DOES anybody here get unemployment benefit?
I don't mean receive it. I mean understand it. Is it really £71 a week (£56.80 if you are aged 18-24)? Is that the actual sum? It's not a mistake? Nope.
Seventy-one pounds is the amount you are given to live on if you are unemployed. I have just had a demand for six months' road tax at £77 so presumably, were I unemployed, the car would have to go.
Riddle me this: how does anyone manage on £71? How is that possible? My energy bill is £111 a month. That's for having the heating on four to five hours a day for seven to eight months a year. And I work from home. Assuming a 30-day month, nearly £26 of my £71 would go on energy bills alone. That would leave me 45 quid a week.
What happens if I need a haircut to look smart for that job interview that never comes? Another tenner away. What about the TV licence? Twelve quid a month. Three quid a week. I couldn't have Sky obviously and would have to give up Lovefilm (eight quid a month). Not great sacrifices.
But what about the phone and the internet? I think mine costs 40 quid a month. Then there is the mobile: eight quid a month (the phone is paid for). How could I afford these? But many jobs are now advertised on the internet. Or do I need to take a bus to the JobCentre or whatever it is called now? That's £3 there and back where I live.
What happens if a necessary house repair arises? What if the heating breaks down? Washing-up liquid, kitchen rolls, soap, vacuum bags. You might need those. And I take it we can forget about new clothes or shoes. Or insurance. At this rate, I can't even see much room for food. Oh, there are food banks? Charles Dickens, meet the 21st century. Twenty-first century, Charles Dickens.
I am not even going to mention bankers' bonuses or footballers' wages, because if no one is going to have a revolution, I will feel logically obliged to start manning barricades in my own head.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is nuts. It is not just unfair or iniquitous or bewildering. Watch my lips here: It. Is. Insane.
Which brings me to the people running the UK. They are doing their best … to make things worse. This week, they were crowing that their tougher welfare rules had driven tens of thousands of benefit claimants with secret jobs to leave the black economy.
Black economy: bad, right? Here is a moral quandary for all you decent upstanding folks out there. You are not getting enough to eat from your unemployment benefit. Someone offers you five quid an hour to cut grass or clean windaes or whatever. Do you take it?
Would that be immoral? Or is the benefit system immoral? If the benefit system and the tax system and the bonuses culture are immoral, would you be transgressing ethically if you broke society's fiscal rules?
Or would you not care any more? Would you not care about the blessed Government or its rules or the hypocritical moralists with one eye on the pennies of the poor and an eyepatch turned to the tax dodges of the rich? Would you be tempted to earn another fifty or sixty quid in your hand so you could eat properly or buy new shoes? Consider carefully: you might.
Let's talk pennies again. A few weeks ago, Prime Minister David Cameron admitted he did not know the price of bread. It used to be said the Tories know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Now they do not even know the price of anything.
And still they twist the screw. If you have a spare room in your palace you will need to stump up for that. Another 14 quid a week, say, off your 71.
Depending on your circumstances, you may have council tax to pay. If you have a mortgage, you may get some help for a while with your interest. But this news just in: you are in trouble.
So, what ya gonna do? Eat, heat or greet? At least the last one's free.
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