UK coddles fat cats, throws poor to dogs

Published on Intrepid Report, by Linda S. Heard, April 3, 2013.

Britain’s harsh austerity programme is not only suffocating economic growth, it is increasingly geared to ensuring the rich get richer while low-income families, the jobless and the elderly are being treated as collateral damage in the UK’s bid to clear debt.

It’s certainly true that the nation’s once overly generous welfare system needed overhauling, because for decades it had been exploited by malingerers who had little incentive to find work because benefits—housing allowances, child allowances, disability allowances—were almost as great as a pay cheque minus tax and were easier to obtain than employment. No wonder foreigners once considered UK streets paved with gold and were clamouring to get in!   

Sunday tabloids used to enrage high taxpaying, hardworking middle classes with stories of immigrant families living in desirable west London residences courtesy of the state, homes way out of their league. Most Britons were aware of able-bodied individuals ‘suffering chronic back pain’ (an ailment most doctors are obliged to accept at face value), who were spotted merrily digging the garden or participating in local football games.

All that is indisputable, but it’s one thing to block a system’s exploitable loopholes and quite another to leave citizens genuinely in need to fend for themselves … //

… Worse, next year age-related tax allowances are due to be axed. There are currently 2.5 million unemployed in Britain and only one in five university graduates (youth lucky enough to pay exorbitant fees) can look forward to a permanent job.

The UK’s economic forecast looks gloomy and it’s dropped a notch from its credit rating. But it’s still the world’s sixth largest economy, which should translate to a reasonable level of abundance for all. But instead of ensuring that wealth trickles down, Cameron and his stubbornly short-sighted chancellor George Osborne make certain the ‘haves’ have even more while ignoring the cries of the desperate, a policy that is not only immoral, but also comes with dire social implications impacting crime figures and public unrest.

Perhaps Osborne could be partially forgiven if austerity was seen to be working, but it isn’t. Even as he downgrades the UK’s growth forecasts time after time, he insists that cutbacks will remain in place for the next five years! Who can trust him when the country is on the brink of a triple-dip recession?

Even if he suffers from myopia he’s not deaf, so one has to wonder why he refuses to heed the IMF’s chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, who openly says Britain’s austerity plan is failing dismally and suggests the UK’s fiscal policy should be reassessed in terms of taxation and public spending.

Osborne’s solution is to cut taxes for those earning over £150,000 (Dh836,627) and a reduction in corporate taxes. I wouldn’t bet my home on the coalition’s re-election chances in 2015; a year that for the majority of Britons, I would guess, can’t come soon enough.
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(Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email here).

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