Saturday, 5 April 2014
Welfare, tax and the civilised society
LEAP Co-ordinator Andrew Fisher on welfare spending and our own retreat ...
Alongside tax forms this year, HM Treasury will be sending out a breakdown of where your tax goes. Their pie chart and breakdown has been doing the rounds on Twitter
Declan Gaffney, an expert on social security, corrected the pie chart for them, using the same data - but importantly the government's own catergorisation in its own data. The key point (in red text in the table) is separating social services from welfare. This sees 'health' become the largest part of government spending
But, then others decided to break the welfare spending down further - so that major elements like 'sickness and disability' payments, tax credits and housing benefit were clearly visible, and with smaller elements like unemployment benefit detectable only by those with good eyesight. The revised pie chart (by @StrongerInNos, aka Michael O'Connor) is copied below:
But why have we on the left got such anxiety about welfare spending (even if more broadly defined than honesty would permit) being seen as the biggest chunk of government expenditure?
Have the attacks on welfare and the demonisation of claimants cowed us so much? Have they blinded us to what welfare actually delivers? Did educationalists look at the initial table with embarrassment and remake it with education separated out into primary, secondary, further and higher? Or am I just over-analysing some wonkish debunking in response to more government lies on welfare?
Welfare saves lives. Yes, it does, repeat it. It puts a roof over people's heads, it prevents absolute poverty, it reduces inequality. It means people too old, too ill or too disabled to work have at least some level of dignity. It reduces child poverty, alleviates the poverty of the low waged and helps towards childcare costs. It's magnificent.
As the US judge Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr famously said, "I like paying my taxes, with them I buy civilisation".
So, yes we should debunk the government's misleading propaganda and outright lies. But we must also never take even a half step backwards in accepting the government's terms. That way leads to the capitulation of accepting benefit caps and the structural welfare cap - as if meeting need is something to be ashamed of.
As a coalition of welfare organisations have come together to say: Who benefits? We all do. Say it loud, say it proud!