Such is the rhetoric I believe - we are asked to believe that either there are loads of people sitting on sofas, smoking, drinking cheap lager and eating sweets while defiantly refusing to work, or else that eager, smart and enthusiatic folk are valiently (and vainly) struggling to find work.
And every now and then we get a little insight:
Scrutinising the period from July 2012 to June 2013, the Labour Force survey found that 65 per cent of people across Bradford were in some form of employment, but 20 per cent, or a fifth of those questioned, were classed as “economically inactive” and “not wanting a job”.
This group chose not to disclose a reason why they did not want to work, ignoring options such as being on long-term sickness, looking after a family home or being a student.
So this group - about 70,000 people - aren't looking for work, aren't raising a family and aren't ill. Are they our much debated 'scroungers' living off benefits, occasional cash-in-hand jobs and petty crime? Or is it even more complicated than we're told?
It could be that there are problems with the survey - although one hopes that the Office for National Statisitcs (ONS) knows a thing or two about this and is likely to get it right. Perhaps some of these people have literacy or comprehension problems making the findings unreliable. Or there really are a lot of people in Bradford who aren't working, aren't caring and aren't ill but aren't looking for work. Doubtless they are the drone-like scions of Bradford's millionaire class!
Even if only a proportion of this group are actually lounging around doing sod all on benefits it says a great deal - about the system, about education and about how tolerant we are as a society. I think of other people who're turning the heating down a notch this winter, cutting back on life's little pleasures, perhaps forgoing a holiday. In part so their taxes can pay for people who have no intention of getting any work.
There is, perhaps, a limit to tolerance?