How did the poor get so rich?

Independent columnist Mark Steel is glad to see that the British media have finally discovered the real culprits who caused the international financial crisis.

Conservative Party minister Iain Duncan Smith (right) comforts another hapless victim of the poor's avarice (CBI)Conservative Party minister Iain Duncan Smith (right) comforts another hapless victim of the poor's avarice (CBI)

IN A couple of weeks, the British economy will be put right.

Because at last, cuts such as the "bedroom tax" and universal tax credit come in, so we'll finally get some money back off the richest people in this country--the poor. Any glance at our society makes it obvious who's run up all the debts: the poor, that's who, swanning around in charity shop cardigans and gallivanting on shopping expeditions like the women in Sex and the City, squealing "Hey, let's go to Poundland and buy a dishcloth," in ways the rich can barely dream of.

The rich have to pay for the poor's avarice, with many currency speculators at Price Waterhouse having to take on extra work to make ends meet. They've barely finished destabilizing the yen when they take two buses to a cleaning job, polishing a bedsit in Tower Hamlets. Many CEOs find their salary runs out and live on cat food until their bonus arrives, and 40 percent of the board at the Royal Bank of Scotland are now on the game.

This is mainstream economics--that the poor are richer than the rich. Modern politicians must see a film on Comic Relief about starving children in Somalia and cry: "What a tragedy. Is it any wonder Africa's in a pickle while the extravagant pigs flaunt their mosquitoes like that?" Then they call the number on the screen and pledge to help out the village by shutting down their well.

It's an imaginative approach, because less qualified types might imagine the banking crisis may have been caused, in some part, by bankers. But it takes a trained mind to understand that the people who robbed us are the poor. If a government minister stormed into a bank in the middle of an armed robbery, he'd yell: "There are the robbers, those bastards lying on the floor tied up and sniveling that they don't want to die. And someone help out this man, the poor chap's trying to carry a sack AND a sawn-off shotgun, he'll pull a muscle."

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IT'S A tricky argument to pull off--that the poor caused the debt so they should pay it back. Maybe that's why, on most weeks, there are stories in certain newspapers about a woman with 45 kids on benefits, who then bought a giraffe, and now that's on benefits, but she said it was cramped, so the council has put it up in the Shard, and two of the kids have got Compulsive Potting Disorder, so they've been given a snooker table, but she couldn't be referee, because she's allergic to white gloves, so the mayor has to do it, otherwise he'd be put in jail by Europe.

Then they quietly drop the story when it emerges that the reporter missed out the detail that although all this did happen, it was in a dream he had while suffering from food poisoning.

So it's replaced with an article about a man on disability benefit who turned out to be secretly competing in triathlon tournaments in his loft, and there's a woman who hasn't worked since 1975 who receives so much in housing benefit that she pays Martin Amis to fill in her claim forms for more money. And they'll print an extract that starts: "You ask why I have attended no job interview in 38 years, and I can only weep the tears of a fallen angel, reach to the constellations and ask that you, dear assessor, replete in your cruddy crude crudeness, be spared the dodgy knee I've had all that time. Time. Whatever, whenever, whoever my succulent sobriquet, that may be. Oh, and I need a new fridge."

Iain Duncan Smith will raise the case in parliament, until it turns out it was made up on a website called "People On Benefits Are Aliens From Jupiter--FACT!!!" and it is never mentioned again.

Then they turn to immigrants, and this time, all politicians agree we can't carry on as we are, paying all these benefits to them because we're about to run out of everything.

If he was to glance at his own department's figures, Duncan Smith would see that 6.6 percent of immigrants claim benefits, compared with 16.6 per cent of non-immigrants. Which goes to show that he doesn't have time to look at figures because he's a very busy man, given that he's working, and anyone who receives benefits who quotes a statistic correctly should have their money cut since they've been arsing about looking at numbers when they should be trying to get work.

At least they're attacking the poor, though, who caused the mess in the first place. Because the banking system, as we know, was ruined by the residents of a tower block in Toxteth. In league with a woman from Sunderland on invalidity benefit with chronic back pain, the poor lent vast sums to international investors at the bottom of a stairwell by the bins, with not a thought for the damage caused to the global financial system.

So now they're being turfed out of their house for having a spare room for their kids. That'll teach them.

First published in the Independent.