Still Curious About Britain ...

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Frances Ryan, The Guardian - April 1, 2014

This is a fine and full-throated editorial against a set of policy changes and budget cuts that have been instituted in the United Kingdom by a coalition government led by the Conservative Party (a.k.a. “Tories”) and it’s coalition partner, the Liberal Democratic Party. Depending on who you ask, the drastic changes in disability-related support programs were intended to save money, nothing more … encourage more disabled people to work and be self-sufficient … or identify people who are intentionally or not “wasting” scarce government resources.

Appropriately, this Guardian piece doesn’t discuss motives, but rather focuses on effects one year later, and the effects are, by all accounts terrible.

What I still haven’t seen and would very much like to see is some point by point reckoning with how the results stack up against the stated purposes of these changes. My guess is that the real motive behind them is simply saving money, since austerity seems to be the coalition government’s ideological fixation. However, it should have been possible, at least in theory, to identify any real and unnecessary disincentives to gainful employment. Likewise, any benefit system is going to have some waste, and some people who probably shouldn’t be getting help … that is, unless you decide to go for something like a Minimum Basic Income idea that doesn’t depend on eligibility.

So, have the UK government’s “reforms” fixed work disincentives? Are more disabled people now working, happily, in jobs, with more wealth and financial security?

And how many total fraudsters did they find? By that I mean, how many people were receiving disability assistance of some kind who simply were not disabled?

As long as I’m asking questions, how about one more. What is happening to people who, rightly or not, have had benefits cut or eliminated? Are they pulling themselves up by their bootstraps? Or, are they leaning more heavily than before on other parts of the British social service system, including the National Health Service?

I appreciate The Guardian’s moral indignation, but it’s kind of a shame they’re not contending directly with what the UK government says it set out to do. It isn’t always wise or right to fight an enemy on the enemy’s terms, but now and then it can be instructive to at least give it a try … if only to apply an objective test to the enemy’s honesty.