In 2008 bank invested more money on exotic financial derivatives than was earned by the entire global economy in that year. When those investments collapsed in value and we had to bail the banks out we were told that the government financial deficit that resulted meant we could no longer afford the welfare state and we had to cut back on public services. It was constantly repeated that in times of Austerity hard choices had to be made. Somehow the people who were expected to experience the hardship were not those who caused the problem but the poor and the vulnerable.
Does anyone seriously believe that what went wrong in 2008 was that welfare claimants suddenly became feckless en masse at the same time? Or was the choice to go for austerity much more to do with an ideology that wants to blame the poor for the failings of those who should have been looking after our economy? We showed after the war that it is perfectly possible to strengthen the welfare state, have a successful economy and reduce government debts to manageable levels. Since 2008 we have been demonstrating that attacks on the welfare state don't help to cure any of our economic challenges.
Any one of us could become ill, could have a child who needed specialist medical care, could become out of work or disabled, could find a member of their family needs but can't afford a home, or could become in need of care when we get elderly. The existence of a safety net to protect the vulnerable is a highly valuable piece of security which leaves each of us feeling that if we needed support the community would offer it. It is not a luxury that we can't afford. It is a sign of a healthy society that is happy to provide support for those who need it.
Naturally we need to make sure that those who receive that support are genuinely in need. But we don't need to make sure that anyone who needs our support is subject to constant invasive bureaucratic checks. I recently heard a double amputee talk on the radio. He had just had his benefits cut because he failed to attend a meeting. His disability meant that he couldn't get there but they punished him just the same. Is that the kind of society we want?
No one likes paying taxes but it is no bad thing to pay one's share to make sure that everyone who really needs help gets it and we are not all looking over our shoulders wondering what would happen if something went wrong and we needed help from a welfare state that has ceased to really function. In the UK the top rate of income tax was over 85% taxation between 1945 and 1975. During that period the UK experienced its biggest and most successful boom. In 2015 the top rate of taxation is 45% and after the election we were told that the rate had to be cut because it would help wealth to trickle down to the poor. The vast majority of working people have seen their real pay steadily decline since 2008. They might be forgiven for asking when the trickle down will begin.
Those who cannot work and depend on the support of the rest of the community have experienced constant tightening of the rules and reductions of payments, for example via the bedroom tax. They might also be forgiven for wondering whether all this was necessary whilst £400 billion was being printed to support the banks.
We can live in a more secure and fairer society and achieve successful economic growth. We achieved exactly this after 1945. Or we can live in a meaner, more competitive society where one part of the private sector is allowed to take enormous risks with our economic future and receive bailouts and tax cuts whilst those with genuine needs are denied our help.
Which do you prefer?
Vote Green 2015