Well, Iain Duncan Smith obviously thinks he's onto a winner here.
People will be barred from blowing benefits cash on booze and gambling under a controversial scheme to hand out welfare money on “smart cards” announced today.
Instead of handing claimants cash, they would have credits put on a card that could only be used to buy food and other essentials.
Iain Duncan Smith is certain the scheme, to be fully piloted if the Tories win the election, will help alcohol and gambling addicts stay on the wagon.Because this is the same policy he 'announced' two years ago, netiquette surely excuses me for re-publishing what I said about it back then too.
You see, this is how IDS views the world of the underclass: (cue idyllic 1930s English countryside ditty)But that's only tackling the utter absurdity of a state thinking it can effectively enforce such a silly idea. What about more practical - and fundamental failures - of the policy?
Bert: 'Ere, Joe. The social 'av just given me this 'ere smart card. Instead of me benefits, I gotta use this in shops and it won't work if I try to get me fags and booze!Whereas anyone who has ever lived amongst or near the type of people IDS is targeting know the conversation would, more likely, go like this:
Joe: The bastards! So what yer gonna do, then?
Bert: Nuffink I can do, is there? I'm just gonna 'av to give up the drink and smokes and go get a job!
Bert: 'Ere, Joe. The social 'av just given me this 'ere smart card. Instead of me benefits, I gotta use this in shops and it won't work if I try to get me fags and booze!So, in short, IDS's plan will only work for those who can count on no-one trustworthy enough to do a deal with. Not so much smart cards for the feckless as for the friendless. It also shows his astounding lack of understanding as to the resourcefulness of working class (or, indeed, non-working class) folk. They've been dancing round the - mostly class-motivated - avalanche of sin taxes and government regulations on their way of life for millennia, why would they stop when faced with something as poorly thought-out, and easily counteracted, as selective smart cards?
Joe: The bastards! Anyfink I can do to help, mucker?
Bert: Well, I suppose. You can still buy that stuff, can't ya?
Joe: Yeah. 'Ere, tell you what. Why don't I get your baccy and beer, and I'll give you a food shoppin' list for the same amount. Then I just come round your gaff and we swap.
Bert: Sorted! Cheers, mate.
A convenient headline grabber for the Daily Mail contingent, then, while also gently introducing the idea of smart cards as a means of lifestyle control to a largely bovine public.
Firstly, only the most ridiculous of 'public health' tax spongers deny the overwhelming evidence that moderate alcohol consumption is beneficial to health, trumping teetotalism which is comparatively more dangerous.
So in IDS's crusade to inhibit a minority of welfare claimants from unhealthy consumption, is he really going to prevent the majority drinking moderately and thereby enhancing their health? Yes. Yes, I think he is.
Who knows why this effect happens with alcohol, but considering happiness and an absence of stress are universally accepted as good things for our well-being, that's a possibility. And I'd be astounded if a flutter on the dogs, football, or Grand National once in a while doesn't create the same beneficial effect.
Additionally, where will these smart cards be accepted? Not your local small shop or farmers market, that's for sure.
A smart card scheme will almost certainly require smart card readers and/or “approved outlets” where these cards can be used. No point in a smart card system if the shop can sell you anything it has on its shelves. Either the stores will need to be on a Government “approved list” and agree not to sell a list of forbidden items to the card holders, or at the very least the purchases made will have to have a bar code such that information is somehow be fed back down the line to Big Mother (and the computer says no).
Whilst I am sure that Asda, Tescos, other large retail outlets (and indeed the IT giants behind the Smart card system) will all bend over backwards to facilitate this scheme, what of the small independent shop keeper of market trader? They almost certainly have neither the time, wherewithal, or language skills to go through the bureaucratic nightmare that will almost certainly be entailed in complying with this scheme. And I don’t know about your local market, but at mine only 2 out of about 30 of the stalls even have credit card machines.
The consequence of this scheme will be to place a huge number of outlets off limits to those forced to use such cards for at least part of their purchases. Rich and middle income parents are able to call into the market at the end of the day to pick up the fresh fruit and veg bargains, but the poor who have used all their cash and left only with their smart cards till the end of the week will effectively be barred.Only in statist circles can a policy be sold as somehow "helping" the less well off while simultaneously barring the majority from healthful behaviour; harming outlets such as local shops and farmers markets in favour of restricting all purchases to multi-chain conglomerates; and ignoring the obvious and simple avoidance strategies which will form a new black market in both the smart cards themselves and trading of the benefits, with claimants having to pay a commission for the privilege.
There used to be a time in my youth when politicians were detached enough from public health extremists that they could take a considered view of their rantings in light of all evidence - the moral contempt which we have always suffered from the most anti-social in society was always tempered by the legislature recognising the problems which would come with pandering to them. This no longer seems to apply.
Duncan-Smith's plan is as barmy as it is ill-judged and spiteful. He sees votes in endorsing self-satisfaction and superiority complexes amongst the sneering and bullying self-installed righteous. It doesn't matter that the only potential of his policy is to harm, and it makes a mockery of the Tories' claim that their party is one which espouses common sense and isn't populated by bigoted 'fruitcakes and loonies'.
The way it looks to me, it's going to be a long time before politicians 'get' why they're despised if this is the crap they're coming out with.