Today my mother gave my number to a woman from the BBC. I got a heads up from my friend who happens to work for my mother. My friend called me, to stop me being blindsided and told me that a woman was going to call me about the budget. I hadn’t been able to see any of the news or updates on it today because work had been particularly busy, but my friend gave me the highlights (or rather, incredibly depressing low points) and then left me to it.
A minute later, I received a text message telling me to call this woman on her direct line. Curious, I did.
I have posted our conversation on my Facebook page so I won’t repost that here, but I will use parts of it to elaborate on what I said to her.
Her unenviable task was to find “a young, single person on minimum wage who is happy about the budget.” I told her I really hadn’t had the chance to look at much about it yet and asked for more information.
The budget George Osborne has presented us with suggests that by 2020 the minimum wage will be up to £9 / hour. It will rise in increments and be at £9 / hour in 2020. The lady at the BBC told me this will match the living wage. This is a false presentation of the living wage, inflation, the economy and the people who are impacted by all these things. The living wage is currently in London, according to http://www.livingwage.org.uk/calculation £9.15 per hour. The budget is still proposing £9 / hour so even now it’s less than the living wage for a lot of people. But in 2020? Come on. Like George Osborne, I’m no economist, but even I can tell you with my very basic understanding that the living wage WILL ALSO HAVE RISEN IN 2020!
This means, George and BBC lady, that the living wage will not be matched. Even today’s living wage is not matched in the most densely populated area of the country. To suggest that it will be matched in 2020 is absolute nonsense. It’s economically impossible unless the living wage drops to that amount and that is so very unlikely. People earning much more than minimum wage struggle to pay rent because of property prices rocketing. Everything is getting more expensive, not less. Are either of them suggesting that actually everything is going to get cheaper? I highly doubt that. And changing the name of “minimum wage” to “national living wage” is the cheapest and most shameful move of all. It’s minimum wage by a misleading and sneaky name. The living wage is already something that exists. Raising minimum wage to £7.20 per hour on a national level is still short of the London living wage by £1.95 per hour. Do not be fooled. This is not a living wage.
Wearing her BBC hat, the woman I spoke to is looking to present an entirely false version of this element of the budget. She eventually said there’s a small group of single, young, minimum wage earners who live outside London and will benefit from tax cuts. I asked her how they’d benefit and she didn’t have an answer. She didn’t have an answer because there isn’t one. This budget is not for the minimum wage earner. I’m very lucky that only one of my jobs pays me minimum wage. I have previously written about how I have 4 jobs because nothing quite pays me enough to live on solely. But not everyone is as lucky as I am. And these are the people who are going to “benefit”? Don’t give me that. This government is not for those people and has never been for those people.
Then we talked a bit about the fact that maintenance grants for students are being taken away and incorporated into student loans. So the government is taking away money from people, asking them to be in even higher debt once they enter the work force, then they have the audacity to pretend that they’re making things better? Doing us a favour even. How dare they? And the BBC wants someone to get on our screens and tell the world how it’s a good thing? How. Dare. They. Why don’t you try living on minimum wage for a week or a month or a year? See what happens, then come back to me and tell me how happy you are about this.
I don’t believe everyone is that stupid. I mean, a whole bunch of people voted in a Conservative government as if they thought things would get better, so maybe I’m wrong, but even if I’m not, our government is talking to us as if we are stupid. Our media is treating us as if we are morons. And we are expected to sit there and lap it up. I was informed that there is the idea that news organisations must present balanced reporting but some things simply are not balanced. If our government is not balanced, if our budget is not balanced, how can it be presented as such? That’s not balanced reporting – that’s lying.
This budget is being presented as progress. It’s not progress. It’s the same problem wrapped in shiny new media newspaper. We are going to be in exactly the same boat we’re currently in. There’ll be no proportional difference when it comes to the gap between the minimum living wage and the minimum actual wage. And this woman at the BBC, asking for someone to say they’re happy and it’s a good thing, is part of the problem.
There is not a second side to this story. If you’re earning minimum wage, below the living wage, you’re being shafted. And no one in their right mind is going to be happy about being in that situation. And I’m sorry BBC and lady representing them, but looking for someone to effectively lie on TV makes you just as responsible as the government for keeping us in this state of inequality. You won’t find that person you’re looking for because as soon as someone understands the situation fully, they won’t be happy any more. You’re either looking for someone who is ill informed or rich. If you get someone ill informed well shame on you. If you get someone rich then they’re so far away from minimum wage it’s laughable that you’d even bother. Either way, what you’re asking for isn’t possible. Once they have all the facts, the person you want doesn’t exist.
The BBC lady told me she didn’t disagree with me and then asked me “But don’t you hope to be earning more than minimum wage by 2020?”
Lady. You don’t know me. You don’t know my abilities. You don’t know my dreams or aspirations or potential. You don’t know my life, my situation or my finances. And frankly, it’s none of your business. You have no right to ask me that question at all and it’s entirely irrelevant to the point of this conversation. All you’ve done is show me how utterly ignorant you are, and shown me how much a part of the problem you are.
Because it’s not just about me. And if you thought for a second you’d realise that. You’re speaking to me because you want me to be the voice of a group. This is a group that includes people who might not ever earn more than minimum wage. There are so many of those people and they are the ones who are going to be most affected by the virtue of nothing changing at all. Their situation will not improve. They’ll theoretically have more money in the bank but they won’t feel richer because they’ll be kept in exactly the same stagnant state. What I want or hope doesn’t matter, because some people are never given the choice or chance to think bigger and better. It is policies like this that ensure that.
Of course I hope to be earning more than minimum wage by 2020. Because no one *hopes* to be earning minimum wage. It’s something you suck up and take because you don’t have other options. Furthermore if I’m not earning minimum wage in 2020 then it doesn’t matter if I’m happy about the increase because it doesn’t affect me in the same way. The whole search for this mythical, budget-positive minimum-wage-earning person is moot.
I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but when are certain branches of the media going to stop helping the government feed us this bullshit and start exposing it instead? I was under the impression that reporting was about telling everyone the reality of what is going on, not enabling the falsehood that everything is OK.
I am not a reporter but let me try to give you the reality: I am absolutely certain that everything is not OK.