Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Working class must stand up against welfare threat

The Chancellor of the Exchequer should target fat cat tax dodgers - not low and middle-income families, says Brian Campfield

One recent, headline-grabbing story was that involving US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who dismissed 47% of the electorate, due to their dependence on state support of one kind or another, as "not worth bothering about".

Much closer to home, such extremism is central to Government ideology, as shown by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, who announced that a further £10bn would be taken from the welfare budget.

This is in addition to a proposed programme of cuts that the independent Institute of Fiscal Studies described as "unprecedented".

What this represents is a declaration of war on the less well-off in society. Behind the propaganda, this extremism is designed to drive a wedge between those in work and those on social security benefits.

It ignores the reality of millions of low and middle-income families, including the 'working poor', who only survive because of child tax credits and housing benefit and who will now lose out.

This has to be recognised not as reform, but as an attack on both working and non-working families. At the heart of the Tory party's welfare agenda is the belief that anyone who is unemployed, or on any type of benefit, is entirely responsible for his/her own predicament and, therefore, should only be supported - if at all - in a hostile, short-term and minimalist manner.

Is this the message we want to convey to our fellow citizens - to family members, our neighbours, those workers now facing redundancy from FG Wilson?

The coalition Government's formal strategy, as predicted by the trade unions and many eminent economists, has been a disaster.

But the Government's real mission is to transform the UK economy and society into one which serves business and private shareholder interests, particularly those of the City of London.

The 'tax-cut for millionaires' Budget of 2012 could not have made this clearer. A recent TUC report exposed how, for the vast majority of employees, take home wages, as a proportion of the economy, shrank over the last 30 years.

Furthermore, at a time when the pension provisions of society as a whole are under attack (eroded by private companies withdrawing from/diluting pension provision and Government diminishing the value of public sector pensions), the pension pots of the top FTSE 100 directors have increased by astronomical amounts.

Is it any wonder that inequality and the damage it brings has been and is increasing? In spite of this 'wages grab' and pension theft, media headlines blame the victim, using offensive terms such as 'work-shy' and 'spongers'.

It has been some time since the real villains of the piece - captains of finance, who increased their own personal wealth as they brought the world economy to the brink - were exposed for what they are.

Incredibly, their partners in economic crime - neo-liberal free market zealots - are still wheeled out as 'experts' to advise us how to escape the recession their recommendations created in the first place and then deepened.

The only sensible response from the great mass of the population is to say enough is enough. This means, whether you live in Greece, Spain, the US, the Republic, or the UK, it is time to stand up and say 'no' to the austerity agenda.

In London, Glasgow and Belfast last month, trade unions and community activists once again took to the streets to highlight the disastrous policies of the coalition Government and call for a reversal of failed neo-liberal economics.

The economic and social measures we demand can be funded using the £120bn in taxes avoided, evaded, or uncollected across the UK. This will create decent jobs, get people back to work and deliver a fairer society.

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