Follow the Money: Tory ideology is all about handouts to the wealthy that are funded by the poor

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Here is yet another great Tory lie exposed – “Making work pay”. This Government have raided our tax-funded welfare provision and used it to provide handouts to the very wealthy – £107, 000 EACH PER YEAR in the form of a tax cut for millionaires. The Conservatives claim that it is “unfair” that people on benefits are “better off” than those in work. But the benefit cuts are having a dire impact on workers as well.

People in work, especially those who are paid low wages, often claim benefits. Housing benefit, tax credit and council tax benefit are examples of benefits that are paid to people with jobs. Indeed the number of working people claiming housing benefit has risen by 86 percent in three years, which debunks another Tory myth that benefits are payable only to the “feckless” unemployed.

By portraying housing benefit as a payment for “the shirkers”, not “the strivers”, Cameron and Osborne aim to convince the public that their draconian, unprecedented welfare “reforms” are justified. 60 percent of people visiting food banks last year were in work. But unemployment benefits are just 13 percent of the national average earnings. What Cameron’s Government have done is created extreme hardship for many of those in work, and further severe hardship for those who are unemployed.

“Making work pay” is a big lie that has benefited no-one but the very wealthy, and the reduction in both the value and the amount of welfare support for unemployed individuals has come at a time when we are witnessing steady reductions in worker’s rightsand worryingly, the Tory-led Government is stepping up its attack on employment health and safety regulations. And the unions.

Last week, on the 25th April 2013, the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill was granted royal assent, bringing into law the Government’s widely unpopular proposals to scrap employers’ 114-year-old liability for their staff’s health and safety in the workplace. This steady erosion of our fundamental and hard-earned rights in the workplace is linked to the steady erosion of the basic human rights of the poorest citizens. The Government have liberated wealthy private companies of any moral or legal responsibilities, so that they can simply generate vast profits by exploiting workers who have increasingly fewer means of redress.

There is also a growing reserve army of labour that may be exploited via the workfare schemes. This will mean that unscrupulous, greedy, profit-driven employers will increasingly replace paid workers with unpaid ones that are forced to work for their benefits or face losing them. This is a politically enforced programme of reducing the population’s expectations regarding choice, opportunities, rights, and quality of life.

A recent proposal from our “caring Conservatives” is that new in-work claimants should be required to attend an initial interview at a Job Centre “where a conditionality regime should be set up to ensure the individual is doing all they can to increase their hours and earnings”. Claimants “should then be forced to attend a quarterly meeting to be reminded of their “responsibility” to try to increase their earnings”, with sanctions applied for failing to attend. This may well be the next stage of the welfare “reforms”, incorporating a punitive approach to those in work on low hours ir pay, as well as those unfortunate enough to be out of work.

There is absolutely no evidence, sense or logic behind the Tory claim that cutting welfare will “make work pay”. Well, unless we are referring to the greedy employers that will benefit and profit from the welfare “reforms” and reduction in worker’s pay level and rights. This is about gross exploitation and profiteering at any cost to human lives.

“Make work pay” is an entirely ideologically-driven, dogmatic, absurd and reductionist Conservative superficial soundbite. There is certainly an essence of all that is Tory in the word “peremptory”. There is also many a Tory donor in private business that wants to see more profit and a more abject workforce.

The real “culture of entitlement” is not to be found amongst the poor, the unemployed, the sick and disabled as this Government would have you believe. As a matter of fact, most amongst this politically demarcated social group have paid tax and paid for the provision that they ought to be able to rely on when they/we have need of it, it’s ours, after all. The real culture of entitlement emanates from the very wealthy, and is well-fed and sustained by an aristocratic and authoritarian Government.

Every time we have periods of high unemployment, growing inequalities, substantial increases in poverty, and loss of protective rights, there is a Conservative Administration behind this wilful destruction of people’s lives, and the unravelling of many years of essential social progress and civilised development that spans more than one century in ontogeny and maturation.

The Conservatives lied about our “generous welfare”. It wasn’t and it certainly isn’t now. Coming at the same time that severe cuts to tax credits and benefits are set to make an estimated 11.5 million households poorer, the Chancellor was accused by Britain’s largest union, Unite, of conducting class war on the poor while giving handouts to the rich.

The following cuts came into force in April 2013:

  • 1 April – Housing benefit cut, including the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’
  • 1 April – Council tax benefit cut
  • 1 April – Legal Aid savagely cut
  • 6 April – Tax credit and child benefit cut
  • 7 April – Maternity and paternity pay cut
  • 8 April – 1% cap on the rise of in working-age benefits (for the next three years)
  • 8 April – Disability living allowance replaced by personal independence payment (PIP)
  • 15 April – Cap on the total amount of benefit working-age people can receive

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In addition, wages have not risen in real terms since 2003 and there are further fears that the Government is trying to pressurise the Low Pay Commission into cutting the national minimum wage from its present £6.19 per hour. At a time when the cost of living has risen so steeply, the government has also increased VAT.

Commenting, general secretary Len McCluskey of Unite said: “Millionaires will be raising a glass of champagne to George Osborne this weekend as he slashes the incomes of people struggling to get by to give handouts to the rich.”

“But ordinary people – taxpayers – will be furious that George Osborne has chosen to give away £1 billion to the super-rich while their fuel and food costs rise and wages are falling”.

“His party knows no shame. They are trying to claim that their tax cuts benefit ordinary people but this is another lie – the truth is that while those earning over £1 million per year will be an average £100,000 better off, low income families will be around £900 worse off.”

“This is not the way to recover our failing economy.  Creating real jobs and paying decent wages, including a one pound increase on the minimum wage, will bring down the benefits bill and get people spending again.”

“Instead of getting on with the job he ought to be doing, like sorting out the problems he has caused to our economy, Osborne prefers to encourage hatred and demonise the poor, both in and out of work, in an ideological attack on our welfare state.”

Ed Miliband said: “David Cameron and George Osborne believe the only way to persuade millionaires to work harder is to give them more money.

But they also seem to believe that the only way to make you (ordinary people) work harder is to take money away.”

Bravo Ed, a very well spotted contradiction regarding Cameron’s claims about how “incentives” work. Apparently, the rich are a different kind of human from the majority of human beings.

Here are some of the Tory “incentives” for the wealthy:

  • Rising wealth – 50 richest people from this region increased their wealth by £3.46 billion last year to a record £28.5 billion.
  • Falling taxes – top rate of tax cut from 50% to 45% for those earning over £150,000 a year. This is 1% of the population who earn 13% of the income.
  • No mansion tax and caps on council tax mean that the highest value properties are taxed proportionately less than average houses.
  • Benefited most from Quantitative Easing (QE) – the Bank of England say that as 50% of households have little or no financial assets, almost all the financial benefit of QE was for the wealthiest 50% of households, with the wealthiest 10% taking the lions share
  • Tax free living – extremely wealthy individuals can access tax avoidance schemes which contribute to the £25bn of tax which is avoided every year, as profits are shifted offshore to join the estimated £13 trillion of assets siphoned off from our economy.

It’s plain to see that Cameron rewards his wealthy friends, and has a clear elitist agenda, whilst he funds his friends and sponsors by stealing money from the taxpayer, by stripping welfare provision and public services down to bare bones.

A simple truth is that poverty happens because some people are very, very rich. That happens ultimately because of Government policies that create, sustain and extend inequalities. The very wealthy are becoming wealthier, the poor are becoming poorer. This is a consequence of  “vulture capitalism”, designed by the opportunism and greed of a few, it is instituted, facilitated and directed by the Tory-led  Coalition.  

Welfare provision was paid for by the public, via tax and NI contributions. It is not a “handout.” It is not the Governments money to cut. That is our provision, paid for by us to support us if and when we need it. It’s the same with the National Health Service. Public services and provisions do not and never did belong to the Government to sell off, to make a profit from, and to strip bare as they have done

Low wages and low benefit levels, rising unemployment and a high cost of living are major causes of poverty. (“worklessness” is a made-up word to imply that the consequences of Government policies are somehow the fault of the victims of this traditional Tory harshness. It’s a psychological and linguistic attack on the poorest, disabled people and the most vulnerable citizens – blaming the unemployed for unemployment, and the poor for poverty.) Those are a direct consequence of Coalition policies. The Coalition take money from those who need it most to give away to those who need it least. That causes poverty, and cannot fail to create growing inequality. The Coalition are creating more poverty via the class-contingent consequences of policies.

It’s time to debunk the great myth of meritocracy. Wealth has got nothing whatsoever to do with “striving” and hard work. If it were so simple, then most of the poor would be billionaires by now. 

This week it was reported that one school liaison officer told how a parent came to her pleading for help because her children were suffering from SCURVY – a potentially fatal condition caused by a severe Vitamin C deficiency. It’s an illness linked with malnutrition and poverty, and has seldom been seen in this Country for most of this century, due to improvements in medical knowledge, and the development of adequate welfare provision – that had eliminated absolute poverty in Britain. Until now. It’s increasing again.

We now have pre-Victorian Health and Safety laws in the workplace. We have Victorian malnutrition and illnesses such as scurvy and rickets. Malnutrition has resurfaced because of the re-appearance of absolute poverty – something that was eradicated because of our effective, essential welfare program, until now. We have a punitive Poor Law approach to “supporting” the poorest instead of welfare provision. These things were a dark part of our history, and now they have been resurrected by the Tories to be a part of our future. It’s social regression.

We have recession and austerity, entirely manufactured, based on ideology and not because of any economic necessity. Austerity does not include and affect the very privileged. Indeed they have benefited immensely from the politically engineered economic situation.  We have a society that has been lulled into forgetting equality, decency and fairness. We have a lying authoritarian Government that created a crisis for many to make profiteering opportunities for a few.

The New Poor Law of 1834 was based on the “principle of less eligibility,” which stipulated that the condition of the “able-bodied pauper” on relief be less “eligible” – that is, less desirable, less favourable – than the condition of the independent labourer. “Less-eligibility” meant not only that the pauper receive less by way of relief than the labourer did from his wages but also that he receive it in such a way (in the workhouse, for example) as to make pauperism less respectable than work – to stigmatise it. Thus the labourer would be discouraged from lapsing into a state of “dependency” and the pauper would be encouraged to work.

The Poor Law “made work pay”, in other words.

The clocks stopped the moment that the Tories took Office. Now their policies mean that we are losing a decade a day.

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 Pictures courtesy of Robert Livingstone

Further reading:

Conservatism in a nutshell

Families £900 Per Year Worse Off After Benefit And Tax Changes, Says Labour’s Ed Balls

Labour exposes Osborne’s tax cut for bankers

A catalogue of failure and broken promises-Catherine Mckinnell MP’s verdict on George Osborne’s autumn statement

The poverty of responsibility and the politics of blame 

“We are raising more money for the rich” – an analysis 

 

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