So the American conservatives wimped out again after a month or so of mindless bluster and hot air. The only problem is that their posturing, in itself, causes damage to the economy. It’s interesting that the conservative economists keep harping on about their belief that the existence of a budget deficit causes uncertainty among private firms who are then reluctant to invest because they fear higher tax rates to pay back the deficit. While this flawed narrative is not theoretically robust, defies history, and is empirically bereft, uncertainty is a problem for firms and the ridiculous behaviour of the American conservatives in the Congress in recent times has dramatically increased it. The world is moving now into a second phase of the retrenchment of the state. The first phase required the neo-liberals to redefine the crisis, which was clearly an issue of excessive private debt, as crisis of sovereign debt. They have been successful in achieving this step. Our ignorance and obsequiousness has allowed this mindless narrative to dominate the public debate. The second phase is now well underway way where the victims of the austerity become the focus of attention for the Conservative politicians. The unemployed are vilified as lazy and welfare cheats (their benefits are targeted – for example, in Ireland now); single mothers are accused of strategic pregnancies; and the old furphy – benefit migration – is wheeled out into the public debate to engender an increasing resentment of the presence of ethnic minorities who is simply trying to do what all of us want – to improve the lives of their families and themselves. All of these campaigns are designed to divide and conquer the populace, segment this into conflictual factions (“them and us” mentality), and justify further unwarranted cuts to government spending.
At the outset, I should make a personal disclosure. I am a citizen of a nation that doesn’t stop at vilifying the most disadvantaged of our own citizens.
Over two decades or more it has refined that craft to a high level and is very efficient at making life miserable for people who have few opportunities and little hope.
Not being content with that, our politicians (from both the major sides of politics) make political capital of ther policies to excise parts of Australia from being considered Australia so they can then evade international laws regarding the legitimate treatment of refugees.
Further, they send these miserable souls to prison camps in harsh tropical environments knowing that the detention undermines the mental health and spirit of the people detained. Little children are not exempted from imprisonment.
They also bribe poor nations like the Papua New Guinea into setting up these prison camps within their own national borders so that Australia can claim that no boats are getting to Australia.
And what is often overlooked, is that many of these people are escaping cruel oppression from lands that have been turned upside down by war and invasion, the latter being the product of Australian government zeal to impress the US in its ridiculously failed “war on terror”.
We invade their nations, allegedly to set them free. And when they to seek freedom we round them up like animals and lock them up like common criminals in prisons way below the standard that we would detain our worst home-grown criminals in.
So shame on us!
A less crude form of human abuse, although crude belongs on some scale with sophistication, so perhaps crude is not the best term, is the so-called vilification of benefit migrants.
A standard neo-liberal tactic is to first undermine the security of workers through various austerity measures, which typically producers some political backlash. People don’t like to lose their jobs or have their real wages undermined – as is happening in many advanced countries at present.
The next step is to scapegoat someone other than the government for the insecurity and reduction in prosperity that the austerity programme has generated. As noted above the first cab off the rank is to blame the unemployed themselves – to construct them as indolent, fools with little skills, little ambition, and little energy.
Add to that criminal overturns – that is, tell everybody that they are living so well and doing nothing but cheating welfare, that creates a division between the employed who are at risk of becoming unemployed and the unemployed themselves.
It is important to emphasise how well they are living and TV crews have been known in Australia to trawl through a families garbage bins to highlight things they have bought. Like … basic foodstuffs, no less. Bloody hell, you mean these people eat and never work!
Anyway, divide and conquer Part 1.
Of-course, you have to do something to appease the people who are at risk of becoming unemployed. Setting them against the unemployed helps that governments can do better and they do.
The simple solution is to find another cohort of people to scapegoat. Enter the benefit migrant or benefit tourist.
This is a particularly odious species who had no loyalty to the culture, values, hopes and aspirations of the nation but sneak across our borders (properly in the dark of night) just to take advantage of our superior welfare benefits system.
They have no commitment to the country – they may even hate the country – they may be communists. The problem is we know very little about them except they dress in odd ways, hang out together (obviously conspiratorially), rudely speak foreign languages on public transport, have strange little shops where they buy food and groceries, which are clearly of doubtful origin, and overall are a threat to our society and our freedoms.
The benefit migrant – oh how we hate them.
They come to our shores because we are generous to our own and take advantage of this generosity and give nothing back in return.
It is the benefit migrant that is undermining your prosperity. That is why you’re feeling so insecure. There are hordes of these people – unimaginable numbers – living it up on our welfare system and undermining the fiscal viability of our governments. That is why things are so tough here.
Divide and conquer Part 2.
We saw it again this week in Britain.
On October 12, 2013, the Daily Telegraph article – True scale of European immigration – pronounced that:
More than 600,000 unemployed European Union migrants are living in Britain at a cost of £1.5 billion to the NHS alone, according to an EU report … the number of jobless European migrants coming to Britain has risen dramatically in the past five years, intensifying demands for the Government to renegotiate EU membership.
Opponents of the EU seized on the figures to suggest Britain could not afford to allow European migrants to come here at will while continuing to provide a universal benefits system.
The Telegraph also made it clear that the EU Report was commissioned by:
… Laszlo Andor, the socialist commissioner in charge of employment and social inclusion.
Mr Andor was the commissioner who invited me to last year’s EU Employment Conference to discuss the Job Guarantee. Soon after that they EU announced their Youth Guarantee, which is a good idea in need of billions of euros more in funding than the Brussels elites dare to give it (in case it worked and proved to be an exemplar for the way governments should deal with the unemployed).
But the “socialist” tag is irrelevant to his job at the commissioner. They tag him that way because it undermines the credibility of the Report he released – something the Telegraph needs to do as part of the co-opted right wing press.
The story was perfect really with all the essential elements.
1. Big numbers were quoted without context.
2. The EU are “to bring a court case to make it easier for European migrants to claim benefits in Britain” – waves of them will follow. That is, hint of big.
3. Gangs are involved – they claim a “a gang of Czech benefit fraudsters stood to make £1 million in bogus claims for child tax credits and child benefit” by which they conclude that “benefit tourism can also include fraud on a vast scale”. Fraud and big!
4. The borders need to be tightened with “stronger controls on welfare handouts”.
5. A concerned politician warning the good and hard-working British folk that their lifestyles and prosperity were under threat:
They quoted one “Douglas Carswell, the Conservative backbench Euro-sceptic MP” as saying:
It is extraordinary how the European project has debased and debauched the original, noble idea of the welfare state.
These figures show that the wave of benefit migrants has become a tsunami of economic refugees fleeing the eurozone crisis to try to find jobs here.
We cannot both continue the free-at-the-point-of-use welfare state and benefits system and allow Europeans to flee the eurozone and come here.
It is decision time. I would rather we quit Europe and had our own system of social protection.
As I said, all the essential elements – even a tsunami was predicted.
Now the British Office of National Statistics puts out a regular – Migration Statistics Quarterly Report – the latest being in May 2013. I wanted to see where the tsunami – especially the Eurozone tidal wave of sneaky humans – was coming from.
The facts reveal that between September 2011 and September 2012, the net flow of migrants to the UK was 153,000 down from 242,000 in the year ending September 2011.
So the tsunami isn’t very strong.
A related – Table 1.3 – Estimated overseas-born population resident in the United Kingdom – tells us that between January 2011 to December 2011, the top 10 foreign groups in the UK were (in order):
1. India – 729 thousand.
2. Poland – 643 thousand.
3. Pakistan – 57 thousand.
4. Republic of Ireland – 397 thousand.
5. Germany – 297 thousand.
6. Bangladesh – 230 thousand.
7. South Africa – 211 thousand.
8. Nigeria – 190 thousand.
9. United States of America – 189 thousand.
10. Jamaica – 143 thousand.
What, those sneaky Germans. I guess Ireland is in the EU17 too. Maybe, the Conservative MP think the Americans are in the EU17 – of-course, we know they are not but it seeems they know a benefit lurk when they see it!
The next day (October 13, 2013), the UK Daily Mail article – Slash benefits for EU migrants: PM urged to act as those here without a job hit 600,000 – decided to focus more explicitly on the political aspects of the story – benefits have to be “slashed”.
They also revealed that a Sky News (it would have to be them!) “poll has found that two-thirds of the public want ministers to take ‘drastic action’ to cut immigration”.
As noted above – the Government won’t have to do a thing – the numbers are already plummetting. The Government austerity drive is doing that – no jobs, people leave, including their own citizens.
The article listed a number of facts including that:
611,779: The number of ‘non-active’ EU migrants in Britain – up 42 per cent in six years …
73% increase in the number of ‘job seeking’ EU migrants in Britain between 2009 and 2011
Next day (October 14, 2013), the Daily Mail commentary – EU migrants and the Brussels benefits trap – repeated the line:
As part of its battle with Iain Duncan Smith over benefit tourism, the European Commission yesterday produced figures showing that 600,000 EU migrants without a job are living in Britain.
The EU Report in question is – A fact finding analysis on the impact on the Member States’ social security systems of the entitlements of non-active intra-EU migrants to special non-contributory cash benefits and healthcare granted on the basis of residence – and the authors should learn that a shorter name is preferable to a book!
It was commissioned by the EU from a British consulting company – ICF GHK – who do not describe themselves in any way that might suggest they are part of an evil socialist plot.
The other partner was a Belgium company – Milieu – who on first impressions have a lot of very corporate staff in suits (males and females) and ties no less (a very un-Belgian thing). They do tell us they “aim to adhere to the principles of sustainable development”, which I guess, makes them almost communist in intent.
The Report is very long and detailed and if you want to read it the link above is your pathway.
But the major points – their “10 core findings” include:
1. “Non-active EU migrants represent a very small share of the total population in each Member State” – not just small, but very small.
2. “Overall intra-EU migration has increased over the past decade … (from 0.7% in 2003 to 1.0% in 2012)” – small.
3. “On average EU migrants are more likely to be in employment than nationals living in the same country” – active and contributing to total production and income – not on welfare.
4. And – wait for this – it is worth a little fanfare – “Pensioners, students and jobseekers accounted for more than two-thirds of the non-active EU migrant population (71%) in 2012 … The vast majority of non-active EU migrants (79%) live in economically active households” – these groups are part of the so-called 611 thousand migrants not active. It is good that children of migrant families study, it is good that when they reach retirement age they can retire. Further, the inactivity rate (via ONS) is higher for British Nationals (43 per cent) compared to 30 per cent for EU Nationals.
5. “Evidence shows that the vast majority of migrants move to find (or take up) employment … Countries such as Spain and Ireland have seen a decline in intra-EU inward migration, whereas flows to countries such as Austria, Denmark and Germany have increased”.
6. The research “found little evidence in the literature and stakeholder consultations to suggest that the main motivation of EU citizens to migrate and reside in a different Member State is benefit-related as opposed to work or family-related … immigrants are not more intensive users of welfare than nationals”. Please re-read.
7. “In relation to special non-contributory cash benefits (SNCBs), the study shows that EU migrants account for a very small share of SNCBs beneficiaries” – Please re-read.
8. “the expenditures associated with healthcare provided to non-active EU migrants are very small relative to the size of total health spending in or the size of the economy of the host countries. Estimated median values are 0.2 % of the total health spending and 0.01% of GDP” – tiny – Please re-read carefuly.
And their capstone conclusion, just in case you didn’t really get the message:
Overall, it can be concluded that the share of non-active intra-EU migrants is very small, they account for a similarly limited share of SNCB recipients and the budgetary impact of such claims on national welfare budgets is very low. The same is true for costs associated with the take-up of healthcare by this group. Employment remains the key driver for intra-EU migration and activity rates among such migrants have indeed increased over the last 7 years.
I will soon be outlining Divide and Conquer strategy Part 3.
The whole thing is just really awful and we are dolts for falling for it.
That is enough for today!
(c) Copyright 2013 Bill Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.