Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Keep Your Eyes On The UK

Photo of a 20 dollar bill being cut in half with scissors
There’s probably going to be some kind of engineered showdown over funding Social Security Disability here in the United States. Disability activists are going to be pulled in a few different directions. Should we join the effort to “reform” the program and risk validating benefit cuts and narrowing eligibility? Or, should we line up to defend the program as it is, and miss the opportunity to reduce work disincentives and make other improvements we’d actually like to see?

Before we get too far down the road, we should pay careful attention to what’s been happening with “welfare” cuts in the UK, including cuts specifically affecting disabled people:
"One thing the welfare bill accomplishes is to put people who have failed a fitness to work test on to the same payment as people who have passed it, like some tent-revivalist preacher tipping sinners out of wheelchairs and screaming “Walk!” Who would have thought that electing people who hate the welfare state to run our welfare state could go so badly? In practical terms this change means people with things such as MS and Parkinson’s will lose £30 a week. That extra £30 a week was there because, sometimes, chronically ill people’s bodies don’t work so well and they might have to get a bus or a cab or pay the babysitter to stay for an extra hour so they can get to and from the latest humiliation from the Department for Work and Pensions."
This is from an angry article in The Guardian about the Labour Party, the UK’s main left-of-center party that historically has fought for the welfare state and defended the UK’s poor and working class. It’s roughly … and I mean very roughly … equivalent to the US’s Democratic Party. Yet, apparently they are pretty much going along with the Conservative Government’s austerity policies, which include a two-faced stance on disability policy.

Publicly, they use the language of empowerment and confidence in disabled peoples’ ability to work and be self-sufficient, while policy-wise they cut benefits and make everyone who gets benefits prove to poorly-trained bureaucrats that they really do need their government support. Meanwhile, they nudge and wink and tisk-tisk about “welfare scroungers."

It sounds familiar. The same kind of thing could easily happen here, if we aren’t very careful.

By the way, £30 a week, £120 per month, is equivalent to almost almost $47 per week, $187 per month. That's more than the cost of a few lattes.