Monday, 25 June 2012

One sentence responses to some of Cameron's welfare reform proposals.

Post may contain sarcasm...

Reduce the amount of benefit paid to people over time
…and if over time people still can’t find a job – quite possible, right now – they’re benefits will decrease until they do not have enough to live on?

Expecting people on benefits to be able to read, write and count
And I’m sure provision will be provided to educate any who can’t, rather than letting those who for whatever reason have failed to attain these standards simply being denied benefits?

Out-of-work benefits linked to wages rather than inflation, if wages are lower
Because wages increasing more slowly than inflation is defiantly something that should be encouraged, and thus should be mirrored by the benefit system.

Set all benefits on a regional basis
Taking more money out of poor areas…

No housing benefit for under 25s
Completely ridiculous; so a 24 year old unable to afford shelter with nowhere to go just…sleeps on the street?

A cap on the amount people can earn and still live in a council house
Because with the massive surplus of affordable housing we have right now they’ll defiantly be able to find another house.

Reduce the current £20,000 housing benefit limit
Which will push those on benefits out of some more expensive areas…

Stopping the out of work being better off by having children
Because children don’t cost any more money so those out of work won’t need more money to give their children a half way decent quality of life.

Expecting parents on income support to prepare for work while children have free nursery care
OK; so perhaps there’s something to this idea; however it worries me, slightly, that it is assumed that parents are not prepared for work and simply waiting till their children begin school; furthermore parents spending time with their newly born children is hardly something to criticise.

Getting the physically able to do full-time community work after a period out of work
Community work…maybe…but full time community work will rob people of all time to get a job.

Sickness benefit claimants should take steps to improve their health
It’s not even that I disagree with this so much as the completely patronising attitude that assumes that those who are ill would not try and be less ill.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Greece: a vote, but with what options?

If I’d been in Greece today, with the elections taking place…I don’t know what I’d have done.

I’d have probably tried to leave.

Harsh austerity measures are crippling the Greek economy. But without a bailout, it is hard to see where Greece will find the money to be able to implement an alternative. So the Greeks are faced with a choice between New Democracy – and austerity measures which everyone and their mother has acknowledged are not working – and Syriza, and with it the risk of an end to bailout money. Pasok, clearly, is no longer seen as an option by most.

Of course; Syriza does not want an end to the bailout; it wants to renogociate terms. But calling Germany’s bluff is dangerous politics which, understandably, many Greeks are scared of.

Furthermore, although I support much of Syriza’s policy program; from raising the minimum wage and decreasing VAT to an agreement with Switzerland to tax Greek citizens who put their savings there (seriously…why don’t we ALL do this?!); the party still lacks a coherent program for increasing the productivity of the Greek economy.

And if their attempt to call the German’s bluff fails, and they lose the bailout, they will have a major problem. Or alternatively; assuming they do not manage to renogociate terms, they will have to cave to Germany. Which will put Greece back where it started; with crippling austerity measures.

So if I were Greek and my whole running away plan failed, I would have voted for Syriza; but with very little real hope or optimism.

Greece needs reforms, not austerity. It needs a bailout. At the moment, as least, it needs to stay in the Euro; the immediate results of leaving are pretty unthinkable. Furthermore, this all would still only be the beginning; we all know the need for wider reform – probably involving greater integration – of the single currency; but there is still no agreed upon plan for this.

This is what Greece needs but not what they had a chance to vote for. Partly because of both the risks of voting for Syriza, alongside their lack of deeper reforms to grow the economy. And partly because the Greeks don’t get to vote for the German government; still advocating austerity, still trying to impose it.

Today a nation that is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis was given a vote; but they weren’t given any really good options to vote for.