Friday, 1 October 2010

New York Times: To cut or not to cut in Britain?

Apologies for the lack of updates - it was my birthday last week, so the updates have been infrequent.  Back now though!

The New York Times has a peculiar article, where it can't seem to make its mind up on the subject of spending cuts in Britain, but it doesn't prevent the article from being an interesting one in fairness to Hell's Bible.  The title, "Amid Austerity, Britain Keeps Welfare for Well Off."  You smell an agenda?  Me too!

Lets take a look at the article - my comments in red.

LONDON — Every week without fail Lucy Elkin, a comfortably middle-class mother [boo hiss!] of two small children, receives a £33.20 child benefit payment, or about $52, from the debt-plagued British government. [Would they use that term to describe the Obama government?]
“It’s useful and it helps pay the bills, but it is not as if we are struggling to put food on the table,” [Give it back then!!  Don't take it, then bitch about it!] Ms. Elkin said as she led her children from the park to their house on the leafy fringe of Hampstead Heath, one of London’s most desirable neighborhoods.
Ms. Elkin, 40, is a freelance writer. Her husband is a computer programmer. Along with more than three million middle- to upper-income British families, they are among the recipients of £11 billion ($17.2 billion) a year paid to mothers with children here. It is a universal benefit that not only costs taxpayers about twice as much as the total for unemployment payments but also represents the largest chunk of the estimated £30 billion ($47 billion) the government pays each year to Britons with above-average incomes.
“It is one of those things that is quite hard to justify,” Ms. Elkin said. [Agreed, but don't take the benefit.  Also, can you imagine the fuss that lefty papers like the NYT would make if the Tories revoked such a benefit?  Also, I get the impression that people like Ms Elkin would then start moaning about how hard it is, now she doesn't have the "valuable benefit."  Such people moan whatever you do!]
She is not alone in thinking that Britain can no longer afford such generosities. [She is not alone, I agree with her, but then I am not collecting benefits!] But even as civil servants and ministers are preparing to drastically cut most categories of government spending to help close Britain’s budget deficit, the government is so worried about alienating middle-class voters that it is proceeding very cautiously in limiting the subsidy for having children.
“There is a long history of universal welfare schemes here,” [and they have pretty much all failed, just as they are doing in America] said Patrick Nolan, an economist for Reform, a free-market-oriented research organization that has issued a report claiming that as much as 16 percent of total welfare benefits go to those who do not need them. “But it has become a very expensive luxury when hundreds of thousands are losing their jobs.” [Exactly, and lengthy welfare payments cost jobs due to the launch of taxes that such payments require - and taxes costs jobs.]
The debate in Britain highlights an issue that other advanced industrial countries are also beginning to grapple with: Who should bear the burden of the coming wave of austerity? 
Unless politicians are prepared to dig into the pockets of middle- and upper-income families [Excuse me, but I think you will find that that is going on quite enough as it is.], experts say [who?  This is pretty poor reporting], the demands from bond market investors to get government finances under control can be satisfied only by cutting back even further on benefits for the poor and needy [This is silly, what benefits under what circumstances to what people?  "Poor and needy" is vague and political, a weasel word to sneak socialism in most of the time.] But any serious effort to curb long-established middle-class entitlements risks setting off a public reaction that few political leaders are eager to face. [This is true, once you put a benefit in, it is difficult to get it out again.  This is one of the dangers of Obamacare.]
In Britain, the quandary is particularly stark. The social safety net that has been an essential feature of British life [Wrong!  It has been more than a safety net, it is a suffocating duvet, and it only benefits certain groups, AND it not an essential feature - we could live without a great deal of it.  There are many in the middle classes who do NOT get any benefits, but pay through the nose in taxes.] since World War II ended has been built largely on providing similar benefits to all, like health care [Which has been an absolute disaster.  And it does not "provide benefits to all", it forces people to pay for a low standard of healthcare for themselves and for everyone else, if they are lucky to earn anything more than scraps.] and home heating allowances for the elderly, regardless of income. 
Those earning up to £37,400 a year pay income tax of 20 percent per year. [That does not remotely begin to cover it.  As you do and earn more in England, there are so many stealth taxes that nail you. Plus we have a 20% sales tax - wow!  Even New York doesn't have it that high!]
All told, about a third of Britain’s 61 million people claim either a child subsidy or winter heating allowance. [That does not surprise me.]  Together they represent a formidable political bloc of families and senior citizens that Prime Minister David Cameron was loath to alienate during last spring’s election. [Yeah, being soft didn't exactly work out did it?  Now we are in an alliance with the commie Lib Dems]
That helps explain why Mr. Cameron promised not to “means test” the child benefit by limiting it to the poor. He said that payments to the elderly to subsidize television license fees, along with bus fare and heating allowances, would not be touched, either.
Lately, though, the government has begun to signal a harder line.
At the Liberal Democrat’s party conference in September, Mr. Cameron’s coalition partner, Nick Clegg, made the strongest call yet for cutting middle-class benefits, telling delegates that he would be willing to give up the £2,450 ($3,850) in annual child benefits that he and his wife, who is a corporate lawyer, receive for their three children. [Isn't that brave of him?  The problem with Clegg is that he is always looking at a way to punish the middle class - he is the classic socialist.  Now, I don't support giving benefits to anyone but those who actually need it, but I can see Clegg's move as part of a wider attack on the middle class - I have written about Clegg before...]
It remains unclear whether the government will follow through on that suggestion. But there is little question that social protection [or redistribution of wealth], as it is labelled in government accounts, has been the locomotive behind the 53 percent increase in overall outlays, adjusted for inflation, over the last eight years. [Thanks Labour and Gordon Brown!]
This spending spike was driven by previous Labour governments supplying the extra padding to make the British welfare state one of the most accommodating in Europe. [Accommodating isn't the word I'd use.  Bloated, exaggerated, socialist, job-killing, poverty-inducing - use any of those.]
Cuts for the middle class are now on the table throughout Europe, as governments struggle to close budget deficits and reduce debt levels [All while the Bamster keeps increasing deficits and debt levels] that now average 84 percent of gross domestic product. In France, the government is planning to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62; in Greece, public-sector pensions have been sharply cut, and in Ireland government wages have been reduced by more than 10 percent.
But with protests mounting, most governments have said that any further cuts in benefits to the middle class were unlikely. And in the United States, where demands are rising from the right to cut government outlays, none of the advocates have proposed reducing such sacrosanct middle-class benefits as the tax deduction for interest on home mortgages or the tax breaks for pensions and retirement savings. [Scummy.  Tax deductions and breaks aren't spending.  The problem is not how much the governments are bringing in, it is how much they are spending.  To see cuts and breaks in taxes as "spending" assumes that the government has a "right" to how much they normally collect - they have no such right.]
As for Britain, while universal child benefits are common in Europe, total payments to families here — including child tax credits and maternity allowances — are the third-highest among the 33 affluent countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, trailing France and Luxembourg. [Not exactly countries we want to be modelling ourselves on, are they?]
The child benefit pays £20 a week to the oldest child and £13.20 for each additional child until they reach the age of 20. The only requirement is that they continue to attend school. [Yes Americans - we bribe our kids to stay in school!  That's how bad it is!]
Research [What research?] shows that, although payments are promoted as a direct and simple means to allay child poverty by putting money into the hands of needy mothers, nearly half of the payments go to families with above-average incomes.
According to a soon-to-be-published study by Ian Walker, an economist at Lancaster University, well-to-do families that received the benefit were more inclined to spend it on themselves, not their children — with alcohol and tobacco among the most notorious substitutes. [Explains why it hasn't worked.]
These findings make a “good case for means-testing the benefit,” Mr. Walker said. “It’s clear that a number of universal benefits look vulnerable.” [All while Obama is trying to increase universal benefits - he really is a bit backward!  NYT fails to notice this glaring conclusion.]
But many poverty experts [which poverty experts are these?] strongly defend universal payments, arguing that, despite the excesses, the largest portion of the money goes to those who really need it and that paying benefits across the board is the best way to preserve political support for such programs. [Yeh - thats a GREAT reason to keep it up!  Who are these whacko 'experts'?  Do they even exist, or is this the NYT going "Trust us!  These are experts!"]
The British government, apart from pensions, pays large sums to the elderly, much of which ends up in the pockets of more affluent citizens. The government spends £2.7 billion ($4.24 billion) a year to provide a winter heating allowance to everyone over the age of 60. It provides £1 billion for free bus passes for those senior citizens and devotes £575 million for complimentary TV licenses for people 75 and older. [Hmm, these aren't exactly the schemes that have been breaking the bank - funny that they focus on these instead of the welfare handouts, the bloated public sector, and the stimulus]
Opposition to spending cuts is already building, and unions [who are full of socialists and communists, and who nearly destroyed the country in the 70's and 80's] across the country are banding together, promising a series of strikes.  They are expected to culminate in a mass protest on Oct. 19, the day before the government makes public its spending review.
Still, while the fear and anger about the coming cuts are certainly palpable here, there are signs that many Britons are reluctantly coming to the conclusion that the fairest way to deal with the need for austerity may be to bring the era of universal largess to an end. [Yes most people can see that the whole thing is, and has been, entirely unsustainable for years.  Unfortunately, a lot of politicians on both sides of the Atlantic can't see that.]
“It would be nice to give everyone a nice slice of the cake,” [Would it?  Wouldn't it be better to allow everyone to provide their own cake for themselves, and just give cake to those who couldn't afford it?  Why do we have to have these pointless universal benefits that make people pay more for less - as is always the case with government spending] said Clare Drew, an unemployed mother of two, who has just moved back to London from Ireland and is staying at her mother’s until her housing and child benefits come through.
“But with the economy this way, you just can’t do that,” she continued. “The benefits are going to be decreased.” [Good!]

As I said above, the bias is clear, but the article is interesting.  Its main point - that we are paying a hell of a lot of money out to people who do not need it, is certainly true.  It is also the case in America, and a Republican House in November will need to start working on that.  As for Britain, it is time to get rid of the Liberal Democrats, and make sure we have a government with the balls to implement the cuts to their full extent, without hiking already high taxes through the ceiling.

No comments:

Post a Comment