The former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, attacked the bishops in the House of Lords yesterday for spearheading the derailment of the governments attempt to reduce welfare spending. Basically, he insisted that such reform was necessary if the UK is to reduce its national deficit.
Well, it certainly is one way of tackling the problem but it hardly seems fair and it certainly isn't Christian.
Times are tough in Blighty at the moment and your average citizen is coping with their reduced circumstances by buying less luxuries. Instead they are using their incomes to provide the necessities of life for their families and for themselves. This is eminently sensible and what people always do when money is short.
Surely then, this is what we should be doing as a nation. In other words, we should not be affecting anybody's ability to provide themselves with the necessities of life but should be paying off the deficit out of the nation's disposable income. To put it even more simply, we should be taxing the disposable income of the rich and not loading further financial burdens onto the already poor.
However, having said that, I do believe that something needs to be done about our welfare system as it encourages poor people to make long term mistakes, detrimental to society at large, for short term benefit. For example, if you are poor and have no foreseeable opportunities to get out of poverty, then, with our welfare system as it is at the moment, it is a good idea to have as many children as possible and avoid paid employment at all costs. By doing this you will be helped to find accommodation which will be paid for by the welfare services and given money for each child you have. For young people this is especially attractive as we basically ignore the problems poor, young, single people face financially and, even more so, their housing problems. Nobody is going to get rich exploiting the welfare system in this way but you can remove yourself from absolute destitution.
People like Carey think that we should force people into being more procreatively responsible by removing the carrot and thumping them with the stick. Maybe this would work but, again, it is hardly fair. We just end up making a miserable situation even more miserable for millions of people.
Any reduction in welfare provision must be accompanied by real opportunity to earn a decent wage. It is my belief that the best way out of recession is to take money from those with disposable income and use it to create real jobs that will benefit society in the long term. For example, the infrastructures of the UK are in a pitiful state. We have one of the worst transport systems in the world and we have virtually no manufacturing industry whatsoever. If I was in charge I would immediately instigate a massive programme of railway construction. I would prepare the country for the effects of climate change by investing in the water industry. I would follow Germany's lead in actively promoting renewable energy. Not only would such schemes provide employment in the short term it would also mean that when the current crisis is over the UK would have a firm basis from which to compete economically with the rest of Europe, maybe even the rest of the world.
A successful, healthy nation is one body. At the moment in the UK we are cutting off limbs left, right and centre in an attempt to protect the affluent head. But what use is a head without the rest of the body? The only way to cure the ills of the nation is to treat the illness holistically. Piecemeal reform will just make matters worse and burdening the poor with more misery will not only make matters worse it will also make matters extremely dangerous indeed.