Today’s Budget has confirmed that ‘welfare reform’ is surely the greatest euphemism of our age. The empty expression first cropped up on Conservative campaign trail this election, as ubiquitous as the blue rosettes, without any of the Tories ever quite setting out what it means.
It is corporate enough to sound dull and ineffective, not actually meaning anything substantial, and slippery enough to let the party off the hook about what actually lies instore for the welfare system under a Tory majority government.
Now with today’s unveiling of the Budget, the government has made it clear that ‘welfare reform’ is nothing more than a polite, if a little clunky, way of saying 'strategically imposed poverty for vulnerable people'.
This Budget constitutes welfare ‘reform’ in the same way that breaking into someone else’s home and stealing half their belongings constitutes ‘redecorating’.
It is a shameless, unmitigated attack on the poor, the young and on families. Today’s announcement will mean that young people who are homeless will have their access to social housing reduced, young families who have just given birth will be penalised, under 25s will be paid less than over 25s for doing the exact same job, and students from poor backgrounds will have their university grants slashed.
In each area, the people the furthest away from the financial crash are being asked to bear the brunt of the establishment’s failures which lead to the economic meltdown. Middle-aged public-school boys caused the crash and yet the government now wants the price to be paid by mothers and teenagers from poor backgrounds who are trying to make something of their lives.
The Budget has outlined that young families will no longer receive tax credits after their second child. Any children born after that will not receive state support. It’s an astounding policy which makes having children a luxury that you have to be privileged to afford. It’s a deeply sinister policy which smacks of eugenics and comes dangerously close to looking as though the establishment is trying to restrict the birth rate amongst poorer people.
The Budget not only attacks young, poor families but attempts to sanction young people too. If you’re from a poor family and you want to go to university, your maintenance grant no longer exists. They grant system has been swept away and replaced by loans. But if you now can’t afford to go to university and have to stay at home and try to work, the new minimum wage doesn’t apply to you because it only affects over 25s. Over 25s will be paid more than under 25s for the exact same job. And when not having fair wages means you struggle to pay your rent, the government will now deny you housing benefit until you’re 21. This triad of policies will hit young people from every angle and make it next to impossible to have a fair start in life.
Alongside this of course, the Budget’s main policy for the banks is to slash corporation tax- a move which is set to cost the country £2.4bn a year until 2020. The policy lacks any logic because the UK already has the lowest corporation tax levels in the G20, so it is unlikely to bring any further business to the UK than already operates here.
The only ‘reform’ that this Budget represents is the party of the establishment reforming ranks against vulnerable people in society. The Budget does not seek to ‘balance the books’ but to rebalance society in the way that the Conservatives have always seen it; establishment at the top, everyone else below.
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