Ireland has one of the most generous welfare systems in the world. This is something we should be proud of, yet we vilify those on the dole.
Last week the minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar, implemented policies that are designed to stop people cheating the Irish Welfare system. This saves tax payer money wasted on those exploiting the generosity of the state. Varadkar estimates that the suggested savings from this plan are around €500 million.
This article isn’t suggesting that Welfare scamming is acceptable or that it doesn’t exist. But its not as big of a burden as you might think. Other reports suggest that the costs of cheating the welfare system are way lower, around €41 million. While this is by no means a small amount of money, which could be put to good use somewhere else, the cheating campaign directly targets the poorest of the poor. There are much bigger fish to fry out there in terms of corruption and fraud, that would generate a LOT more revenue for the government.
The government rarely ever punish white collar crime. Remember that time the government bailed out the banks during the recession? Where were the anti-fraud measures when the banks were driving the economy towards the worst economic crisis in recent history and putting ordinary people into a lifetime of debt? Where was the incentive to punish them for cheating the system?
Severe austerity measures were put in place in order for the government to pay back the loans needed to bail out the banks. This caused unemployment to skyrocket. The middle and lower class were hit hardest as per usual, while the majority of bankers walked away scot-free. The middle and lower class will be paying for this ‘recovery’ for generations.
This idea isn’t new, but it still exists. Somehow.
Over the summer Apple were ousted for cheating the Irish government out of €13 billion of tax revenue. Even after huge pressure from the EU, the government didn’t claim the money Apple owe. If we were to take Varadkar’s estimates at their word, that’s almost thirty times the amount of money lost from welfare cheats. Why is it that we let Apple get away with fraud, yet go chasing the poor for money that they actually need to survive?
You could argue hounding Apple for that money might make them pack up and leave, which would leave thousands jobless. But with Trumps America first policies cutting corporate tax rates in the US, they might leave regardless.
The middle and lower classes of Ireland are facing massive obstacles in the current economic climate. The housing crisis, stagnating wages, unemployment and emigration among the young make the welfare system more necessary than ever. These problems affect the most vulnerable people in our country. This policy not only restricts welfare for the people that desperately need it, but feeds deeper into stigma surrounding the dole.
Our anger should be turned to the businesses, not the poor. Even though corporate tax rates are extremely low, big business still cheats the system. The loss from this is far greater than the loss from the government helping people in need.
In the words of Malcom X
By Ciaran Boyle