There has been endless commentary about the Channel 4 documentary series Benefits Street but Caitlin Moran surpasses the rest. I’ll share an extract of her piece from the Times for the sake of those who can’t see behind the paywall.
Ninety-nine houses on a single street in Birmingham are now seen as the prism through which we examine the lives of every person on benefits in Britain... To show how absurd the weight and analysis lumped on Benefits Street is, imagine for a moment a putative Middle Class Street.
If, on our new Middle Class Street, we’d seen three out of 99 lovely Victorian terraces engaged in crime — the same ratio as Benefits Street — but the middle-class crimes of tax evasion and expenses fiddling instead, no one would be lining up to condemn the entire middle class. No one would be presuming to be an expert on the middle-class lifestyle. No one would be making statements on the moral degeneracy of the 21st-century middle classes.
When the irony is, of course, that the working-class benefit fraud costs £1.2 billion a year, while tax evasion — inevitably a middle-class crime — costs £14 billion annually. £14 billion! That it is often repeated does not dim its outrage. The fact is simple: richer people steal more. You cannot trust them.