Universal credit for the rich: osborne’s budget and ours’

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
17 March 2014

The big joke about Osborne's budget this Wednesday was that it was presented as a "blue collar" budget! Cutting Bingo duty from 20% to 10% and a penny off a pint of beer? Yes, the ConDems think this is how to promote themselves as the new party of the working class!

But of course there was no danger of blue turning into red! "If you're a maker, a doer or a saver: this Budget is for you", said Mr Osborne. That was a good lie to start with! Because "makers and doers", that is, the working class which produces everything in this country, and provides all the services - transport, health, education, welfare, cleaning etc., are the ones who get nothing! And where are workers supposed to find a surplus out of their shrinking budgets, to "save"?

Aiming at pension "savers"?

The "big" headlines on the budget were about the concessions made on pensions - those who retire, will now have access to their "defined benefit" pension pots immediately they retire instead of being compelled to take out one of those dodgy annuities which would then pay (or not) a pittance after retirement. But of course it all depends on whether you have actually been able to accumulate a pension pot in the first place!

As for allowing more money to be saved tax-free, via ISAs, or via the new "pensioner bonds" these are hardly aimed at the over a million pensioners in poverty and those who will be on the new poverty pension which the government has made compulsory - to reduce the bosses' pension contributions and perhaps get rid of the state pension entirely...

A fanfare was made of increasing the income tax threshold to £10,500 over 2 years. It will add very little to the income of most (£800 a year, they say for an average earner, whatever that is). Certainly it won't make up for the fall in living standards over the past 8 years and the increase in costs!

Anyway, most of those "hard working families" politicians like to talk about, are "working poor" and won't even benefit - because their problem is that they don't earn enough even to pay tax in the first place! Nothing for them in this budget except maybe losses, thanks to benefit cuts.

In the meantime 350,000 people are so poor, they have to rely on free food banks to eat! Yet the ConDem's austerity is there to stay: suddenly Osborne's "wonderful growth figures" are forgotten: he justifies yet more welfare cuts by saying that things won't really improve until 2018 or 2019! The welfare bill would be capped at £119bn in 2015-16, he said. Carrying on with his nonsense that it "pays not to work" (as if!) he says that the cap will prevent any future government from increasing benefits - without getting parliament to approve new legislation...

Their productivity puzzle

And, of course, this is the real problem in the "economy" from the point of view of workers: low pay, zero increases or below "real" inflation increases, and the huge number of working poor - on zero-hour contracts, for instance or so-called "between assignments" agency contracts! In fact the ONS finally admitted that such contracts made up over 0.5m of the so-called "jobs" created in 2013. And while the personnel management professional association CIPD estimated one million, the TUC suggested there were 5 million!

Maybe this is the clue to economists' unsolved puzzle - the fall in productivity despite the highest number of people in employment "for the first time in 35 years, a higher employment rate than the US"! How much can a worker produce, if his/her "employment" is a complete sham?

So they can afford to pay us back!

That said, why should income from "hard work" (does Osborne know what that is?) Be taxed at all? Enough tax could be brought in for public need - by taxing the rich from their unearned income, i.e., their profits and capital...

The opposite is happening - no surprise: in 2 weeks the cut in corporation tax hits an all time low - just 21%! The lowest in Europe and down 8% since Osborne came to office. Now wonder profits are sky- high! What's more the "investment allowance in corporation tax would be doubled to £500,000, ensuring 99% per cent of companies paid no tax on money used for capital spending". Of course, there's no "cap" on Osborne's welfare for the rich!

Symbolic of this budget was the announcement by Osborne of a new £1 coin, no doubt to emphasise the "sovereignty" of the Queen's head for the anti-European lobby. This coin is meant to come in, in 2017 - modelled on the old threepenny bit. Or is it meant to excuse the fact that by then, if he has his way, £1 will only buy 3 pence worth of groceries?