I, Daniel Blake – essential viewing

So Italy has now gone the way of the UK and the US in its referendum vote – rejecting the establishment but not sure on what to do instead. It seems that the US voters have been duped by a conman (noting he beat a conwoman). Now Renzi is to go and we will see what happens next. But the trends around the world are unmistakable. Ordinary folk are in rebellion and for good reason. Last night I saw the latest Ken Loach film – I, Daniel Blake, which is a grinding, shocking statement of how society has been so compromised by the neo-liberalism that these voting patterns are rebelling against. I would say that as an Australian the film was a little less shocking than it might have been because our stupid nation led the way in introducing the tyrannical administrative processes that accompany income support systems in this neo-liberal era. Britain (under Tony Blair – never let it be forgotten – he did more than lie about Iraq) followed Australia’s lead in this respect. So, Australians have seen this dystopia for more than 18 years now – and while I hope we have not become inured to it – normalised it – it has been part of our awareness for a long time. Nonetheless, the film is shocking in what it says about the societal compromise and the rise and normalisation of sociopathic relationships between state and citizen.

I am just listening to the news feed as I type and following the reporting on the Italian referendum results.

I will write more about the No result when I have had time to study the numbers and understand the ramifications in more depth. I hope it leads to a political dynamic that gets Italy out of the Eurozone and forces the dysfunctional monetary union into history. I am not confident that hope will be realised.

Italy’s banking sector is probably insolvent with the Financial Times (November 28, 2016) article – Fears mount of multiple bank failures if Renzi loses referendum – reporting last week that:

Up to eight of Italy’s troubled banks risk failing if prime minister Matteo Renzi loses a constitutional referendum next weekend and ensuing market turbulence deters investors from recapitalising them …

While this alarm was probably media hype to scare people into voting yes (similar to the catastrophising that the British people were hit with in the lead up to the June Brexit vote), there is no doubt the Italian banks are in terrible shape and while Italy remains it the Eurozone it is largely helpless to do much about it.

The successful No vote (by a huge margin) brings together the odds and sods of Italian politics who in noted cases hold views that are the anathema of any progressive agenda. But this group is the only anti-Euro voice in Italy.

That is tragic really. It is unfortunate that the more mainstream socialist Left parties are not leading the way in advocating the abandonment of the euro. But then, they drank the neo-liberal poison long ago and at that point ceased to be a voice for progressive policy.

But back to I, Daniel Blake.

The film was motivated by the passing of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 – which was designed to make it harder for people to receive and stay on income support systems relating to unemployment and sickness.

Former PM David Cameron spoke to the bill saying (Source)

Where we back those who work hard and do the right thing … Building that society is simply not possible without radically reforming welfare … Ending the nonsense of paying people more to stay at home than to get a job – and finally making sure that work really pays … What these examples show is that we have, in some ways, created a welfare gap in this country between those living long-term in the welfare system and those outside it.

Those within it grow up with a series of expectations: you can have a home of your own, the state will support you whatever decisions you make, you will always be able to take out no matter what you put in.

This has sent out some incredibly damaging signals.

That it pays not to work.

That you are owed something for nothing.

It gave us millions of working-age people sitting at home on benefits even before the recession hit.

It created a culture of entitlement …

There are few more entrenched problems than our out-of-control welfare system and few more daunting challenges than reforming it …

It’s about the kind of country we want to be – who we back, who we reward, what we expect of people, the kind of signals we send to the next generation.”

That sets the scene for the movie.

The storyline is fairly simple and linear.

Ageing skilled worker has a heart attack and his medical staff say he cannot work. He tries to get the British sickness benefit as is his right as a citizen but is knocked back by the points system, which claims he can work.

The Work Capability Assessment process carried out by a so-called ‘health care professional’ who refuses to confirm her medical qualifications and who works for a US outsourcing company (Maximus).

No effort is made to consult with his medical support team. In other words, the rather apocryphal ‘decision maker’, who is this impersonal agent that welfare applicants are told will determine the outcome of their claims but is not readily available to meet them, ignores the medical evidence that would substantiate his unfitness to work.

His rejection then leads Daniel Blake through a mind-blowing web of administrative cruelty – where he has to apply for unemployment benefits and sign a contract with the case manager which requires the applicant to perform ridiculous stunts to satisfy job search rules and be able to get things like “receipts” for job applications and be computer literate.

Failure to jump through the unrealistic hoops leads to sanctions of between 4 weeks and up to 3 years without support.

The other part of the I, Daniel Blake narrative is the single mother with two kids that he befriends in the job centre and who ends up in prostitution to support her kids because she has been sanctioned by one of the sociopaths in the job centre for being late to an interview. She is new to the region and became lost on her way to the interview.

There are some really grinding interactions between these people at a food bank, where hunger leads to humiliation and between Daniel and a pawn shop. They remind us that this system uses hunger and desperation as disciplining devices for those most in need.

As the UK Guardian article (October 27, 2016) – I am Daniel Blake – and there are millions more like me – noted:

Food is a weapon in austerity Britain. Hunger, the threat of and the reality of, is used to coerce and control. That sentence alone feels paranoid, more than a smack of the mad conspiracy theorist, until you start to look harder. Half of food bank users are there as a direct result of benefit sanctions. Benefit sanctions have been applied in cases where a person has failed to turn up to the jobcentre because they are in hospital following a heart attack. A woman was sanctioned for attending cancer treatment. A man was sanctioned for attending a funeral.

Comply or starve.

Ultimately, on the day of his appeal against the rejection of his sickness benefit application, Daniel Blake dies of another heart attack brought on by the stress of dealing with the sociopaths and the harsh reality of being without income and being unable to navigate through the income support system, which is designed to reject rather than to include.

It is a realy sad film. The final scene the prostitute reads a statement prepared by Daniel Blake as part of his appeal, which was never heard.

It intones the rights of citizenship and the divide and conquer nature of using nomenclature such as skivers, bludgers etc to isolate those without work from the rest, to ensure that the state has the political capacity to deliver this cruelty.

One commentator likened this statement to that of Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner (I, Daniel Blake: Ken Loach and the scandal of Britain’s benefits system“>Source):

I will not be stamped, filed, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered, my life is my own.

The intent is to reinstate the concept of citizenship with all its attendant rights. That concept has become so compromised by these neo-liberal income support systems that it bears little similarity to the great Post World War 2 statements of human rights and societal privileges.

At one point, Daniel Blake is forced to attend a CV workshop. It is a farcical episode where some consultant is delivering the usual neo-liberal babble designed to blame the unemployed (victim) for their plight.

Daniel says “but there aren’t enough jobs”. Which gets to the nub of the issue.

Film director Ken Loach said in an interview (November 24, 2015) – ‘Conscious cruelty’: Ken Loach’s shock at benefit sanctions and food banks – that:

The bureaucratic inefficiency is vindictive and hunger is being used as a weapon. People are being forced to look for work that doesn’t exist … The situation is much worse than in the days of Cathy Come Home, at least then if people had a trade they could have a job for life.

Our governments have not only abandoned their responsibilities to provide enough work for those seeking it (which they agreed to take on as part of various UN and ILO charters relating to human rights in the immediate post World War 2 period), but to hide that choice, they have created systems that pillory the weak and fragile and make the victims appear as scheming, lazy, nasty characters who just want to live of the labour of the rest of us.

Daniel Blake was correct – The unemployed cannot find jobs that are not there!.

The movie was shocking but was like déjà vu to me.

The conservative Australian government adopted the same strategy when it was elected in 1996 although it has to be said that the Australian Labor Party (allegedly the workers’ party) had advanced plans in 1994 to do the same thing had it been reelected in 1996.

The Government privatised public employment service and introduced the so-called Job Network – which was a refinement of the trend towards mean-spirited government that led to the abandonment of a commitment to full employment and the retrenchment of a comprehensive welfare state.

The Job Network was epitomised by the government’s pursuit of the diminished goal of full employability, which constructed mass unemployment as a supply-side problem rather than a system-level failure of the economy to provide enough jobs for those who desired to work at the current wage rates on offer.

Under full employability, the government no longer ensured that employment growth matches labour force growth but focused, instead, on getting individuals ‘work ready’, should there be jobs available.

It was the exemplar of the OECD’s 1994 Jobs Study approach which focused on supply-side activation – a fancy word for blaming the victims of a demand failure and threatening them with starvation should they not agree to submit to the pernicious management regime (relentless dole diaries, meetings with case managers etc) which included working for free.

The Job Network was introduced at at time when it the macroeconomic constraints on its effectiveness were substantial. First, the Australian economy had failed to generate sufficient employment since 1975 to match the preferences of the labour force. Second, gross flows data revealed large inertia in all labour force categories and average unemployment duration rising to around 52 weeks and inversely related to the demand side of the labour market.

These development were accompanied by a policy of deliberate fiscal drag (pursuit of fiscal surpluses) which exacerbated the aggregate spending failure.

Not unlike the situation in Britain at present.

The most salient and empirically robust fact about the performance of the Australian economy at the time the Job Network was introduced was that actual GDP growth was not been strong enough to achieve and sustain full employment.

The same situation exists in Britain now.

The privatised Job Network (in it various guises since) has become parasitic private sector fringe – in effect, the Government created a new ‘industry’, whose product was unemployment.

The new industry is totally unproductive and basically generates profits from unemployment.

The Government argued that a competitive model would improve the quality and flexibility of services provided to the most disadvantaged job seekers.

A 2002 report by the federal Productivity Commission described the Job Network as a ‘managed’ or ‘quasi’ market for the provision of subsidised employment services, which aims to mimic the activities of competitive markets by allowing scope for competition, flexibility in service delivery, rewards based on outcomes and some degree of choice for the unemployed.

First, the Job Network comprised multiple independent agencies, each having a share of a common system of public service provision. Second, the agencies will be a mix of profit and not-for-profit organisations; and third, job seekers do not purchase services but have services purchased on their behalf by government.

Under the Job Network, the government was a purchaser and regulator of employment services, not a direct provider. The role of government was to award contracts through a competitive tender process, regulate providers, determine standards, and to collect and disseminate performance information.

However, this perverse “quasi market” soon revealed it was not immune from market failure.

There was policy schizophrenia in expecting an outcome-based funding model for employment services to deliver ‘better and more sustainable employment outcomes’ in the absence of concomitant policies to alleviate the macroeconomic constraint and create real employment opportunities.

In a highly demand-constrained labour market, characterised by persistent unemployment and marked regional disparities, it was always unclear how the supply-side focus of the Job Network could be effective.

It was also the case that a system centred on outcome payments in which providers had discretion with respect to the level and nature of assistance afforded to job seekers created incentives for ‘creaming’ and ‘parking’.

The Productivity Commission’s Independent Review of the Job Network in 2002 found that the payments structure to Job Network providers has led to a substantial proportion of Intensive Assistance recipients being ‘parked’ – that is, taken onto the private agency books to get the first incentive payment but then ignored because the prospects of getting any further payments (for successful job placement) were bleak.

Job seekers with the greater chance of achieving a payable outcome were targeted while those in greatest need of assistance (with low employment probabilities) were left unsupported.

The lack of correspondence between needs and services reflected the difficulties associated with specifying objective outcomes and performance indicators that will allocate resources according to an ordering of societal needs; and relate to both the quality of assistance provided and the quality and sustainability of jobs attained.

The prices attached to employment outcomes also did not adequately reflect all the costs of unemployment which include not only income and output loss, but the deleterious effects on self confidence, competence, social integration and harmony, and the appreciation and use of individual freedom and responsibility.

Subsequent evaluations of the effectiveness of the Job Network showed it failed to provide sustained employment prospects for the vast majority of the case load.

Not a lot has changed in 14 years since that damming report was released.

One of the features of the system that was most repugnant was known as “breaching”. The Government of the day (in 2002-03) reacted to the early criticisms of its failed program by reinforcing what it called the Active Participation Model – aimed at reducing the outlays that were rising as unemployment continued to increase in the face of the on-going failure to stimulate aggregate demand.

The Government argued that the Active Participation Model would ensure the case loads carried by the Job Network agencies would decline.

Underlying the new approach to “mutual obligation” was the view that improving the effectiveness of the employment services system depended on changes to the system itself, and not on the expansion of employment opportunities.

The enhanced ‘effectiveness’ of the system was sought by a reconfiguration of the payment structure and greater integration between Job Network services and mutual obligation activities.

As a result, the ‘Job Search Training’ and ‘Intensive Assistance’ programs were recast as ‘Intensive Support’ and ‘Customised Assistance’. A job seeker who remained unemployed after 12 months would receive Customised Assistance (CA) for a further six-month period.

After that if the individual had not found work they would be required to undertake another Mutual Obligation activity, which included Work for the Dole programs.

The extant data at the time showed the Work for Dole programs to be a categorical failure in providing a bridge to paid-work in the open labour market.

Data on labour market assistance outcomes for the year to March 2002 showed that three months after completing Work for the Dole just 11.6 per cent of participants were in full-time work. Half of the participants remained unemployed or had withdrawn from the labour force while one-quarter were in receipt of further assistance.

Not a lot has changed since. The performance of the Job Services sector in Australia is appalling.

Further, the Government introduced penalties that would be imposed on the long-term unemployed people found to be – in the Government’s assessment – not genuinely seeking work.

The Government gave the Job Network providers the power to identify and punish unemployed people that the Government believes are deliberately avoiding work.

Once identified, the Job Agencies were also able to force these workers to complete double the hours in work-for-the-dole programs and issue on-the-spot suspensions of payments for unemployed people who failed to attend interviews.

This penalty system was called breaching. The data that emerged was shocking. There was an escalation in the number of people subjected to the loss of benefits.

The evidence was that Job Network providers acted capriciously and had no specific procedural guidelines for making decisions about breach recommendations leading to inconsistent treatment of the unemployed within a single organisation.

We learned that unemployed workers who failed to attend a first interview were more consistently and readily breached than others. Rules of natural justice were not being correctly applied in all instances (some unemployed were subjected to unjust decision-making processes).

Job Network agencies used strategic breaching to remove potentially “non productive” unemployed from the books – which meant – workers who they felt they were unable to secure any further placement funding for.

Moreover, those that were being breached include schizophrenics who were prone to episodic illness and unable to attend interviews on days when they were suffering the most; homeless people who were unable to access mail at old addresses informing them of an activity test interview and other disadvantaged citizens.

The reality is that the new compliance regime that the Australian Government introduced did not address the substantive cause of the mass unemployment – the failure of the economy to provide enough jobs.

It established a new industry – with private parasites pursuing a profit motive by meeting perverse performance targets specified in their contracts. These agencies were meant to support the unemployed but quickly assumed a police-type role imposing fines and disciplining the unemployed.

The system failed to achieve any of its stated purposes which were, of-course, not the real roles that the government was interested in pursuing anyway.

A major OECD report came out in 2001 endorsing the Australian government’s supply-side approach – OECD (2001) Innovations in Labour Market Policies, The Australian Way, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Paris – which concluded that Australia has lead the way in introducing “market-type mechanisms into job-broking and related employment services” (Page 11).

The OECD concluded that in terms of labour market policies Australia “has been among the OECD countries complying best” (Page 14) with the OECD 1994 Jobs Strategy. It is tangential to this blog – but the evidence doesn’t support the OECD’s conclusion. Australia’s Work for the Dole scheme is poorly conceived and the Government has admitted it is just a “compliance program” forcing workers to work for their miserable (below poverty-line) unemployment benefit.

The British government, under New Labour, followed Australia down this very sorry path and the movie – I, Daniel Blake – tells us what a disadvantaged worker can expect.

The UK Work Capability Assessment, which Daniel fell foul of (but the fault was in the tool not the applicant) echoes the way the Australian system evolved.

The UK Labour government introduced this pernicious piece of bureaucracy that is designed to prevent people from getting sickness benefits rather that facilitating their access on medical advice.

The instrument is similar in nature to the Australian Job Seeker Classification Instrument (JSCI) which was introduced to deliberately slim down the pool of income support reciplients. It is a pernicious survey instrument designed to humiliate the disadvantaged and get them off benefits.

On April 22, 2006 I wrote the blog entry (in my old blog format) about the Disability Support Pension and the application of the JSCI:

The Federal Government at its finest!

Today I became aware of a case of a person in their late teens who is severely autistic, is stricken by life threatening epilepsy and has late onset Rett Syndrome. We learn that Rett syndrome “is a childhood neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by normal early development followed by loss of purposeful use of the hands, distinctive hand movements, slowed brain and head growth, gait abnormalities, seizures, and mental retardation … gradually, mental and physical symptoms appear … loss of muscle tone … [loss of] … use of … hands and the ability to speak … The loss of functional use of the hands is followed by compulsive hand movements such as wringing and washing … the inability to perform motor functions – is perhaps the most severely disabling feature of Rett syndrome, interfering with every body movement, including eye gaze and speech.”

So this person cannot speak, cannot eat or wash without assistance, is not toilet trained and requires around the clock care and attention from family. She is also on disability support pension (DSP).

Yesterday, she received a letter from the Federal Government which said that because she is receiving DSP she is subject to the new welfare-to-work rules. The letter then said that according to these rules she is now required by law to look for work or face loss of entitlements.

This is a Government who deliberately runs Budget Surpluses such that those who are willing and able to work cannot find enough work because there are not enough jobs or hours of work created in the economy. And at the same time, the genii in FACS and DEWR dream up ever more pernicious ways to humiliate the most disadvantaged of our citizens, including those who are unable to work. So, the Australian Government at its finest.

This is a common example of how these neo-liberal governments, obsessed with the meaningless (running budget surpluses at all costs), inflict inhumane treatment on the poor.

The ‘sanctions’ that Daniel and Katie (the single mother) face in the movie are styled on the breaching that the Job Network oversaw.

Treating the poor with contempt as if they are criminals – who incur fines for crimes – is the hallmark of these systems.

British Sociology Academic Zygmunt Bauman provided a summary of his 1998 book Work, consumerism and the new poor in the 1999 New Internationalist article – The burning of popular fear.

He wrote:

The poor will always be with us, but what it means to be poor depends on the kind of us they are with …

Us have been pushed and prodded by years of misleading information about macroeconomic options, about the causes of mass unemployment, about the capacities of currency-issuing governments, about the powerlessness of individuals to gain work if there is a systemic failure to generate enough jobs, and more.

It has led to a cruel indifference towards our fellow citizen. We have normalised this disdain and cruelty in these bureaucratic systems such as those administered by the DWP in Britain.

All of the travails that Daniel Blake encountered are political choices not determined by any natural order or government financial shortage.

The UK Guardian article (September 11, 2016) – I, Daniel Blake: Ken Loach and the scandal of Britain’s benefits system – is correct in saying that:

This is a political choice, not the outcome of a feckless sub-stratum of society. The facts ought to speak for themselves. But such is the toxicity of the shirkers-versus-strivers message, delivered by all the leading political parties, that facts are no longer believed. That’s why we need the visceral emotion of Loach.

Political response

The political response has been predictable.

The British Labour Party have embraced the movie. Jeremy Corbyn urged the British PM to see it.

The Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell was reported as saying (Source):

I, Daniel Blake was one of the most moving films I’ve ever seen so I’m very pleased we have teamed up with Ken Loach to urge people to go and watch it at these special screenings taking place before the autumn statement.

We’re living in an I, Daniel Blake society as a result of having the Tories in power for six years. The government should be caring for sick and disabled people, not making their lives worse.

But he also has introduced what he called the Party’s “fiscal credibility rule” and promised he will “balance the budget” if in office.

Until he rejects the central macroeconomic premises of neo-liberalism it is hard to see British Labour doing anything very different to what it espoused when in office last time under the guise of New Labour.

The Conservatives called the movie a “fictional film”.

Just the Groupthink responses we should expect.

I note that recently, the UK Disability News Service (DNS) has just secured a Freedom of Information request against the Department of Work and Pensions to force so-called “internal reports detailing the way it manipulated media reporting of benefits cuts” to be made public (Source).

Suppression of information is just one way that these fascist-style neo-liberal governments hide their disgusting behaviour – just in case we find out.

For example, on the issue of benefit sanctions, which feature in the I, Daniel Blake movie, the DWP reports show how it manipulated the media to successfully “dampened interest” in the sanctions report, which had the effect of ensuring “a smaller spike in coverage than previous critical reports”.

Conclusion

Films like – I, Daniel Blake – are hard to watch. But they are essential if the lies and misinformation spread by these increasingly authoritarian and cruel governments are to be exposed.

The Italian vote and the ‘surprise’ votes before it (Trump, Brexit) signal that we are getting sick of the elites and their ways. But until we can really understand the way these systems reinforce the hegemony the elites enjoy we will only get the responses of people like John McDonnell – ‘things are bad but we need to balance the budget’ type statements.

Unfortunately the cinema was near empty last night.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2016 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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    37 Responses to I, Daniel Blake – essential viewing

    1. Jennifer Meyer-Smith says:

      A great synopsis of ‘I, Daniel Blake’.

      My daughter and I saw it on Sunday night at 7pm and there were only 4 others in a small cinema, so it’s hard for me to gauge a reasonable sized audience.

      I agree everybody should see this film to gain an accurate understanding of how devastating unemployment and under-employment is for vulnerable people on Welfare.

      It’s also essential that Australian Labor and British Labour do not parrot the neoliberal falsehood that surpluses are important. It’s essential that they advocate infrastructure, industrial and services expenditure that will help to flush extra funding into the economy that will encourage the conditions for more employment opportunities for diverse people, including mature-aged, viable and highly skilled women, who are often pushed to the back of the employment queues.

    2. Brendanm says:

      Queue yoko Ono and primeval screaming.

    3. Anonymous says:

      I’ve experienced the Australian welfare system first hand as a student and as an unemployed person. Luckily I have the ability to articulate myself and learnt how the system operated to be able to receive the minimal support on offer.

      My payments were suspended on several occasions for administrative errors made by those in the offices. The beauracrtic nightmare it was to then prove information was entered incorrectly was so exhausting it took a toll on my mental and physical health. Luckily I had a decent support network of friends and am single and have no children. The burden and stress placed onto those that don’t have a place to live or are caring for children would be unbearable and only cause psychological harm.

      The current government is hell bent on punishing anyone on any payment. A family member of mine had his payments cut for not confirming his details were correct! All correspondence was done electronically through the MyGov portal which was not checked only for a couple weeks.

    4. Jennifer Meyer-Smith says:

      Perhaps you would like to elaborate, Brendanm?

    5. Barri Mundee says:

      I’m glad its not just me who can’t understand what Brendanm is trying to express.

    6. Postkey says:

      “The Treasury has misdiagnosed high welfare spending as the result of inadequate work incentives and has too often blamed individuals for their own predicament, whereas in fact a large part of the bill is rooted in job destruction extending back decades.”
      “In Middlesbrough by 2020-21, the financial loss from all the post-2010 welfare reforms is estimated to exceed £1,000 a year per adult of working age. This is an average loss across all 16-64 year olds, including non-claimants. For those actually in receipt of welfare benefits the average financial loss will obviously be larger – sometimes much larger. In Bradford the average loss per working age adult is £970 a year, in Oldham £950 a year, and in Merthyr Tydfil in the heart of the Welsh Valleys £920 a year. Across most of older industrial Britain the loss exceeds £750 a year. In Cambridge the equivalent figure is just £340 a year. “

      Sheffield Hallam University study

    7. Gogs says:

      Dear Postkey,

      I live slap bang in one of those areas you refer to, so I am fully aware of the distress that unemployment spreads among its inhabitants. I don’t go in for much local statistical analysis when it comes to local voting patterns, but I don’t really need to; the overriding view of the population is that no matter what the complexion of the government, our jobs are being exported to cheaper areas of the world. Just to complete this lousy picture it is also profoundly believed that the unemployment situation is exacerbated by all those immigrants taking our jobs.

      To add spice to this vile dish it is Labour party supporters who believe it strongest. And, as in the US, they plead for someone strong enough to fight it; someone who can overturn this rotten world into which we are sinking. So they are prepared to vote, in a supremely ironic sense, for a billionaire capitalist.

      What these people want is leadership, someone to show a depiction of a path they are keen to follow. Instead, what we get is an incessant stream of denigration; is that to be Bill’s legacy.

    8. larry says:

      Gogs, Bill has provided an MMT economic road map. Have a look at this blog post from November 2013, “How to Discuss Modern Monetary Theory” — http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=25961. Do check out the summary tables towards the bottom of the post. The first compares MMT with the neoclassical narrative. The second lists the most prominent neoclassical myths. The central concept in this post is that of framing. Hope this helps.

    9. Jane Clout says:

      The Lancet has just published an eloquent explanation with a historical perspective showing why a decent safety net available to all citizens is good economic sense.
      It goes back to the time of Elizabeth the First – you need to create a free account to read it here http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)32429-1/fulltext
      “We argue from history that there should be an end to setting the goal of economic growth against that of welfare provision. A healthy and prospering society needs both. We suggest that they feed each other.”

    10. Phil says:

      So it continues, and ever more bizarrely. This from a recent Herald Sun story (Aus):
      ——————
      On Wednesday, Ms Charker continually refused to concede that Down syndrome — a genetic condition in which an extra chromosome gives a person physical and intellectual disability — was incurable.
      Ms Charker was appearing at a Federal parliamentary Joint Committee Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA) hearing into the DSP.

      Human Services senior bureaucrat Jill Charker outraged Down syndrome parents when she refused to admit the condition cannot be cured.

      [a] mother, who said parents in the Down syndrome community are both angry and scared about the Budget review, told news.com.au it was “a government pension cutting exercise… I can’t believe they caught her saying that on film. .. The extra chromosome doesn’t just disappear. I’m speechless.”
      ——————–

      And the statement below might be reasonable and accurately describe procedure, but what happened to common sense? That is, why does DHS not include a simple checkbox on client’s records that affirms undisputed medical science, and save all the pain. Or is ‘pain’ the intent?

      ———————-
      Department of Human Services General Manager Hank Jongen said in a statement: “The Department of Human Services does not assess whether a person’s disability can be cured or not… The review focuses on a person’s functional ability, as opposed to their disability.”
      ———————–

    11. Barri Mundee says:

      I live in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria Australia, a region that produces most of the electricity for the state. The region is blessed (cursed) with enough low grade coal (lignite) to last hundreds of years and is cheaply dug up by open cut mining. The neoliberal virus really took hold here in the early 1990’s when the industry which ad been publicly owned was sold off on the basis of the narrow concept of efficiency Bill has discussed.

      The outcome has been devastating for the region. Thousands of jobs have gone and unemployment is about 20% in Morwell and 15% in Moe. Social and health problems have skyrocketed.

      A few older power plants have closed and now the 2000mw Hazelwood plant will close in 2017 with further job losses. The community and local business is fearful. Government has responded with funds to “attract new industries” and the like but it is obvious to that the essential problem is shortage of demand and contractionary federal policies which are focused on making budget savings and “budget repair”.

      I have suggested in a letter to the local newspaper that one. Of the key measured thatbus needed in our region and others, need a a job guarantee along the lines Bill and others have proposed. I expected to receive some feedback, probably negative, but there was no response.

      I will try again but it’s hard to cut through the neoliberal paradigm of “we dint have the money” etc

    12. Alan Dunn says:

      The job guarantee can never work because the same bastards running the Jobs Network would be the types administrating the Job Guarantee.

      This has never and will never be addressed by Bill or any of the MMT people because they don’t even recognise it as a problem.

      The facts are we have people holding back our society from functioning fairly and equitably. Laws need to be changed and these people need to be incarcerated. Simple as that. If we can imprison a terrorist we should also be able to do the same for anyone that has every worked for the Jobs Network, Human Resources, casual labour hire… and so on.

      Those people serve no purpose in creating a fair and equitable society and either need to change their ways or be removed from society until they change their ways.

    13. Alan Dunn says:

      The problem is Bill wants these very same people involved with the Job Network to be involved with the administration of the Job Guarantee.

      Unless I’m missing something here there must be some administrative role within the JG framework.

      Who would get these positions ?

    14. Brendanm says:

      @Alan Dunn says:

      The problem is Bill wants these very same people involved with the Job Network to be involved with the administration of the Job Guarantee.

      Not entirely true, as Bill seems to see local government having a significant role, however even at this level these leeches will have significant leverage to capture and derail the job guarantee. Local government does seem pretty susceptible to corrupting influences.

      My personal concept would be maximal decentralisation, ie effectively allowing individual citizens to administer their own personal small scale JG by extending credit to fellow citizens, at minimum wage level, in return for JG work. It would be similar to a basic income, but with the twist that it could only be used to pay for JG work.

    15. Jennifer Meyer-Smith says:

      Brendanm,

      a most appropriate response by Yoko Ono to Humpty Dumpty.

    16. Simonsky says:

      CaMoron’s phrase ‘doing the right thing’ is a phrase he used often which when unpacked reads: ‘ we want you bastards to play the finance capitalism game which we benefit from so fulsomely. We don’t want you to recieve money that has not gone through the debt based financial system so that banks can feed off your carrion. ‘

      Unfortunately due to a cowed and feaful populace, the craven and shysterly Tories managed to pit the working poor against those on bdnefits. As usual the Left (not) failed to explain this because of media fear which controlled the vox populi.

    17. paul says:

      “The problem is Bill wants these very same people involved with the Job Network to be involved with the administration of the Job Guarantee.”

      ….and they would do as they were told, just as they do now. A government with the political will to introduce a JG would presumably not desire to see its benefits dissipated by such behaviour.

      “My personal concept would be maximal decentralisation, ie effectively allowing individual citizens to administer their own personal small scale JG by extending credit to fellow citizens, at minimum wage level, in return for JG work. It would be similar to a basic income, but with the twist that it could only be used to pay for JG work.”

      They can do that by spending their JG income. JG allows managed public investment of unused resources (labour and government investment powers) to provide unmet public needs.

      Anything badly/corruptly managed will have bad outcomes

    18. Brendanm says:

      Paul says:

      Anything badly/corruptly managed will have bad outcomes

      Equally, anything that can be badly managed will be. My concept is to make it infeasible to “manage” the JG for any but the broadest of macroeconomic goals by giving as much power as possible to the individual.

      Even under this version of JG the inflationary pressures are minimal because labour is still paid at the minimum wage and still limited to 35 hrs per week or whatever. If the macroeconomic goals are met without an expensive oversight authority, what is the justification for creating such an uncontrollable beast?

    19. paul says:

      “Equally, anything that can be badly managed will be.”

      Well, we may as well give up now as I can’t think of anything that can’t be managed badly, including individualised JG decisions.

      I think you would have to flesh out how your concept would work.
      If I understand correctly from your one sentence definition;
      Some people , presumably with jobs, get money to spend on JG outputs from the Job Guaranteed.
      Or all people get money to spend on JG outputs from the Job Guaranteed and the income that the Job Guaranteed receive must be solely spent on other Job Guaranteed’s output.
      It would take considerable bureaucracy to manage and monitor either process and seems to incur considerable loss of dignity and choice at the price of considerable complexity.

    20. Brendanm says:

      Everyone, whether employed or not, has the right to hire x hours of JG labour, paid at minimum wage.

      This could easily live in competition with larger scale publicly directed JG programs.

      A small bureaucracy, probably mainly automated, would administer wages and conditions for all of JG, but not direct work.

      The workers should choose what is best for them.

      Wages from JG are money, with no constraints on use.

    21. Alan Dunn says:

      Meet the new boss . Same as the old boss. Full employment would be great but this experiment is doomed to failure.

      There is just no way that the elites or anyone for that matter will want to see the gap between them and the people below them with respect to incomes shrink.

      I mean people these days replace perfectly good phones because a new model comes out offering pretty much nothing new. People even own several of the same item in different colours.

      And then you have housing affordability ? There is simply no way anyone on a JG wage is ever going to be able to afford their own home. Therefore they will have to rent which makes them an easy target for those that are fortunate enough to own properties.

      The rents will adjusted accordingly and you will have JG people in just as poor a financial situation as they were before they started in the JG.

      There might be some short term happiness but once the numbers are crunched the vultures will start swooping.

      Sorry for sounding so negative but people need a reality check.

    22. Indigo says:

      JG can work. Keep it simple and in govt. hands.

      For many decades Aust PS recruitment was handled singly by the Aust Public Service Commission – until a warped idea took hold mid 90’s that each dept had to independently run their own show, establish enterprise bargaining pay structures, and ‘deliver’ efficiency dividends back to consolidated revenue (read cut jobs and salary expenditure).

      Consequently, and coupled with agency staffing freezes initiated in various post 2000 (debt and deficit disaster) budgets, increases in services demand coupled with legislated policy changes driving new govt implementation, we have a case of vastly overloaded public workforce leading to under-delivery, de-prioritising of important work, and failure to execute business workplans due to insufficient staff resources.

      Immediately, there is high workload capacity and unmet demand in this sector for ongoing requirements – add in Local Govt as well.

      A feasible JG model:

      1. JG Payment Rate: Newstart + Buffer = Minimum Wage -15%. (ie. JG rate remains CONSTANT regardless of skill level or role. Set to a rate LESS than minimum wage as motivation to exit JG for higher reward private sector work in an improving economy. JG Rate is increased to address Newstart poverty-line issues).

      2. A JG budget is established, comprises reallocated Annual Newstart Allocation + avoided Jobactive Network Provider Fees & Subsidies + avoided Centrelink Administration & Compliance costs (less an amount for simpler JG administration).

      Expect the true cost of this current regime to be in the billions! (be good if any numbers worked out on this already?) – aim is for JG as a cost-neutral funding exercise based on these inputs.

      3. JG Agency is formed. Simple govt recruitment/ admin function.

      4. Govt agencies and Local Councils bid for and allocated JG positions according to JG budget. They identify scope of work and numbers needed to accommodate requirements and submit to APSC. Each JG job has minimal entry level requirements, and must be portable (ie. send the work to regions where needed. Roles situated in current govt tenanted locations.

      5. JG recipient Placed on 9x month contract, option to renew subject to conditions. During that time person remains available to seek other recruitment and training opportunities. Condition of JG is in months before/ after 9 month expiry, recipient has to Market-Test (apply of x no. of jobs). For chronically unemployed, a 9x month window assigned real, productive work offers better prospects than a) retraining for jobs in fields they have no experience in, or b) menial work (working for the dole or volunteering).

      6. Unemployed recipients lodge details with APSC.

      7. APSC matches unemployed with job options, considering JG person accepts one of the 3 or assigned default option.

      8. What to do with locations of mass structural unemployment? (eg Latrobe, North NSW). Fact is that if there is no feasible re-employment prospects (eg Manufacturing) then mobility has to be accepted. JG is allocated 1 recipient: 1 position, and APSC will attempt to balance the number of JG positions to match JG recipients in respective towns or surrounding regions, but end of the day to qualify JG recipient will move to allocated available JG position.

    23. Jennifer Meyer-Smith says:

      One solution for structural unemployment is for government to provide government-backed micro-finance for unemployed and under-employed people who want to run their own micro businesses and who have the skills and experience to take on their ventures.

      The micro finance will come in the forms of Micro Finance Grants (MFGs) and Micro Credit Loans (MCLs). MFGs will be $10,00-$15,000 grants which are non-repayable. MCLs will be $20,000-$30,000 and repayable at low interest rates and affordable payment schedules.

      The aim is to provide the necessary finance to the most needy so they can provide their own employment when and where jobs are not existent. The MFGs and MCLs will be over and above Newstart for a reasonable period of time to allow the micro-businesses to get up and running. This proposal is of particular relevance to the Latrobe Valley and Morwell in particular, which is where I am promoting it.

      Also, I support government-backed funding for low and no income people to purchase their own homes. If they are able to pay exorbitant rents to pay off other people’s mortgages, it also means they would be able to afford modest homes of their own, especially in regional areas.

      The mortgages would be owned by the government so if there are defaults, the government holds the mortgage. The government would also derive reasonable interest repayments which would help revenue rotation.

    24. Roman says:

      This sounds like a progressive urban myth!
      My personal experience, 3 relatives on disability or carers allowance, is that it very easy to game the system.
      My nephew was moved onto a carers allowance after the Howard Government crackdown on “dole-bludgers” – he had been on unemployment benefits for years!
      Also, newspaper reports of court cases which incidentally reveal how easy it is to get the single mothers allowance -“Go to Centrelink and tell them that you are now divorced but still living in the the same house as your former husband”!
      Welfare spending is running at $160 billion, income tax revenue is only $190 billion!

    25. Jennifer Meyer-Smith says:

      Roman,

      I’ll take your 3 anecdotes and bet you 30,000,000 real life people who are legitimately on Welfare in Australia and Britain and who are neither properly assisted into actual, meaningful and dignified employment nor supported with proactive funding programs that will allow them to derive their own viable self-employment.

      By the way, have you seen “I, Daniel Blake”? People, who are sick, should not be bullied by a neoliberalist system that refuses to acknowledge legitimate claims to the Disability Sickness Benefit and the British equivalent.

    26. hanns says:

      It is impressive the way history repeats itself. By that kind of welfare reforms one feels reminded of the poor law amendments of 1834. The situation then was similar. Yeomen had been dislodged and expropriated from common lands, forced to draw on poor relief. For the sake of the producing industries a disciplinary and prisonlike system with work-houses an so on was introduced. The ideology of the Victorian bourgeoisie, Malthusianism and the like, is very similar to that of today. Reading Dickens one feels like reading conservative newspapers of today. We in Germany had similar welfare reforms in 2003, the infamous Hartz-Reforms or Agenda 2010 of the scoundrel-chancellor Schröder. A Blarite-Social-Democrat . It had a large effect on German real wages which actually shrank from 2003 to 2007 till the crisis (and actually helped building up the euro crisis). On the other hand these developements were also dialectical. The Hartz-Laws split the traditional Social-Democracy in Germany. The left wing (which shortly formed a party called WASG) united with the former communist party PDS to form a relatively strong radical left – Die Linke -, which just entered the local government of Berlin and had 8 – 12 Percent of votes in the national polls since then.

    27. hanns says:

      On the poor laws, on should read ‘The great transformation’ from Karl Polanyi.

    28. Hacky The Hufrex says:

      “I, Daniel Blake” is set in the North East of England, therefore anecdotes about Australia have no relevance to the degree of realism in the film’s depiction.

      I found the film to be a very rosy depiction of life in the UK. Tory funding changes to NHS GP care shifted funding to an age weighted formula. As the gap between life expectancy in rich and poor areas of the UK is 20 years, this had the effect of removing funding from GPs working in poor areas. GPs are gatekeepers to healthcare in the NHS. A real Daniel Blake would have found it much harder to access health care.

    29. Philip says:

      According to the Neo-liberal mantra.

      Labour intensive manufacturing is moving to low wage economies like China because it’s cheaper to manufacture there and let’s be honest who would dare deny the Chinese their opportunity to participate in the process of economic development at long last?

      That said, domestic production is robotizing and mechanizing so the number of us gainfully employed in the West will fall whilst the profits generated concentrate into fewer and fewer hands!

      So what are the rest of us supposed to do to earn the living needed to buy up all this lovely output being produced?

      You can’t direct income up to the top and down to the bottom of the global income distribution and expect the middle will maintain the spending power needed to keep the show on the road by borrowing! The middle aren’t sovereign governments. They do have to balance their budgets.

      The number of times I’m told the internet produced Uber and it’s the future of work. Yet it’s a business model that exploits those who had to take out loan to pay for their car and cannot generate enough income to maintain the payments. Welfare regimes like the ones described here simply drive people into Uber and into other dubious business models. Welfare models like the ones described here are all about disciplining labour until it accepts poor pay and conditions.

      If this is the future, we are heading for economic disaster. It’s unsustainable.

    30. bill says:

      Dear Hacky The Hufrex (at 2016/12/10 at 12:08 pm)
      You said:

      “I, Daniel Blake” is set in the North East of England, therefore anecdotes about Australia have no relevance to the degree of realism in the film’s depiction.

      Which tells me you missed the point.

      The fact is that Australia pioneered the activisim model in labour market service delivery that New Labour in Britain took up. The same sort of system was superimposed on the British labour market.

      best wishes
      bill

    31. Hacky The Hufrex says:

      hi Bill

      My comment relates to Roman’s anecdotes which are used to question the realism of “I, Daniel Blake”. “I, Daniel Blake” is a story of multiple failures leading to personal catastrophe. The love of my life died in similar circumstances to the story so I understand the realism of the story. It’s not just the things you mention. It’s everything combined.

    32. bill says:

      Dear Hacky The Hufrex (at 2016/12/10 at 4:12 pm)

      Thanks very much for the clarification. I am very sorry to hear of your loss.

      best wishes
      bill

    33. Hacky The Hufrex says:

      hi Bill

      I appreciate that you’ve taken the time to reply so thank you.

      I don’t disagree with anything in your article. I was talking purely about realism in film, which I see as an artistic tradition originating in Flaubert and Courbet. The process for making a realist work of art is observation from life. The film is very well researched and is impressive in its representation of DWP behaviour. The repeated errors in basic bureaucracy are accurately portrayed.

      Ken Loach knows that people like Daniel Blake are dying but some of the main causes are missing from the film. Allocation rules for social housing estates give priority to people with health problems so his local area would be full of sick people. The distribution of NHS funds has been altered to protect voters in Tory voting wards. His local authority funding is just over half the real terms funding of ten years ago resulting in removal of necessary social care. These factors place extra stress on the NHS in Daniel Blake’s area. His representative at appeal is probably a solicitor volunteering at the CAB. The CAB have reducing funds and increasing demand. The same kind of desperation and helplessness that is shown in his DWP interactions would have been felt with all institutions.

    34. Great Bill!
      Keep it up!

    35. ‘I am not a client, a customer, nor a service user. I am not a shirker, a scrounger, a beggar nor a thief. I am not a national insurance number, nor a blip on a screen. I paid my dues, never a penny short, and proud to do so. I don’t tug the forelock but look my neighbour in the eye. I don’t accept or seek charity. My name is Daniel Blake, I am a man not a dog. As such, I demand my rights. I demand you treat me with respect. I, Daniel Blake, am a citizen, nothing more, nothing less. Thank you.’

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