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Wealth

I am getting entirely fed up with the number of adverts I am seeing on my TV for lotteries and, in particular, lotteries for charities.

Seemingly endless ways of people wanting to take my money for largely, no return.

RNIB, Poppy Lottery, Oxfam, Cancer Research, they’re all doing it. The list is never-ending.  

Why are these charities spending, what must be thousands, on this sort of TV advertising and why are they pandering to our ‘get rich quick’ society. Why re they trying to take our money for virtually nothing. Celebrities don’t do these ads for free, they charge, the TV companies showing the ads don’t air them for nothing, they are out to make a profit. £1 per week here, £1 per week there, for every pound spent on lotteries, that’s one less pound that could be spent on things more important things such as food, clothes, heating and lighting.

It all mounts up, there must be another way.

And, who are the people who spend money on lotteries, speculating on financial pipe-dreams? Is it the people at the top, the people with money to burn, the bankers, the politicians, the businessmen and women in the gilded skyscrapers of the City, the high rollers, the elite or is it the people at the bottom who just scraping by and who barely have enough for their daily living needs. The celebrities who are promoting these lotteries are unlikely to be buying their weekly ticket, the shareholders of the TV companies showing the ads are not dreaming of a big win, they already get that when their dividends are paid. A study in the USA in the Journal of Gambling Studies in 2012 found that ‘Those in the lowest fifth in terms of socioeconomic status (SES) had the “highest rate of lottery gambling (61%)’. It’s not the rich who are gambling away their money because that’s what it is, gambling, it’s the poor who have little enough disposable income as it is. I know that someone has to win and that some lucky people actually have, but the chances ‘It Could be You’ are vanishingly small.

Unlike the National Lottery, big-charity lottery players don’t even receive a ticket or have a thrill of anticipation, watching the balls being drawn live, checking their numbers off when the draw is made after yet another TV, get rich quick, game show. They don’t even know what their numbers are or which numbers have been drawn each week. Nothing to show for what they have spent. They just have the money taken out of their bank accounts, week in, week out for nothing more than an sophisticated raffle.

It all mounts up, there must be another way.

I know these charities do amazing things for their beneficiaries. I know they need to get their money from somewhere. Having worked for one of them I am fully aware of the great work that is being done, how much it costs and all the people who are being helped but, much of the time, the people paying out and buying the tickets are the very same people who are on the receiving end too. All too often the pound they spent on their ticket is going into the grants for good causes which they are using and benefiting from anyway.

Why not cut out the middlemen who are making and showing the ads and doing something else instead. If the celebrities, TV Companies and big businesses who have so much just gave just a little of it every year to Charities then we wouldn’t need the endless lotteries. And regular donations would be so much better and so much more helpful anyway. The big charities could still get their money and the smaller charities could still get their grants but there would be some certainty to the charity’s income. And the government could help too. Instead of giving tax-breaks to the rich they could give more of our tax money to the services that are currently being propped up by the charities operating lotteries.    

I’m not against people having fun or trying to dictate how people send their money but I do find the non-stop ‘it’s only a pound’ mantra more than a little cynical. Paying fifty pence on the raffle or the tombola at the church fete, school fair or country show, where players stand a reasonable chance of winning a box of chocolates or a bottle of bubbly is one thing but the big, national charity lotteries where your chance of winning anything meaningful are something else entirely.

It all mounts up, there must be another way.

Robin Hood robbed the rich to give to the poor but we appear to be robbing the poor to help the poor down the road whilst the rich sit in their ivory towers raking in the proceeds.

There has to be another way.

I am somewhat concerned that disabled people are in the process of shooting themselves in the foot.

Amongst all the comments and posts about David Cameron’s tax affairs and the Panama Papers on social media at present, there are also questions being asked about the fact that the Camerons claimed disability benefits on behalf of  their disabled son whilst he was still alive. The argument seems simple – should the Camerons have claimed Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for Ivan given the fact that they are a very wealthy family and had no need for the money or, was the act of claiming this benefit, fraudulent.

Simple question here, how?

The definition of fraud is wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain. In what way was claiming a benefit, that Ivan was perfectly entitled to receive, wrongful or criminal deception?

It wasn’t. Therefore, in no way, can this be considered to be fraud. There might be some validity in a question being asked about the morality of a wealthy family receiving a welfare benefit but there can be no question at all asked about the legality of the claim. The Camerons were perfectly entitled to receive DLA on behalf of Ivan. He was a disabled child, the families of all disabled children were entitled to claim DLA on their behalf so the Camerons were entitled to the money they received.

I have no issue with that whatsoever.

Moreover, what they did with that money was their business and not ours. Did they spend it on Ivan or did it go straight into the family coffers? We don’t know. It could be argued that the money should have been put aside, into a trust or bank account for Ivan for when he was older, but again, why? We have no right to ask that question. If the Camerons were a poorer family, living on benefits, in social housing, needing to use a foodbank,  would we be saying the same thing?

Let’s be honest here. No we wouldn’t..

And that is tthe issue and the nub of my point. The Camerons received DLA on  Ivan’s behalf because he was disabled, not because of the amount of money the family did or did not have.

DLA – is a non-means tested benefit which is paid to a disabled person to compensate them, in part, for the extra costs they will experience because of their impairment and, in the case of disabled child, to help the parents with those extra costs. For some people and families it is more necessary to have this money than it is for others but everyone who is disabled is entitled to receive the money. Rich and poor alike.

Asking if David Cameron defrauded the benefits system by claiming DLA for his son is wrong. How could he have defrauded the system if his disabled son was receiving money, that every disabled person is entitled to receive, because of his impairment. We need to be so careful here, it almost sounds like we are asking for DLA and, nowadays, its successor, PIP, to be means tested. If we are asking if it was wrong for the Camerons to have received DLA for Ivan because they are a super-wealthy family, are we also saying that everyone who receives PIP or DLA, but also has income from another source, should not receive anything either? Are we saying that that is wrong too? We need to be very careful we don’t start, however inadvertently, saying that DLA/PIP should be means tested by questioning if David Cameron had a genuine need for Ivan’s DLA. You could argue, effectively, that of course he didn’t, but Ivan was still entitled to that money. If he were still alive, would we all be saying he should not receive DLA because his family is rich? I would hope not, because, if we did say that, we would be arguing in favour of means testing for PIP and I don’t think any of us want that. After all, does a disabled person who receives DLA/PIP, and who also works in a well paid job, have a genuine need for the benefit? Depending on how much they earn they almost certainly have enough for everything they need without any State help whatsoever but why should they? A disabled person does not ask for their impairment so, should they be penalised because of it? Of course not. Yet, by saying that David Cameron was claiming DLA fraudulently on Ivan’s behalf, that is exactly what we are doing.

Whatever else we think of him, his Party and his politics we must not allow this to colour our views by saying one rule for him and another for everyone else. His family’s tax affairs may be questionable in the extreme but there is no doubt that Ivan was a disabled person and that, as such, his family was therefore fully entitled to claim benefits on his behalf. The money received by the Camerons, however distasteful we find it that they got anything at all given their wealth, was not claimed fraudulently and we are only doing ourselves a disservice if we say anything else.  

Very interesting. Facebook today, has as usual, got me thinking and given me somethig to write about.

The little gem I have just been reading a fascinating article on ‘Minimum Income Guarantee’ (MIG). A scheme that is going to be trialled in Utrecht in the Netherlands, in Finland as a whole and is now being proposed for Switzerland too. It’s something I first heard about a couple of years ago and, having read up on the subject and talked about it with people with a lot more understanding of the issue than me and given it a fair bit of consideration, I think we should have a proper discussions about trying it in the UK as well.

So, if we’re going to do that, what is MIG anyway?
Well, I am no politician or Economics guru but I think I understand the principles at any rate. As far as I can make out, with MIG all the adults in the country would receive a minimum income that is JUST enough to live on and all children would receive a smaller amount until they reach maturity. But, and here’s the important bit, there would be no other Welfare Benefits at all, just MIG. People who were able to and wanted to would be welcome to get a job to ‘top up’ their income but, whatever they earned would be taxed, from £1 upwards, and taxed at a higher rate than at present. I think that’s it.

No way, I hear you say, that sounds expensive and there are no incentives there to encourage anyone to go out and get a job at all. People would be able to just sit on their idle backsides all day and do nothing. What about that?

Well. Costs first. I don’t know if I’ve got this completely right but, as far as I can make out, if there are no other benefits available that’s a whole load of money saved straight away. The money that is used for the admin and implementation of the multitudinous number of benefits we currently have in this country would all be available for MIG instead. If everyone got it, without any form of means testing, the cost would be negligible. The State would, of course, need to do something to ensure that older and disabled people would be able to access the support and equipment they may need at no additional cost but how that would function is something that would need to be investigated and worked out before any form of MIG could be implemented.

And how about the terminally lazy? People could, of course, sit on their sofas all day if that was what they wanted to do but they may not be able to afford their super special satellite TVs, their xboxes in games consoles. No more annual holidays to the Spanish costas, just the sofa. They wouldn’t be able to apply for extra money from anywhere else to supplement their income, they would have MIG and that’s all. Same goes for the people who want to spend their money on tobacco, alcohol and recreational drugs. It’s their choice. If that’s what they want to do then that’s their choice out they would have nothing else. That would be it. If people wanted anything else they would need to work to get that income top-up they need for all those little luxuries. The one thing that would be certain though, is that there should be more need for food banks and no more children going without. Everyone should have enough for the basics even if they had nothing else.

All in all I believe that MIG for the UK is something that should be seriously considered. I really am of the opinion it could work. Let’s give it some serious thought, if nothing else. Sure, there would be some hiccups, we couldn’t expect perfection right from day one, but I reckon, MIG could work in this country. I will be watching all the experimental schemes with interest and, if they work out the way I hope they will, I will be lobbying for a referendum for the same thing for the UK too.

So. According to a report from Oxfam I read today, the richest one percent of the population now have more money than all the poorest people of the world combined. The sixty-two richest people have more money between them than the poorest three point six billion.

That’s an awful lot of money that is owned by relatively few pople.

And that just cannot be right can it? Why do they have it?

I think it’s because they believe it makes them happy. Bulging safety deposit boxes and bank accounts that read like a fantasy novel, apparently, make them happy.

But does it? As far as I am concerned that’s a funny sort of happiness.

I’m not saying that having more money wouldn’t make me pretty content, of course it would. Not having any concerns about where the rent is coming from. Not feeling stressed out by the arrival of the winter duel fuel bill. Not worrying about how to pay for food for my family next week would be great but all those zeros in phenomenal positive totals on my bank statement, would they make me really happy? Maybe not.

What makes me happy are the smiles on my children’s faces when I tell them that I love them. The feel of their hands holding mine. The laughter in the evening whilst we watch our favourite TV shows and talk about what we’ve done that day. I love the phone calls I get from my father and my nieces and knowing that they are doing well and enjoying their lives. Chatting to my friends online and reading their posts and chats in social media. Lying back and having the time to read my favourite books. Eating chocolate and cake and cheese and peanuts. They are  all things that make me happy and none of them cost mega mllions.

What do these people who have so much do with it all? I’m not exactly certain. Sure, they can buy houses and luxury cars and extravagant holidays and designer clothes and send their children to expensive private schools but what do they do with the rest of it?

Squirrel it away and leave it to moulder in a bank vault? How is that going to help anyone?

Do these people think that, somehow, they are going to be able to take it with them when they die? Are they of the opinion that they will be able to spend it in the after-life? I have news for them – that just won’t happen. Once they die they will have no need for money, regardless of whether there  is a heaven or hell or endless nothingness it doesn’t cost anything to be dead. Money is only handy whilst you are alive and you only need a finite amount of the stuff.

I know this makes me sound a bit like a later day communist convert but why can’t the mega-rich sixty-two share it out a bit? Why don’t the big oligarchs pay their workers a bit more in salary and put a bit less into their own pockets? Why don’t minted property developers try using some of the profits they are making from buying and selling massively over-priced houses to help house people who can’t afford to buy enough food to live, let alone their own homes? Why can’t the hereditary monarchs and landed gentry share their land and inherited wealth with the people who need it? What makes the sixty-two think they have the right to all this money when there are people who are starving and freezing and dying for lack of just a few pence.

My hope is that things will start to change. My hope is that reports, like Oxfam’s report today, will get people talking and thinking, at that, at least some of the super wealthy sixty-two, will see just how unfair the system as it stands is. My hope is that all the money can be shared a bit more and that the three point six billion can have a bit more of a chance to live their lives without having to struggle for everything. I do understand that this is a pretty vain hope but I can dream can’t I? Dreams, at least, are free.