Sunday, 5 July 2015

The grotesque perversions of economic masochism

On Wednesday this week, the lunatic will get to take over the asylum.  George Osborne will have the opportunity to prevent a Conservative budget that dog-whistles to the core support while playing to the gallery of the hypocritical and self-interested.  For the last two months he has been spinning the mantra of social security cuts and giveaways to the groups who need government largesse the least.  The end of Cameron's bizarre honeymoon will not be long delayed.

For sheer economic illiteracy, it is difficult to beat a contemporary Tory.  The artificial divide between the so-called "hard-working family" and the remainder of the population, hard-working or otherwise, is used to pump up resentment and paranoia.  Forgetting the lessons of two centuries of economic history, there is some mythical golden age where the paupers knew their place and where philanthropy (which in reality only scraped the surface of Victorian misery) takes the place of any form of social cohesion.

The latest cretinous policy, trailed with the cretinous hand-claps of the Mail and Telegraph, is to increase the inheritance tax threshold to £1m for "family homes".  Even in the bubble regime of undersupply and market distortion for housing, this is not exactly within the normal compass of daily experience for the majority of people.  It will do nothing to address the shortage of housing, the parasitic buy-to-let or the odious right-to-buy being propagated by Cameron.  It will do nothing to address inequality, rather continuing the dynastic entitlements that remain the grail of so many of the chinless fools who populate the upper reaches of the Tories and their cronies in business and the financial services sector.

Naturally this is portrayed as encouraging aspiration - by taking a few estates at the top end of the range out of a tax which is hardly punitive in the first place.  That it does nothing for the people it is supposed to inspire is axiomatic.  There is another whole debate about inter-generational justice and the provision of equality of opportunity for all, which is entirely legitimate, but slightly tangential to the hatred and contempt that Osborne will exhibit in his cynical parading.

At the same time as a minor giveaway to client groups, the centrepiece of the budget will be the hacking away at social security and the last vestiges of Beveridge's ambition for civilisation.  Debating the right mix of support and incentive to come off benefits is legitimate, but the extent of savagery will dwarf the bedroom tax fiasco in the last Parliament.  Both Labour and the Coalition relied on welfare, in the form of tax credits, to subsidise employment and massage the statistics, and in many respects a regime that forces firms to stop being subsidy junkies (oh, the irony) and pay a living salary would be welcome - if it were to happen.  Instead, alongside further benefit cuts, it risks increasing poverty, inequality and the benefits trap will be restored.

Not that this worries Osborne, Cameron and their coterie.  For every piece of theatrical hand-wringing, there are ten misanthropic and contemptuous back-stairs assaults on social cohesion.  A system which gives to those who already have and pauperises those who have not is neither just nor stable.  It has become fashionable in political circles to bemoan the loss of Liberal influence on the government - the Budget that the Tatton Twister will present will be final confirmation that we have a bunch of arrogant mini-me Thatcherites in power.  This resembles 1980 more than 1990, and it would not be difficult to see the social breakdown and hopelessness spilling over into an anarchic and nihilist hopelessness.  Time for the rest of us to call it how we see it, and that includes Tories not suckered into the patrician illusion.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.