Proper wages, not bombs!

by Daphne Liddle

CHANCELLOR George Osborne’s opportunities for wooing voters with tax cuts or other sweeteners were drastically reduced last week when new official figures showed the Government’s spending deficit is steadily increasing, largely because of a big reduction in tax income while the need for spending on benefits has increased.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) the national debt rose to £1.451 trillion in September, equal to 79.9 per cent of GDP.

Borrowing in September alone was £11.8 billion, an increase of 15 per cent on the same month last year, according to the ONS. Economists had expected borrowing for the month to be just £10.5 billion.

Tax receipts were only 3.1 per cent higher than a year earlier, despite the “strong recovery”. But Osborne’s bigger disappointment was on Government spending, which was up 3.7 per cent. Social benefit payments were 5.4 per cent higher.

The previous week’s figures showed that unemployment was down. What they did not reveal was that most of the new jobs are part-time and/or very low waged.

People in such jobs pay little or no tax anyway and the majority of them need tax credit top-ups, housing and other benefits to subsist.

These in-work benefit payments subsidise employers paying wages below subsistence levels and greedy landlords charging exorbitant rents.

But while Osborne firmly believes in reducing benefits for the working class he has been more than willing to keep on paying these in-work benefits indirectly to his own class, who do not need them and are the ultimate scroungers. Now he finds out his Treasury cannot afford to keep doing this.

Higher wages generally and capped rents would solve this problem. He cannot expect income tax from better paid workers to fund this insane system when there are now too few better paid workers.

Osborne’s tax cuts to the rich had also significantly reduced Treasury income — and failing to go after giant companies that pay little or no tax at all has also had a big impact.

Cutting benefits to the long-term sick and disabled has also been a false economy. It takes away their independence and reduces their chances of getting work.

It also undermines their physical and mental health leading to worsening of their condition and an increase in accident and emergency admissions, or people being forced into residential care homes — again, an unnecessary drain on the Treasury.

Another giant irrational drain on the economy has been raised Government spending on nuclear weapons. The Government has just published amendments updating a treaty that goes to the heart of the Britain’s special relationship with the United States.

They relate to the Mutual Defence Agreement (MDA) first signed in 1958, which, according to the Government, enables Britain and America the US “nuclear warhead communities to collaborate on all aspects of nuclear deterrence including nuclear warhead design and manufacture”.

One amendment deals with potential threats from “state or non-state actors” — presumably keeping up the farce of the “war on terror”.

The rest are old fashioned Cold War stuff — irrelevant to modern circumstances unless they have secret plans to threaten nuclear war, possibly against Russia or China.

Richard Norton Taylor, in a report in the Guardian points out that the MDA does not have to be debated or voted on in Parliament; the agreement is incorporated in US law but it has no legal status in Britain.

Yet the matters covered by the treaty, which is renewed only at 10 year intervals, are hugely important. Successive British governments have made clear a proper debate on the issues involved would not be welcome.

Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn has applied for a backbench business debate on this latest renewal of the MDA. Yet it should be given much greater priority, and subjected at least to scrutiny by the Commons cross-party defence committee.

Kate Hudson, general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) says the UK-US agreement flew in the face Britain’s commitments as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

“It is appalling that David Cameron is signing secretive nuclear deals behind Parliament’s back. In no other area of government would such a sinister sidestepping of democratic process be tolerated.”

Clearly in the run-up to the election we should be pressuring the Labour leadership to drop any intention of continuing with either the damaging austerity policies of the Coalition — or its sinister nuclear weapons intentions.