Wednesday, 22 October 2008

It's all poor people's fault, isn't it?


Mark Steel  

All economists know that banking crashes are caused by Somalian fishermen

I'm not sure what makes it official that the recession's started, but one way of measuring the start is when the government first insists there ARE lots of vacancies, but the unemployed need to be more flexible, and better at applying for jobs, as Gordon Brown stated this week.
This must have been the problem in the 1930s. Millions of people became too fussy, until they perked up around 1940 when some cushy jobs came up, such as marching through the North African desert with a machine gun.
Brown assured us there are 600,000 vacancies, just as Major in 1991 and Tebbit in 1982 told us there were plenty of jobs, if only people would look for them. But even if these vacancies were magically all filled, a minister would tell us, "The unemployed must be prepared to develop new skills, such as murdering people who have a job, then applying to take their place. My granddad taught me those values, often recalling how, rather than sit around whining, he poisoned his way into the Post Office for nine and six a week. It's time we revived the old saying, 'Assassinate, don't beg off the state'."
Another sign that we're in recession is the government blames immigrants. So Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, has said the numbers allowed to come here must be cut, given the economic problems. This is even cleverer than blaming the unemployed, as in effect it's saying, "I'll tell you who's brought this on – people who've never been here." As any economist knows, banking crashes are caused by Somalian fishermen.
This is all in the recession handbook – to ensure governments and banks don't get the blame by blaming the victims. If the criminal system worked the same way, judges would spend all day telling people who'd been burgled, "You have been found guilty of being burgled. You appear to have no sense of how much a burden to the rest of us you've become. Maybe you need lessons in how to make an effort in life, such as the fine example shown by the man who burgled you. You don't catch him sitting around grumbling about his missing CDs, do you?"
Or the government could set up its own counselling service, at which a counsellor leans gently forward and says reassuringly, "You've told me how you were beaten up by your stepfather, and locked in a cupboard, and made to eat mouthfuls of insects, so the important point for you is to tell yourself at all times, especially in your most fragile moments, that this was your fault. There might be occasions when you feel someone else was to blame, but no, it was all down to you. Next."
With similar sensitivity Peter Mandelson has announced that, to help business survive the recession, there will be a postponement of new regulations allowing flexible working for parents. And Mandelson's only been back a week. Give him another fortnight and he'll announce, "Working parents have a variety of options available to them, such as selling their children to China to work in a clothing factory or train as a gymnast. I, for example, had to make myself available at all hours to lounge on a Russian billionaire's yacht. I don't go around saying, 'I'm sorry Mr Oligarch, I can only lounge until four in the afternoon'. I'm prepared to make sacrifices."
So perhaps anyone who finds themselves unemployed, or homeless or otherwise broke as a result of this recession, should march to the House of Commons and announce "I demand to be nationalised. Bail me out for a million and I can carry on, because if I go under, who knows WHAT I might bring down with me."

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