Belfast Telegraph

So, unborn children caused the crash? That's a new low even for you, George

By Mark Steel

With measures such as the cancellation of housing benefit for under-21s and the abolition of tax credits for more than two children, at last this Budget is taking money back from the group who caused the financial crash, people who were children when it happened.

In 2008, when they were under 14, they spent the entire economy on sherbet and Pokemon cards and then had the nerve to blame it on the banks.

The removal of tax credits applies to babies born from 2018, so that's even more carefully targeted, at greedy swines who aren't yet alive. For too long, these non-existent beings have been sponging off the rest of us, but enough is enough.

The reason for this is that astrologers have informed the Department of Work and Pensions that babies born from 2018 onwards will have Venus descending through their Taurus, making them claim disability benefit forever and eat trifle all day, paid for by hard-working Sagittarians, and that simply can't be allowed to continue.

Children's charities say the loss of credits for more than two children will have a devastating effect, but George Osborne insists the changes are fair, so maybe he has new evidence that third children don't really need anything, as they're part of the cactus family. As long as they're put in sunlight now and then, they'll go on for years, so all this money we've been handing to them is a waste.

If parents do find themselves unable to feed their kids, they should be more resourceful, like sparrows, who make do with sicking up worms and feeding them to their young instead of flapping down to the welfare state and expecting a handout.

The Government suggests we should see these changes not as cuts, but as incentives. So a reduction in disability benefit is an "incentive to seek work" and removing housing benefit will "encourage" young people to pay their rent, just as if the Government sent someone round to families on benefits and set fire to their pets, it would provide an incentive to choose animals that were a bit more flame-resistant.

The changes to housing benefit are even easier to explain, as Iain Duncan Smith has his own experience of needing somewhere to live. Instead of relying on benefits, he lived rent-free in a relative's mansion with eight spare bedrooms. So the new system will act as an incentive for homeless teenagers to get off their backsides and discover an uncle with a castle. The trouble is, up until now, the human race has seen the birth of a baby as a moment of joy, an event to be celebrated. But that's because we've been used to thousands of years of subsidising the leeching little cheats, as "hard-working families" graft all day, while their hard-earned taxes fund the layabout lifestyle of the gurgling, incontinent, workshy idle.

Thankfully, we appear to be developing a different attitude. On the radio phone-ins this week, there have been plenty of callers complaining that "if people can't afford to raise their kids, they shouldn't have them".

What a refreshing outlook this is. Maybe they could send one of those balloons you give to a family that has a new baby, with a bottle of champagne drawn on the side above the words, "Congratulations! It's a burden on the rest of us".

As we're living in that sort of society now, we can hope this view spreads, and whenever a parent is struggling up some stairs with a pushchair, more people will have the courage to say, "Don't expect any of us to help, you shouldn't have had kids if you can't carry them yourself".

Next time there's a famine in Africa, we must hope there are plenty of pop stars willing to give up their time to record a song that goes, "It's your own fault, don't have kids if you can't feed them".

Some people have pointed out that almost half of welfare spending is handed out to pensioners, so it could seem slightly unfair that all the bile and cuts are aimed at younger claimants. But that is to misunderstand economics.

Because, if enough young people are forced to rely on food banks and made homeless, that should make sure plenty of them don't live long enough to become pensioners, so it's win-win all round.

The media response to the Budget has mostly been to celebrate the changes, with headlines such as, "A pay rise for all of us".

And it is true that many families will be better off. The calculations for each family are complicated. For example, a couple with two children on a combined income of £35,000 a year in London will lose about £1,000 because of reduced tax credits, but if they then inherit an international chain of supermarkets, the money they save in inheritance tax will more than offset the losses, so they'll be much better off overall.

Because tax evasion works in completely the opposite way to housing benefits, or tax credits. So Osborne told us the most effective way to reduce tax fraud is not to call them spongers, but to reduce tax. I suppose he's right.

And it would be the same with any other crime, such as murder. If you made murder legal, as long as it was fully costed and done cleanly with an axe, the number of illegal murders would go down drastically.

There's so much to think about when you're Chancellor. That must be why Duncan Smith jumped up and down and yelled "Get in!" when Osborne finished his speech, without a thought for how it might affect him personally at all.

Belfast Telegraph


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