David Cameron’s latest assault on benefits rests on the idea that there’s a distinct group of people living on the fringes of society.
According to Cameron, these “feckless” people live an easy life on benefits at the expense of people who work.
But this just isn’t true. There is no separate class in society made up of people who claim benefits and never work.
Many of those who receive income-related benefits—such as housing benefit, council tax benefit and income support—are employed.
In 2010, more than 14 percent of housing benefit recipients were in work. And 93 percent of new claims for housing benefit in 2010 and 2011 were made by people with jobs.
This is because people in work are often on low pay, and underemployment means they are working fewer hours than they would like.
Most working class people spend at least part of their lives working, if not most of it. When people find themselves unemployed it isn’t by choice.
Whether they are working or not largely depends on the state of the economy—not on some fixed, “feckless” nature.
Of course some people are out of work for long periods—but it’s not their fault. Look at the growing unemployment figures. How are people supposed to find jobs that aren’t there?
Many people are also unable to work because of disability and other factors. Why should they be punished for these things?
The fiction that there is an underclass is useful for our rulers. They want us to think that unemployment and poverty are caused by immoral individuals—not by their system.
They also want us to think that their attacks on the welfare state will only affect a small number who deserve no better.
They want to divide the working class to weaken us, precisely so they can get on with attacking our class as a whole.
So, Cameron claims to be on the side of “hard working” people. But he does nothing to stop bosses throwing them on the dole or paying low wages. In fact he thinks pay rises would be “bad for business”.
Cameron is threatening hundreds of thousands of jobs with his assault on the public sector. He even wants to throw thousands of disabled workers out of work by closing Remploy factories.
He talks about the importance of “making work pay”. But this is the same man who is forcing unemployed people to work for free with his beloved workfare schemes.
Cameron isn’t on the side of any working class person. Socialists should defend all sections of the working class— whether in work or not. We all have the same interests in uniting against our rulers.