Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Just remember: you’re all in this together

Britain: a place where people born into wealth
and privilege can rise into even more wealth and privilege
Learning disabilities, terminal illness and cancer? Sounds like you need to be getting ready for work, you little slacker.
Isn’t it annoying when you hear about workshy shirkers loafing around on sickness benefit when they could be filling call-centres and Primark store-rooms? Take twenty seven year old Ruth Anim, who apparently “can’t work” just because she needs a “one-to-one carer” and has such severe learning disabilities she can’t even cross a road. Since when did a terminal illness stop anyone manning the phones at Claims Direct? Are we going to let so-called ‘cancer sufferers’ lie around enjoying their chemo when they could be made to do low-paid shifts for big companies?
Another lazy good-for-nothing avoiding work
It annoys the government at any rate, who are busily turfing mountains of the idle sick onto jobseeker’s allowance with a secret weapon known as its ‘Work Capability Assessment’ (actually a New Labour baby, for the record). Because this is a party which believes in helping yourself. More of these claimants need to follow the example of Stephen Hill, who was successfully forced by the government back into work – so successfully, in fact, that he keeled over from a heart attack 39 days later. Now that’s the kind of determination everyone’s looking for! Just look at the Cabinet itself, which is full of inspiring examples of riches-to-riches. Did they just sit there lying around waiting for somebody else to make it happen? No: they pulled their finger out, gritted their teeth, and inherited substantial sums of money. And if they can do it, so can’t you.
Let’s face it, austerity has to be borne equally, which is why the hugely wealthy  families and friends of the Cabinet are committed to not bearing much of it. In fact the rich have fascinatingly novel approaches to taxation – which revolve around a complex Economics concept known as ‘not paying any’. Not that any of this ‘tax avoidance’ could be called ‘tax avoidance’ or anything dirty like that. It’s just a different way of working. Thinking outside the box, if you like. Currently the wealthy are thinking so far outside the box on the issue of tax that they’ve actually flown the box to an offshore haven, probably via private jet.
Cameron's pad: just like you and me, really
Top Shop owner Philip Green, for example, was so excitingly progressive in his approach to tax on his dividend of £1.2 billion (the biggest pay check in British corporate history) that he channelled it, excitingly and progressively, straight to his wife in Barbados, without paying a single penny – a £285m loss to the taxpayer. David Cameron was so impressed  he made him a senior consultant to the government.  
Of course you could say that it’s sickening to watch a Tory cabinet born into enormous privilege attack sick people for not having the energy to work in a call centre sweatshop twelve hours a day. You could say that all this is a cynical and predatory attack on the most defenceless in society from those who wield huge amounts of power, thinly disguised beneath a veneer of hard work and entrepreneurialism. Because ‘austerity’ is a magic word that’s full of magical surprises, and one of the most surprising of all is that it means something completely different when it comes to ordinary people – who instead face an exciting new era of falling wages and benefits cuts, while the government does everything it possibly can to protect its cabal of landed gentry, Royals, bankers, media moguls and fox hunting visitors from the nineteenth century from the tiniest bit of financial pain.
All of which raises a new possibility for trying something radical. You listening? Okay. Developed by economists and tested a little bit in places like Scandinavia, this drastic and untested measure is known by economists as ‘taxing the rich’, and could, if done gently, do some amazing things. Michael Meacher, Labour MP for Oldham West and Royton, has pointed out that the wealthiest 1,000 persons (just 0.003% of the adult population) in Britain possess ‘enough for themselves alone to pay off the entire current UK budget deficit and still leave them with £30 billion to spare.’ Luckily our own beloved Tory government is unlikely to listen to such crackpot ideas! So let’s get back to hounding those terminally ill, learning difficulties, heart-problem loafers into underpaid jobs, in the hope that it might raise a few pence here and there. That’s thinking out of the box – carry on like that and there’s a good chance some of these people might end up in one.