The Socialist 19 March 2014 |
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Osborne's more cuts budget
The 'debate' in the run up to Tory Chancellor Osborne's Budget statement missed the point. It should have been about whether the government's austerity was really necessary, how to deal with the capitalist crisis, how to solve the problem of poverty and continued inequality, and all the other pressing issues faced by the vast majority.
But it wasn't. When Osborne argued that cuts must continue, Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls agreed.
When Osborne argued that a recovery was underway, Balls weakly pointed out that most people weren't feeling the benefit, while failing to put forward any alternatives that could solve the collapse in people's living standards.
The Tories claim a stable recovery is underway. But the predicted growth levels are far from showing stability.
The economy is still below the level of production before the crisis in 2008, and the long-term prospects are not good.
This was the penultimate Budget before the next general election but as an electioneering budget it offered precious little.
The pressure from inside the Tory party was to help those on £42,000+ a year by raising the 40% tax rate threshold.
They are likely to increase the personal tax allowance instead, but for most workers it will be a tiny amount of benefit, if any, against a deluge of cuts to real living standards.
The government says it has cut taxes for "hardworking families", yet it has raised VAT to 20% - which impacts much more on low-income families.
There is a proposal on childcare, an allowance to cover up to 20% of childcare costs, up to £2,000. This is upping the amount announced in last year's Budget. However, it would still leave up to £8,000 to be found by parents.
The government talks of building a new "Garden City" in Kent and will continue to encourage house building.
But for the vast majority of those desperately needing housing it is no solution. Most people cannot afford to buy houses and there is an inadequate amount of affordable social housing.
The key issue is the Con-Dems' ongoing commitment to cuts. At least half of those announced by the government since they came to power have not yet been felt.
But the strain on services such as the NHS, local government and education has reached breaking point. Now Osborne wants another £12 billion of welfare cuts.
The latest plan is to introduce a welfare "budget cap". This would require a government to either hold a vote in parliament to increase the budget for welfare each time the spending nears the limit, or introduce even more cuts to benefits.
The welfare budget is rising because more people are forced out of full-time work and into poverty incomes.
The creation of proper jobs and decent pay would reduce overall welfare spending. But since a government based on capitalism in crisis won't do that, it is those on benefits and low-paid workers who suffer.
The stark reality of capitalism is that, to preserve the interests of the richest, the poorest must be crushed.
The budget also shows the differences between the three main parties are minor. We need a socialist alternative to these pro-big business budgets!