Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Benefits With The Apple iPhone

I was amused and then slightly outraged (in a Daily Mail kind of a way) when I happened upon this app for the iPhone in the Apple iStore...
It strikes me as somewhat incongruous with the reality of people who are so hard up they need to claim benefits that they would own an iPhone (or iPad and or iTouch) in the first place. These things aren't cheap, usually come with a hefty monthly contract and are hardly staple to surviving on a pittance.

Of course, it is a sign of the times that benefits are not now limited to the hard up. In fact, the comments left by users of this app point to how helpful the app is for assisting in claiming child benefit and tax credit, benefits that are not restricted to the poor.

The (not so) slow creep of benefit dependency, so central to the political strategy of the last government, has led to many in the middle class being eligible for tax credits, universal benefits, child trust funds etc as well as generously funded government programmes like Sure Start. The less well off were supported and encouraged to stay as long as possible on benefits. Can't work or won't work? It matters not. As long as you vote Labour - cause them nasty Tories will take all this away, you know.

So, the ploy was to get people (the poor and well off alike) so accustomed to their "entitlements" that they would flock to the ballot boxes to return Labour time and time again - at least for fear of losing their money for nothing (sadly, there were no chicks for free but it did lead to Dire Straits).

Their strategy didn't work, obviously.

Instead, people saw through the bribery to the serious damage being done to the whole nation's future prospects by the enormous borrowing that was required to support this kind of spending. The challenge the Coalition government has is to start to dismantle this web of benefits for the better off, work shy and down right fraudulent, while supporting the genuinely vulnerable and keeping people focused on the necessity of the mission to save the country from Labour's deficit. It'll be no mean feat as, in politics, a week is a long time, so you can't expect the electorate to remember why they rejected the old lot for this lot when their incomes are being directly affected. But perhaps I'm being patronising. Voters haven't shown any sign of rejecting the governments bitter pill so far. I hope that will continue to be the case when the side effects start to be felt.

Perhaps what we need is an iPhone app that records how much you, as an individual, saved the tax payer by, say supporting a local school or helping with a community project or, perhaps even, not spending that money on a new iPhone but on food for your family instead. But then of course you wouldn't have an iPhone to run the app on. Gosh, this deficit reduction thing isn't as simple as it looks, is it?

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