A Feckless Family Fruitlessly Frittering Financial Future Away

It was news to me that there were people getting more that the £26,000 average household income from benefits, but it appears this is a problem, to be addressed by the Welfare Reform Bill. Which seems to have taken a kicking from some bleeding hearts in the House of Lords. The kicking is taking a kicking in the Commons as I write.

Let’s take a butcher’s hook at one of these offending families, kindly drawn to my attention by Lemondy, who was in the market for a good rant, pleased to oblige 😉

What’s been going on here? It doesn’t start well, we have a blended family of two of Ray’s daughters from a previous relationship and three of his wife Katherine’s kids from her previous relationship. Fair enough, these things happen, looks like there is no contribution from the other people who helped bring these children into the world.

Raymond, a former educational software writer, has been jobless since 2001. His wife Katherine suffers from bipolar disorder with an anxiety disorder and is also unable to work.

Says Ray: “The market for my skills dried up 10 years ago – there’s a total lack of work in my area of expertise.”

There are two problems here. One is that Ray, despite being unemployed for the last ten years, decided to sire a son five years ago. At least it was with his wife. Ray, me old mucker, precisely why did you decide to produce this child when you knew you were unable to support it? Perhaps you ought to take a look at what the NHS has to say about stopping this happening in future…

Don’t get me wrong, I am open to taxpayers supporting families up to three children in some cases. After that I believe family support should be supplied in kind – food stamps, clothing vouchers for named individuals with a photo, and free school meals. Why is that? Because having children when you can’t afford them should seriously screw up your standard of living!

I am happy with supporting normal sized families (that’s up to 3) through the tax and benefits system, though they’ll have to move to cheaper areas. However, larger familes should be actively discouraged if you’re going to do it on the public purse. In the past, when I asked myself whether I could have children, the answer was no, I couldn’t afford it. So I didn’t do it, FFS! What makes Ray and Katherine so damn special that not only do I not get to have the experience. I have to pay for them to do it?

When I was growing up, when parents couldn’t support their children longterm the children were taken into care. There was a lot wrong with that, but there’s a lot wrong with people like me paying for the likes of  Ray and Katherine to have that special experience of having a child of their own blood too. Supporting these children and only the children via food and clothing vouchers would at least screw up the parents’ living standard a bit while protecting the child’s essential needs.

The second thing wrong here is Ray’s assertion

“The market for my skills dried up 10 years ago – there’s a total lack of work in my area of expertise.”

Don’tcha think it might be time to learn something new, then, rather than sitting on your big hairy butt firing out children on the taxpayers’ dime then, Ray? You have sat on your lazy ass for longer than I aim to retire early. For a quarter of your potential working life you have done diddly squat, while Gordon Brown, in addition to saving the world solved child poverty by dropping money from helicopters to people like you. Solving child poverty was a laudable aim, but not if you start creating more of it by making it easier for people like Ray to sit on their Lay-Z-Boy recliners watching Sky TV….

Talking of which, let’s move on to the spending of this feckless bunch of time-wasters

‘There are four children to supply school uniforms – including gym kits – each year. The school trips aren’t days out to Alton Towers – they’re educational trips for several of the courses, like history, geography and media studies, that the school tells us will form an important part of their course. Then there are seven birthdays a year, and seven children to make Christmas happen for each year.’

Whenever anything that looks like frippery is given the adjective ‘educational’ we know we are being rooked. In the 1960s and 70s families sometimes just had to say ‘we can’t afford it’ to school trips. If enough families didn’t sign up, the trip was cancelled. It wasn’t the end of the world. And I’m sorry, but media studies isn’t even worth the time it takes in the school day, and it definitely isn’t worth some of my money to send Ray’s children on school trips for.

As for the seven birthdays and Christmases, well, used to be if you couldn’t afford Christmas you’d make the presents yourself. Ray and Katherine need a spine transplant, so they can say to their kids “we can’t be bothered to go to work to give you that iPod you wanted, so you’ll have to do with this tube of Smarties instead”. Instead they tell their children the lie that the fairness fairy will given them their heart’s desires, propagating the entitlement gene across the generations. Oh and you, dear reader, and I get to pay for it, too…

‘We get the Sky Movies package because we’re stuck in the house all week – otherwise we wouldn’t have any entertainment.’

Bit of a battle for the old remote control, eh? And why are we paying the Digger £780 a year, Ray? Tell you what, since you’re so keen on things ‘educational’ howsabout you haul your lazy ass down to the library and borrow some of those flat things called books, and get your lot to read?

Anybody who has Sky TV should have benefits docked to the same amount. It’s a want, not a need. My TV delivers enough entertainment without Sky, I reused the dish for FreeSat. Want Sky to watch the footy? Get a flippin’ job, Ray!

‘Most of this goes on our eldest son’s bus fares to college and back. For me, if it’s less than five miles, I’ll walk.’

For the first time, I tip my hat to you, sir. That’s the right attitude. Heck, I’d be okay with putting some of the saving from the Sky TV package I’d cancel to get you a reasonable pushbike.

‘My wife and I have mobile phones, and so do all of the teenage children. You try telling teenagers they’re going to have to do without their mobiles and there’ll be hell to pay.’

How about telling them where to get a paper round if they want a mobile? It’s back to spine transplant time for you, Ray, my boy. And why the bloomin’ heck is this costing you over £1500 a year? What part of PAYG and ‘shut yer gob’ do you and yours not understand? I have never paid £1500 a year for mobile phone service. Nor even £200, which is the per head rate, and I don’t plan to start. Ever heard of Skype, since your lot seems to spend most of the time at home?

‘Gas and electricity bills have gone up massively over the last couple of years – two years ago we were paying £20 a week. If they do cut our benefit we are going to have to choose between eating and heating the house properly.’

Even when I was running a video conversion firm with loads of electrical gear I never paid that much for heat and power. Presumably the jumper is not an item of clothing your family is familiar with? Or the clothesline, though I accept that may have limited use in Wales.

‘ Rent £76: This is social housing in Wales, so the rent is hardly massive. If we rented privately in this area, then the cost would be four or five times as much.’

Nicely played, sir. At least it is a different bunch of taxpayers keeping a roof over your head… There’s a lot to be said for diverisfying your income.

Weekly shopping £240, Includes food and household goods, 24 cans of lager, 200 cigarettes and a large
pouch of tobacco:

‘Our biggest expense. We do all our shopping at Tesco or Morrisons in one big go. Mostly we buy the “value” range – tinned meatballs, baked beans etc. On the cigarettes, my wife tried to give up, but she missed one appointment on the course and they threw her off it.’

Looks like tobacco is £65 then. So I can sort your £82.40 weekly saving at one fell swoop. Cut the ciggies right out, drop the Sky TV and the remaining couple of quid can either come off the children’s Christmas and Birthday presents or you can drop a tinnie or two of the lager. They do have Aldi or Lidl in Wales?

There you go, Ray. Fixed that for you, and you’ll have your no doubt lovely wife with you for that much longer because she doesn’t smoke now 🙂

For far too long the goal of reducing child poverty has led us astray.We did not raise our eyes to the monster that we were creating as a byproduct, of increasing the ranks of the undeserving poor.

It’s all very Victorian, but we need to start discriminating again between the deserving and the undeserving poor, because at the current rate of progress we are all going to be poor.

We could start by making access to a higher level of welfare payments contingent on having paid into the system in the last few years, like many European countries. I wouldn’t mind paying toward’s Ray’s brood if he’d been working for the last 10 years and then lost his job in the current downturn. What incenses me is that he had another child while on benefits! We could make child benefit payable in kind, particulary if the child appears more than 9 months after you’ve been claiming!

Something that always puzzles me is how many poor people smoke, or is it that smoking makes you poor. In the end if you can afford it I don’t give a toss if you smoke or not, as long as you don’t do it near me. If you’re on benefits then I do mind. If I were on benefits I would expect to have to drink less!!!

A first step of capping benefits at £26,000 (the average wage) seems like a pretty good start. Bring on the Welfare Reform Bill. £26,000 is a high proportion of my annual wage. Hearing slackers like Ray and his bunch get it for free make me feel like a right mug for working for a living and going without to try and buy myself a few years out of work.

Hearing him whingeing about having to choose between heating and eating when outing the tobacco and the Sky TV would more than bridge the gap makes me want to slap him round the face with a wet fish and insert a bit of steel into his spine, and tell him to man up and sort out his responsibilities rather than moaning about his rights.

Oh and I’ve borrowed the concept of a complainypants from Mr Money Mustache. And tagged the posts about moaning benefit recipients as such. In the end if you get benefits, then that’s nice. Just don’t build a lifestyle on it, OK?

Why do I say that? Look at the words of Bill Gross from PIMCO where he asks where credit goes to die.

Where does credit go when it dies? It goes back to where it came from. It delevers, it slows and inhibits economic growth, and it turns economic theory upside down, ultimately challenging the wisdom of policymakers. We’ll all be making this up as we go along for what may seem like an eternity. A 30-50 year virtuous cycle of credit expansion which has produced outsize paranormal returns for financial assets – bonds, stocks, real estate and commodities alike – is now delevering because of excessive “risk” and the “price” of money at the zero-bound.

We are witnessing the death of abundance and the borning of austerity, for what may be a long, long time.

Your frickin’ benefits are being paid from that abundance. Austerity won’t be paying them in future. Child poverty will reappear. All benefits will fade away. I’d be surprised if I get to draw a State Pension in 16 years’ time, it will probably be means tested and hopefully I will have too much capital, though Bill’s prognosis isn’t so good for that either. That is the trouble with relying on benefits – governments can take them away, just like they did for people that paid into SERPS who took the shaft recently.

So don’t have kids on benefits so that you get more CTC. You’re likely to see that kid go short over the next 18 years unless you get a job. The writing is on the wall, pal, and it’s going to stay up there for a long time.

We are witnessing the death of abundance and the borning of austerity, for what may be a long, long time.