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Disgusted by the Poor

Written By: - Date published: 7:40 pm, February 16th, 2012 - 46 comments
Categories: articles, uk politics - Tags:

Interesting opinion piece in the Guardian today.  Suzanne Moore looks at how the neo-liberal mindset has pervaded through society so that we are no longer disgusted by poverty, but by the poor themselves:

The idea that ultimately the poor must help themselves as social mobility grinds to a halt is illogical; it is based on a faith for which there is scant evidence. Yet it is the one thing that has genuinely “trickled down” from the wealthy, so that many people without much themselves continue to despise those who are on a lower rung.

The answer to poverty, you see, lies with the poor themselves, be they drain-dwellers, Greeks, disabled people, or unemployed youth. We will give them bailouts, maybe charity, and lectures on becoming more entrepreneurial. The economy of empathy has crashed, and this putsch is insidious and individualised. No more cruel to be kind. We must be simply cruel.

Worth a read – it’s every bit as true here.

46 comments on “Disgusted by the Poor”

  1. Bill 1

    Our disgust at the poor is tempered only by our sentimentality about children. They are innocent. We feel charitable.

    See, I was going to slam the whole piece at this point because she seemed to be condoning charity over the change we need. But then she banged a wee nail on the head

    At what point, though, can we no longer avoid (…) the concept that frightens the left as much as the right: redistribution, of wealth, resources, labour, working hours. Whither the left? Busy pretending that there is a way round this, a lot of the time.

    Whither the left, indeed.

    In relation to the main parliamentary expression of the left here. Remember how begrudgingly wff was going to be extended to the unemployed (via an election promise) by Labour after they had fought PAG tooth and nail to not extend it to the unemployed? Seems Labour in NZ isn’t even almost merely charitable. And as for change….

    • RedLogix 1.1

      The problem is that the left has been only attempted materialistic, legalistic solutions to a problem that is essentially moral in nature.

      The right has consistently told the world that greed, selfishness and cruelty was a good thing. We responded with ‘policies’….

      Is that a clue Bill?

      • Bill 1.1.1

        RL. Are you suggesting that capitalism is just a natural expression of our morality and that it is our morality that must be altered in the first instance? If that is what you are saying, then what you’re saying isn’t just a cop-out based on a woefully wrongheaded notion, but it’s sunk in hopelessness.

        Meanwhile, the ‘right’ has not told anyone that a world of greed, selfishness and cruelty is a good thing; no more so than the ‘left’. Both imply as much by treating government as a mechanism to simply manage the market economy and its effects on society. Neither challenge the basic assumptions of capitalism.

        Once upon a time, Labour did. But as the article states, the left is shit scared of redistribution these days. (I notice as an aside, that a redistribution of power isn’t on the article’s list, implying that the author wishes to ‘get back to the future’ by way of state control.) Anyway, the bottom line is that Labour, having abandoned its disastrous flirtation with state control and having subsequently failed to replace that vision with anything else of substance, consequently condones the greed, selfishness and cruelty that our economic system rewards. And it seems rather comfortable with this position. Labour (eg, through wff) is as culpible as the right of generating notions of the deserving poor (those with jobs) and the undeserving poor (those without jobs).

        And now, with a charity guy as its head, what chance of change coming from that quarter? Any at all?

  2. We are having to sell state assets to pay for our schools and hospitals, essential DoC staff are losing their jobs because of a few million dollars in cuts, 1/4 of our children are living in poverty and at the same time our excessively wealthy elite spent around $2 billion on luxury cars. When poverty in New Zealand is partly due to the same greedy group because of their selfish refusal to share the wealth generated by their employees, it is the rich who disgust me!

    • RedLogix 2.1

      Yes Dave; but how did the greed get to be so very fashionable?

      I agree with the intent of what you are saying; but frankly it’s couched in the same terms the left has been saying for decades…

      • Dave Kennedy 2.1.1

        RedLogix, I very well may have couched my comment in hackneyed terms but the sudden growth in luxury car spending is a relatively new phenomena. It is as if the rich no longer feel the need to be humble and are wearing their wealth with total nonchalance. For the first time in our country’s history we have been deemed to have such a strong luxury car market here that Rolls Royce have open a dealership and the manager predicts some strong sales in their $700,000 + cars this year.

        • Colonial Viper

          The smart rich I know drive $15,000 cars.

        • Dave Kennedy

          RedLogix, another growing phenomena is the acceptance of the poor not to expect anything else but poverty. The recent happiness survey demonstrated that most New Zealanders are happy, despite our median income being around $ 27,000 http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/wellbeing/5887771/Kiwis-poor-but-happy-survey
          When I was a child 50 years ago our communities and cities were not as stratified or segregated but now the wealthy live in small pockets of affluence quite separate from the peasants. The poor now live in large communities where everyone is similar and such poverty is “normal”. It is easy for the likes of John Key to ignore the realities of poverty because he rarely experiences it first hand and makes sure he doesn’t. The poor are unlikely to have aspirations beyond their current existence because real wealth is rarely seen.

  3. rosy 3

    Also worth watching is the Panorama documentary, Poor America referenced in the article. People living in drains under Las Vegas, kids going to bed without meals… and these are just ordinary working families who have lost jobs and not eligible for unemployment payments – that’s not even talking about the sick and disabled. And they get blamed for their own plight. It’s outrageous.

    oh – and healthcare is a ‘choice’.

    • Arianna Huffington’s book “Third World America” describes the Neoliberal decline in the US well and how the middle classes are suffering and it is they who get sympathy. It is interesting how US Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, ignores the poor and focusses on saving the dwindling middle class.

      • Colonial Viper 3.1.1

        Our world can no longer afford the middle class. Its they who cling desperately to the lies spread by the top 0.1% in the vain hope that what remains of their comfortable lifestyles can be salvaged for another year or three.

        • Populuxe1

          You really do like saying that crap while in the same breath spouting on about the lifestyle you enjoy from your father-in-law’s money. I really hope the latter is just trolling, because otherwise you’re just a blowhard hypocrite.

          • Uturn

            This one you get for free.

            Vladimir Lenin was born into a middle class family, well educated, maybe you’ve heard of him? A central point to his philosophy was that the educated middle classes must join with the proletariat to educate and assist them.

            What did Lenin achieve? Was he just a blowhard hypocrite?

        • Vicky32

          Our world can no longer afford the middle class. Its they who cling desperately to the lies spread by the top 0.1% in the vain hope that what remains of their comfortable lifestyles can be salvaged for another year or three.

          Seconded! 🙂
  4. Wayne 4

    The fact is society has a moral and ethical responsibility to look after all its citizens, especially children, the old, and the vulnerable.

    However this moral responsibility does not mean that one should not condemn the irresponsible behaviour of people having a huge brood of kids they can ill-afford, or who abuse welfare, or sniff glue, or abuse alcohol.

    There are scum in every society. This society indulges its scum, so their behaviour becomes more and more churlish and they have an attitude of entitlement. People who take drugs in front of their kids, act drunk around their children are scum.

    If you have smoked all your life don’t blame anyone but yourself when you get lung cancer. If you drink too much, don’t blame anyone else if your liver packs up.

    If you dine day in and day out on KFC don’t blame others when your arteries clog up.

    So looking after the children of scum is entirely the right thing to do. It is a moral imperative. But that does not conflict with condemning scum when one sees it all the same.

    There is no contradiction with looking after people while at the same time holding one’s nose.

    And again. If you cannot afford kids don’t fucken have any. That’s not fucken rocket science. But in this society it seems that those who can ill-afford kids do most of the breeding.

    But then even if the parents of these kids are rat bags, does not mean we should not look after these same kids.

    • Colonial Viper 4.1

      Wayne. Didn’t you hear? The “scum in every society” rises to the top. Yes that’s right, they’re the most powerful, wealthiest and most influential who made the fucking mess that hundreds of millions of formerly ‘middle class’ now live in.

      PS you’re scum

      • Wayne 4.1.1

        If you cannot afford kids don’t fucken have any. That’s not fucken rocket science. But in this society it seems that those who can ill-afford kids do most of the breeding.

        Colonial Viper. TRUE OR FALSE?

        I held off having kids until I could afford it. I have one. In my late 30s. Most of my friends from uni also put off having kids until their mid 30s to mid 40s. None have more than two kids. They saved hard, put money away for a rainy day, don’t smoke and drink only socially. They are not part of the parasitical big moneyed corporate capitalist class who live off the surplus labour of others.

        So you are saying we should fund the irresponsible breeding patterns of those who left school at 15, who snort drugs, who drink and smoke wildly, and breed just as wildly. And not bother to get an education. And even when they get encouraged to go along, they still fuck around,

        (yes of course we do have a moral responsibility to support these fuckers….but again they are useless fuckers all the same).

        Face it. All societies have a bell curve. There are useful people in society and useless people. Some people have high IQs some people low IQs. It will always be this way.

        In China during the 60s and 70s they stuck the low IQs in managerial positions and got the high IQs to shovel pig shit. And things sort of fucked up.

        I use to be a hard -core Marxist Leninist —-but only partially subscribe now.

        Coz the scientific, statistical truth is there are useful people and useless people in every society and there always will be.

        Do not confuse the proletariat with the lumpen proletariat. The latter should be surgically excised from society – even if gradually by giving them incentives to breed less.

        • rosy

          Well off people, well off societies and well off countries ‘breed’ less. The answer is do whatever it takes to improve well-being. Simply really, but at the moment we’re doing the opposite.

          And that starts with treating people as people, not as a lower life form because they don’t (can’t) abide by your norms. That’s sort of what the article was about.

        • Colonial Viper

          I held off having kids until I could afford it. I have one. In my late 30s. Most of my friends from uni also put off having kids until their mid 30s to mid 40s. None have more than two kids.

          lucky you grew up during an era of lifetime employment where housing prices where only 4x average incomes; get with the times none of that applies now you fucking dinosaur.

          Oh yeah accidents happen – heart attacks, strokes, redundancies, unplanned pregnancies. However it seems that you managed to be gifted with a preplanned life which didnt deviate from course, lucky you.

        • Uturn

          “They are not part of the parasitical big moneyed corporate capitalist class who live off the surplus labour of others.”

          Learn about how capitalist societies exist. No one in NZ is more than a parasite. Those with more money are even bigger parasites. Learn about profit, then tell me again who is a parasite. You were never a Marxist/Leninist, except in a historical sense in your eagerness to kill people who are not like you. Your stereotypes reveal a person with little or no ability to think.

        • Craig

          If there was universal access to comprehensive sex education in the secondary schools, improved access to low-cost but effective contraception and complete decriminalisation of abortion, Wayne, I would agree with you. There are obstacles to many low-income women exercising full and optimal reproductive freedom, delaying the birth of children until they can effectively support them and so on. New Zealand needs a reproductive health strategy.

    • rosy 4.2

      The fact is society has a moral and ethical responsibility to look after all its citizens, especially children, the old, and the vulnerable.

      ^I agree with this bit.

      The next sentence would be that society is failing in it’s moral and ethical responsibility…

      and then… a large part of the reason for this failure is the focus on the individual right to accumulate wealth, and other benefits, at a rate that disadvantages those who have assisted in this wealth creation so that it is no longer a shared venture, based on skill of all parties, but an exploitation.

      In a similar way this accumulation of wealth is an exploitation of the environment and resources (without accounting for the true cost, that those with wealth can avoid for now). So that as well as exploiting fellow inhabitants on this planet, the excessive accumulators are also exploiting future inhabitants.

      • muzza 4.2.1

        There is a war being waged by those who have the ability to shape perception, and the war is being made to be waged between those who see themselves and middle class, and those seen by the middle class , as beneath them. The bottom end have been used as fodder for the middle class, and the aspirational fools who populate the middle class, have brought into it!

        The war is for the mind, and for the spirit or energy of us all, so when we read the responses of people such as Wayne, who appear to have eaten all the class warfare propagnada pie the story tellers have fed him, we must not get sucked into emotional responses.

        People such as Wayne are not for helping, for they are of a mindset which is not for changing, for the Waynes’ of the world, or the aspirational fools of the middle class, believe that the life they are living is righteous! All the likes of Wayne are doing is showing what low empathetic people sound like, and they are many. How they became like this is varied, and another topic completely!

        It must be hard enough for the Waynes of the world to so despise people who are “beneath them”, only thinking in negative terms of people who he does not know, nor of how or why they are in the position they are, only that they are to be derided, because “the poor are disgusting, because that is what I learnt, and my peer group reinforce my righteous attitude’!

        Shame on The Waynes!

      • Bill 4.2.2

        If society has a moral and ethical responsibility to look after all its citizens, then does it (ie, you and me) not also have a moral and ethical responsibilty to remove the barriers that are preventing this from happening?

        Our societies are shackled to and subsumed by an economic system that’s dynamics run counter to social interests. Any doubt on that front should be well and truly dispelled by the spectacle of societies being well and truly trashed via ‘austerity measures’ that are aimed at preserving the integrity of our economic straitjacket.

        Societies have all the necessary material resources required for their well being. The problem is merely one of access. And the impediment to access is the market. As an extreme but not uncommon example, I’m sure most people are aware of situations whereby people have starved to death in the face of market logics that dictated the food which could have fed them is exported instead.

        On the NZ front, it isn’t the fault of our society that kids have been known to eat cockroaches and that too many of us struggle against mounting odds. It’s 100% the fault of the economy. And even if the economy was booming, there would still be swathes of people in hardship.

        I believe we already have a just society. But it has an economic jackboot pressed to its neck which stops it (ie, you and me) functioning or behaving as we would in a free society.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.3

      There are scum in every society.

      Yep, it’s the rich.

    • Wayne, you appear to believe “scum” exist regardless and deserve to be treated as such. Those who you regard as scum are probably the likes of William Bell http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Dwane_Bell who was not born scum but was created by the environment and society he lived in. As a teacher I see “scum” being created daily by poor government policy, lack of effective support and poverty. You need to read Celia Lashlie’s book “The Power of Mothers”.

      • Wayne 4.4.1

        So Mr Kennedy. You see all sorts of problems in the classroom and the ‘scum’ being created on a daily basis. Howabout if such ‘scum’ or potential ”scum’ had never been born? Would that not be the ideal solution?

        Should we not encourage those parents who are likely to have kids that give rise to the sorts of problems you observe on a daily basis, not to have kids in the first place? Or just have one or two when they have saved up enough money to give them ‘effective’ support, as I myself did?

        • Zorr

          The telling point here, I feel, is your usage of the word “scum” in order to invalidate large sections of society in an incredibly derogatory manner.

          I am only going to answer a single point you have attempted to make because it is the only one I really have an opinion on beyond complete dismissal. That of people needing to wait until they have the means to have children and that anyone else is being inherently responsible.

          First point – younger parents are able to more successfully and safely breed (statistically speaking, individuals differ). By the time you are hitting your mid to late 30s, the chances of chromosomal disorders or fertility difficulties go through the roof. Younger parents, I have noticed, tend to have more energy to invest in their children.

          Continuing from this point, however, is the financial issue. It used to be the case (40+ years ago before the Reagan/neolib revolution) that a family was capable of supporting itself handily on a single income. Now, to make ends meet, you should probably both be working at least one job and if you can’t make ends meet it’s your fault because, obviously (D’UH), you should have a night job as well. This is an artificially created issue through application of piss poor (trickle down, see what I did there?) economic theory that aims for the amassing of wealth for the 0.1% and fuck the rest of us…

          We are not economic units, Mr Wayne. We are animals. For all our civilization, for all our wonderful achievements, we are primarily driven by our base motivators and that is the part of life I cherish. I never had the money to support my kids when I first had them… I was a 25 yo, unemployed student getting by with my wife on odd jobs, student allowance and the various other forms of assistance. And, given a second chance, I wouldn’t ever do it differently because I had my children when *I* was ready for them… not when my *finances* were…

          So put that in your self righteous pipe and smoke it you blowhard RWNJ…

          • Vicky32

            First point – younger parents are able to more successfully and safely breed (statistically speaking, individuals differ). By the time you are hitting your mid to late 30s, the chances of chromosomal disorders or fertility difficulties go through the roof. Younger parents, I have noticed, tend to have more energy to invest in their children.

            I wholly agree.  I had my first child at 18, my second at 23 and my third at 33. I definitely saw a difference in my energy levels!

            Continuing from this point, however, is the financial issue. It used to be the case (40+ years ago before the Reagan/neolib revolution) that a family was capable of supporting itself handily on a single income. Now, to make ends meet, you should probably both be working at least one job and if you can’t make ends meet it’s your fault because, obviously (D’UH), you should have a night job as well. This is an artificially created issue through application of piss poor (trickle down, see what I did there?) economic theory that aims for the amassing of wealth for the 0.1% and fuck the rest of us…

            Totally agreed.

  5. Wayne 5

    And, given a second chance, I wouldn’t ever do it differently because I had my children when *I* was ready for them… not when my *finances* were…

    Ahhh….I see…..and if you can’t fully support them, then other people, like myself, should?

    So you can satisfy your ‘base motivators’?

    Note that little over 100 years ago, people like you would be sending out your kids to work to in some factory or cotton mill to make ends meet.

    Not asking society to raise them for you..

    That you can nowadays should mean that you should be grateful to those who do not suck at the public tit, and perhaps have control over some of those ‘base motivators’, so there is more slops in the public trough for people like you and your family to slurp down.

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 5.1

      How delightful. A perfect illustration of Suzanne Moore’s slavering moralist.

      I’m with Redlogix: the best response to this vile nonsense is not policy, it is disgust.

    • framu 5.2

      wayne – would you accept that “scum”, just like drug abuse, is a pan socio-economic trait?

      ie: you get rich scum, poor scum, and middle class scum and all sorts of scum inbetween.

      and said scum is sprinkled in amongst many people of good moral standing – yet who share similar wealth (or lack there of)

      so why the quite apparant hatred for only poor scum? – (with that bit of eugenics thrown in for good measure)

      – surely someone who is scum is harmful to those around them regardless of their wealth?

    • Galeandra 5.3

      Your views are a sad indictment of the society that produced you. We can hope, perhaps, that Wayne is just a persona created for debate? Argument needn’t be quite so nasty though.

    • Mike 5.4

      “Ahhh….I see…..and if you can’t fully support them, then other people, like myself, should?”

      Yes you should Wayne because it is their taxes that will pay your pension in your old age.

      What people like you fail to even contemplate, let alone understand is population sustainability. In order to sustain the NZ population at a level high enough to bring in enough tax revenue and to support economic growth, it is estimated that every single woman in NZ of child bearing ability would need to have around 2.7 children. At the moment I think we are breeding at around 2.4. In other words we are looking at a future crisis unless we start having more children. So where does that leave us in regards to you wanting less children in the country?

  6. Wayne 6

    I never had the money to support my kids when I first had them… I was a 25 yo, unemployed student getting by with my wife on odd jobs, student allowance and the various other forms of assistance. And, given a second chance, I wouldn’t ever do it differently because I had my children when *I* was ready for them… not when my *finances* were…

    OK. ‘Scum’ might be a bit harsh. How about PARASITE.

    Now who here will condemn the irresponsible and selfish behaviour of Zorr? If you do not there is no hope for you or for society.

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 6.1

      I will condemn your disgusting ideology for what it is:

      A pathetic and emotionally stunted display of selfishness and cruelty.

  7. Olwyn 7

    “Do not confuse the proletariat with the lumpen proletariat. The latter should be surgically excised from society – even if gradually by giving them incentives to breed less.”

    Do you realise what an insidious thing that is to say, and how chilling it would sound, even to you, if the words “lumpen proletariat” were replaced with the name of a race of people?

    The middle class looking down their noses at the poor is nothing new. What is new is the ferocity and certainty with which it is done, and the lack of competing perspectives, such as “there but for the grace of God go I,” etc. As Zorr has said, “We are not economic units, Mr Wayne. We are animals.” Like other animals, we are at our worst when there is pressure on resources. We live now with continuous, deliberately maintained pressure on resources, with our frustration directed toward the mythologised underclass. In the absence of manufacturing, or some adequate replacement for it, we ensure that property retains its value by making sure that there is never enough to go round, and that wages remain low by ensuring that there are not enough jobs to go round either. Then we affirm our place on this ugly food chain by turning savagely on those who miss out, and assuming moral authority over them. If real wealth is not being produced, we figure, then it follows that any wealth “they” get is wealth “I” am missing out on. It is a dangerous game, and the sooner we come up with an alternative the better.

  8. crite40 8

    Just looking through this thread and I came across
    “colonial viper”.
    I’m afraid that “he” represents exactly what is wrong with the left (and the right for that matter).
    Its the old Marxist obsession with the “bourgeois” again. The problem in our society is NOT the “middle class” but the “new aristocracy”.
    They are now becoming entrenched with inherited wealth under the idiotic ideas of Freidmann et al.

    Traditionally New Zealand aspired to what England would describe as a “lower middle class” society.
    I come from such a background myself of small shop owners.
    This worked well enough until Muldoon finally wrecked the NZ economy and Lange was conned into going with the “moneatarist” approach.
    His problem was that he was a clever guy, who unfortunately though he was even cleverer.
    One solution would be to really change the tax system like the UK in the 1940’s. Say 90% income tax on incomes over $250,000 a year + capital gains tax.

    • Colonial Viper 8.1

      Not that I disagree with you that the true problems lie with the top 1% (actually the top 0.1% aristocracy) but the recognition is that it is the self fashioned “upper middle class” (the top 20%) who soak up the lies, support and vote for them.

      John Michael Greer suggests that whichever politician can reassure (lie to) the upper middle classes the best regarding the imminent return of growth and economic prosperity (business as usual) will always get voted in.

    • Uturn 8.2

      Bear in mind that the “middle class” is not a person, or a group of people, it’s a set of ideas, beliefs and values held by people. If anyone believes capitalism is the only way life can be, they will believe the middle class is necessary and feel victimised when they hear it must go. That is understandable, but in this, the middle class perspective has raised ignorance to the level of virtue. The educated middle class will not educate themselves in alternatives to capitalism. They believe their identity is an idea they can freely choose; so they fear they will die when capitalism dies. But human identity is not an idea.

      The “Left” are not to blame for refusing to ease the anxieties of the bourgeois – all the information has been readily available for over one hundred years. Greed and ignorance is too comfortable and the middle classes haven’t looked and don’t want to listen – their problem. Current global trends suggest capitalism will force everyone to consider alternatives and re-evaluate the human condition sooner than Socialism’s predicted self-evidence circa 2300AD.

  9. vto 9

    I think there has been a tide-change and that greed and money and materialism is now viewed as really quite gauche and shallow.. Other characteristics are now more highly regarded and this article is a bit behind the eight-ball.

    Maybe that is a view arriving from living in Chch post/continuing-quakes where the community and benevolent spirit is certainly more alive than I have ever seen before.

  10. Bryan 10

    A thorough account of how this came to be can be found in Owen Jones’ excellent Chavs – the Demonisation of the Working Class. It’s not just a contemporary social phenomenon, but the attainment of a long term strategy by neo-con and third way governments to discredit and negate the concept of class.

    • Craig 10.1

      Just read it and found the parallels with New Zealand fascinating- although bogans and westies here aren’t as demonised as ‘chavs and scallies’ are, one can easily read ‘solo mums’, beneficiaries, ‘state house tenants’ and others into our version of the argument. As well as that, there is another difference- UK Labour is actually leading the Tories in most polls, probably due to the collapse of the LibDem vote after they entered coalition with Cameron et al.

      From a social policy perspective, I’d probably argue the following- what the hell do you expect if you slash basic social spending as Richardson and Shipley did in 1991 and as Key et al are doing now? Confetti? Hearts and flowers? Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

  11. Vicky32 11

    This makes me think of the issue of the State House tenants being moved out in Tamaki/Glen Innes so that their houses can be demolished and the area gentrified. When I saw their story in the Herald early in the week, I was shocked to see letters the next day from people in Remmers etc, calling them “greedy” and coming out with the myth that State houses have always been emergency housing with cheap rents and only for the homeless and beneficiaries! Mike Hosking said the same thing on Close Up tonight.
    I know very well that in the 1960s when ShonKey (among others, like the Temata family) moved into their state houses, the only difference was that your landlord was the state! (Half the kids in the neighbourhood lived in state houses, we had our own house only because my rich grandfather had died before my parents even met and left his holiday home to my mother (the family house went to his widow). It has only been since the middle 1990s that state houses have been considered “welfare”. My late neighbours were in their state house for 60 years, until they died with 6 weeks of each other in 2004. She had been a war widow, and he was a returned soldier who married her. They were not beneficiaries, just ordinary people who raised a son who is now a senior police officer with 5 children of his own and 3 grand children. They would have been amazed at the idea that they were getting ‘welfare’ all those years!

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