Who’s cheating whom?
The mass media aims a gun at the poor man and gives the rich man a free holiday.
So what do we do?
We defend the rich man to the hilt and allow our prejudices to be fed by his deception.
We hang the poor man on every street corner and demand his friends are hunted down like animals.
Benefit fraud in the UK costs the taxpayer approximately £1billion each year. But Richard Desmond, whose media empire spends a large chunk of its time dedicated to rooting out this particular type of scam, really has no reason to be bothered by it. Since he barely qualifies as a British taxpayer.
Desmond’s Northern and Shell Group has for decades been transferring huge swathes of its profits – legally – to Luxembourg and other tax havens.
So how many of Desmond’s Daily Express readers know that the money they pay to read about the ‘scroungers’ and the ‘spongers’ is used to fund hospitals in tiny European states, rather than their own?
Do they know that tax evasion, avoidance and fraud costs the British economy at least 40 times more than stolen benefits?
Desmond is just one of thousands of wealthy business owners who use any method they can get away with to avoid paying the tax they owe. After funding lobbyists to demand the government lowers corporation tax, they hardly bother paying it anyway.
These same lobbyists demand the government cut the staff it employs to catch tax evaders. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) had shrunk in size by a third even before our dear chancellor’s spending review. An employee survey two years ago found morale at the department to be the lowest of any in government.
By focusing attention on the benefit cheats, as they have done for decades, rich media proprietors have successfully distracted us from the real criminals. They get away with it because without them, the government couldn’t win election.
If you need a good example of how the establishment controls its citizens through deception, there is surely no clearer example than this. But we must also look at ourselves.
It’s obvious that benefit fraudsters aren’t the enemy. They’re the single parents who need to buy a new cot. They’re the drug addicts who need another fix. Only a bigot could look at them and blame them for the ills of this country.
Corporate tax evaders, meanwhile, are well-educated, successful entrepreneurs who know exactly how much their deception is costing the economy. They’re the property tycoons, the oil barons, the media moguls and the retail magnates who brand their companies as mainstays of morality and exemplars of ethicality.
Behind closed doors, they lie, cheat and steal more from the British taxpayer than any benefit fraudster could dream of.
Their scams are about more than just swindling the means to live in comfort and security, or catching up with our consumerist culture. Corporate tax evaders already have enough money to live a life of luxury.
Instead, their fraudulent behaviour is based on a fantasy. A deep-seated belief that they are better than us. That they have risen above us. That they are no longer subject to the same rules as us.
In their suits, they look smart and smell clean so surely they have done nothing wrong. An unkempt individual walks past and bends down to pick up a penny. The suit pounds him to the pavement and cries: “He tried to mug me.”
A member of the British public calls the police. Who are they going to report?
Here’s a novel idea. Why doesn’t the government provide enough jobs, let’s say, at HMRC, to not only get benefit claimants off the dole and back into work but also to target and take down the real criminals who are costing the economy so dear?
All we need first is a government capable of novel ideas. Either that, or a sea change in the choice of cheats we choose to chastise.
Until then, we’ll only be cheating ourselves of a better country to live in.
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