouldn’t be many complaints here.
The total budget for welfare excluding pensions is £84 billion, broken down into sections we can see that unemployment benefits amount to only £1.6 billion. Therefore the unemployed are being scapegoated as a reason to attack the welfare state as a whole.
Myth 2: Britain is Full
Our Public services are stretched, we don’t have enough housing, too much immigration… Britain must be full.
This is one of the most successful myths that have perpetrated not just this country, but the world over. Britain is not full.
Demagogues will use this line to pursue a political agenda. The trick is to use real world examples, I.e stagnant wages, crumbling infrastructure and declining public services, and attribute it to a myth such as too much immigration.
Then there’s also the fact that only 6% of the UK is built on.
Myth 3: Governments are spending too much
Question Time video clip
Audience Member: “I think politicians spend so much time arguing amongst themselves about the problem, economics is really simple. I’ve got ten pounds in my pocket, if i go out and buy three pints in cambridge i’m probably borrowing money… if I carry on doing that, then i’m gonna run out of money and im gonna go bust – it’s not difficult guys. Just sit down, work out what the country needs to do and work collectively together…”
Yanis Varioufakis: “Because the country does not operate as your budget does”.
Audience member: “Why not? Why not?”
Yanis Varioufakis: “In the country, total expenditure totals total income. In your life, you have a wonderful independence between your expenses and your income. So when you cut down on your expenses your income doesn’t cut… but for the country as a whole, if the country as a whole goes into a major savings spree then it’s total income is going to come down. So your personal life is not a good model on which to base the country”.
Just simply excellent, I love that clip.
Unfortunately since our media doesn’t do a very good job of educating, we have too many believing that our economy behaves in a certain way.
To reiterate Varoufakis’s point, in our lives, we have an independence between our income, and our expenditure.
If I choose to stay at home, and not spend any money, yes I will come out richer. I don’t need to spend money to generate income, my job does that for me.
However, on a macro government level, if we stopped spending money… well… carnage would ensue. We still need the government to spend money on the NHS to keep it going, which extends to government employees to keep them in work. Everything needs to function, take our railways for example, since they have partly been put back into public ownership, it is now the government’s job to keep Britain moving, i.e get people to work, which has a multiplier effect. People work, increase tax receipts, that money is spent generating economic activity.. I’m sure you get the rest.
Spending more is a really good thing, which brings me perfectly onto…
Myth 4: Austerity is a necessity
Since 2010, we have been paying for those that crashed this economy, the bankers, and well… Capitalism itself.
People have suffered, and 120,000 people have died due to the government’s decision to implement draconian public spending cuts. But, we needed to right? We had an ever growing debt, the deficit needed eliminating.. we didn’t want to pass down debt to future generations?
The classic right wing Tory talking point. None of these are economically literate, if you hear anyone saying these… educate them… or show them this video.
Austerity has been a complete waste of time… since it was a political choice, and nothing about saving the economy.
As I said in my previous point, spending money is a good thing. We need a functioning NHS to maintain a happy healthy population, meaning we have people who are able to work and generate more economic activity.
In the same way, a world class public transport gets people to where they need to go, whether it’s for work or for leisure.
Austerity has also increased the size of the debt, not reduced it. For all the lives lost, for all the misery the Tories have caused… it was for nothing. The Tories have never been competent on the economy despite managing to fool people.
In fact, before the pandemic, since 2010 – the Tories managed to double the debt to £2 trillion… which is more than every single Labour government combined.
Myth 5: The Rich are job creators
How many times have you heard this one?
We must not tax the rich too high, we need to stop implementing too much red tape… let’s stop being mean to the mega rich, let’s leave those poor billionaires alone…. After all, they do create the jobs.
This is a big fat lie.
This myth has been specifically designed to push a certain economic agenda. It’s been happening for decades.
The first iteration of this was called ‘Trickle Down Economics’. Cut the taxes, strip away the regulation and let the owner class make incredible profits. The idea that one day, that wealth would trickle down to it’s workers.
Trickle down it did not, actually…the opposite happened.
Trade unions were dismantled, great for bosses, public services were privatised, fantastic for opportunistic corporations, yet inequality exploded.
Today, the new argument to rehash an old failed economic policy is that the rich simply deserve more. That creates our jobs, you should be so lucky you’re in work.
Imagine a scenario, for example Tesco. The cleaners don’t turn up… well the shop can’t open. You need a clean and hygienic store don’t you?
What if the delivery team doesn’t turn up? Who’s going to bring the stock to sell? What about those that work on the tills, who’s going to collect the money?
Yet, if a CEO dies… the company continues just as normal, the stores tick along, the money rolls in, the decision making is allocated to the board of directors… Yet the CEO is on mega money…
The point is, we, us, we generate the income, we create the jobs. Us as workers and consumers. If no-one spends any money, there’s no profits, no profits no job, no job no company.
Unfortunately we have fetishized wealth, and those who hoard it, rather than realising that collectively we keep things going – when we should be looking toward a world with less work and more leisure, we are fighting against those attacking our basic dignities.
So if next time you advocate for higher wages, better conditions, more government help and you run into these arguments? Well… you know what to do.
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