As one of the millions of “ordinary people who work hard and pay their taxes” ™, I have a question for Chris Grayling MP: when exactly will the work I do be reclassified as no longer “wage-worthy” and be funded by benefits alone?
It’s a serious question, and what’s more, I don’t often ask serious questions of this nature. That is because I have a job and don’t want to lose it. Like anyone who is not rich, I am scared. I have seen what is happening around me and I know it could happen to me, too. The use of outsourcing and unpaid internships creeps up and up each business, like a rising flood. Whatever my own skills, I know I could be replaced by someone without a job. At least if I am lucky that person might be me.
What I am saying is not specific to the companies for whom I have worked. I truly mean this, but then I would say that, wouldn’t I? Anyone would. The people in the middle – not unemployed but never classified as “wealth creators” – know which side their bread’s buttered. We have to keep our mouths shut. We’re the “ordinary people” whose views politicians co-opt, manipulate and invent. The “ordinary” man or woman says little in response because he or she has too much to lose.
I will say this, though. As far as I can see, “efficiency”, “flexibility”, “progress” – right now all of these things feel like euphemisms for driving wealth upwards, leaving those at the bottom working harder and harder for less and less. And this might sound “efficient” but it’s not. Businesses are becoming top-heavy and bloated. The absence of permanent staff at lower levels is strangling the life out of them.
And no, I’m not an economist (but then neither is George Osborne). I don’t fully understand the way in which it becomes worthwhile for an increasing number of people to be paid not by companies but by the welfare system. I suppose it helps “businesses” to grow so they can then pay higher taxes. And I guess that ultimately we’re still shuffling money around so that the people on the bottom are getting less than ever. Is that what this is really about?
No, says Chris. It’s about stopping young benefit claimants thinking they “have the right to sit at home playing computer games”. One presumes it’d all be different if such people were engaged in something less chavvy – reading Proust and organizing literary soirées, for instance. But alas, computer games just won’t cut it. So what if you’ve reached the boss level? If you’re not an actual, real, live boss, you don’t count.
Do you know why I think young people play these games, Chris? They can be addictive and violent, but do you know what the real reason is? I suspect that what makes them so attractive is that they’re fair. On the Playstation or Wii it doesn’t matter what you own or where you come from; at least there everyone plays by the same rules.