It has been widely reported that George Osborne has secured the Liberal Democrats’ agreement for a fresh round of £10bn cuts to welfare by promising that the cuts will be balanced at some stage by a bigger contribution from the rich.
And they believed him?
On top of the many cuts already made or in the pipeline, the use of ATOS to remove people from sickness benefits by ruling even the most severely disabled as fit for work and the further cuts expected under Ian Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit scheme, yet more savings are to be planned.
No housing benefit for school leavers? No inflationary increase on payments? Reductions in benefit for those who have babies while unemployed? Housing Benefit cuts for those with a spare bedroom? Stopping the benefits of those with terminal illness as they don’t really need money anyway?
OK, the last of these comes from spoof website The Onion. But the others have all been openly discussed within Tory circles.
We are also told that David Cameron has ruled out the Lib Dems’ pet plan for raising funds, the mansion tax. But apparently Nick Clegg and co are signed up to a promise that something else will instead be done to make the rich pay more. Sometime. Honest.
This comes of course from a Chancellor who gave anyone earning £1M annually a £40,000 tax cut each and every year in his last budget. His farcical package of measures may have led to later u-turns on caravans and pasties, among other things, but the yearly bonus for the rich remains.
Osborne likes to claim that the rich pay a greater share of our nation’s tax revenues than in any one of the 13 years that Labour were in office. But what does that claim actually mean?
To explain it we have to remember that unemployment is at a higher level now than it has been for many years. So that reduces the tax take, doesn’t it? Now it is highly likely that there are a lot more workers who were on average or low wages in the dole queue than millionaires. And therefore the rich pay proportionately more – which is not the same thing as saying that they are actually contributing extra money to the Treasury. There have also been pay freezes in the public sector – and these don’t affect millionaires either.
The coalition government’s economic policies have failed. Cutting to reduce the deficit has simply led to higher unemployment and the economic stagnation of a double dip recession – meaning that the government is actually borrowing more and not less. Plan A has failed, exactly as many predicted it would do. And we all know that there is no Plan B. In fact Osborne isn’t even looking for one. Like Canute he simply hopes that the economic tides will turn his way.
But who ultimately pays the price? The poor of course. Further cuts in benefits as well as reductions to the services that many rely on are the result. We are all in this together? Clearly not, as the poor are being made to pay now whereas the rich will possibly pay more in some as yet unknown way at some unspecified future time. Maybe.
Once more it is clear that the Liberal Democrats are happy to go along with whatever the Tories propose. The lure of the Ministerial cars and the places at the Cabinet table are clearly too much to resist.
Every opinion poll shows that support for Nick Clegg’s party has plummeted following their repeated u-turns and unquestioning backing for Tory policies. Yet once more they will back Osborne in more cuts. There will be some posturing of course. And they will promise to have gained concessions, to have taken the edge of Tory plans. But it will be all spin and no substance.
The Liberal Democratic party will be wiped out come the next election. And they will deserve every measure of retribution that the electorate takes.