“All your dreams are made
when you’re chained to the mirror with a razor blade.” One of the Gallagher brothers.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has asked Osborne to specify how he will reach targets announced in the budget, given that the poorest had been the hardest hit by draconian benefit cuts already. The IFS say the worst of the UK’s spending cuts are still to come.
Paul Johnson, the IFS director, said:
“But it is now almost two years since he announced his intention of cutting welfare spending by £12bn. Since then the main announcement has been the plan not to cut anything from the main pensioner benefits.
We have been told about no more than £2bn of the planned cuts to working-age benefits. And, remember, apparently the ‘plan’ is to have those £12bn of cuts in place by 2017-18. It is time we knew more about what they might actually involve.”
A senior Conservative minister said the party would not spell out all its welfare cuts until after the general election. David Gauke, the Treasury secretary, was pressed repeatedly on the BBC’s Daily Politics to explain if the Tories would detail their planned welfare cuts beyond the £3billion previously specified.
He replied: “We will set it out nearer the time which will be after the election.
Such cuts are normally agreed as part of a wider spending review.”
How very convenient. But Osborne had no reservations announcing the cuts, despite the implication that they haven’t yet been agreed.
And the Government spending cuts set out for after the general election are the toughest out of 32 most advanced economies worldwide, according to the IFS.
Johnson said that Osborne will need to make unprecedented cuts in welfare to meet targets. At a glance, if we take into account the entire period of tax increases and spending cuts since deficit reduction began under the last Labour government in early 2010, it appears that the richest had been the biggest losers.
However, Johnson said: “Looking only at changes implemented by the coalition the poorest have seen the biggest proportionate losses.”
This is indeed confirmed by many studies and even a glance at coalition policies show how the wealthiest have been compensated by a variety of state handouts, including a tax “break” of £107,000 each per year, whilst the poorest are forced into food bank queues in desperation and are increasingly being made homeless because of punitive policies such as benefit sanctions, the bedroom tax and council tax.
Meanwhile, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said the current plans put public services at risk and called for a “balanced and fair way to get the deficit down”.
He said: “Labour will make sensible spending cuts in non-protected areas, but we will also reverse David Cameron’s £3bn tax cut for the top 1% of earners.” Quite properly so.
Labour’s fiscal target, of balancing the current budget as soon as possible in the next parliament, whilst allowing for some borrowing to fund infrastructure investment, would require far less stringent cuts than the Tories’ plans, according to the IFS. Labour could meet its aim by cutting departmental spending by just £5.2bn, or 1.4%.
As a society we cannot possibly accommodate a further 12 billion cut from welfare spending. It’s not that Osborne can’t answer the IFS challenge: he won’t. He’s being conservative with the truth – which is that we cannot afford to reduce any more from welfare without ending welfare provision as we know it.
The Tories fully intended that the welfare “reforms” were the beginning of the end of our welfare state. The welfare “reforms” (welfare cuts) were ushered in strictly because of the despotic use of “financial privilege” by Cameron to bypass the widespread and vehement opposition to the Bill.
At the time, I emailed the entire House of Lords, imploringly. My second email simply said: the welfare reforms must not happen. Many of the peers and members replied, and many responded with “agreed.” But Cameron made them happen and apparently felt no obligation to observe the niceties of democratic process.
The Tories clearly have no intention of ensuring a safety net for citizens and have plotted to dismantle our welfare state since the Thatcher era. This is a long-planned outcome for the Tories. Our social security and public services are in serious jeopardy.
How did we become a nation where the affluent begrudge every penny that they pay in tax, whilst the poorest are suffering, starving and dying? The wealthy have been permitted to hoard obscenely in private whilst the poorest people’s incomes are regarded as being public property.
The Tories have always seen taxing the wealthy as a sin. But we now have a class of millionaires that shriek in outrage at the very idea of contributing responsibly to a society that they take so much from. These miserable wretches are supremely unconcerned that the bedroom tax contravenes human rights, that it’s draconian, that human beings are suffering terribly because of it. Yet just the prospect of the rich paying a mansion tax turns some of them into howling, indignant, hideously self-obsessed, petulant, tantruming mard asses.
This is what conservatism cultivates: punishment and suffering for the poor, indifference, indolent greed and spoilt brat syndrome for the wealthy. (I know there are remarkable exceptions, J K Rowling being someone who immediately came to mind.)
Economic and social success is founded on dependency (and interdependency) on others. And in a perverse way, so is poverty.
Our public services and social safety nets are not inconvenient social burdens that require the recoiling, carping wealthy to be “robbed” via taxes. They are created as a collectively owned means of guarding against the risks, hazards and tragedies that every single person may confront – of a serious illness or an accident that leaves us disabled – and we all face frailties associated with ageing. Anyone can lose their job. No-one deserves any of these events and none of them are caused by “scrounging” or “fecklessness.”
Paying tax means we pay for our own provision, and contribute towards the support of others. That’s what civilised nations do: support citizens who become vulnerable. It’s worth bearing in mind that the majority of people claiming benefit have worked and paid tax, including most disabled people.
And everyone pays VAT.
If the Tories get in office again, we will regress as a society, back to before the post-war settlement gave us civilised and civilising protections, practices and institutions.
I hope we never find out what that level and degree of inequality means.
The Tories have stripped so much away from our society that they have worn away the veneer of civilisation, it’s so fragile and thin. They have eroded the mechanisms of democracy. This doesn’t affect only our social institutions and public services: it also has profound implications for human relationships – how we relate to each other, how we regard each other.
The Tories reduce us and create Hobbesian dystopias. Their scorched earth policies will fundamentally change our behaviours from cooperative and interdependent to a “survival of the fittest” competitiveness, where ultimately, for many, every day is a test and there are no social provisions, supports and resources left to allow basic acts of kindness amongst us.