Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Outrages of the day

While I was transfixed yesterday by Cardigangate and Romneygate (addictively annoying, -gate suffixes), the Tories proposed two utterly terrible things, one vicious and important, one hugely symbolic.

The important one is that they want to disconnect benefits from inflation. Put simply: if you're unemployed, receiving child benefits or disabled, the money you receive won't be increased as the cost of living goes up. Wheelchairs more expensive? Tough. Bread prices (up 20% this year)? Sorry. Kids' clothes getting pricy - deal with it. It will save a lot of money for the state, but the cost is stark: the most vulnerable in society will get poorer, hungrier and more excluded.

Benefits are not luxurious. Unemployed people between 16-24 received £51.85, while those over 24 receive £65.45. An unemployed couple receives £102. Housing benefit is similarly stingy, and anyone under 35 will only receive enough to rent a single room - however much tax you've paid in the past, and whatever your circumstances (such as having a child who stays with you at weekends). Rents have increased massively over the past few years as potential property buyers have been frozen out of the mortgage market.

Now imagine what this inflation disconnection will do to you as you search for work. Public transport will become unaffordable, as will keeping a car. You'll be scruffier. You'll eat more of the cheap, filling and unhealthy food. Your housing will deteriorate as you get pushed into progressively worse places. You'll avoid social occasions because birthday drinks, presents and so on will expose you even more than at present. An underclass will develop, excluded from huge swathes of society. It's a deliberate attempt to beggar the poor - and let's not forget that the 2.5 million unemployed are not all lazy scroungers: they're citizens abandoned by successive governments' decision to abandon the economics of full employment in favour of risky financial services.

The other disgraceful idea to emerge yesterday is just laughable. The Tories want to institute no-delay immigration/passport controls at airports for… the rich. So taxpayers coming back from their hard-earned week in Magaluf will be able to watch George Osborne and Rupert Murdoch (whose company pays no corporation tax and spends a large amount of its time hacking, bugging and burgling us) stroll past the queue. Just because they're rich. It offends one of the fundamental things about Britain, the sense of fairness at its most basic: the democracy of the queue. We pay for the customs and immigration officers, because we pay our taxes. Murdoch and the Tories' rich friends don't pay their taxes even when they are UK-domiciled.

The Russians have something similar: official lanes for limousines, hated by the Lada-driving proletariat. Once it was for apparatchiks in the People's State: now it's for the oligarchs who've looted that country. Do we really think that's a model for Britain?

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