Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The Hardest Hit: More Than Market Failure

Mark Littlewood appeared on You & Yours today, discussing the impact of spending cuts on disabled people and whether disabled people are the hardest hit. It seemed odd that the Director of the Institute of Economic Affairs, the UK’s original free market thinktank, should appear on this show, given the topic. The level of ignorance that this man showed was astounding, until you remember that it was a free-market, light-touch regulation approach to banking which caused the financial crisis. One of the suggestions he made on the show for a flexible, low-cost welfare system was devolving responsibility to local authorities. Such a move would probably cost more as each locality duplicated its own system, and it seems odd that an economist would make such a ludicrous suggestion. That is until you remember that the Director of the Institute of Economic Affairs isn’t even an economist.

He expressed his horror that 10% of the working age population of the UK is deemed incapable of work. This is misdirection – lying – pure and simple. The actual figure is a couple of hundred thousand claimants fewer than he suggested. Some research shows that the figure is in line with other developed countries, however “preposterous” Mark may think it is. In developing countries impairments that are routinely treated by the NHS are quite deadly and often completely undiagnosed, so comparing the UK’s rate of incapacity with the world’s in general is spurious. Claiming that this is “surely, far too high” as Mark did, and asking “what sort of plague has hit the UK?”, is unhelpful and plumbs the depths of ignorance.

He then roundly patronized those severely disabled by “terrible afflictions” who are, apparently, “desperate and deserving”, but suggested that unless disabled people were complete and physical mental wrecks “it is their responsibility to overcome it”. Mark suggested that people must take responsibility for themselves by taking out insurance policies. This overlooks the fact that millions of people claim Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and other disability benefits right now. Many, if not most, of those people won’t be able to apply for insurance anymore. Private insurance may be an option for the future, although there are question marks regarding affordability for the lower deciles of the income distribution, but the discussion was concerning the disabled people of today and suggesting responsibility and insurance was an empty, straw man argument.

The conversation reached its nadir when Mark attempted to bluster his way through the interview by repeating that “there is no money left” and, as such, that disability benefits were unaffordable. There are many possible answers. First, this is an argument made by the Director of the IEA in the full knowledge that a spokesperson for the Disability Benefits Consortium would have no reply. Secondly, there is still money being spent – and the question is about why disability has been downgraded as a priority.

Thirdly, there is a lot of money left. The UK is one of the richest nations in the OECD, and the financial crisis has not changed that – it is only that the super-rich, including Mark with his six-figure salary, have moved this money where it does not benefit the nation at large. Fourthly, even if there were no money left, we should borrow sensibly – cutting public expenditure dramatically at this time will serve only to reverse economic growth, widening the fiscal deficit. Finally, Mark vehemently denied that disabled people were hardest hit by the cuts, The Centre for Welfare Reform has shown comprehensively that 25% of the cuts fall on the 3% of the population who are most severely disabled. £9bn of the total £89bn deficit cutting programme affects disabled people directly. Mark’s argument was so pathetic that it deserves no airing.

Mark was worried on air that he was coming across as “hard-hearted”. Have no fear Mark, you did nothing of the sort. You just came across as an idiot...

9 comments:

lucia/not crzy said...

As you have previously posted it will only take 9 days to pay for DLA if the Robin Hood tax was implemented....

Anonymous said...

Well written and accurate - the problem seems to be that on many of these programmes they are getting people on who are completely ignorant and have no idea what they are talking about! If they get people on who are saying elephants are gray and the sea is blue - this is completely irrelevant to addressing the issues! which is in essence what this guy did!

Anonymous said...

I have no idea why Mark Littlewood was on the programme today talking on this subject as he obviously has no idea what 'disability' means. This could have been a productive and interesting debate had someone else who knew what they were talking about been invited on. His comments were offensive to many people, including myself who has a son with Downs Syndrome and severe learning difficulties. Cuts have to be made that is accepted but the government must listen to the people who are well informed and are living with disabilities in order to make the right decisions that will not put excessive pressure on families, carers, social care services and the NHS.

fourbanks said...

The guy Mark Littlewood must be a fool words fail me

Pauline said...

If there is no money left (Littlewood's mantra), why are we still paying him, CEO's, NHS bosses and LA executives such high salaries? All in it together? I do not think so.

fourbanks said...

well said pauline

Robert said...

Well why would you want somebody on TV who can argue the problems, the fact is both Labour and the Tories are both heading down the route of private insurance, if was Brown who suggested DLA was a wasted benefit. In Wales labour won the election to rule Wales and we are now hearing they Labour and the Tories will come together to work not in coalition but as partners in style.

Disabled in our society worked hard to get equality well we have it now, Labour got rid of the DRC because it worked for us, something that annoyed Blair deeply.

In the end we will pay for the banking crises, but then again Blair had a go at us way back in 1997.

I suspect the next few years will see massive change to welfare and disability it will also see the end of the so called socialist labour party

MummyLion said...

i wonder where he got the 1 in 10 figure from because ive heard that quoted before on several occasions.

i'm deeply disturbed by this whole scenario, i'm not disabled *yet* but i certainly cant afford house insurance let alone health insurance!

Belinda Shale said...

This may be of interest as well

http://www.patient-experience.com/index.php/carers-poverty-protest-2011/