A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece on Tony Abbott's segue into welfare bashing; a bashing that was particularly focused on the long term unemployed and those on disability payments. Abbott's sudden topic change has been put in context today, as Julia Gillard is set to release what sounds like a similar policy. Abbott was clearly in the know, and thought it best to pre-empt Gillard so that everyone will think that kicking the unemployed and the disabled was all his idea. Because you wouldn't want to miss out that title would you? You know, Nation's Biggest Bastard.
It would be remiss of me if I didn't give the same pasting to Gillard that I gave to Abbott for what I believe is a cynical attempt to smooth over other cuts to the Budget with the general populace. Obviously the Government believes that it cannot make the big cuts it needs to make to achieve next year's promised surplus without throwing a bone to those morons who think people on welfare are living it up playboy style. You know the guy they're thinking of; he's fat, he has a beard, smokes weed, plays Xbox all day, goes for a swim in his Olympic size swimming pool at his beach house AND IS FICTIONAL. He is fictional. He doesn't exist. The real guy on welfare may have a beard, but he's probably eating dog food and swimming in a puddle outside his sharehouse. It's not that ritzy stuff like My Dog he's eating either, I'm talking about that stuff that stays can-shaped when you tip it into the bowl. He lives off $250 a week, how is that even possible? That guy is MacGyver.
Anyway, as was stated in the previous piece, the long term unemployed are hardly a budget drag. They account for roughly 15% of the unemployed population and there has been a steady reduction over the past ten years. The supposedly ubiquitous 'Welfare Cheats' are another piece of misdirection. Focusing on fraud is not going to balance your budget, forcing people on disability pensions 'who can work, but don't want to' out into the workforce won't do it either. It will however, smooth it over for people who will be affected by the 'real' cuts.
Services will be cut. Funding for research will be cut. There is surely to be cuts to middle-class benefits (maybe that's hoping too much), and perhaps to education. People will be mad, but not as mad as they would be if you didn't also go after that 'bong-smoking hippie in a wheelchair living next-door watching his big screen TV all day.'
This is all for nothing as well. This is so the Budget can be in surplus next year. Why does it need to be in surplus next year? The answer is this: it doesn't. It 'needs' to be because the Government said it would be. It has no material affect on anyone, but for some reason people cannot stand the Government being in debt. They would prefer they cut everything rather than spend another day in the red.
I've tried to understand it, but I can't. Personal debt is through the roof, people live well beyond their means. Why do you care if the Government has to borrow more money? I certainly don't.
Mind you, I'm caring about less and less these days.