The Socialist 26 March 2014 |
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2014 Budget: Millionaire Osborne dishes out more misery for the majority
For the fifth year in a row the budget delivered by multi-millionaire chancellor George Osborne has meted out misery for the majority in Britain.
Despite headlines about economic recovery, the budget recognised what even the government's own quango, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has been forced to point out, that Britain's economy remains 15% smaller than it would have been had growth continued at pre-recession rates, and that the lost growth is never going to be recovered.
As we have repeatedly warned, the government's claims that cuts in public services were essential to cut the national debt have once again been proven to be nonsense as the national debt has continued to rise. Osborne's answer, of course, is to just keep repeating the failed recipe, adding extra austerity.
Health service workers, along with others in the public sector, have suffered a 10% pay cut in real terms over the last four years, but are now being told their wages will be squeezed even harder this year.
Spending on benefits, including housing benefit and tax credits - already slashed, resulting in a huge increase in hunger and homelessness - is now to be capped.
A year before the election, the budget did contain a few 'crowd pleasers' but these were overwhelmingly aimed at shoring up the core Tory vote rather than helping the majority.
It is true that the point at which workers have to start to pay the basic rate of tax was increased, saving many workers a few hundred pounds a year, while the price of a pint was lowered by a penny, but these puny measures will do nothing to compensate for continued pay restraint.
There were some changes to ISAs to help savers, and a number of measures to make it easier for pensioners to save, spend and invest savings. Both measures are mainly aimed at better off pensioners, who are more likely to be Tory voters, and whose savings have been squeezed by ultra-low interest rates over the last few years.
It is not clear how 'real' these measures are however; the £10 million a year - and only for two years - allocated to fund them is very small. The much hyped-measures to assist parents with childcare costs have also had a mere £25 million a year allocated to them, and has already been dubbed 'au pair benefit' because it seems likely to mainly help the richest parents.
Alongside these cynical electoral ploys, Osborne also announced a number of measures which he claims would encourage the capitalists to invest their profits into developing industry. However, these small measures will not act to significantly increase investment - which has fallen by 20% since 2008. This is not because of a lack of profits - on the contrary just last October government minister Danny Alexander was begging British companies to invest the £500 billion cash pile they are sitting on.
They have not done so because they do not consider it would be sufficiently profitable to do so. Instead the growth in the UK economy is driven by a re-inflating of the financial bubbles that burst to trigger the 2008 crash. The extension of the Help to Buy scheme until 2020 will fuel this, pushing property prices further out of the reach of working class people.
Labour offers no alternative
No worker who has experienced five years of Con-Dem government could be surprised by Osborne's latest cuts budget. The tragedy is that there is no mass party putting an alternative.
Labour has once again shown it is another party of big business and the bankers. While Miliband correctly described Osborne's budget as, 'of the privileged, for the privileged', Labour puts forward nothing fundamentally different.
If Labour was to pledge a mass council house building programme, or an increase in the minimum wage to £10 an hour, it would be massively popular. Instead after five years of Con-Dem misery shadow chancellor Ed Balls has promised further 'ruthless' public spending cuts. Labour has agreed to a cap on benefit spending, and has promised that be 'tougher' on welfare than the Tories.
The 2014 budget is yet more proof that we urgently need to create a political voice that represents the interests of the millions, not the millionaires.
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), bringing together trade unionists, socialists and anti-cuts campaigners is a step in that direction. In the local elections on 22 May, TUSC will be contesting more seats than any challenge to the left of Labour in over half a century.
If Osborne's budget - and Balls bland agreement with it - made you angry - join us!
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 19 March 2014 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.