Ad Fontes

Politics, Theology and Christian Humanism

A budget both unnecessary and vicious

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The Liberal Democrats are doing most of the talking on this week’s budget, in an apparent attempt to convince themselves about it. My MP, Vince Cable, has been writing in the local rag about how we all knew that a tough budget was needed, that it will hurt, but is totally necessary. It is clear from various media vox pops that a number of people are being taken in by this ‘tough but fair’ line.

The only thing that is obvious is that there is a deficit in government finances. The threat that is wafted before us is that of Greece, but the UK’s credit rating is in a far better state than that of Greece. And the assumption is that the markets trump all other needs in our society. This is a deeply offensive attitude towards the people of this country, and demonstrates the hateful ideology behind this budget.

Vince Cable has been all over the TV trying to drum up support for this budget. However, when all its viciousness against families, disabled people, those on housing benefit and anyone who buys anything is listed, he defended the budget by pointing out the positives: all for business. So, the Con Dems are not only putting markets before people, but also business before people. They may retort that helping business creates jobs, and reduces unemployment, and thus is better for the general population. However, we have plenty of evidence that helping business mostly benefits upper management, and there is no ‘trickle down’.

If we accept the necessity for cuts (and I would even question that), there are plenty of economists lining up to suggest that cutting quickly will have a negative effect on our economy. Even so, we might expect the austerity to be progressive, in that a greater proportion is borne by the rich. However, what we have been given is starkly regressive: a greater proportion will be borne by the poor.

If the government wanted to bring out a progressive budget, it would have been possible. Leaving VAT alone would be an obvious part of such a budget. Juggling with income tax to relieve taxation of the low paid and increasing taxation on the high paid is a textbook policy for progressive budgets. A decent package of taxing banks, like the Robin Hood Tax, and/or a social dividend from the banks in honour of public investment would be popular and effective.

It is clear that what we have been landed with is a budget, grounded in the broken ideologies of free-market capitalism, the very idea that is at the root of this crisis. It is vicious, regressive, thoughtless and unnecessary.

The monarchy has managed to avoid any cuts. After Buckingham Palace unbelievably lobbied for increased funding, the government has frozen Civil List spending. In fact, a cynical piece of legislation from a previous Tory administration makes it impossible to reduce the Civil List bill, and it would take an Act of Parliament to make it possible to cut monarchy funding.

Author: Gareth Hughes

A priest of the Church of England, who is Chaplain of Hertford College, Oxford, and doing Syriac research at Oxford University.

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