Sometimes I think I need to read this in black and white to actually believe it might be true.
A quarter of the British workforce is sitting at home in its pajamas receiving 80% of its pay, up to a maximum of £2,500 ($3,000) a month, guaranteed by the government until the end of June.
A similar scheme has been put in place for the self-employed.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “Since the launch, 800,000 employers have used the Job Retention Scheme to furlough 6.3 million jobs. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) estimated that the scheme would cost the Treasury a total £39bn.”
This incredibly over-generous scheme by the British government was grasped at hungrily by big business eager to retain labor without any of the costs.
Even small- and medium-sized business owners, usually reluctant to turn to the state for support and with resilience built into their models, caved to the scheme. It was simply too generous to refuse. The state now holds their employees in its warm embrace, just as with all the rest.
As for the employees, most have been delighted, and with good reason. In their minds, government money is free money, the invisible golden goose in the sky is laying golden eggs to pay for them to stay-cation with their family.
Prohibited from working under the furlough scheme, the need to do any work at all, or to feel any kind of guilt about taking money for doing nothing, has been completely absent from these sedentary fools.
They fail to see that what they are actually gobbling up, along with their takeaways and Netflix box sets, is almost as much cash as it costs to fund our NHS (National Health Service) on a monthly basis.
Talk to any head teacher or NHS manager and they will tell you the same woeful story of “key-workers,” fearful of being asked to work through the lockdown while others sit at home, self-isolating on day one due to “a vulnerable adult at home” showing “symptoms.” Give many the opportunity to do nothing without penalty, and that is exactly what they will do.
As one furloughed gentleman said as he sat in the sun in his garden, and I quote: “I retire in twelve months; if they want to pay me to sit here and sunbathe for the rest of that time, I couldn’t give a sh*t.”
This scheme needs to end. And fast. Until the government puts a stop to the furlough scheme and gives people an incentive to work again, many of those in the public sector will not.
Of course, the unions have come out swinging, threatening walkouts and strikes if the government tries to make people come back to work before it is “safe to do so,” quoting from their union handbooks to rabble-rouse the idle.
The GMB, which has more than 600,000 members, said the back-to-work guidance being issued “does not adequately protect workers from Covid-19 exposure and as a result many may refuse to work to avoid putting themselves and their families at risk.”
The Acting Secretary added: “For weeks the government has warned people this virus is dangerous and they must maintain social distancing and abide by the lockdown. They cannot just flick a switch, say it’s safe to work within two meters of other people without PPE and expect them to head merrily off to work.”
And here’s the catch: the government has used fear in the UK as a mechanism of control. People are so terrified of COVID that rates of self-referral to the ER have dropped by 70%. People are too afraid of COVID to get the emergency help they need for their health. 60% say they will not send their children back to school at this stage. Fear is not easy to undo. The unions will manipulate it for the full benefit of public-sector workers.
Our private sector faces far harder truths. In reality, furloughed staff are unemployed.
The demand for most goods and services simply is not going to be there when the lockdown ends and China shows why: rides on the metro and flights are down by a third, discretionary spending on things like restaurants is down by 40% and hotel stays are down by two-thirds. Fear is hard to undo.
The furlough scheme in the UK is postponing inevitable redundancies at the cost of the taxpayer. There is going to be a cull. Some of us are not sheep; we can smell the slaughterhouse ahead of us. The only kindness is to make it as painless as possible.
By the end of May 2020 six million Brits may be unemployed, equivalent to 20% of the workforce and directly comparable to the USA. Americans are already hungry and hunting for work. British capital and labor is trapped in zombie businesses unaware, paralyzing all.
There are no easy ways out of this, and no answer to many of the biggest questions, such as “Why would you collapse an economy for a virus with a mortality rate that looks like flu? Why force out all private ambition creating a nation of dependents? How could this happen on Boris Johnson’s watch?”
Watching state control at work has been an illuminating, if not deeply sinister experience. I have moved from feeling upset and then angry about it to watching with gory intrigue, like a student doctor gawking at a corpse.
The British government has successfully:
- driven fear into the heart of the British people, such that cancer patients dare not seek treatment, and asked neighbors to snitch on each other as a mechanism of control;
- grabbed power, locking down a nation with police enforcing rules that are neither written nor mandated;
- manipulated people’s emotions, persuading them to sign up to a volunteer army – “all in this together” – but never giving them a single practical task, encouraging them to clap at the sky in support of the NHS on command at 8pm on Thursdays, and permitting a puritanical mob to out individuals for non-compliance;
- wielded fiscal and monetary levers to create a furlough scheme that ensures calm, controlled compliance
As this diagram shows, furloughing is a temporary measure allowing the government to achieve calm compliance from its citizens, yet leading inevitably to mass redundancies demand for goods and services after lockdown is no longer there.
I wonder if those who have been so willingly controlled by the state will ever question what happened to them. Whether they will look back at footage of themselves clapping at the sky on command ‘in support of the NHS’ and feel foolish, or wonder why massive emergency hospitals opened to great fanfare are now mothballed without ever serving a single patient. Will they see they were built on a lie?
I fear not.
Britain is entering a lost decade. Lockdown may lift but the economic damage will be profound; the economy may well reopen, but as China, Denmark and Sweden have shown, it will operate at less than half its usual demand.
In Europe’s five largest economies 30 million workers, a fifth of the workforce, are on special schemes where the state pays their wages. Preserving these firms is only delaying the inevitable. America had the decency to make its cull a swift one, its President and citizens fighting back for freedom from day one.
No longer propped up by government money, British businesses will go to the wall. China endured half a million business bankruptcies in the first quarter of 2020. Even those that remain in operation will be shadows of their former selves. Boeing warned that air travel will not reach 2019 levels for two or three years.
In Britain we are heading into a decade where our kids will not find work, the lowest-paid struggle to find casual work, and the rationing of healthcare will be even more extreme. Scarred by fear, people will look to the state for their every need. This recession we are accelerating into will make the Great Depression look like a bad Monday in Michigan.
Oblivious to this, compliant Brits have been reduced to a set of nodding dogs in the window, waiting to be fed their next paycheck, listening for their next instruction, looking to the hand that now feeds them to tell them what to do.