Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Stunning dishonesty

Sorry to go on about politics so much today, but the Chancellor's presentation of the Comprehensive Spending Review is the most important event of the next five years (even Thatcher's death, which will hopefully be sooner rather than later, is less important).

The government has announced that their plans are 'progressive', i.e. that the poor will fare better than the rich.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies, which is the go-to thinktank for judging this stuff, agrees. But not in a way that the Tory Scum will like.

Why is it overall progressive? It's progressive because of the tax measures Labour set out that the new government chose to keep ... The stuff we heard about today, the new stuff today, clearly is not progressive on the Treasury's analysis. It's only once you add it in to the things we heard about in June and the things Mr [Alistair] Darling had already put in the pipeline for next year that it becomes progressive.

Why will the budget be progressive? Because of the Labour plans the Tories are leaving in place: all their own ideas are nasty, reactionary, anti-poor ideas.

So the Tories and Lib Dems are blaming Labour (partially wrongly) for the deficit, then silently and dishonestly claiming credit for the few good things in this review. That's politics…

This is the kind of thing that Tories like doing: snatching food from paraplegics:

• £2bn by time-limiting the contributory element of employment support allowance to one year. ESA is the benefit brought in to replace incapacity benefit. So these are cuts that will hit the disabled.
no one will be hit harder than disabled people with a husband or wife that works. After just one year, they will now find themselves stripped of any independent income. 
£385m by cutting the childcare element of working tax credit. It will only cover 70% of costs, not 80% of costs.

So if you're poor but want to get out to work, you'll have to do more hours to pay to for childcare, see less of your kids, and so on in an interminable cycle of social decay. If you're disabled, you'll have to hope your partner feels like doling out the pocket money. And if you can't afford toilet handrails or a wheelchair, you can sit where you are and wear nappies. And like it. After all, you're reducing the deficit.

• £215m by extending "shared room", a housing benefit rule. This says people can only claim for the cost of a single room in a shared house. Originally it applied to claimants under the age of 25. Now it will apply to claimants under the age of 35. In other words, single people aged 25 to 35 won't be able to claim housing benefit for a flat.

Nice. Rising Damp institutionalised. Even though the majority of trendy flats don't meet the minimum requirements for decent living in public housing (the Parker Morris rules of 1961), the poor are going to be denied even that. Let's not forget that this includes a large number of people doing paid work in expensive cities. It'll be harder to have a private life, which gets more and more important as you get older. Because I studied for many more years than most, I lived in shared houses between 1993-2009. I liked the majority of my housemates, but it got harder and harder to cram my (cheap) possessions into one space, to share nasty kitchen equipment, cope with messiness and queue for bathroom space. Single beds and cold water are fine for a while, before life really starts, but quickly lose their appeal.

This nasty little rule removes dignity without a care. Imagine having a decent job in your thirties - perhaps as a university lecturer. You've lost your job because the Tories think literature and media criticism are subversive doss subjects. You sign on for your £40 per week and apply for housing benefit to cover your 1-bedroom flat, only to find that you have to move into a single bedroom to get any support. So you move to an even nastier area of town (perhaps where you started). Goodbye to most of your books and music, perhaps a bike, sports equipment, stereo, some of your clothes, most of your kitchen things, the sticks of third-hand furniture you've acquired, your TV. Hello to dirty bathrooms, poor heating, filthy kitchens, your housemates' choice of entertainment, the screams and bangs of several playstations booming through the walls. Your partner feels less inclined to come round and you stop inviting friends for dinner.

Before long, you're depressed, lonely and isolated. Jobs seem harder to get. Life becomes unutterably worse. Then the best to be hoped is that you go on an anti-Tory killing spree, but you probably don't have the energy.

• £135m by cutting the mobility component in disability living allowance for people in residential care.

Nice. You old people can just sit in those wee-sodden plastic chairs arranged round the edges of the room. What do you want to go out for? Eh? Shut up and swallow your tranquillisers.

the Warm Front programme, which helps the poorest makes their homes warmer, is going... 
the climate change department's budget is being cut 5% a year (about 20% over four years?)

Another delightful touch. We provide rubbish state housing or drive the poor into slums owned, then cost them more money and help damage the environment by cutting a scheme which a) provided jobs b) protected the environment and c) saved everyone (residents and taxpayers) money. Who needs to prevent climate change anyway? It'll help unemployed teens grow more dope, and the armies of the homeless won't need so many newspapers and clothes to keep warm.

 30% cuts to the budgets of both Sport England and UK Sport. These are massive and mean dismantling much of sport in local communities. These organisations are vital in plugging the gap in provision of proper sport in state schools and are fantastic examples of the kind of "big society" initiatives the coalition is supposed to want. 

Another fine touch. It's very clear: sport for the poor is meant to be something you pay Murdoch to watch, not something you do. If you're fat, it's your individual fault and you should eat less (which is going to be easy given the hardship people face). Now clear orff paupers, the polo team needs your playing field.

I was talking to my students today about the morality of sex work. Soon I'll be exploring the practicalities. As Adam said to me once, 'don't sit on your arse, rent it'. (Adam Smith would no doubt agree).


Benjamin Judge said...

There is a wonderfully surreal cruelty in the logic of reducing money to heating poor people's houses and climate change.

You can see a Tory saying "Look! Look! The two cancel each other out! If the planet warms up then the poor won't need heating! This is easy! This is easy!"

The Plashing Vole said...

That's exactly what I thought. You've probably hit about the right intellectual level for them.