I have had more jobs than I can remember, and have not once claimed a single government benefit. I consider myself to be poor, based on my income and the fact that I own no property, and no vehicle, but I don’t think I have ever experienced real poverty.
In my various jobs over the years, I have worked with some of the wealthiest, and some of the poorest people in our society. Neither of these groups seems particularly content, and the middle classes are hardly jumping up and down with joy either. Happiness has little to do with economic prosperity, though it can’t be denied that having enough money helps.
With increasing wealth inequality, it is hard to pin down what constitutes enough. I have enough money for food, shelter and transport, with a little left over for entertainment, so on the surface, I am doing fine. If we could all teach ourselves to be satisfied with this, then the world would be a much happier place. That is not the way life works, and without greed, we would not live in the society we live in today. This is why I am so torn on the subject of wealth.
Our economy is based, not on need, but on want. We want an iPhone, so we convince ourselves that we need one. Life was perfectly good before they existed, but now that so many other people have them, it seems that we are missing out on something important. This rings true with an infinite list of products, from clothing to homes. Once we manage to acquire one thing, something better is waiting just around the corner, to push us into a perpetual state of material anxiety. This seems to be at its zenith amongst the nouveau riche (excuse the 80s turn of phrase), by which I mean those who have only had money for a generation or two. Most of the people in my current home, Perth, come under this umbrella. Thanks to a mining boom, a huge percentage of the population has more money than they know what to do with.
How to be a Winner
Once you have a huge house, a couple of showy SUVs, and as much bling as your body can support, the excess wealth becomes a burdan. You worry about insuring all of the stuff you have bought, and about investing enough of it to ensure that it never runs dry. Passing this on to the next generation also becomes a concern once you have popped out a few adorable accessories to dress and use to play your endless game of Keeping up with the Jones’ (or Kardashians, or whoever). Kids are ludicrously expensive, and they provide a great outlet for you to spend all that excess wealth you have accumulated. This is where your competitive streak can really shine. There are top schools to get into, baby bling to buy and highly gendered aspirational activities to force upon your children, and their every success can go on your personal scoreboard. Your kids become sporty, academic and artistic geniuses, and you win big. Never mind that there is a good chance that your kids will be of average intelligence, have two left feet, and their attempts at music make your ears bleed. They are yours, so you will probably not notice what is painfully clear to everyone else around you.
Haters Gonna Hate
Once you get a taste for this lifestyle, you will become blind to the value in any other way of being. Those who complain about your excesses are just jealous hippies who should go and get a better job. You politics start to slide rightwards, as your sense of entitlement grows. Never mind that you are one or two generations away from abject poverty, these people are lazy, feckless, benefits scroungers, and are of no value to our society. The poor do not deserve a cent of your tax dollars, because you worked hard for everything you have. So true and so wrong at the same time. Yes, there are probably a few people out there who are genuinely lazy, and will take all they can get without giving anything back. However, these people hardly take up any of your tax dollars, this is why…
Lazy, Feckless, Benefits Scroungers are Great
Let’s take a few stereotypes and play them out:
Who – Lazy fat, bloke sitting around in his underwear smoking and drinking all day
Why you should love him – Yes he spent all of his benefits on fags and booze, these are heavily taxed items (I am not going to put it into figures as am vainly assuming not all of my readers are in the same country), the majority of the money he is spending is going straight back into the government coffers. Plus, he is probably not going to live all that long meaning a shorter time taking up hospital beds, and withdrawing pension. Win
Who - Single Mother with three kids
Why you should love their family – We are being hyper stereotypical here, so she probably smokes, so ching ching go the government tax coffers. The kids will probably not going to stay in school beyond 16, so you don’t need to worry about too much of your taxes going towards their education. They will also probably turn into pissed up hooligans, so ka-ching for three binge drinkers spending all of that cash on booze. They also provide you with some great poor-bashing entertainment, when you drive past them in the street tutting at their ugly, ill-fitting tracksuits. Hey, these guys are going to have a shorter life expectancy than you too, so it is entirely possible that your are going to take up more in healthcare and pension benefits.
Who – Pensioner (perhaps you feel it is a little unfair to call her feckless, but she does sap about 10% of the entire UK budget)
Why you should love her – Quite simply, she will die soon, and for now she is a sweet little old lady
Who – Migrant from some godforsaken country come here to steal our jobs
Why you should love him – Well, at least he wants to work. Depending on where he is from he may well not be entitled to any benefits anyway, and you have not paid a penny for his education and health care up to this point. Children are damn expensive as we have already discussed, so it is a good job our immigrant here is basically a tax freebie. When he works he pays into the system (by stealing the sort of jobs Brits, Aussies and US citizens love to do, like cleaning toilets), when he doesn’t, he…well that isn’t really an option if you can’t claim benefits.
Without the feckless poor, you would have little to complain about, and everyone loves to bitch and moan about someone. The percentage of what you pay the government that goes to the absolute bottom end of society is tiny. In the UK, for every pound you spend in tax 10p goes on some kind of benefit other than pensions, to me this is not ridiculous. If you are paying tax at 20% of your income, then you are giving 2% of your entire income to people less fortunate than yourself. One day you may lose your job, and you will be grateful for that safety net. As I said before, I have never claimed a penny in benefits, despite being entitled to on several occasions, I don’t have children, and I have rarely used the NHS. However, I appreciate all of our infrastructure, and feel safe knowing that if I were to fall ill, or could not work, that I would be looked after by the country I was lucky enough to be born in.