Last Sunday the Mail headlined the Tory declaration that there will be no Mansion Tax. The – and I use the term in its broadest sense – newspaper said that this would 'help hard-pressed middle-class families'.
A tax on properties worth £2,000,000 or more? What is that the middle of? The Tory front bench?
On the same day’s Andrew Marr show David Cameron heralded further billions of pounds in cuts to welfare (that’s ‘cuts’, BBC, not ‘savings’). Amongst these is the removal of Housing Benefit for people under 25.
They already get a lower level of Housing Benefit and the under 21s get a lower minimum wage. This is presumably because landlords give them cheaper rent and supermarkets charge them less for food.
There is a straight contradiction between the idea that those without work should move to get work and that unemployed under 25s should live with their parents. The only thing that ties these diametrically opposed thoughts together is that they punish the person without work.
Given that there are more than five times as many unemployed people as vacancies, it clearly cannot be the fault of over 80% of them. You can’t find jobs that don’t exist. Yet we punish them with workfare in which they do the same tasks handed out as sentences to minor criminals for no pay.
Cameron said it is unfair that someone can leave school and be unemployed and get Housing Benefit that is unavailable to their classmates who become students or find work. It's not half as unfair as a man who inherited £3,000,000 on his 18th birthday taking away the pittance that stands between impoverished under 25s and destitution.
Also, he's simply wrong. Those in work can get housing benefit if they’re on a low wage. Indeed, many of them do - over 90% of new Housing Benefit claimants have jobs. And students did get Housing Benefit until the last Tory government took it away from them. First they came for the students.
You can’t go up to people eating their dinner, steal a plate, then say ‘it’s not fair that only some of you have got food so I’m taking the rest too’.
But, and most importantly, it is not unfair that the poorer receive more welfare, any more than it is unfair that kidney patients get more dialysis machines than the rest of us.
I work and pay tax not because it’s a personal savings bank but because it’s fair. And actually I do actually get a personal reward. I get a society that is less grim and less dangerous for me personally. I get to live in a place where people don’t starve, where people aren’t forced to live on the streets, where the only question between someone and health care is ‘how much do you need it?’. At least, I used get to live in that place.
The majority of people hit by changes to Housing Benefit for ‘under-occupancy’ are disabled. Many of them need a spare room for equipment. Many have had expensive adaptations to their homes that will be ripped out once they move out, and then be paid for again to refurbish their new homes (if they can find them).
The genuine likelihood of this and other changes to the welfare system costing as much as they save show that it’s not about saving money. Just like the contradictions within the reasoning for the new attack on Housing Benefit payments to young people, it proves that this is ideological. It is War On The Poor.