The Debt Crisis: Let’s just stop blaming people

I have just watched the BBC Three programme ‘Free Speech’ which focused on several main topics, one of the main topics was on debt, both government debt and debt in the general adult population. I was inspired to write a blog, so here it is.

It is obvious that debt is a serious problem, the government is sky high in debt, with it estimating that debt will rise to £1.5 trillion by 2016. This year alone the debt will rise by £138 billion and we will pay £44.8 billion on the debt this year, which is more than the UK’s defence budget and nearing our education budget.

There’s a lot of huge numbers when we’re describing the debt crisis, and I know personally how hard it is to fully wrap your mind around such massive numbers, like trillion and billions. However, the website http://www.debtbombshell.com/ is where you can see the UK debt rise by the second, a rather scary matter to witness. It also breaks down the debt into manageable numbers. The website states that the UK owes, £16,611 for every man, woman and child. This is equivalent of more than £36,458 for every person in employment. When you think that you personally represent over £16,000 worth of debt, and every person you pass in the street is the same it begins to hit home. Also, this year every household will pay £1,929, just to cover the interest on this year’s debt. I think these numbers allow the debt crisis to be more fully understood by those of us who aren’t maths geniuses.

However, it is not just the government who are facing debt issues, but also the general populatio
n of the UK. The government acknowledges that this problem is becoming more widespread, with the Prime Minister noting that more people under 30 are living with their parents than ever before. Indeed, 20% of British adults are in debt. This debt problem within the population compounds the economic situation that the UK is in, slowing the economy further and reducing the amount of growth. This in turn turns into a negative, vicious cycle as less growth tends to mean more debt.

However, what I think is the most important matter when discussing the debt crisis, is responsibility. What I have noticed, is that everyone has the tendency to blame everyone else when it comes to debt. The coalition government’s favourite phrase when discussing the debt crisis, is that it was the Labour Government who put us in this situation in the first place. The general population then like to turn the blame onto the government for their lack of policy about loan companies and their slow reaction to reducing the deficit and debt. However, nobody seems to be taking responsibility for the problem. It is not simply the government’s fault that debt among the general population is increasing. Times are hard, it means that sacrifices have to be made, not everything can be positive. Surely we should start to take more responsibility for our own lives and actions rather than blaming the government for what they are supposedly failing to do. At the same time, however, it is necessary to look after our country’s vulnerable (see https://louisepageblog.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/reform-needed-uk-benefit-system/).

I think that taking responsibility for the debt crisis, and the social and welfare problems that are having to be addressed as a result, is the first step in amending the current issues. I think we need to stop blaming institutions and people, we are where we are now, let’s accept it and try to move forward, working together as a country. Let’s face it, no government that has to reduce the deficit and debt, resulting in cuts in welfare is going to be popular. It is unfortunate that the government has to rely on being popular to be in office, making the difficult choices so much harder to make as a balance has to be struck between getting votes and support and facing reality.

So my conclusion is this. Let’s stop trying to place the blame on people or the government. Let’s get behind what the government is trying to do and let’s accept that dealing with the amount of debt the UK has is going to be a long process that cannot happen overnight, or, for that matter, in one 4 year term of government. I think, in order for there to be a serious and long term change in the attitude towards debt reduction in the UK, all the major parties need to commit to reducing the deficit instead of slandering and blaming each other.

Advertisements

My thoughts: UK benefit system

So no, I’m not going to obsessively and solely write about the UK’s benefit system, it’s just something that has gotten under my skin in the last few days.

I remember back when I was 15 having a passionate discussion with my dad about how the benefit system should be structured. This basically revolved around who should get which benefits. I was told by my dad that I was extremely right wing, at the time I had absolutely no idea what that meant, and I still don’t think I fully understand the implications. People tell me that students are mainly left wing, and that if you’re right wing when you’re young then you never get out of it. I can’t see how that is a bad thing, it’s my opinion and surely everyone is entitled to their own perspective? I wouldn’t say I’m right wing about everything; I have extremely liberal views about many other matters, particularly abortion and sexuality.

Anyway, moving on from labelling my political views, onto my thoughts on the benefit system. I’m not going to pretend I’m some kind of expert on the various benefits that are available and how they work, but I do have some idea and I’m basing my opinion on that.

My main point in this argument with my dad was the benefits that people out of work receive. I believe that those who claim benefits when they are capable of work, yet choose not to, should not be able to do so. After all, why should the hard working members of  our society pay for those who ‘don’t really feel like working’ or feel that they are above working, someone, please, explain to me how that is fair? People in other countries do not have the same luxury. I am aware that we are lucky enough to live in a society that supports the vulnerable but I do not think that this should extend to supporting those who simply do not want to work. This, I think, resonates particularly true in the current economic climate where all kinds of cuts and sacrifices are having to be made by all.

Therefore, I believe this. Those who are capable of work should have to work. They should have one chance at turning down an offered job and then they have to take the second job offered, otherwise their benefits are stopped.

There are of course, several key issues with this theory. Firstly, there has to be the jobs available. In the current economic climate, finding jobs is much much harder and they tend to go to those who actually want them. However, I don’t think it’s wrong to strive for something better in our society and begin to think of ways to improve the welfare system. After all, how else does the community as a whole progress?

Secondly, it would be necessary to have the system and bureaucracy in place for the jobs to be offered and benefits to be cut within the correct time frame. The benefits system is notoriously inefficient and this would need to change for any kind of scheme similar to this to work.

More importantly, however, I stress that this theory only applies to those are actually capable and competent to work. I fully support those who are on benefits because they simply cannot work. I think this is the beauty of our society, that we can protect the vulnerable and those who need help. The disabled and single parent, to name only two general groups of people, are without a doubt exempt from this theory.

There we go. A few more of my thoughts. This is a theory that I believe in at the moment, I’m interested to see how the benefits system will progress in the future and whether it will become something that is actually beneficial to all.

Reform needed: UK benefit system


So I heard a story today about how the recent cuts to the benefit system have affected a friend of my Aunt’s. This woman is severely disabled. So much so that she is not only confined full time to a wheelchair but cannot push herself in it and is not capable of lifting herself onto the toilet without a hoist. She has such an immense amount of problems that even I can’t explain. Her benefits have been cut because the UK government has for some incomprehensible reason decided that she is actually competent to work. This is a woman who, if she could actually gain employment in the current economic situation, with the lack of experience that she now has for being out of the workplace for so long, wouldn’t be able to access to the toilet while she was at work. Quite frankly, I think that is degrading and ridiculous. This woman has 4 children who she has to support and their father is no longer living with them. So the government now expects her to work, look after herself when she is severely disabled and to parent her children.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for cuts, I don’t believe we can continue to work efficiently with such a large amount of debt and matters definitely need to be taken into hand. Yet, these kind of cuts that have life changing consequences to the truly vulnerable in our society, for whom the benefit and welfare system was set up to protect, seems utterly irredeemable. The local MP in our area even got involved to try to prevent her benefits being cut, the outcome to this is still unclear, yet I still cannot believe that the system our government has put in place has led to this situation in the first place.

It seems to be that MPs seem to make decisions that affect people without fully thinking through the consequences of their actions, either that, or they are no long able to fully relate to the issues that face citizens today.

Of course, there are two ends of the spectrum to the benefit system. You have situations such as this where benefits are clearly and obviously needed. However, you then get the over claiming of benefits when they are not truly needed. I’m not an expert on benefit fraud but I do know that it happens, I think that it is probably over-exaggerated by news outlets but I still think that it is something that needs to grind to a fast and resonating halt.

I can’t believe and I don’t want to believe that this is the best we can get from our government and society. I look back in history at how far the UK, and other countries for that matter, have progressed and hope beyond hope that these advancements will continue. It doesn’t have to be fast but I need to see it happening to continue to have faith in my government and civilisation. I hope that benefit fraud will stop as people realise how immoral it is and how it negatively affects others, however, I’m aware that this is probably too hopeful.

A system that has to cater for a whole country is never going to perfect. But surely there is a better, more efficient and worthwhile approach for all that can be taken here. I’m not a believer in standing by and just dealing with what we get given. We elect our government to represent us, it becomes invalid if it’s not achieving what we want and desire, within the remits of what is possible of course, I don’t expect miracles!