Saturday, 17 March 2012
Where Does It End?
George Osbourne's announcement about the 2012 budget must surely blow a final, fatal hole in the notion that 'we are all in this together'. In the same breath as cutting the 50p tax rate so that those who incomes are already excessively high can keep yet more of their undeservedly vast wage, he has torpedoed public sector workers in low-income areas of the country by announcing that he intends to do away with the national pay structure.
If you are Welsh, or living in counties more northerly than Oxfordshire, this is a grim two-pronged attack on your way of life. Not only are you as a public sector worker going to see your pay reduced to bring it in line with an amount that a millionaire in a distant city-state deems appropriate, those same social workers, doctors, nurses and so on will reflect that they can earn more in London, so you will gradually see your services disappearing. Nick Clegg must be looking at his Sheffield constituency and reflecting that it was nice while it lasted.
One of the most significant aspects of this government is the way in which they are using a stick at a time of hardship to force the hand of workers. The disabled have been forced to work, even when they are not capable of doing so. Public sector workers have been forced onto the dole despite having skills and being willing to work, vastly increasing the national benefit bill (and in turn, the debt.) Those living in London in houses partly funded by council tax benefit have been told that they are no longer welcome and should live elsewhere.
Every day I reflect upon the government's public-sector blitzkrieg and look at the society that will result. Some services may improve, but the overwhelming majority of those will only be accessible to the wealthy. Private sector companies will become far more involved in healthcare (for comparison's sake, under Gordon Brown's government, it was capped at 2%, while under this government it could rise as high as 49%) and hence the costs of administering these systems could increase to twenty-five times as much as they are at present. This is millions that could be spent on healthcare and will instead be paid to - you guessed it - private sector admin companies, who are vastly inefficient, but don't really care as long as the profits come in. (For an example of this sort of company, type 'Capita failure' into Google and have a look through the first dozen or so of the 20,000,000 results.)
So in the not too distant future, if you want efficient or emergency healthcare, it's likely that you will have to pay a premium for it. We can expect see a move away from free healthcare and a move towards a system like the US one, which is inefficient, wasteful and vastly expensive, without actually generating better outcomes. What it does do is generate vast incomes for those shareholders in the House of Lords and the House of Commons - the same masters that we appoint to rule us.
There are some distinct inequalities in the way that this government treats people. The notion that 'entrepreneurs' (fast becoming a euphemism for anyone who earns a high sum, regardless of whether they are active investors or not) need to have tax cuts and more money so that they can create jobs for the rest of us is a fallacy that needs to be shot out of the water sooner rather than later. The profits made by businesses in Britain are vast, and the only ones whose profits have fallen during the financial crisis are the ones that are inefficient and treat their staff badly. Business has plenty of money to invest - it is about time they started to do so.
The continual pressure on public sector pay means that if current trends continue, it will not be longer before public sector workers are on minimum wage. Then, logical continuation suggests that we will see a gradual reduction or even abolition of that minimum wage, and that will be the coup de grace that sees a return to the days of workhouses and cap doffing. Perhaps we'll even do away with the word 'chav' and start using the word 'serf' again.
The message from this government of bankers and millionaires is clear. Move to London, get a job as one of us, and you'll be well looked after. Choose to live elsewhere, or try to get a job that actually improves society rather than creating wealth for its own sake, and you truly are on your own.