Bruce Bisset: Blaming the poor is a bit rich

By Bruce Bisset


It's funny how the wealthy can play with (and lose) trillions of dollars in financial scams, get bailed out by ordinary taxpayers and then turn around and blame it all on those least able to emulate them yet most affected by their games - the poor.

That no one's laughing is because the chattering classes are only too eager to buy into the indefensible supposition that the poor are somehow to blame for every economic ill.

Their connivance in turn allows the Right to amp up its war on the poor, hitting every man woman and child while they're down to make damn sure they stay down.

If the middle classes cheer it's because while they may be getting screwed, at least there's some below them getting screwed even worse.

Ridiculous, isn't it? To imagine the homeless and poverty-stricken could be responsible for a failure to create jobs, raise wages, produce more exports or indeed take any real part in any economic growth scenario, let alone influence it.

But I'm sorry to report, dear reader, that that's exactly what many of you seem to think.

Because while our industry stultifies and our best young minds flee overseas and the income disparity gap between those who have and those who don't widens exponentially, all the talkback shows and letters columns and redneck TV hosts seem to blather about is how best to bash beneficiaries.

So the Nats can squeal like pigs in muck as they roll out each new draconian measure designed to entrench the underclass in powerlessness, happy in the knowledge they'll be applauded because the poor are everyone else's bane.

Gee, and here I thought it was those with money who controlled things. Guess I got that wrong.

Look, no one chooses to be on welfare. Unless, that is, they're running some form of blackmarket scam on the side - but official statistics show those cases number less than half a per cent.

No one chooses to be a beneficiary because it is almost impossible to survive. Certainly not with any dignity or freedom or enjoyment of life.

People are thrown against the barbed edges of the welfare "safety net" because there are no jobs, none they are skilled for, they're too old, too young, have had an accident or illness (of fate or birth), their partner has run away or died or they were simply unlucky enough to get pregnant in the wrong circumstances.

Those are the majority of common causes. Few, if any, are arrived at by choice.

And what do you get if you're unfortunate enough to be forced to ask for a handout?

Apart from the opprobrium of the rest of society, under the new schemes you'll be drug tested; forced to accept jobs you're not suited for (if offered); forced to put kids as young as one into care in order to work or train for work; forced to accept a wage 20 per cent less than the so-called legal minimum if you're a teenager; forced to seek work even though you have a permanent disability; and forced every week to justify yourself as "deserving".

Failure to perform any of these obligations to the satisfaction of your case manager risks having your benefit reduced or even cut off altogether.

Quite how that last will help alleviate poverty (particularly for innocent children) I cannot imagine.

This is without bringing in all the folk who are in work whose wages are insufficient to make ends meet, but for one reason or another are unable (not unwilling) to improve their circumstances.

Meanwhile, in order to pick up a pension all you need do is reach the age of 65. And super costs three times more than all other benefits combined.

Now, tell me where and how, in any of that dire disempowering regime, any of those people can somehow be "blamed" for the state of our economy.

This nonsense must be turned on its head. If money is the driver of our civilisation, then surely those with money are the ones to shoulder the blame if there are many without.

But the rich are only concerned with getting richer - while diverting the fingers pointed at them to instead make culpable the poor.

That's the right of it.

Bruce Bisset is a freelance writer and poet.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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