Pre-budget report - an exercise in bailing out the capitalists and their system

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
24 November 2008

Darling may claim that he will do "everything it takes to help households" to face the recession, but there is nothing in his pre-budget report to protect workers against the rising tide of job cuts, short-time working or factory closures. Worse, his report includes more public service job cuts!

In fact, there is not even a word about the plight of the growing army of the jobless. Not that this report denies its existence. Quite the contrary, since 25 job centres are to be reprieved from planned closure. But the only "help" Darling intends to offer the jobless is to "train" 2,000 more staff in how to coerce them off the claimant count!

This makes a farce of Darling's claim that he wants to boost the purchasing power of low-income households in order to fight the recession. As if letting the bosses deprive hundreds of thousands of workers of their wages was not one of the most drastic ways of cutting consumer spending in the first place!

Hot air and insulting charity

In fact, this report is just a smokescreen designed to paper over the government's massive bailout of the capitalists' profit machine on our backs.

Its much-acclaimed cut in VAT does nothing to address soaring food prices (since there is no VAT on food), nor the meteoric increase in fuel bills (whose "reduced" VAT rate is not affected). More importantly, there is no plan to stop companies from increasing prices and pocketing the VAT cut.

When it comes to the poorest, Darling's report is an outright insult. A few pounds here and there cannot reduce poverty. Despite bringing forward to January a planned £5/week increase in the state pension, it still remains one of the lowest in the industrial world! Likewise for the means-tested element of child benefit, which is to be increased by £1.50/week above official inflation over the next 2 years! Meanwhile, one million single parents remain threatened with a 40% benefit cut if they fail to convincingly "look for work" - even though there is no work for them!

As to the so-called "help" for families struggling with mortgage bills, it boils down to the lenders' alleged "commitment" to defer proceedings for 3 months after buyers fall into arrears. But what will keep lenders from ignoring this pledge? After all, they would only be imitating the government's own Northern Rock, which has had the highest rate of repossessions since its "nationalisation"!

Darling does not even conceal that the £3bn set aside for "new infrastructure" is designed to "assist the construction industry", but not the workers whose jobs have been cut or may be threatened. Not only is this not "new money", but it will go straight into the coffers of construction giants - without them having to stop cutting jobs as a condition for getting their share of Darling's cake.

Payback time is here, already

The main emphasis of Darling's report, however, is that we will have to pay for his alleged "largesse", once the recession is "over".

Yet the total cost of this "largesse" is less than 2/3 of the funds handed over to HBOS and RBS alone, and a small fraction of the £400bn or so for the bailout of the financial system! And this is what the capitalists and their Darling want us to pay for, not tomorrow, but today.

Because if, as we are told, the government really wanted to get the richest taxpayers to pay their share, why would the new 45p income tax band be deferred till after the next general election? Why would those with the highest salaries keep paying National Insurance contributions at a 1% rate on what they earn over and above £770/w, when the rest of us pay 11%? And why would the fat cats' speculative gains keep being taxed at 18% instead of at the same rate as their other income?

This 45p tax band commits the government to nothing, but allows Darling to look as if he is sharing out the pain between the capitalists and the working class.

The truth is that, today, while the capitalists are showered with billions of pounds, without having to give anything in return, we, workers, are already paying for their crisis - whether it be through soaring fuel and supermarket bills, higher interest rates, shrinking real wages or, above all, job cuts, together with rising unemployment and poverty.

This has to be stopped. We cannot afford to allow our livelihoods to be destroyed by the capitalists and their trustees in government, for the sake of giving new breath to their rotten profit system.

If society has any future at all - it can only begin with our collective refusal to be the victims of this latest convulsion caused by the capitalists' greed.