At the dispatch box today, a curious thing happened. George Osborne unveiled his Budget to the chamber and calmly let slip from his lips a series of tax cuts for the well-off and private businesses. From the same face which we are normally accustomed to watching contort into sombre strains as he announces yet more poverty and misery for the most vulnerable in society came an astonishing string of concessions for the most privileged in society.
For those with large salaries, the threshold for the higher rate of income tax will be raised from £42,386 to £45,000. For those with valuable assets, capital gains tax will be cut from 28 per cent to 20 per cent. For those wealthy enough to have savings, the ISA limit will be increased from £15,000 to £20,000. For those wealthy enough to run businesses, corporation tax will fall from 20 per cent to 17 per cent.
Research suggests that in raising the tax-free personal allowance, 85 per cent of the benefits of these cuts will go to the wealthiest half of Britain. A think tank has found that because Britain’s 4.6 million lowest paid workers earn less than £10,600 already, they “will gain nothing at all.” Rather, it is the middle classes who stand to gain the most, under a scheme masquerading as help for the poor.
Similarly, tax-free ISAs will be increased from £15,000 to £20,000 which means little to anyone but those already wealthy enough to have considerable savings. You simply cannot dodge tax on savings which you do not have.
Today’s Budget is arrogantly brash in how little it even pretends to be anything but a series of concessions to this voting base of elite high earners and business owners. It is a slew of bones thrown to the voters they rely on to ensure they will be returned to power yet again and to continue the ignorant belief amongst the middle classes that austerity can’t be hurting people that much because everything is going just fine for them.
The Budget is yet another reminder that austerity is neither a financial necessity nor an economic requirement. Simply, it is an ideological restructuring of the state at the expense of the vulnerable.
Where the Conservatives need to find money to fund their pet projects and reward their loyal middle class and corporate voting base, they always manage it. The Conservatives would never dream of asking the privileged to make even a whisker of the same sacrifices they demand of and enforce on the already vulnerable in their incessant onslaught of cuts. They know that the middle classes simply wouldn’t stand for it and would punish them for it at the ballot box.
Just last week, the government confirmed it will take £4.5 billion from disabled people between now and 2021 in the form of cuts to the Personal Independence Payment. Many rely on it just to get dressed, eat food and have the minimum standards required to live life with dignity.
Yet this money has been taken from them under the auspices of a government which proclaims that it cannot afford spare minimal amounts for essential care. Today, that same government has found the funds to bolster middle class incomes, savings and private businesses.
It is a tale of two Britains, with a thoroughly unreliable narrator, taking ever darker and more absurdist turns as it attempts to merge into utterly different and inconsistent versions of events.
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