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Innocent JSA recipients lose all benefit while guilty bankers bailed out by their new banks: what’s new in Tory Britain?

Next Thursday I have secured a debate on the floor of the House on the sanctioning of benefit recipients. The details about the sheer injustice of the practice, its inappropriate targeting and its devastating impacts, all of which are horrendous, I shall spell out in full, but I will also be making another comparison.

Why is it that those JSA recipients who are 5 minutes late for a job interview get deprived of their benefit (£71 a week) and hence their livelihood for 4 weeks for the first infringement (as it is called) of the rules, 3 months for the second, or 3 years for the third, while bankers or traders who have corruptly stolen hundreds of millions of pounds from the public suffer no punishment at all – their bank pays up for them? There could not be a more extreme example of one law for the rich and another for the poor.

So why does this happen? It’s got nothing to do with morality or justice, just the power structure. The Tories get half their national income each year from the Tories, so the perpetrators who bring home the goods will never be personally punished, whilst those forced to rely on JSA (which they’ve earned by national income contributions through their working life) because the Tories are running a high 2.4m unemployment policy are demonised as ‘shirkers’ and severely punished even for the most trivial of reasons.

The big US and European banks have so far been forced to pay out $100bn in legal settlements since the financial crash, and the US Federal Reserve has recently found that the biggest banks could still face a further $151bn bill for operational risk procedures, repurchasing soured mortgage bonds and their handling of the falling value of the buildings they own. These astronomic sums show not only the severity of the offences committed and the enormity of their impact on the wider community, but also how the targeting of those individuals responsible has been displaced on to the institutions they work in – and hence also of course on to shareholders as well as taxpayers in reduced government receipts.

Yet even these very large fines have little impact on banks readily able to absorb such penalties – the big 6 US banks last year made profits of $76bn. The fines don’t get to the heart of the problem which is to change behaviour. That will only happen when liable individuals, from the chief executive down to other board members and top managers, are given lengthy jail sentences if they are found guilty of reckless embezzlement at the public’s expense. Since one is fed in prison, even that would not compare with being made destitute for 3 months or 3 years at a stretch.

One Comment

  1. David Ellis says:

    `Next Thursday I have secured a debate on the floor of the House on the sanctioning of benefit recipients.’

    Bloody well done for that Michael. Arbitrary, cruel and draconian benefit sanctioning is the most fascistic thing going on in the country at the moment along with the bedroom tax and ATOS. The practise is turing benefits workers into little Hitlers who no doubt justify reaching their targets on the grounds that they are only following orders. Others are no doubt having nervous breakdowns as a result of what they are being asked to do. I think unless the unions that represent these workers take serious strike action to end these targets then we are looking at serious moral degeneration in the labour movement.

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