Economics of madness
The current government is leading us in a nasty direction.
They have won the language battle to stigmatise welfare recipients. Tonight’s BBC News (News channel 23:00 15 July 2013) reported that 70% support the benefit cap. The government feels that it can demonise the Labour party as “The Welfare Party”. We use to be a society that was proud that it cared about the welfare of its fellow citizens. No more it seems.
The benefit cap comes in on the same day that the Resolution Foundation reports (Home Truths: How affordable is housing for Britain’s ordinary working families?) that housing costs rule out vast swathes of the country for all but the comfortably off (BBC Website 15 July 2013, Mark Easton: Rent ‘unaffordable’ in third of UK).
It would seem that we don’t care?
If we want key workers in areas like London we have limited choices:
- Tolerate fellow citizens living in poverty
- Subsidise living costs through Housing Benefit (which I suspect also benefits some Landlords)
- Subsidise wages through Working Tax Credits (which I suspect also benefits some employers)
The Tories have successfully stigmatised those who directly receive subsidies – but not the landlords and low-pay employers who profit from those subsidies. We can only presume that the Government wants us to tolerate fellow citizens living in poverty. I despise that attitude more than I despise the few welfare “scroungers”.
There is an alternative, but it requires coordinated policies that cannot be fully implemented within a single government and which given the lost language battle might be a hard sell.
The country is horribly imbalanced. Housing is relatively cheap in places like the North East, but the North East has people paying taxes to provide Housing Benefit (and hence house price inflation) in the South East. I am told there are shortages of labour in parts of the South East and taxpayers there are resentfully paying taxes to provide Job Seekers Allowance to people outside the South East who are often seeking non-existent jobs.
And yet we continue to centralise our nation into the bottom right hand corner of the country. In London we have Cross Rail (with plans for a North-South Cross Rail). In London they are debating Airport expansion. In London they are planning HS2 to suck even more of the Midlands into the South East.
It is madness – and cruel.