Meet Jesse. She writes what she really thinks too

The posts below are from my friend Jesse’s facebook page. Jesse and I met when our sons became mates at the local public high school for bright young things. Our lives are wildly different, our views astonishingly similar. Her daily rants comprise some of the most coherent criticism of this federal government anywhere – many provisoed with claims of incoherence. So I invited Jesse to share my little corner of the web and put some of those colourful comparisons on the record.
Editorial errors are mine, all thoughts her own etc etc …Oh, and I assumed the misspelling of *asterics* below was a self-deprecating joke, coz posting to the world is scarey stuff.

June 25, 7.26am
My cup of incoherent rage runneth over. And I have an all-day school related thingy, so I have to be pleasant to people, of all things, all squeezed into a mini bus and carted around. And everywhere we go, they will serve instant coffee, or brown and water, as it is known here, and I will smile and nod pleasantly. And every time they mention funding I will, literally, bite my tongue, and then I will come home and I will rant and flail my arms wildly.

June 27, 5.35am
Slashing dementia support and the severe behaviour supplement. Oh, ffs. Enough is enough. Even if you’re demented enough to think the aged, disabled and vulnerable are unworthy, do you really think slashing funding will reduce dementia numbers? This is just gonna reduce the standard of living for those people. In fact for a money saving budget ,it seems to be just take money from people like me and give it people who already have more, cos otherwise you’ll be rewarding me for having a disabled person to care for.

June 27, 7.01am
Once again, oh, FFS! And who will be the social and cultural contributors of the future? The pigs at the trough? And how about, NO, I will not view the aged as a burden. A long life is a gift, not a profit making opportunity.

June 27, 7.51am
Kinda waiting for someone to try and tell me that most old people are really just “economic geriatrics”, you know they either chose to get old, did it themselves by living too long, or are just faking it for the benefits. Everyone knows it’s irresponsible to live a long time if you can’t afford to. I’m sure it’ll be some drivel like that, and I’m looking forward to a good laugh

June 27, 8.21am
The kind of circular logic I find myself dealing with
Me: The vulnerable in Australia could benefit immensely from more resources.
Them: There’s millions of people in the third world who’d love to be in your shoes, you know?
Me: You’re right, let’s help them.
Them: But they’re different and they only want a hand out, and they should fix their own problems instead of looking to us. What about Australia’s poor and vulnerable, huh?
Me: Ok, lets prioritise that then.
Them: There’s millions of people in the third world who’d love to be in your shoes, you know?

June 29, 10.09am
Go to shop for bacon, saw the headline “disabling rorters” and felt humiliated, and then angry. Got home, saw the banana tree lost a branch. Must have missed the power line by a hairs breath

June 30 5.42am
Ok, so you want to make welfare less attractive so people will get off it and work? I get that. So limiting what people on welfare can spend their money on will get them a job? Here’s how this will actually work. Anyone who can get a job will, and those with disabilities and mental health issues will still have disabilities and mental health issues. They’ll just have them with less autonomy. See, long term, this doesn’t affect the people who are “rorters”. It just condemns the most needy in our society to the punishment meant for a mostly imaginary bludger. Slow round of applause, ffs

June 30, 7.10pm
Read all 176 pages of the welfare review recommendations. I think whoever sees “perverse incentives” everywhere is kind of perverse, and overly suspicious

1 July, 2.11pm (by PM)
So, I have attempted to write something. It’s been years since I wrote anything other than status updates and the occasional angry letter, so it might be all rambly and disjointed, I don’t know. And I don’t know how to get it from my iPad to anything so I’m just gonna cut and paste and out it after this nice row of asterics.

***************************************************

Winter is here. The Abbott government slash and burn, sure to create a winter of discontent. Its newest weapon is a welfare review containing sweeping recommendations to overhaul a welfare system that has managed to be the best targeted welfare system in the world, while spending less than other comparable nations. The poor feel the cold, and the days are short. Twelve months ago, an Australian who had fallen upon hard times – who life had sucker-punched with illness, disability, family breakdown, unemployment, the travails of age, or what-have-you – could feel confident of the safety net that would catch them before their body hit the ground. A safety net that would support them until they got back on their feet, in a society which accepted that some wouldn’t rise up in glory, and that the safety net would be a lifetime measure for those that needed it.

That confidence is gone, and in its place is trepidation and outright fear.

Left vs right has become a demented and wicked game: of leaner vs lifter, bludgers vs taxpayers, the righteous vs the rorter. It is played on a multi sided board by people who continue to be well-paid even when they play badly. Some never lose the game. I am one of the pawns on this ideological chessboard, being swept out of the game by a bishop from the other side. The game could be won or lost without me, and there are richer prizes to be taken than a lowly pawn, but ALL the pawns are about to be taken, and if you are poor (sick, studying, unemployed, old) then I’m sorry to tell you, but you too are a pawn.

As a young person, I never dreamed of a life on welfare. Who does? I thought I’d do everything. Travel the world as journalist, design fabulous things, buy a house and car, have a family. I thought I’d get to choose. I took off from the start line at a great pace. I worked, I studied, I paid my taxes. Then life came swinging with that sucker punch. My second born son has severe autism with an accompanying intellectual deficit. He has never gained speech or significant self-care skills. I was out of the race. I needed that safety net, and unless we figure out how to rewire brains and fix brain damage, I’m going to need it for life, and for my son’s life.

To Abbott and co, I’m your classic “leaner”. I am that person living off honest, hardworking taxpayers. Maybe you saw me, lighting a cigarette outside Centrelink, with what looked like a strong, able bodied young man who needs a good hair cut. Maybe you made some assumptions about us. In fact I’m pretty sure you did. If not me, then someone like me. Maybe it was a young woman, talking on her iPhone while running fingers topped with false talons through multi-coloured hair, with a couple of kids making *too much* noise. You decided she was one of those women with children to multiple fathers, spending your hard-earned income tax on the latest thing, while the kids run wild.

An alternative explanation never even occurs. Like her mum recently had a stroke and will be requiring care, and so she’s there to find out what support is available, while talking on the phone she bought with money she earned as a nail technician, and her kids are overtired because Centrelink is taking much longer than she imagined. Our right to assume the worst trumps all. These faulty assumptions are leading to a rationale of believing the poor are poor because they make bad decisions. They are re not poor because they drink or smoke. Those things may contribute to – or relieve – their situation. But these are definitely not the root cause of the myriad problems that contribute to an individual being in a state of poverty.

The causes are as individual as the people. There is no one size fits all solution to poverty, and if you think there is, you have never been poor and you are part of the problem. Check your privilege, please. The Abbott government budget and proposed welfare reforms have taken the safety net and replaced it with uncertainty.
I don’t know for sure whether my situation will be better after these reforms, or worse, but if it is worse, I question how it is ‘reform’. If those challenged by disability and those who care for them have a lower standard of living, have less autonomy, fewer choices and even less freedom than before, how is that reform in anything but a Dickensian subplot? And what part of “no changes to pensions” – an on-the-record, rolled-gold, pre-election promise – is covered in sweeping welfare reforms? I would venture that reassessing thousands of people dependent on the Disability Support Pension is a change to pensions, particularly for those who will be forced off the DSP and on to Newstart, to look for a job that likely isn’t there, and if it was, that person would not end up as the one employed anyway.

And if that person is under thirty? I never thought I’d pity the young, but now I do. A young person on DSP who is reassessed as capable of ‘participation’ and moved onto Newstart could find themselves with nothing, for six months, and face unnecessarily punitive measures, like income management and work-for-the-dole once they finally qualify for an allowance. Has the impact on the labour market even been assessed? What business would not choose free labour over paying wages? I can not convey the emotion the young must be feeling, the bridge to their future blown away just as they’re about to step onto it, their choices suddenly narrowed and for many, disappeared. Where is the generation that never worked to justify this madness? Shouldn’t we be presented with evidence of a problem before taking steps to rectify said problem?

The figures show Australians’ dependence on welfare has been steadily falling. The mainstream media says dragons are spending all the tax payer money. Which is weird, because there are no dragons, and for PAYE earners it became government money as soon as it was earned. Only the very rich see most of it. Everyone else sees numbers scribbled somewhere – on a payslip, at the end of a docket – but letting you think it is still your money after it’s gone is a clever trick. One that’s designed to reassure you, as you voluntarily condemn part of your society as unworthy, into thinking you are doing the right thing. It’s not the right thing. How can judging people without facts ever be right? How can condemning those different to you ever be right? How can forcing the young to starve be right? How can working the elderly to death be right? How can there be “market incompatible people” instead of a people incompatible market? How can a person on Newstart with a partial or episodic disability have a perverse incentive to get a disability pension? How can getting appropriate support be a “perverse incentive”? Surely a job agency would have an equally perverse incentive to NOT find employment for all clients?

I see a perverse incentive for the demonisation of the vulnerable. By the media who make money from headlines of human misery; and by a government that gains power by wooing the hatred and selfishness lurking in empty hearts. I could present the Opposition as an unemployed government. Should they lose all benefits for six months? Obviously not, an opposition is part of the parliamentary system, and essential to democracy. A young person who loses a job, much like an opposition loses the job of governing, is part of our society, and as such that persons well-being is essential for our democracy too. I’d like to knock the board over and see the game start again. Fellow pawns, tell them, game over.

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