Recipient of handouts defends handouts

Writer Angela Epstein with three of her four children

Just £60 a month can keep a journalist’s child in shoes

I have read a great deal of utter rubbish about the coalition government’s ‘cuts‘. But the article in the Daily Mail by Angela Epstein might be the most cretinous, whiny, self interested bucket of bilge I’ve yet come across.

Mrs Epstein and her husband earn well over £100,000 a year. This puts them in the top 15% of earners. Yet they receive Child Benefit of “£20.30 a week for the first child and £13.40 for each extra one until they are 18” for their four kids (three boys, 19,17, and 14, and a girl, 8).

It might seem odd that people as rich as this receive state benefits at all. You can thank the idea of ‘universal’ benefits. When the welfare state was introduced it was thought that making poverty a condition for receiving benefits might make those who received them feel bad. So, to spare their feelings, it was decided that certain benefits would be dished out to everybody who qualified regardless of income. Thus, a Lord I know who owns a collections of stately homes once told me he was being paid Winter Fuel Allowance to heat his palace.

Obviously, with the British governments finances in such dreadful shape, this principle ought to be one of the first to be junked. And, however imperfectly, it is being. You’d also think that it would be one of the least controversial cuts. Not a bit of it. Ed Miliband, a man who never saw a bandwagon he didn’t try and jump on, supports benefits for millionaires. It’s generally a good thing to be on the opposite side of an argument to Ed Miliband. And its rather pleasing to be on the opposite to Mrs Epstein too.

The first thing to note about Mrs Epstein’s article is that, never once, does she use the word ‘taxpayer’. Instead you have a phrase like this; “There was something quite heartening to think the State was directly responsible for ensuring my children had shoes”

First, isn’t Mrs Epstein primarily responsible for ensuring her children had shoes? Since when did the State become some sort of Daddy Warbucks who will take care of us all and abrogate us of all responsibility to look after ourselves and our families no matter how rich we are?

And what is this ‘State’ that is apparently responsible for making sure Mrs Epstein’s kids don’t go barefoot? The State has no money with which to buy shoes for Mrs Epstein’s kids other than that it takes from the taxpayer, most of whom earn less than Mrs Epstein. Yet she can write, apparently without a hint of shame, “Despite earning a good salary as a journalist and broadcaster and being married to a chartered accountant, the Government money lands in my account each month. I accept it happily, without so much as a twitch of embarrassment” Its not government money though, it’s taxpayers money.

The whining self justification continues. You get a statement like this “I understand that we are going through a time of great financial difficulty in this country and that sacrifices must be made to get us back on track” followed by statements like this “But why should my children lose out” and this “The State had pledged its support for all parents. Why should that change?” In other words, yes, sacrifices will have to be made. By someone else.

As Margaret Thatcher famously said,

“I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand “I have a problem, it is the Government’s job to cope with it!” or “I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!” “I am homeless, the Government must house me!” and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.”

The people primarily responsible for putting shoes on the feet of children are the parents of those children. If they cannot then the State, with taxpayer funds, can step in. But the belief that the State represents an inexhaustible teat at which we are all entitled to suck on endlessly is part of what got us into this mess. Britain spends more on welfare than the entire GDP of Austria, a prosperous nation of 8.4 million people.

“I’m not talking about a tax loophole or state backhander that allows the streetwise to filch from an already over-committed welfare state” Mrs Epstein says. Yes, that’s exactly what she’s talking about.


2 thoughts on “Recipient of handouts defends handouts

  1. Pingback: Labour and the welfare bill | Manchester Liberal

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