“The Chancellor announced the biggest package of tax cuts in 50 years without even a semblance of an effort to make the public finance numbers add up.” (IFS)
“The tax cuts confirmed in the fiscal statement are strongly focused on higher-income households … Next year they will see someone earning £200,000 gain £5,220 a year, rising to £55,220 for a £1 million earner. Those on £20,000 will gain just £157.” (Resolution Foundation)
“I joined Treasury in 1979 and have never seen a fiscal stimulus this large. With Bank of England raising interest rates, economy is being driven with brake and accelerator hard down. Not ideal.” (Lord Gus O’Donnell, Twitter)
Thanks to the votes of Tory MPs, and then the 160,000 or so members of the Conservative Party, we now have a government who want to be the UK version of the Republican Party in the USA. Cut taxes for the rich; cut benefits for the poor; tear up regulations which stop companies doing whatever they want – and all will be well in the best of all possible worlds. Even most Conservatives don’t believe that.
There is a useful set of ‘translations’ of common English phrases, for the benefit of those who might make the mistake of believing that people in the UK actually mean what they’re saying. One of the phrases is “that is a very brave proposal” – which as all British people know, actually means “you are insane”. I have heard more than one commentator and economist describe last week’s ‘non-Budget’ in pretty much those terms.
One must suppose that the government sincerely believe that giving money to the rich will make society as a whole richer. But the evidence is against them; one of the things rich people are very good at indeed, is keeping hold of their money. Once upon a time, when you generated new money by investing in factories and businesses, there might have been some justification for the belief they still hold. But we’re not in the nineteenth century any more, nor even the twentieth. Money seems to be quite good at procreating without needing any other partner. You don’t have to be an expert in economics to wonder how on earth this gamble will pay off.
I do consider myself a bit of an expert on ethics, and from my perspective the government’s proposals are clearly unjust, whatever their strictly economic merits might be. The poor who are already suffering the most will suffer even more. Restricting gas bills to double what they were is only helpful if it makes them affordable. For most people who are struggling, being unable to pay the bills feels just the same regardless of how much it is you can’t pay. Yes more threats to remove benefits from people who aren’t working enough, regardless of their family or personal circumstances, are just cruel.
And have a look at the graph in this article – follow the red line. No-one much has mentioned the freezing of tax allowances for four years. But as this graph shows, over time that more than wipes out the tax cuts – except for those earning over £155,000. Is that you? No, nor me. So, except for the really rich, this right-wing, small government, low tax government is putting up taxes on most of us. Do I remember someone talking about ‘stealth taxes’, once upon a time?