Thursday, June 24, 2010

So, who speaks up for the poor?

When I was a financial journalist, Budget week was a time of frenetic activity and excitement. I and my colleagues would pore over the red book and talk to city analysts and economists about what the measures announced in an invariably dull speech actually amounted to.

Budgets are always full of bogus statistics, massaged numbers and big claims. This one was is no different. The specious Office for Budget Responsibility, run by one of Mrs T's favourite economists, hardly offers a fig leaf for George Osborne's voodoo numbers.

It's a bad week for the poor. Even on the government's own figures the poorest 10% of the country are the second hardest hit group after the richest 10%. As John Humphries asked Nick Clegg this morning 'why should this group be paying anything?'

We're in a global recession that has been caused by two things. One was a failure of international financial regulatory systems - the IMF, G20, and national governments (including the one that left office here in May). The major cause was free-wheeling banks creating ways of making money for their shareholders on the backs of the world's poor. The rich - for they are still making huge profits and paying enormous bonuses - plunged us into a recession that the poor are now being asked to pay to get us all out of.

The banks were in receipt of getting on for £140bn of direct support plus some £800bn+ of indirect support in the financial markets to keep them from going under - and still they are not lending to small and medium-sized business in anything like the way needed to get us out of the mess we're in.

The cost to them is a paltry £2bn levy announced in this budget. A Robin Hood Tax would have raised £20bn a year, something like a fair contribution from the banking sector for the deficit it's caused.

With VAT rises, a freeze on child benefit, the linking of other benefits to the consistently lower inflation measure, caps on housing benefit (coupled with the disappearance of any target for building affordable homes) and swingeing cuts coming in the public services that the prosperous never have to rely, this was a bad budget day for the poor.

1 comment:

Jude said...

True. The only good thing was preserving the international development budget (even if they are changing to a dodgy definition of "aid")