Like many causes celebre of the Left, the actual situation is not so cut and dried—especially as regards the earnings of the man who initiated the question.
The first reference that I saw was to a paragraph in this BBC story...
Market trader David Bennett, 51, who works between 50 and 70 hours a week and earned around £2,700 last year, said his housing benefit had been cut from £75 a week to £57. His income works out at around £53 per week.
This paragraph raised some general questions in my mind...
- If Bennett really is only earning £2,700 whilst working 50 to 70 hours a week, then perhaps market trading is not the job for him? Perhaps he should find a job that doesn't force other people to subsidise him?
- Personally, it boggles my mind that anyone would work such long hours for so little money: perhaps the Inland Revenue ought to have a long, hard look at Mr Bennett's accounts to ensure that he is declaring his full income?
- Bennett's declared income of £2,700 equates to £51.92 per week (£2,700 ÷ 52): in fact, 52 × £53 = £2,756. So is this, in fact, what the BBC means by "his income"?
- Mr Bennett gained more money from his Housing Benefit (£75 × 52 = £3,900) than he supposedly did from his market trading activities. And this is still true even after his benefit was cut (£57 × 52 = £2,964).
- Assuming that Bennett's rent is £75 per week (the amount of his previous HB payments) then, after the cut, he has to find an extra £28 from his £53 per week earnings—leaving him with only £25 per week. This does seem somewhat tricky to live on.
David Bennett said he earned around £2,700 last year - around £50 a week - and has had to borrow money after his housing benefit was cut to £57 a week. It later emerged that Mr Bennett also gets tax credits, which can be worth between £37 and £50 from the Government. However, he is left with just £53 a week after paying rent and bills.
Right. So Mr Bennett was being slightly economical with the truth; as are the BBC—who have not altered their story as of 10pm today. There is, I think that you will agree, a considerable difference between these three options:
- having £53 per week to pay for everything—including rent and bills;
- having £53 per week to pay for everything except rent;
- having £53 per week left after paying rent and bills.
Whereas the man who inspired the whole thing—David Bennett—actually lives on Option 3, i.e. that he has £53 per week after paying rent and bills (and what, exactly, is covered in "bills", e.g. is travel included?).
These are two very different propositions.
I have, in my working life, lived on considerably less than £53 per week (or £212 per month) after paying rent and bills. Even in 2008, having done the calculations, I was living on just under £60 per week (after rent and bills)—not much more than Bennett.
As some people have pointed out, the real issue is that David Bennett might feel totally helpless because he might be on that kind of income for the foreseeable future.
However, that point simply comes back to whether Mr Bennett should be working as a market trader—given that he earns only £2,700 per year doing so. After all, if the money is that important to him, even MacDonald's would pay him the minimum wage. If Mr Bennett chooses not to do that—which he might, for all manner of reasons—then that is his choice.
But that is no reason why everyone else should be forced to subsidise that choice.