Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Government lies on disabled people and the bedroom tax

Today the High Court of Justice dismissed a legal challenge by ten disabled people and their families hit by the "under-occupancy penalty", referred to by the government as a "spare room subsidy" payed for by social housing tenants in recipient of housing benefit, and generally referred to as the bedroom tax by opponents (obviously including myself). This decision was under the duress of a 'discretionary fund' (a fixed, not annual scum) protecting disabled and vulnerable people, and their carers, from the policy. David Cameron has often referencing discretionary payments trying to justify this policy in response to harrowing stories of MPs' disabled constituents impacted by it. 

Disabled children are exempted from the policy (but as soon as they turn 18 are supposedly fair game for state-backed bullying and impoverishment).

It is estimated than two thirds of households hit by the bedroom tax include a disabled person. Over £500 million a year is being hypothetically being raised by the Department of Work and Pensions, which argues that the cost of the housing benefit budget makes its a necessity whilst ignoring the expense of subsidising the rents and buy-to-let empires of private sector landlords, through imposition of the bedroom tax. The government has increased its discretionary fund to £185 million; therefore, a minimum £315 million a year is being raised through burdening disabled people with the "spare room subsidy" (a figure only limited by the slight increase in the discretionary fund).

Disabled people often need a "spare" bedroom or extra space in their homes for a variety reasons, including storage for wheelchairs, mobility and medical equipment, or a separate sleeping place when a disability would make it impossible for them to get a decent night's sleep. One of the disabled bedroom tax victims involved in the legal challenge, Charlotte Carmichael, suffers from a condition which makes it necessary for her to sleep in a specially adapted hospital bed. The thousands of disabled people and their carers, unfortunate enough to be denied rationed discretionary payments from a limited fund, are being spared no mercy. This includes Victoria Kenning, a terminal cancer patient who is being threatened with eviction from her council home (by a Labour council) for her inability to pay the bedroom tax.

If the government truly cared about disabled people have their lives devastated by this wretched and barbaric policy, then it would simply exempt them from it. Its actions speak louder than words; though perhaps its professed "delight" for the High Court's decision is an exemption to this rule.

I would personally advocate that those effected, or any number of them, should take their cases to the European Court of Human Rights to resist the UK government's violations of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Whatever the case, if there will be no justice for the most fragile members of our society victim to this socioeconomic violence, then there should be no peace.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

On the scapegoating of single motherhood

An incentive from Conservative MPs, support by David Cameron, are proposals to limit the supposed "automatic entitlements" given to single parents on low incomes, including access to Housing Benefit and social housing. The report itself, however, does not refer to single parents. It refers to single mothers; particularly those of a young age from certain social backgrounds, with the greatest susceptibility for poverty.

The notion of women supposedly getting impregnated to game social security provisions has reared its ugly head historically. During his first U.S. presidential campaign in 1976, Ronald Reagan constructed the absurd tale of a single mother, an archetypal "welfare queen", who supposedly exemplified a widespread manipulation of social support by this demonised minority: "She has eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards and is collecting veteran's benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She's got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000." It was soon established that Reagan's exaggerated propaganda was pure fantasy, founded upon stereotype to appeal to popular bigotry.

The fact that single mothers have been specifically cited as political capital for puerile scapegoating is what immediately struck me. (There are single fathers, of course). As in the case of Reagan's "welfare queen" archetype, it exemplifies the inherent chauvinism and misogyny of the mentality seeking to perpetrate it.

Given that I was raised by a single mother, I find it as disgusting on a personal level as I do on a moral and political one. My mum, for the for most part, brought me up alone. And she did an incredible job, despite all of the struggle, adversity and self-sacrifice that goes with being a economically disadvantaged single parent. But what impacted my and her welfare just as severely was the snide prejudice and hatred she was subjected to on both a social and institutional level.

Such political scapegoating and social stigmatisation of single mothers essentially encapsulates the systematic subordination of vulnerable minorities under capitalist patriarchy. It displays normalised economic, class-based, gender-based and sexual discrimination and violence.

The Conservative MPs' report also makes an issue of the occurrence of abortion among young women, which would be less frequent if there was less sexual subordination, and more comprehensive sex education in schools and access to contraception in society, as is the case in European countries where statistical frequency of teenage pregnancy and abortion and significantly lower than in the UK. Of course, the rights of contraception and termination of pregnancy all fall under the right of biological self-determination and bodily autonomy. Why are the abusers of single mothers so keen to engage in the doublespeak of attacking child bearing they imply as burdensome, yet make issue of women exerting their basic right of bodily autonomy?

As the great comedian George Carlin said: 

Boy, these conservatives are really something, aren't they? They're all in favour of the unborn. They will do anything for the unborn. But once you're born, you're on your own. Pro-life conservatives are obsessed with the  foetus from conception to nine months. After that, they don't want to know about you. They don't want to hear from you. No nothing. No neonatal care, no day care, no head start, no school lunch, no food stamps, no welfare, no nothing. If you're preborn, you're fine; if you're preschool, you're fucked.

The same rhetoric which chastises single mothers for implied "economic inactivity" is the same which abuses vulnerable disabled people as "scroungers". It censures women for deciding their own destinies, and for not submitting to institutional economic uniformity. And to the same extent, it victimises infant children for being surplus units of existence in the scheme of state capitalism. Surely, subjecting children to this kind of vindictiveness on an interpersonal and/or paternal level would be classified as child abuse.  At its heart, it beholds the spectre of ideological dehumanisation.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

First they came (2013)

First the Tories came for the public sector workers, and I did not speak out because I did not work in the public sector.
Then they came for the students, and I did not speak out because I received a student grant.
Then they came for the disabled people, and I did not speak out because I was able-bodied.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the immigrants, and I did not speak out because I was born here.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.
My rights, my wages, and everything else I took for granted, vanished.