UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

UNISONActive instant reaction: Don’t believe the hype – this is a budget by the wealthy for the wealthy

Today’s Guardian has a headline that the “Osborne budget is a Showcase for Coalition Values". Indeed it is. It is a budget based on the values of greed and avarice, displaying the economic sense of the proverbial dead parrot and ignorance of the devastating consequences of Tory policy on millions in this country.

Real wages are falling. Unemployment is at a record high, since, well the last time the Tories were in power. Millions are mired in poverty, benefits are being slashed in a return to the values of the workhouse and the working class are suffering real cuts in their living standards. Ask the million unemployed young people. Ask the women losing their jobs in the public sector or seeing their hours and their wages cut, losing money through changes to tax credits and child benefit.

As Osborne delivered his speech in the House of Commons, the constant refrain was “backing business”, “easing the burden on business, cutting business taxes and 'regulation'.” Make no mistake today Reaganomics was revived, with the cut in the top rate of tax for the wealthiest, while the poor make do with the crumbs from the table.

In the US, in the 80s the only result of the ageing cowboy’s policy was that the rich got richer and inequality grew. Facts well documented. Evidence however has no place in the coalition.

Osborne claimed that the 50p tax rate wasn’t working. Rather that ensuring that it did, his answer was to abolish it. Cuts in corporation tax simply mean that business does not pay its way and makes even greater profits instead. What such cuts in corporation tax have not achieved is economic growth or investment in services. The myth continues that companies deserve the reward for taking risk. But there is no evidence that the private sector is picking up the slack in the economy, rather the opposite.

Unemployment continues upward and even Osborne’s own growth estimates have been trimmed back to the bone. This is no way to recovery. Nor are the increases on stamp duty, on properties on £2m, where the figures that the Chancellor produced had the impression of being produced on the back of a fag packet by a monkey without a calculator. No serious economic commentator believes in them.

The so called “relief for poorer families” through an increase in personal allowances is an economic sleight of hand. They make every taxpayer better off, while those taxpayers at the bottom are seriously losing out through changes to tax credits and VAT increases. Those on the very smallest incomes who receive too little to pay tax, such as pensioners, see no benefit. (Check with the Institute for Fiscal Studies) Highest earners benefit most. What Osborne appears to give with one hand is taken away with another.

While the poorest are reeling from the benefit cuts that are coming through the system, Osborne still has them in his sights. We will, he says, maintain control on welfare spending, and there are further saving need to be made. £10 billion worth of further saving are coming our way, while State Pension Age is to be kept under review so that increases with longevity. If we do live longer, it will be in even greater poverty.

Public sector workers are not immune from Osborne’s claws. We were warned. “Public sector pay is to become more responsive to local circumstances”, the man says. In another piece of thinking from the fact- lite style that he enjoys, he seems to believe that this is another measure that will assist small local businesses. In reality this measure by itself will force more small businesses into bankruptcy, as it is spending by public sector workers that keeps them open.

That public sector workers who spend their income within the local economy are the main drivers of local economic growth is just another inconvenient fact. Rather than deterring “small businesses” from hiring, public sector pay keeps these companies alive.

Osborne’s arrogance and ignorance are a dangerous combination. His strategy for austerity has been a disaster, and on the evidence of this budget, the only outcome will be that the richer will get richer while the vast majority of the working people in this country will continue to see living standards slashed, and unemployment continue to climb. No doubt the Tory friendly press will trumpet this as a budget for fairness. Please do not be deceived.