A rose by any other name…

So the British politicians have been caught with their fingers in the pie and the whole country is up in arms about it. I personally can’t see why it’s in the papers everyday and on the news and even has people resigning over it.  What is the big deal? Really? I heard one radio show host getting very righteous about it and demanding that the culprits call his show and explain their dirty deeds.

You and I already know the answer to this one. They did it because they could. They did it because it was one of those perks of the job that’s not in the contract but is just business as usual. They spotted a loophole in the expenses guidance notes and instead of closing it they took advantage of it. Loopholes, as far as I know, are not against the law I’m a bit baffled as to why these people are being dragged through the streets like common criminals (metaphorically speaking of course.)

The facts are that a number (majority) of politicians, allowed a second home, were able to claim expenses for a range of things such as works on the house, or entertainment systems. The ones we heard about were claiming for massage chairs, porn videos, furniture, that kind of thing. The reason for the big noise is that the homes in question were not always used as a residence. Some of the ‘culprits’ were really savvy and refinanced the properties, built extensions, thereby increasing the value (known as flipping in property circles) and made a profit. It seems that nothing was out of bounds and actually it conjures up images of money laundering and all sorts of random criminal activity!

I agree that as taxpayers we should be bothered because ultimately we are footing the bill; these are after all public servants that have been taking advantage of us. No question there, it’s wrong. 

Where I lose sympathy with the public’s (over)reaction is that no one seems to acknowledge that it’s not just the politicians giving themselves extra perks on the job, we’ve all been guilty of the same indiscretion. I challenge any (or most) of you to tell me about just one job that you’ve had where you did not take advantage and help yourself to benefits that were not promised in your contract or even hinted at verbally.

The truth is, when I worked in an office I don’t recall paying out of my pocket for pens, paper, or even printer ink for well over ten years. Why? Because my employer paid and I took. When I worked in a chicken shop, I never paid for chicken, chips or apple pies for a very long time. Why? Because I took them from my employer and was even benevolent about it, sharing my good fortune with friends and family.

I know a guy right now who works for a multi national retail chain and who hasn’t paid for a pair of jeans since the last millennium. Why? Because he takes them from his employer (ironically his employer then balances losses due to theft – employee or otherwise – by raising prices and passing the expense on to paying customers!)

What I’m challenging here is the blatant hypocrisy showing itself over this issue. How many of us have used the company phone or grabbed a company toilet roll on a Friday night because the shop might be closed by the time we get home? How many of us have inflated our expense claims? Funny how even the most honest person, who otherwise has great integrity thinks it’s free for all or harmless to quietly give yourself a bonus at work.  Truth is that although there are some honest people, we live in a dishonest society and actually think it’s normal. It’s only a phone call…just one pen…oh yeah and a massage chair….

I would argue that most of us know the difference between right and wrong but when it suits us to ignore the wrong-ness of something, we do just that, convincing ourselves that it’s okay. Case in point, climate change or more specifically the contribution our addiction to cars makes to the carbon footprint. We know that cars are bad for the environment so surely the answer is to eliminate  or at least dramatically reduce our production and use of them right? Apparently not, instead we choose to protect the car makers and throw taxpayers’ money at ensuring their survival over that of the planet earth.  

Unemployment is a bitch I know but exactly why would you need jobs when you may not have a planet? The shortsightedness defies logic, mine at least. Another one is war, now I’m not going to get too deep into this but bottom line, war is not a good thing people and yet we find reasons to justify it and throw billions if not trillions in…yep, taxpayers’ money at it. 

In my view the politicians are no better or worse than the rest of us. If you have ever taken advantage on the job and are crying foul then I reckon you are just jealous or have some other irrelevant issue. The shit has hit the fan, the loophole has been exposed, let’s move on. Do we need these people to resign…why? What they did does not affect their ability to do their job, the job we elected them to do. Give them a slap on the wrist and put them back to work.

In the wise words of Iceberg Slim, the twentieth century pimp and novelist,‘don’t hate the playa…hate the game.’

Join the global conversation, share your story of enjoying benefits the boss didn’t know you had!

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