I don’t usually try to be controversial. The fact that I am considered to be argumentative is primarily down to the fact that the people with whom I am conversing are predominantly wrong. In fact, in a “discussion” with a boss in the not so distant past, I saw his frustration in being wrong, manifest itself in a rather amusing lip twitch which I couldn’t help but stare at. This didn’t help him resolve the issue of his wrongness. In fact I think it may have magnified his ire, especially when I started to mimic it. Like two disproportionate Elvis’s (plural Elvi?) sneering at one another from non-confrontationally positioned office chairs. Incidentally, my dictionary has just told me that “confrontationally” is not a word. I disagree. The “Wrong-Boss” refused to accept that I was always right, but had to concede that in that particular occasion, I was. And on all other previous occasions.
The reason I am concerned with my confrontationality (Now THAT is a confrontational word for me and my dictionary) at this time, is this article. I have been considering writing it for some time but have always put it off as there are certain things that a man in my position cannot fully understand. Well, I say cannot understand, but I really mean “Wrong-Boss” probably couldn’t understand if he were to be in my position. Another reason is that it does carry a degree of serious political debate. I do not shy away from political debate, but consider that anyone taking the time to read this is probably doing so to escape the drudgery of real life. To then spring a politically charged read upon them seems a little unfair. I also realise that this subject matter might also harbour flaws that I haven’t considered. I am not saying that I am wrong though. I am just saying I might not be right.
Without rehashing all of the details about the various debates, there has been a good deal of media conversation recently about maternity leave, paternity leave and who should shoulder the costs and burdens of a child being brought into, and up in today’s society. In an ideal World, we would have the finances and structure in place that every child would receive equal opportunities from the moment they are conceived until the moment that they can provide and care for themselves. Unfortunately, this utopian World doesn’t exist. The one we have is one of strained finances, over population and, if the popular press are to be believed, swathes of citizens who consider the benefit system as a lifestyle choice. “Can’t afford a house or flat on your own? Make yourself into two people and the local authority will take care of the rest.” Despite Jeremy Kyle’s repeated advice that young people should “put a condom on the end of it”, he knows that if there was an incentive to do just that, he would lose half of his day time audience.
Now, I am not going to start dispensing dictum about who should do what and when, but what about a mechanism that would encourage people to apply an appropriate amount of consideration to possibly the most important decision a person can make? And how about if that incentive potentially saved the Government coffers enough money to reinstate MP expenses and a spare Millennium Dome? I even have a cherry for the top of this Nigella like masterpiece. What if it stopped the yapping of the Daily Mail AND had the potential to arrest an alarming trend for young pregnancy that the UK is gaining a reputation for? Not enough for you? How about slowing down the unsustainable population rises? Even though the number of births in England and Wales has actually dropped in the last couple of years, the 790,000 additional people to arrive in 2009 are pushing population numbers towards a feared 70 million in Britain.
At present, the benefits system allows for every oldest child the sum of £20.30 and for every child there after £13.40 to be collected by parents on a weekly basis. What if we just stopped that? And the “right” to a free house? I am not talking about simply cutting off the payments that parents currently may rely on, but phasing it out over a reasonable period time. It takes 9 months to make a baby, so any that are currently in production should be eligible for the status quo. We can also throw on an extra month for the reluctant debutants of the cast. So, in 10 months time, all new arrivals will no longer be eligible for this benefit. The ones that currently do get it, will continue to do so as currently agreed. As an addition, think of the bonanza month that Superdrug own brand folic acid and Primark lingerie will experience when the announcement is made and certain members of society scramble to not miss the subsidised baby boat.
Take a moment to think about the implications for anyone who is, for want of a better phrase, in danger of becoming pregnant. They know beforehand that the State will not be handing out cash to them for a decision that they have made. They will have to fund the upbringing themselves. I am no expert, but I bet it wouldn’t take long for word to get around that having a child is very hard work and very expensive. In turn, this stark reality might make every potential Mummy and Daddy think about if this is a path that they genuinely want to follow at that present moment in time. Imagine that! I am not saying that it doesn’t happen at the moment, but truly committed parents will not be put off, and (almost) every child will be the result of a genuine desire, a genuine want. It may be politically incorrect to say, but I have met many people whose only genuine desire was to have an excuse to join Mr Kyle on a daily basis while everyone else provided the cash for their Silk Cut and Nutella.
If a person decides to own a car, have a second home or fly to Vegas to watch cage fighting, then they have to save up and pay for it. Unless you get a benefit for that. Don’t get me started on that. I can’t make a decision upon the route that my life will take and then expect Mr and Mrs Taxpayer to fund that choice. Well, not since University tuition fees came in, and I am not touching that hot potato with anyone else’s hot potato glove. Why should deciding to create a person be any different? “Because if people are disinclined to have children, then we might miss out on a genius that could have been born but was put off until it can be afforded?” Don’t give me that! Out of the 790,000 children born in 2009, how many can the country not survive without? How many really are genius’s? I am not suggesting that these babies have no worth, far from it, but I reckon we would muscle through in their absence. How about asking how many of them were completely planned and completely securely provided for? Not 790,000, that’s for sure.
I do not pretend that there are not serious issues that would need to be dealt with if such a policy of “fund your own decisions” was to be instigated. There would still be pregnancies that, for one reason or another, are not planned and are not due to some contraceptive mishap. Any victim of a crime that resulted in a pregnancy could be provided for through a criminal compensation fund. Without wishing to be too cynical, I suspect that this may have some problems of its own once people start to look for funding loopholes, but greater minds than mine would be able to account for this. The same goes for the arguments of babies being born into poverty and neglect. We already have provisions for these situations. We may just have less babies and therefore less babies in these circumstances. Either way, the parents should still be responsible for funding the upkeep of their children.
Would this lead to a situation where people begin to wait to have kids until there are more physical complications? Possibly not. The medical suggestion is that 34 years of age is the “best” time for a woman to have a baby, which leaves ample opportunity for provision, saving and preparation. Not that I am suggesting that anyone is forced to wait any length of time before being allowed to procreate. I am merely suggesting that I am given the choice about whether I pay for the provision of a new person. So far I would chose not to. I can’t afford it among other reasons yet my meagre salary goes to pay for other people’s children. And trust me, it is meagre. And yes, I know I deserve more.
There is a possibility that this could be seen as some form of social engineering, in that the poor are negatively incentivised to not have children while the wealthy are free to sire as many cash gobbling plumb filled mouths as their loins can manage. And in a way, it could be true. While I am the first to stand up and bang my working class drum about an honest day’s work and wealth being no measure of worth, there is already a model that has proven successful over a longer demonstration period than could be replicated in any laboratory. Nature has seen to it that those able to provide, see their DNA carried forth and multiplied. This may sound rather elitist, but I didn’t make the rules. Either God did, or one of Stephen Hawking’s mates. It is just the way it always has been. And it works. And let’s face it, £20.30 every week isn’t going to be make or break in every case. In some it may be. I accept that.
Should the public at large be expected to contribute to each and every child that is born, regardless of the preparation and ability of the child’s own parents to provide a safe and healthy upbringing? I genuinely cannot see how this is the default position. It is like that moment when smelly Bob from accounts has decided to retire and the collection tin weaves its way around the office. I don’t work with smelly Bob and I don’t particularly like him. I don’t think it should be expected that I fund his carriage clock. There are times when our cash should be used to fund the decisions made by others without our explicit consent. To incarcerate a criminal. To save a persons life. But because someone decided to have a family? I can’t say I agree.
Without crunching the figures, I can’t tell you how much this idea could save the tax payer. What do we do with the cash? We could pay off some of the national deficit. We could increase the minimum wage. We could grease FIFA palms until we get a World Cup. We could even offer the saved £20.30’s and £13.40’s as an incentive to young people NOT to have children. Now there’s a thought.
I daresay I have overlooked some points that people may wish to bring to my attention. It is easy to spout an opinion when you sit outside of the circumstances and cannot see the issues held within.
I hope that no one is offended by anything here. Even Smelly Bob from accounts. I will say this only once. I am not always right. Unless you are “Wrong-Boss”. In that case, I am. Always.