John Scrivener, Main Arm.
Colin Clarke’s latest tirade – Bangalow food hub opponents elitist – sets a new low for letters to the editor.
When he’s not spruiking for nuclear power and genetic engineering, Colin likes to use the Echo’s letters section to attack fellow letter writers and ‘you people’ who sit around doing nothing all day.
I can’t help but cringe when I read phrases like ‘too many people are happy to lean on the rest of society and take unemployment benefits’, especially when written by someone who likes to promote an industry that leans heavily on the rest of society, requires multi-billion dollar subsidies from governments but employs relatively few people.
The insinuation that unemployment is a result of people being happy to live on handouts not only smacks of prejudice, it completely obscures the actual causes and function of unemployment. Colin’s rhetoric might sound plausible to those who have never known economic hardship, but the truth is poverty sucks, and unemployment in this society equals poverty.
No one chooses to live in poverty: it is forced upon them by circumstances beyond their control. Many economists recognise that unemployment is due in large part to changes in the structure of the economy, for example manufacturing jobs going to countries with cheaper labour and fewer regulations. Technological advances such as automation also contribute to unemployment, with machines and computers now doing much of the work once done by labourers. Furthermore, it serves the interests of corporate owners to have a pool of unemployed workers, which helps keep wages down and workers submissive.
Jobs cost money and someone has to pay for them. How do we calculate the cost of a job for a politician, or a soldier? More money is spent on the employment of a few hundred politicians or a few thousand soldiers than is spent on a hundred thousand unemployed people. Think about the comparative value of these expenditures, all of which are paid by the taxpayer.
Most of the money going to politicians and the military ends up in off-shore tax havens and the coffers of multinational corporations, whereas every cent spent on the unemployed goes straight into the local economy. The unemployed play another important role: they serve as a scapegoat that can be smeared with impunity because, unlike the nuclear industry, they can’t afford an army of lawyers and lobbyists to protect and promote their interests.
Unemployment benefits are like a ball and chain that stigmatise and constrain the individual. These so-called benefits are not given out easily or willy-nilly by bureaucrats, despite claims to the contrary. They are provided only after applicants have jumped through hoops, navigated multiple obstacles and completed endless forms contrived to dissuade all but the most desperate.
I don’t accept the premise advanced by Colin Clarke, that the unemployed in our region are living in a false world, devoid of honest toil. I think his tirade amounts to little more than a smarmy swipe at the least privileged in our community.