Why claming benefits aids the economy as well as helping you

There’s a number of people in the media, in the Tory Party and probably sitting right next to you, so here’s a wee point and a lesson in economics for those saying ”how will benefits fund themselves” at the likes of Sturgeon, Corbyn or anyone supporting the welfare state.

This is simple. You have a ‘welfare budget’. You assign those benefits to people. So far so simple, but how do people on benefits help the economy? Well, we know people on benefits spend what they have to survive (try living on 70 quid a week, you can’t save) so the money flows in a circle from government-recipient of benefits-retail outlet (or wherever you need to spend your money)-back to government via VAT or other taxes. People on benefits will spend what they get. putting it directly back into the system, so they’re paying people’s wages, etc just like anyone else is, and seeing as many of the items people on benefits will buy will at the very least have VAT on it, they’re paying taxes. In short, they’re paying their way and are invested in society.

In a universal system it’s a finely tuned machine as it essentially ends up funding itself. Sadly the Tories and Labour don’t believe in a universal system, choosing instead to means test which means the most vulnerable are often not able to access what they’re due which means billions of pounds of benefits lie unclaimed each year with £4.6bn of Housing Benefit lying unclaimed in 2014-15. Creating bureaucracies (which is what the whole purpose of means testing is) scares people off.

So when a Tory, or something of that ilk say the benefits system is broken they’re right but it isn’t because people are scamming the system (government figures of fraud is miniscule) but it’s because the system is now designed to keep you from money that you’re owed as a citizen. Claim every single penny you’re due and be proud of it. It’s your right and unless you’re the sort of bastard that’ll hide it in offshore accounts then you’ll spend it down the shop, or to pay your bills and feed it back into the economy. It is the job of government to make sure the economy is in a healthy state, and it isn’t the fault of people on benefits that the economy is crashing. That’s down to their failure to deal with the deficit, and walking out of Brexit negotiations with ”no deal” would be the sort of peacetime disaster we are not going to be able to deal with but will be the end of the welfare state as the government will mine it for revenue. Remember though, things like pensions are a contract you and I have with the government. They mine that to pay for their failures of managing the economy they are breaking a contract.

The Welfare State is a machine. It works if it’s left to work. It isn’t a system that leaves people luxuriating in a Hogarthian stupor. It is a system that now barely keeps people existing to forcing people to kill themselves due to being sanctioned for what little money they have coming from the state. It should be better, but it isn’t because of successive governments failing to do what they should or/and attacking the system to destroy it.

Don’t Look Back In Anger

It’s been a crap week. My weekend has changed due to the horrors of Manchester meaning security checks at airports means there’s little or no chance of people flying on time or even flying. On top of that Glasgow City Council are being the biggest pricks on the planet and there’s ginger people walking the streets of Glasgow in 30 degree heat frying like a sausage.

But this wee video of the memorial for the dead of the Manchester bombing should empower anyone watching it, unless you’re a cynical far right arsehole doing exactly what the likes of ISIS want us to do which is to hate each other. Still, well done to Manchester. You’re setting a glorious example to us all.

A few brief words about the Manchester bombing

On Monday evening something horrendous happened to dozens of innocent people. The killer has been named and frankly, I’m not going to give him the air of publicity and will hope he rots in whatever hell his faith has for him. In this respect Charlie Brooker’s advice on spree shooters plays out the same here.

Neither am I going to give much time to the hate-filled supporters of ”final solutions” on either side as frankly, the only thing that separates a Hopkins from the people who radicalised the Manchester bomber is that one has a column in a national newspaper to radicalise people and the other uses other means. I’m also not going to say anything about the arseholes talking of ”false flags” or conspiracies where none exist in order to try to bend this to their own politics.

I will however say the reaction from the UK government is disturbing. Raising risk levels is fine, but placing troops on the streets to protect the people who failed to protect us in the first place. I’m scared of politicians and the wrong people, be they Islamic terrorists or Daily Mail columnists taking advantage of this to entrench themselves and draw to them followers who will perpetuate this. Raising the threat level seems fair, but Operation Temperer (the name for what’s going on as we speak) isn’t without precedent but we’ve seen how Labour under Tony Blair whittled away civil liberties and frankly, Theresa May has a poor record in that respect. One way to let terrorism win is let our governments use their attacks to take away, restrict or curtail our freedoms.

We should remember these people died not for terrorists and governments to use as they want. We should remember them for what was lost and the stories coming out of Monday’s atrocity are relentlessly tragic but that isn’t an excuse to militarise policing as frankly all this does is give terrorists an incentive to make the next atrocity bigger to garner a bigger, more disproportionate reaction and we end up repeating the cycle over and over while nothing actually gets solved.

So we’re in a bad time. People aren’t even in the grieving stage yet, and there’s people making political capital from this, but we need to step back, think, help who we can and make things better rather than dig in and make things worse.

A word about the snap General Election

After writing this I thought things couldn’t get weirder or more scary. Then Theresa May calls a snap general election on the 8th of June and the arse falls out of any idea we might be hitting a phase of relative sanity.

Using the line The country is coming together but Westminster is not May obviously sees a chance based upon current polls to have the sort of majority that we’ve not seen since the Tony Blair years. May is essentially going to have to scrap the Fixed Terms Parliaments Act to hold this snap election which may well provide some more interesting snippets as although the Tories are putting on a united front, there’s a lot of Tories out there (Hi David Mundell!!) sitting on paper-thin majorities in areas that thanks to Brexit may well be facing unemployment in June.The Act was designed to stop PM’s doing just what May is doing which is hold an election when the polls are favourable.

Problem is polls can be read wrong. Take the Scottish independence referendum. David Cameron happily let the Scottish Government hold a referendum in 2014 the polls showed only around 20% support for independence. That changed over the campaign as more people became informed of the issues, so May’s taking a risk but this is a risk which if it pays off means she personally has an eye-watering majority (if the polls are accurate around 100) not to mention she intends to change the makeup of the Lords, while Brexit hands her the sort of power no Prime Minister should have.

So this is about Theresa May grabbing power. See all that bumf about ‘division’? That’s about creating a state where the opposition is muted and ineffective where it needs to be in Westminster. There’s also the matter of the Tory election fraud scandal which menaces the Tories and taints their 2015 victory, though as Michael Crick points out, this means the hard decisions are now in the hands of the CPS.

The question you have to ask yourself is what sort of future you want for yourself and for others? This is a general election where the future of the UK itself is up for grabs. If you want a future where Tory Prime Ministers have the sort of power where they can sail through whatever they want unopposed though Westminster then look to see where your vote belongs.In Scotland that means voting for the SNP, a party I reluctantly will give my vote to in June (I find their economic policies to be far too conservative) because their social policies are good and they’ll beat not just the Tories, but a hopeless broken Labour Party who’ve run up the white flag on Brexit.

Elsewhere in the UK its down to you to make the choice. I hope Corbyn’s smart and takes the offer of a progressive alliance Ed Milliband refused in 2015 but I fear the Labour Ultras won’t do that. I hope I’m proven wrong. Whatever you do make the right choice because we have a choice and if that choice is Tory (or UKIP) then we’re heading down the same path as Turkey, America, Russia and possibly France in having a hard authoritarian leader who stamps over human rights. Do we really want to be on the dark side in the years ahead?

Götterdämmerung

In Wagner’s Ring Cycle, Götterdämmerung, is the final act. It means ‘Twilight of the Gods’. That’s relevant because on Saturday morning I went through to Edinburgh and the news-stands were full of papers heaving with the threat of war, in particular the nuclear kind, or the realisation one gets at 8am in the morning when your brain processes the reality of what’s going on which is something like this train of thought; ‘ohmyfuckinggodtheresaloonintheWhitehousewhomightactuallyfuckingdoit!’ . Or to put it more succinctly…

So what the fuck is going on? Is Donald Trump mad enough to actually use nuclear weapons and will North Korea be mad enough to push a madman far enough to do it? Will Putin step in and what about the wave of far right authoritarians in Europe from Erdoğan in Turkey through to Le Pen in France and Farage and May here in the UK?  Where does Brexit fit into what’s going on? Is there a grassy knoll I can hide behind?

It does feel like it’s either a massive series of unconnected events which makes me a paranoid conspiracy theorist (which means I should move into a basement somewhere and live in my own filth) or there’s a load of stuff going on and various people/groups are taking advantage of what is a breakdown of the old social and economic order which has placed us in a time of chaos. So a twilight of the old ways as it were. Whatever is going on one thing is clear; we’re living in a future dystopia that if this had been written about in the 90’s would have been dismissed as bollocks. Trump in the Whitehouse? Aye, right. UKIP a powerful force? Oh fuck off. The far right on the rise across Europe? Oh fuck…

As future dystopias go this is more the 1984 type than the Threads type, but it doesn’t seem it’ll take much to push it towards that which as someone who lived through the 1980’s scares the crap out of me. See, we went to sleep with nightmares of nuclear wars which bled into every aspect of 80’s culture from film to comics to music which at times was positively Wagnerian in its scope.

We’re never going to grasp what’s going on because everything is just too huge and our minds aren’t built to process the scale of it in the same way that we can never see the entirely of a fractal shape or all of our life at once. We can only pick and choose what it is we want to see and how we want to interpret it, but either consciously or unconsciously we dismiss the scale of what we’re looking at. The reason I’m probably more scared now than I was in the 80’s is there’s too many wild cards out there and there’s a lunatic in the Whitehouse, the Kremlin, North Korea and smaller (but no less worrying) lunatics across the world, including our own Theresa May, who are driven by ideology, faith and an uncritical way of thinking. Reagan and Gorbachev look like giants compared to these people who seem to be intent on taking us down a path where we end up in caves drinking our own urine as it’s the least radioactive liquid available.

This is an unstable time where we’re governed/ruled by unstable people influenced by populist, hard/far right religious views from all the faiths you’d like to imagine.If this is the twilight of an age then lets make it the end of these people rather than us or democracy. We have to ensure things like Brexit, and people like Trump and Putin don’t walk us into the end unchallenged. We’re in a fight and it won’t be nice, easy or simple and it will involve many on the left, especially the liberal-left pulling themselves out of their echo chambers too. Because the stakes here are massive and quite frankly I’m not keen in spending my remaining decades on this planet living in fear of what may happen if one of these lunatics goes that step too far that takes us beyond the twilight and into the night.

Do Marvel have a diversity problem?

Marvel vice-president David Gabriel recently said that Marvel Comics are suffering a sales slump due to the fact they now publish a diverse line of comics featuring people of all sexes, races and ages. As this Vox piece says, the truth is somewhat more complex but that was lost in the outrage from all sides when this story broke into the mainstream from the comics ghetto.

What do we mean by ‘diversity’ though? Well, this is the Marvel Universe in the 1970’s into the 1980’s.

Here’s a poster of the Avengers in the 90’s.

To put it bluntly the Marvel Universe is a white one.  Sure there’s the odd green skinned hero and blue mutant but black characters, or anyone non-white, are thin on the ground. In short it doesn’t reflect the world of today and that’s a problem if you want to pitch to as wide an audience as Marvel did in the 60’s.

The Marvel Universe today is better. There’s Ms Marvel, Moon Girl and a load of other characters that expands what the Marvel superhero universe is and many of these characters are in decent to good books, but for people like Gabriel the sales figures are what’s important and they don’t add up.Which brings me to the point that this isn’t an issue for comics as a medium, but the superhero genre which may have had over the last decade undreamed of exposure, but that’s never translated to sales.

This Cracked article touches on some of the reasons why this is the case. Some of it will be painful reading as the point that Marvel can say ”we have an <insert minority here> character! Why are you moaning!?’ is going to resonate. For years Marvel did this with the Black Panther before they actually started creating other black characters but even then that was mainly to cash in on the 1970’s Blaxploitation craze.For me though the issue is accessibility. There’s no point coming up with say, a Muslim Ms Marvel if you’re rebooting the series with a new number one every other year, and your entire superhero universe has a massive crossover event once a year. People may have more disposable income in 2017 but people have limits.

If you want to have read all of 2016’s Civil War II with all the crossovers then with titles priced at $2.99 to $3.99 (or for the UK, somewhere between £2.00 and £3.50) then you’re paying hundreds to keep up with an event where to be blunt, most of the series is shite. You may pick up a few issues but finances and tedium dictate that you bin the rest so you leave only the hardcore fans to carry on. Which is another point as if Marvel pander only to the core fan (as DC Comics are doing) then they’ll never grow and develop to take advantage of the fact their films are making billions having been seen by hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

So the hard facts are that Marvel are the creators of their own problems. Yes, it’s a tough market but making it harder for readers doesn’t help so it isn’t a case that Marvel has a diversity problem which causes them sales, it has a problem with making easily accessible comics for all ages. Until it gets to grips with that and at the same time it stops pandering to a decreasing, ageing core then it won’t be picking up the readers it could, and indeed, should.

UKIP voters fight for the right to bum dogs

In a YouGov poll a quarter of UKIP voters support the idea of having sex with a dog. I’ll let you digest that for a second.

SNP and Lib Dems are the least inclined to look at an Alsation and think ‘hmm, sexy’. UKIP voters are the most likely to look at a pug and think ‘I want that slobbering on my hard Brexit’. Tory voters are only slightly less turned on by a Great Dane than a UKIP voter while overall a quarter of voters would like to lay into a Labrador which is terrifying. Next time you go to vote, have a look at everyone else there as a quarter of them would like to indulge in bestiality.

I guess they’ve gone to the dogs…