Thursday, 10 January 2013

Pay out and get nowt

A number of prominent flag wavers for the right have been busy making a noise about the madness of universal benefits.  Boris Johnson's clarion call for justice and fairness appeared in yesterdays Telegraph.

The dull argument goes - Why on earth should a dowager with a million in the bank receive the annual heating allowance or a couple making £200,000 a year receive child benefits. 

Actually these toffs have been missing the point – it’s all about the social contract we have as individuals with the state.  What these blue blooded agitators have forgotten is the while a limited number of benefits are universal (bus passes and so on) they are funded but a tax system that is progressive and takes proportionately more from the well off.  So whilst Judy Dench might not need the state to pay for her bus pass she has more than paid for it and it is right that she should have the benefit. 

The result of removing these benefits will be harmful in two ways, firstly it will actively disenfranchise those that contribute most and secondly it will promote differentiation by wealth -  I think there is something important in the fact that my wealth Aunt and her carer share the benefit and experience of the Bus pass and other universal benefits.  Without these small connection our society will become so much poorer.

A probable side effect of the mealymouthed approach will be to encourage tax avoidance and a growth in intolerance towards those who have made no or little contribution through their working lives.

As an example here is how a wage earner on £60,000 has their taxes spent in the UK - that's over £120,000 contributed to the welfare budget over 20 years - worth a bus pass??

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