On Friday morning, hapless BBC radio phone in host John Darvall presided over a discussion about the proposed welfare cash card; an idea put forward by some hapless no mark Tory trying trying to ingratiate himself with his betters. The idea of course is total bunkum and cannot possibly work; sadly that's the hallmark of good Tory policy these days.
Naturally the discussion was filled with curtain twithers and ignorance. The comments were filled with the twitching received nonsense about welfare paying people not to work etc. These views are proffered in an almost plagiarised fashion.
At least four times, during the hour long debate, Mr Darvall (who comes across as some kind of low rent Alan Partridge, sans Lexus) explicitly referred to porn as one of the things that a card user wouldn't be able to spend their money on. Porn? Seriously? Why is this mentioned? Who has told him to refer to porn in the same breath as other things like alcohol or fags? How many benefit claimants spend their welfare on pornography?
The first caller gets things going in typical fashion commenting that 'we' (ie the poor old taxpayer) are subsidising 'their' (ie the scrounging morass of shirkers) alcohol and drug habits. No facts are presented regarding just how many benefit claimants, which would necessarily include pensioners, are users. So instead the listener is tacitly invited to assume that most if not all are users. If that were ever to be true then I'm sure the relevant industries would have objections to a cash card. Just like the pay day loan sharks would.
Sky TV is also mentioned - again. It is also not pointed out that people, those on welfare that do have a Sky account (never mind a dish, which one may have without an active account, like me) may have set theirs up prior to losing their job. Furthermore once such a person is sacked they aren't going to find Mr Murdoch willing to let them out of their contract and come and prepossess the dish and box. That's the nature of big business; happy to take your money in the good times, notsomuch in the bad. So instead we blame the claimant, on superficial evidence much like the closed curtains debacle.
All these ridiculous icons of a perceived 'good' life that, to quote the callers, 'working people have to pay for'. Well you don't have to pay for them anymore than the unemployed do; noone's forcing you to sign up to Murdoch's death machine anymore than they are making you drink and smoke. But people are programmed to believe these are the measures of success in life: owning a sky box, a plasma TV, an xbox, and being able to drink stagnant liver rotting water. So much so that seeing others have access to these things, without any explanation of how, is enough to drive people against each other.
Naturally these issues are not discussed. Instead people are invited to bray and babble, putting out statements of such airheaded ignorance it would embarrass a valley girl. The really sad part is nothing is challenged. These discussions, and this is not the first (as I've commented before) nor will it be the last, are so feeble that all they do is promote the status quo and become an echo chamber for media fed ignorance happily exploited by benefit claiming millionaires such as Gideon Osborne. But it's ok; the callers know these things 'for a fact'. One chump even says that, when he used to claim, he played the system! Er?
So the callers are in favour of a cashcard that, according to the idiot presenter (he really is), precludes people purchasing all sorts of things that are all on sale in the supermarkets serving as the only places cashcard users can shop. How would that work then? We'll gloss over that of course. The truth is that the supermarkets would have to retrain their staff and reprogramme their checkouts, especially the self service ones. How else would they be able to distinguish between a bottle of scotch and a bottle of milk, how would they stop me buying a dvd, or a newspaper, or some batteries, or a pack of exercise books, some biros, a cuddly toy? What happens if the card isn't accepted because of a malfunction? What happens to unspent money on the card? What happens if someone does have some spare cash because they were able to shop around - this is the kind of socialism the government likes, despite their apparent love for the free market. Socialism for the rich, with their inherited wealth, tax breaks, land subsidies etc, and free market capitalism, with all its fraught perils, for the poor.
Do we assume that money spent on social activities/entertainment is a luxury? Do these people want to ban library access to the unemployed as well? It's a recipe for social destruction. That doesn't stop some old bird comparing wartime rationing with a welfare cash card scheme: if it was ok during the blitz then it's ok now! Apparently no one complained back then (yeah right). Clean your rosy spectacles my dear!
Sadly the elephant in the room is trumpeting it's head off but none taking part can hear it: wages are terrible. People perceive benefits as more generous because they themselves work long hours for very little. Why aren't these people organising to do something about that? Why not take up solidarity with existing unions - including with people out of work since it affects all of us, working or otherwise? Can't be bothered; far easier to presume laziness on the part of others and ignore it in ourselves.
Darvall casually misrepresents Jobseekers Allowance by £50 (over 50%); "£120 a week or whatever it is". Lazy journalism, but about what I've come to expect from local radio. And he keeps referring to pornography!
One caller, naturally supportive of this nonsense, rationalises her thinking by way of saying her (ex) friend spends her welfare down the pub. Well of course. A typical, unexplained, baseless anecdote. If this story is true, and of course the details are not provided, then the friend in question is clearly an addict. The first thing such a person would do with a cash card is sell it. They are still forced to participate in a capitalist free market economy, only with thoughtless restrictions that do nothing to address the causes of her problem. All stick no carrot.
Final comment comes from someone who, despite never having claimed, believes the system he has no experience of is too generous.