Thursday, 17 January 2013

Equality of Sacrifice

This government is out to drown the poor. In a sinking ship, the bankers and the millionaires seek safety and comfort while pushing everyone else out of the life boats or down the ladders. This is the 21st century that the Tories and the Liberal Democrats want for us.

They will not punish the bankers or the tax evading companies that produced this economic mess because these are their chums. They are hell bent on using the mess they created as an excuse to roll back the role of the state to help the poorest and turn it into a mere clearing house for profitable government contracts in health, education, transport, even prisons.

By 2020, the TUC estimates that living standards will have been cut for the majority by a further 15%. This comes on top of the most consistent fall in living standards since the 1930s. From 2005, living standards have fallen by an average of 1% per year. Last night, the House of Commons voted for a Welfare Bill that will make 7 million working families worse off and increase the despair and desperation of the unemployed. The government ministers laughed and joked as they did this, including the Prime Minister, whose family wealth was secured in tax avoidance schemes.

Disgracefully, the ConDems claim this is about the ‘dependency culture’. Yet they did not murmur about the dependency culture that allowed banks to gamble on international markets then get the government and tax payers to pick up the tab for its gambling. Worse, the ConDems have actively given money to the banks in the form of ‘quantitative easing’ (printing money) to encourage them to gamble on food prices which creates starvation and inflation across the globe.

Nobody talked about the ‘dependency culture’ of all the Tory donors who engage in tax avoidance schemes and the multinational companies who depend on the UK market for profit yet evade paying taxes. Companies that benefit from an educated workforce, a healthy workforce, a workforce transported to the office but that refuse to pay anything towards these benefits. .

The truth is that most benefits are claimed by working families because wages have fallen so far behind inflation that living standards are falling. Tax credits are a way of propping up family incomes without increasing wages so helping low wage employers. They are essential for most families to survive. Housing benefit is a way for most people to pay the extraordinary rise in rents and mortgage payments without being forced out of their homes. Attacks on this will lead to more homelessness.

There is also the wider issue that the Autumn Statement and the Welfare Bill fail to address. Benefits are a way in which the government can offer hope to the economy and the poor. By maintaining benefits at above inflation levels, it helps to increase the amount that people can spend in the economy. This will lead to more spending and more jobs so therefore more tax income for the government. By increasing employment in the public sector, the government could further increase spending and jobs as most public sector wages are spent in the local economy.

Unfortunately, the Labour Party is hamstrung in its response by the fact that it started this giveaway to the rich and the squeezing of the poor in 2005. It is locked in a mindset too close to the ConDems in believing that the poor are the problem and the market that has failed so painfully is the solution. Liam Byrne, Labours’s Work and Pensions spokesperson summed up this appalling attitude when he stated that ‘Labour is the party of hard workers, not free-riders. The clue is in the name. The party that said idleness is an evil. The party of workers, not shirkers.’ On another occasion, he noted ‘Let's face the tough truth – that many people on the doorstep felt that too often we were for shirkers no workers.’

This is the reason why Labour fails. It looks in the wrong direction and blames the blameless. The TUC demonstrated that 3% of the welfare budget goes to the unemployed – they are not the problem. 0.7% is claimed fraudulently according to the government’s own figures while more than 4% is not claimed when it should be – this is not the problem.

The problem is that there are no jobs because the richest in this society are ripping off the rest. They demand handouts from government to prop up failing banks while evading corporation tax at an astonishing level. If these two problems were solved, there would simply be no crisis of public spending. So why doesn’t the government say this? Because they are part of this rich set ripping us off.

The Respect Party believes we should show respect to the unemployed and the working families that are suffering. We should demand respect from the rich and the tax evaders by getting back what is owed. There needs to be an emergency programme to stimulate the economy:
  • Bring the public share of the bailed out banks together, merge the banks with the Post Office and create a people’s bank that invests in jobs and public works projects such as house building and free insulation.
  • Increase benefits to raise spending power in the economy. Free school meals for all children.
  • Invest in public sector jobs in the health service and education rather than handing them over to the rich.
  • Invest in green jobs and renewable energies to build a new infrastructure in the UK. Take on the energy companies that are ripping off the public.
  • Clamp down on tax avoiders and banking profits. Remove trading rights from companies that fail to pay the right amount of Corporation Tax.
  • Implement a 1% tax on all financial transactions in the money markets. This would raise enough to fund the public works projects and public sector job increases.