Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Undeserving Poor

We paid for his house

This week's pronouncements on poverty from Dave and Greg have left us conservatives in a severe state of discombobulation. Some follow James Bartholomew in arguing that the state shouldn't be handing out our tax cash at all. Others reckon state handouts are OK, but only on the basis of equal shares for all- ie the Citizens' Income. Still others- mainly pinkos like me- reckon the targeted state support calibrated on relative incomes is still the least bad approach (I'll be posting on this again soon).

But one thing we can all agree on is that we don't want to give anything to the undeserving poor. And the most undeserving of all are those who systematically defraud the system. Even according to the glossed official account, they're costing us over £4bn pa (£3bn lost by DWP and £1.2bn lost on tax credits by HMRC).

That's a lot of cash, so in the unlikely event we actually catch a fraudster, we need to administer a lot of punishment- say one year in jail for every year of overpaid benefit. These are crimes of calculation and there needs to be a clearly defined and costly deterrent.

Unfortunately that's not what we do.

Today we hear yet another story of the punishment not fitting the crime:

"An immigrant taxi driver built a seven bedroom mansion in Pakistan after making millions of pounds in benefit fraud, credit card scams and fake passports. Nawaz Sharif - unemployed for the past 11 years - amassed a £2 million fortune through property, selling luxury cars and various criminal activities.

It emerged during the lengthy investigation into Sharif that while he was falsely claiming housing and council tax benefits from Slough Borough Council he was transferring hundreds of thousands of pounds back to his native Pakistan."

Sounds as bad as it gets.

And yet... all he got was 5 years. Which as we now know actually means two-and-a-half years.

Which translates into £800 grand pa.

Under Tyler's new model welfare system, he'd be looking at £2m divided by say £10 grand pa equals 200 years behind bars.

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