Talking to someone online about politics, finance and economics, basically the budget, and I mention that the whole subject is my pet hobbyhorse at the moment (whenever I get a chance, I start ranting about it). The response is, ‘You know what annoys me? People who cheat about their benefits.’

‘What about super-rich people who cheat on their taxes and then get employed by the Government?’

‘Weell – yeah, but those people who have loads of kids just to get the benefits are worse…’

No, they’re really not. Getting the taxes owed from even just one or two of the super-rich who cheat about taxes would get the Government more revenue than eradicating all benefit fraud. ‘Benefit fraud’ is the demon we are taught to revile, while happily contributing to inflated salaries from those who don’t pay their share. Yes, I know and my friend knows people who… may not be one hundred per cent honest in their benefit claims. But really and truly, that dripping tap is nothing compared to the torrent flowing out in the form of tax evasion by the rich.

I don’t even believe that this spectre of the poor single mother who keeps having babies just for the benefits exists. Kids are work. If women are choosing to do this, there are almost certainly other factors in play. This spectre reeks of misogyny. The belittlement of female choice. The contempt for women’s struggles. The contempt for the ‘motherhood’ role. Numerous other misogynistic tropes.

The anger is getting directed down the wrong avenues. Politicians try to erase their mistakes by creating new demons, and we believe them. It’s time to tear the wool from our thoughts and think clearly about the problem.

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