Friday, October 26, 2012
Labour Party increase in welfare payments 'cost families £3,000 a year' and promoted 'destructive' behaviour
Labour's increase in welfare spending cost every household an extra £3,000 a year in tax and promoted ‘destructive’ behaviour, Iain Duncan Smith will say today.
The Work and Pensions Secretary will claim his radical reforms of the benefits system are inspired by its founder William Beveridge, who warned in the 1940s that even those in need should never feel income from the state can ‘come from a bottomless purse’.
In a keynote lecture in Cambridge, Mr Duncan Smith will insist that although the Coalition has already trimmed £18billion from the vast welfare bill, further changes are needed to drive out ‘perverse incentives’.
He will insist it is unfair, for instance, that the pension credit system means hard-working people who try to save can find themselves retiring on the same income as their neighbour – someone who has not saved a penny but is eligible to claim.
‘What kind of a message does that send out?’ Mr Duncan Smith will ask. ‘It tells people on low incomes that it’s not worth saving – it’s not even worth working. Just sit back and wait for the government to pay out when you retire.’
He will also suggest workless families can no longer expect ‘never-ending amounts of money for every child’ and confirm the Government intends to restrict housing benefit to the under-25s.
Under Labour, he will say, spending on benefits and tax credits rose by over 60 per cent – spiralling even before the recession, when growth was booming, jobs were being created, and welfare bills should have been falling.
By 2010 the extra spending was costing every household in the country an extra £3,000 a year in tax, helping to increase the budget deficit.
‘We were unable to pay our way, with an economy built on debt and consumption,’ Mr Duncan Smith will say.
‘Some 4.6 million people – 12 per cent of the working age population – on out of work benefits. One in every five households with no one working, and two million children living in workless families – a higher proportion than almost any country in Europe.
‘This culture of entrenched worklessness and dependency was not just a product of the recession. There were over four million people on out of work benefits throughout the years of growth.
‘Under the previous Government whilst employment rose by 2.4 million, more than half of that was accounted for by foreign nationals.’
The welfare system became one of ‘Byzantine complexity’, with more than 30 different benefits, Mr Duncan Smith will say. Disabled people alone were entitled to a ‘complicated muddle’ of seven additional payments, three different premiums and four components of the main out of work benefits and tax credits.
The incentives in the system are being changed so that ‘it acts as a springboard rather than a trap, rewarding those who move into work’.
Speaking to Cambridge Public Policy, a think-tank linked to the city’s university, Mr Duncan Smith will say he takes his ‘lead from Beveridge’. ‘As Beveridge said: “The insured persons should not feel that income [from the state] can come from a bottomless purse”,’ he said. ‘Especially so, when the economy isn’t growing as we had hoped, the public finances remain under pressure and the social outcomes have been so poor.’
British PM insists prisoners will not be given the vote
David Cameron was at war with his own senior law officer last night after insisting that prisoners would not be given the vote.
Attorney General Dominic Grieve was said to be ‘furious’ with the Prime Minister’s stance. Last night there was speculation that Mr Grieve could even resign his Government role if the Prime Minister fails to respect the ‘rule of law’ and do as he wishes.
The Prime Minister told MPs that Britain would not capitulate to demands by the European Court of Human Rights for inmates to be enfranchised. He told MPs: ‘No one should be in any doubt – prisoners are not getting the vote under this Government.’
His comments were seen as a swift slap-down for Mr Grieve, the Cabinet’s most senior legal adviser.
Only minutes earlier Mr Grieve had claimed that Britain’s reputation would be damaged if it did not adhere to the ruling by Strasbourg, which dates back to 2005.
Mr Grieve, who claimed it was technically possible for Britain to be booted out of the Council of Europe, said: ‘The United Kingdom has an enviable reputation in relation to human rights standards and adherence. ‘I have no doubt that it would be seen by other countries as a move away from our strict adherence to human rights laws.’
Mr Grieve argued that refusing inmates the vote ‘would be costly to the United Kingdom’ as Strasbourg would almost certainly award them compensation worth tens of millions of pounds.
Mr Grieve added that, while the Government could choose not to pay, that ‘would be a further breach of the obligations’. He added: ‘The issue is whether the United Kingdom wishes to be in breach of its international obligations and what that does to the reputation of the United Kingdom.’
The remarks by Mr Grieve infuriated backbench Tory MPs. They insist it is nonsense to suggest Britain could be thrown out of the Council of Europe, which has failed to suspend the membership of countries such as Russia and Turkey which are guilty of flagrant abuses of human rights.
MPs also point out that the overwhelming majority of MPs voted last year to maintain the UK’s historic ban on prisoner voting and say Strasbourg must respect the sovereignty of Parliament.
So what will happen next?
The latest day of drama over prisoner voting was prompted by claims that the Government was prepared finally to reach a settlement with Strasbourg.
To the anger of Tory MPs, it was reported that Mr Grieve had persuaded Mr Cameron of the need to introduce a Bill giving at least a limited number of convicts the vote. But the claims were immediately rejected by Number Ten and insiders at the Ministry of Justice.
Later, at Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, Mr Cameron said: ‘I don’t want prisoners to have the vote, and they should not have the vote. ‘If it helps by having another vote in Parliament on another resolution to make absolutely clear, to help put the legal position beyond doubt, I am very happy to do that.’
A Tory source said Mr Grieve had gone public with his concerns after becoming frustrated with Mr Cameron’s refusal to accept his advice on prisoner voting. He is backed in the Cabinet by former Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke.
The source said: ‘For Dominic the rule of law is the key issue. The legal advice is very clear that the UK has to abide by the court’s ruling. There are different ways of doing it, but we cannot just say no – it may be popular politically in the short term, but legally it is madness and even the popularity of it may fade when we start having to pay compensation to murderers.’
A senior Government source insisted that Mr Cameron’s stance did not conflict with the Government’s legal advice. The source said: ‘The Attorney General’s arguments are slightly difficult to penetrate – he says lots of different things. ‘The focus has been on his concerns, but he does point out that parliament is sovereign and that there is flexibility in this.’
Dutch children could have three or more "parents"
Dutch kids may soon be able to have three or more mothers or fathers after the government said it was seeking to enshrine parenting rights for the Netherlands' 25,000 children in gay families.
"The justice ministry is going to investigate and see what the possibilities are for recognising three parents or more per family," ministry spokesman Wiebe Alkema told AFP on Wednesday.
The left-wing Green party, but also the Liberal VVD and the Labour PvdA parties that won last month's parliamentary election, requested the report with a view to amending a lesbian parenting bill currently before parliament.
The Netherlands was the first country to legalise gay marriage in 2001 and when a gay or lesbian couple has a child, another parent is by biological necessity involved.
But, said Green MP Liesbeth van Tongeren, it is also essential to recognise the rights of non-biological parents, including step-parents.
"Currently parenthood in the eyes of the law is almost always the consequence of biological parenthood," her party said in a statement, stressing that "this does not represent the diversity of families in the Netherlands."
"Often enough, the father of a child with lesbian parents also plays a role in the life of the child," she said.
"How a family lives is more important than the biological lineage," Van Tongeren added. "The bill should take into account what's best for all concerned."
There is currently no legal recognition in the Netherlands for a child's step-parents or for sperm donors who would like to be involved in the life of their child.
Junior justice minister Fred Teveen noted in parliament however that there were potentially many practical objections to changing the law and that he would await the report's conclusions.
Official statistics say that by the end of 2010, 14,813 homosexual couples were married in the Netherlands, where around a million of the country's 16.7 million inhabitants are homosexual, according to gay rights group COC.
A War on Religion? (Or... bye, bye freedom of conscience!)
In today’s increasingly secular society, the threat to religious freedom comes not at the point of a sword, but from imposed values at odds with the truth that there is a Creator who has given us certain inalienable rights that government is supposed to secure, not supplant. People of faith in America may not be seeing squads of soldiers pounding on their doors in the dead of night, demanding that they renounce their faith or be dragged off. But they are being confronted by lawmakers, bureaucrats, regulators, human rights commissions, and even college deans demanding that they submit to so-called “neutral laws of general applicability” that venerate such concepts as toleration, non-discrimination, and “choice.”
“And it’s okay,” say these modern arbiters of twenty-first century enlightenment, “if you don’t want to comply.” But the catch is that you won’t be able to earn a living in your chosen profession, or you may have to pay a fine, or your club or association or church will simply have to meet somewhere else away from the rest of “polite society.”
Yes, today’s barbarians seek not to end the free exercise of religion with a single knock-out blow, but rather to strangle it until it either cries “Uncle” or suffocates.
In this essay I offer a quick overview of how today’s threats to our religious freedom play out in the issues of life, marriage and sexuality, and the freedom of association.
The key targets of the Left with respect to the rights of conscience in the health-care field have been nurses and pharmacists who object to being involved in abortions or providing contraceptives, including possible abortion-causing drugs, because of their deeply held beliefs that pre-born lives are sacred.
In Illinois, just last month, a state court of appeals upheld the right of some pharmacists to refuse to provide the Plan B contraceptive, which is believed to be a possible abortifacient. Although Illinois has a “right of conscience” statute covering pharmacists, you may recall that former Governor Blagojevich issued a mandate ordering pharmacists to provide Plan B, and if they had religious objections to doing so, they should “find another profession.” The Illinois courts disagreed.
In the state of Washington earlier this year, a federal district court found a free exercise violation in that state’s attempt to enact rules that would force pharmacists to likewise provide Plan B and other drugs in violation of their conscience rights. The trial judge noted the close cooperation between the governor’s office, the state pharmacy board, and Planned Parenthood to create a rule whose “predominant purpose” was to “stamp out the right to refuse.”
Nurses with religious objections to participating in abortion procedures at state-owned or state-supported hospitals have also been threatened with loss of their jobs. In one case from Mt. Sinai hospital in Brooklyn in 2009, a nurse was required to assist in an abortion procedure against her conscience, and the federal courts denied her any legal remedy whatsoever. A state lawsuit is pending. In another case arising at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in 2011 involving 12 pro-life nurses, it took the quick action of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to stop the strong-arming by hospital administrators.
Most disturbing of all, the federal government has now taken a prominent role in threatening religious conscience rights on a nationwide scale. The Secretary of Health and Human Services has issued what has become known as the “HHS mandate”—a definition of the “preventive services” under the 2010 law known as the Affordable Care Act. The HHS mandate requires most employers to provide employee health plans that include coverage for sterilizations, contraceptives—including Plan B, Ella, and other possible abortion-causing drugs—and even abortion counseling. The mandate includes only a weak “religious” exemption from the mandate’s requirements that appears to cover only churches, leaving most other religious institutions, religious non-profits, and secular for-profit businesses under compulsion to comply. Heavy fines await those employers who refuse to comply.
The mandate’s deadlines for compliance (the first of which passed on August 1, 2012) have forced religious employers of all types to initiate lawsuits seeking protection for their conscience rights. Already over 30 lawsuits have been filed involving over 90 plaintiffs. Rather than recognize the overwhelming tide of objections to the mandate’s impact on conscience rights, the Administration has doubled down, filing motions to dismiss these lawsuits on standing or ripeness grounds.
In the case of one secular company, however, the administration’s hardball litigation tactics have proven ineffective. Hercules Industries is a Denver heating and air conditioning company owned by a Catholic family and run according to the owners’ faith principles. The owners object to the mandate’s sterilization and contraceptive requirements, which violate Catholic doctrine. The company was able with ADF’s help to obtain an injunction this past July against the mandate’s enforcement, at least on a temporary basis as the company’s lawsuit proceeds. The government argued that a secular company, such as Hercules, by definition “cannot engage in religion,” even though the owners’ faith principles are evident throughout the company’s corporate documents and policies. Federal district court judge John Kane called the question of a corporation’s religious rights an “issue of first impression,” but if it is resolved in Hercules’s favor, the judge held that the mandate would likely violate the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Passed overwhelmingly by Congress in 1993, RFRA prohibits the federal government from imposing a substantial burden on the free exercise of religion unless it has a compelling interest, and the burden is imposed using the least restrictive means available.
As more employers face compliance deadlines or monetary penalties, and the administration refuses to budge on the mandate, look for even more legal challenges to be filed.
Marriage and Sexuality
In the area of marriage and family, there is no doubt but that the increasing proliferation of so-called non-discrimination laws, civil unions, and same-sex marriage has resulted in the denial of religious liberty. Just ask Catholic Charities, which, since 2006, has chosen to get out of the adoption business in Boston, Washington, DC, San Francisco, and Illinois rather than be forced to place children with same-sex parents as required by the laws of those jurisdictions.
In New Mexico, a husband and wife photography business was fined over $6,600 for refusing, on religious grounds, to photograph a lesbian commitment ceremony. Although New Mexico has neither same-sex marriage nor civil unions, the state’s Human Rights Commission held that the couple violated the state’s non-discrimination laws that cover sexual orientation, and refused even to consider the couple’s religious liberty claims. That case is currently at the New Mexico Supreme Court after losing in two lower courts, and I’m hopeful that ADF is going to pull out a victory there.
In New Jersey, a United Methodist facility known as Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association was similarly charged with violating the state’s non-discrimination laws for refusing to host a civil union ceremony in its beachfront pavilion in 2007. That case is still ongoing, but part of a state tax exemption was also revoked from the facility for its action. Take note of the tax exemption issue. If same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land by edict of the Supreme Court next year, watch to see what happens down the road to the 501(c)(3) exemptions of those organizations whose beliefs and practices contradict the new reality.
In Vermont, Illinois, Hawaii and elsewhere, bed and breakfast inns run by people of faith have been targeted for discrimination complaints and lawsuits because the owners have refused to rent rooms or facilities for civil union or same-sex marriage events.
The federal courts’ recent treatments of associational freedoms focus on religious groups on college campuses as well as the rights of churches to meet in public buildings and hire their ministers without government interference.
Public colleges and universities have for a long time been a hotbed of political correctness. Whether it’s out and out hostility to religion by professors, or speech codes, or disputes over campus club membership restrictions, there is no end to the possibilities for attacks on religious freedom on campus.
In 2010, the Supreme Court got involved in a case over the associational rights of the Christian Legal Society (CLS) at the UC Hastings College of Law involving the club’s requirements concerning biblical belief and sexual behavior outside of the biblical definition of marriage. An LGBT group on campus complained, and the university then denied CLS official recognition. Although the facts and legal arguments are too detailed to present here, the bottom line is that the Court upheld what is called an “all comers policy” that the University had imposed on its campus clubs: all comers, regardless of whether they agree with a club’s foundational principles or not, must be allowed to join and even run for leadership positions. Since CLS could go off campus and enjoy all the associational freedom it desired, Justice Ginsburg held, its First Amendment rights were not violated. Being “banished” from campus life now seems to be the price for exercising your freedom of religion.
The Bronx Household of Faith has been in a long-running battle with the New York City Board of Education over the rental of public school facilities on weekends for church services. New York receives about 10,000 requests from community groups each year to rent out school facilities for evening and weekend events. Since the early 1990s, the City has been doing its best to deny churches the right to meet in its schools, alleging supposed “separation of church and state” problems. For about 17 years and counting, ADF has been defending this poor little neighborhood church against the ever-changing policies and arguments of the Big Apple. The church has lost in court on its viewpoint discrimination claim, but policy changes over the years now mean that though the City could still win under the free speech clause, it could lose under the “free exercise” clause of the First Amendment, according to a federal district court judge’s recent ruling. Stay tuned.
Finally, last January, in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School vs. EEOC, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the federal government’s incredibly wrong-headed argument that the First Amendment religion clauses do not protect a church’s ministerial hiring decisions. Chief Justice Roberts charitably referred to the government’s argument as “untenable” and “remarkable.”
In a world where the government believes that the First Amendment’s religious freedoms don’t apply to churches, religious organizations, non-profit and for-profit businesses, health-care providers, and anyone outside the four walls of a church building, we are all at risk. In a world where such people and organizations are relegated to second-class status off campus, or told to find a different line of work, or find a sign on public facilities that says “religion not welcome here,” we have entered an era not of tolerance, but intolerance.
On a hopeful note, we should thank legal organizations like ADF for defending us against the rising tide of laws, regulations, and policies that have the effect of infringing our religious freedoms. But we can’t leave it all up to them. We need to link arms and do the necessary grassroots-level work necessary to shore up our religious freedom at national, state, and local levels.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.