Death of the Welfare State

“The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped” – Hubert Humphrey

This Tory-led government has pursued the most conservative agenda in a lifetime to aggressively dismantle the welfare safety net by stealth – all under the cloak of austerity. The mask has slipped, with the term “compassionate” quietly dropped from conservatism.

The age of austerity has resulted in a fifty percent rise in homelessness in four years, with thousands left destitute on the streets of Britain. A fifteen hundred percent rise in emergency supplies provided by food banks in the past five years. A quarter of a million people deprived of disability benefits because of the the government’s stubborn refusal to accept that mental disorders/depression are actual illnesses. Our best and brightest are saddled with heavy student debt, adding yet another barrier to upward social mobility. The list goes on and on.

On every count, by every measure, the tory-led government has failed the morality test.

Iain Duncan Smith views welfare recipients as scroungers, slashing benefits at a time when those less fortunate are most in need i.e. at the height of a recession. However, the vast majority of those on benefits (excluding pensioners) are working people struggling to make ends meet as they earn below the living wage. The government essentially subsidises multi-national corporate behemoths who not only avoid the payment of corporation tax but also exploit the workforce via low-pay or zero hour contracts.

“We’re in this together” is Cameron’s soppy-eyed war-cry. Except of course we aren’t. Austerity measures don’t apply to the most well-off in our society, with the government’s gift of a cut in the top rate of tax to 45p. Listen carefully and you’ll hear the economically debunked “trickle down effect” – the sound of the rich pissing on everyone else. Further proof? Britain’s richest 1000 people have doubled their wealth in the last 10 years. Instead of targeting those at the top who avoid paying their fair share, the Tories continue to take potshots at those on the bottom rung.

The biggest lie of all? That the Tory party are the economically sound party. They fooled the nation into believing that the age of austerity was the only effective medicine. But it’s failed. The UK’s budget deficit as a percentage of GDP is higher than at any point in the last fifty years. And we’ve suffered the sharpest decline in living standards since 1960 for the privilege.

There was another way. Boris Johnson may be a dangerous buffoon but even he understands that the path out of a recession is government investment in large, long-term infrastructure projects. Cutting government spending in a recession was sheer folly. Confidence hits rock bottom, economic output falls and tax revenues decrease. Inevitably, spending on benefits goes up – unless you break the social contract with the most vulnerable in our society, which was one of the “tough choices” that Cameron made on our behalf.

So if you’re thinking of voting Tory, understand that you are voting for the destruction of the welfare state. And pray that you and your loved ones won’t ever need it.

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