Last night with his merry majority of 56, Iain Duncan Smith won his vote to cap benefits to a 1% (one percent) rise per year. The Tory logic is that “it’s not fair” on hard-working people (read: “deserving poor”) who haven’t had an wage rise for years.
Very well, but if you look at the list of welfare benefits that this change will effect, most are received by those in work on low incomes – for example, tax credits and income support. Even the Department for Work and Pensions, admitted the poorest would suffer most. That includes those in work, as well as those stuck on Jobseekers Allowance because the recession kicked them out of work.
So what is the point of these changes, if rather than help the poor, they actually push them closer to poverty. IDS referenced the answer in the debate yesterday when he said that Labour spent
“like drunks on a Friday night”.
Meaning that this is not so much about benefit reform as deficit reduction. Then the question is, why do you expect the poor to pay off the deficit? What do you expect to get out of someone on a very low income, apart from beans and crumbs? It seems that by targeting a section of the poor perceived to be scroungers, (and Labour are just as guilty of using this inflammatory language) public attention is diverted away from the real scroungers and cheats – the large corporations and mega-rich individuals who exploit every loophole going to avoid paying the correct amount of tax. That’s you, Vodafone, Amazon, Starbucks and Lord Ashcroft! If the public realised that the financial problems aren’t caused by a single mother struggling to feed her kids on a tiny wage and tax credits, then the Tories may just be worried.
In a town in Andalucia, southern Spain, the mayor is staging robberies of supermarkets (all proceeds go to the poor) and marching across the desert trying to convince other local government officials to ignore central government demands for austerity. The Guardian paints him as a slightly eccentric folk hero and Spanish newspaper El Pais seems to be filing him in the “Dangerous Revolutionary” drawer.
So far, so heart-warming. It’s a guy angry at the way [insert country here]’s government have been punishing the poor for the greed of the rich, and thinking stealing on their behalf is the best way to prove a point. A modern day Robin Hood to cheer us up amid the rain, post-Olympic blues and recession. The end.
If it were that simple, then the media could portray him as a criminal and move along. However, look a little closer and you will find out that rather than a random act of criminality inspired by righteous anger – Mayor Juan Sanchez Gordillo actually has a working economic plan.
The New York Times reported on the low unemployment and low cost of living in Marinaleda about three years ago. No one is out of work for long, as the local farming co-operative will find work for them. This idea is so attractive, that people are moving from as far as Barcelona in search of work there. High employment, low and comfortable cost of living mean more disposable income floating around.
Imagine that – government creating work for people so they don’t starve during a recession! Why didn’t you think of that, Cameron and Osborne?
It was interesting reading the twitter reaction to François Hollande’s victory in the French Presidential Election yesterday evening. Those on the Right complained about the high tax rate that he might impose on the rich (fairness is a concept lost on the Right), while Lefties cheered and welcomed M. Hollande as a rejection of the austerity projects being carried out by many European governments at the moment.
Now, I’m not in the position at the moment to determine the exact factors surrounding Nicholas Sarkozy’s ejection from the Elysée Palace, but if you look at the reaction of people across Europe you get the impression that austerity isn’t popular. From here in the UK were the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats took a battering in the local elections, to Greece where the radical, anti-austerity parties received a lot of support, to France with Hollande’s victorious, pro-growth campaign.
Surely this spells out to David Cameron, Nick Clegg and George Osborne that people do not like losing their public services to pay for the mistakes of the financial sector. People are a little angry that their local library has been closed down, while the likes of Vodafone and Goldman Sachs are avoiding paying their multi-million pound tax bills. The Right might say “the people have voted for financial irresponsibility”, but the reality is people are fed up of governments supporting the rich and squeezing the poor.
Is François Hollande’s victory a rejection of Austerity? I hope so.