As a woman with no children, I am constantly outraged, too, at the way the Government heaps incentives upon prospective parents.
Money for fruit and veg, child support, baby's trust fund, help with childcare, flexible bloody working, tax breaks. Never mind the ludicrous idea of putting IVF on the NHS, as if having a baby were a God-given right and not a blessing.
I believe that women should pay for the services of a midwife and health visitor. I don't have a child in education, so how about the Government gives me some money towards cat food?
As Trixy points out, children are a lifestyle choice: why the hell should everyone else have to pay for them?
I fail to see why I should have my money taken from me and given to other people for their lifestyle choice.
I go to the gym a lot. That's quite good for me so how about I get a gym allowance?
Inevitably, of course, people will pop up in comments to whinge on about how "we need lots of children to maintain our economy"; "and who," they will say, "will wipe your arse when you are in the nursing home?"
First, including those on disability benefit, we have well over 5 million unemployed people in this country—no doubt they would welcome the chance to have a job wiping my arse. I did such a job for a year and, although it was hard, it was perfectly tolerable—fun, even—and infinitely preferable to sitting around on benefits.
Which brings up another issue: unemployment is much higher amongst young people—with all of these arse-wiping jobs going begging, the benefits bill would be quite substantially reduced. It would be even more reduced if there were no—or somewhat less of a—marginal deduction rate for getting off benefits and working.
Third, we do not need an ever-expanding population to pay for those not working. Assuming a near-consistent growth in GDP, what we would most likely end up with is fewer people with a higher per capita income—a good thing, surely?
Whatever the merits of any of the above, the current system—whereby we subsidise the poorest, most feckless in society (for it is they to whom the marginal benefit rates really make a difference—not to mention the priority on the council housing list) to have yet more children who will, often, emulate their parents' lifestyle—is absolutely fucking insane.
The only thing that I would say that is that I don't mind subsidising a good education—if children are well-educated, then they do, at least, have some hope of breaking out of the cycle of crap into which they are often born.
That does require a bit of will-power, of course, as Shane Greer illustrates.
Much though people on the Left like Milburn would like to give the world (and by world I mean poor people) a great big hug, tell them everything will be ok, and promise they’ll fix it for them, the truth is everything won’t be ok and they can’t fix it. Life’s tough, and it isn’t fair.
Was I at a disadvantage when I decided (originally) that I wanted to become a barrister and I came from a family with one parent working (on low pay) and one unemployed? Absolutely. My family didn’t know anyone in the professions. But because of how they raised me I understood that I had to fight for what I wanted, I had to make my own connections. And I did; phoning up the bar library in Belfast until I managed to collar a barrister who would speak to me for a few minutes and let me follow them around for a few days (thank you Niall Hunt).
Was I at a disadvantage when I decided I wanted to work in politics, had no connections and parents who couldn’t afford to support me while I did an internship for free? Absolutely. But because of how they raised I knew I had to make my own opportunities, so I made a phone call to someone in politics I didn’t know at all (Donal Blaney), scraped together the money to go down to London to visit him and built a relationship I didn’t have before. With his support I applied for and got an internship in the States that provided free accommodation and paid for my flights. That internship ultimately lead me to where I am now.
My experiences shaped who I am, and I wouldn’t change them for the world. Overcoming adversity is character building, opportunities that don’t get handed to you on a plate are more rewarding and more valuable, and I’m doing what I’m doing now because of, not despite of, a system of internships that isn’t fair.
Rather than teach people to rely on the State for answers, Milburn and co would achieve a great deal more if they taught them to rely on ourselves.
And that is the very worst thing about the Welfare State: it was set up with the best of intentions but it has, alas, led people to rely on the state rather than themselves.
Ultimately, of course, the state has no money but what it steals from the productive people in this country, and the more it steals the less productive they become. And, unfortunately, politicians have long ago worked out that the best way to get elected is to bribe people with other people's money—and sometimes their own.
The only thing that is going to lead to a collapse in our economy is if we carry on subsidising people in the way that we do currently—it isn't sustainable, and it cannot continue.