Monday, 5 November 2012

The Limited Benefit of Children...

I've been storing up a follow-up post on the issue of child benefit - much of my previous work is here. I'll do it quickly because I don't see the point of repeating everything ad infinitum. The crux of the matter is whilst you have a right to have as many children as your body will allow (note that it is not a  right to have a perfectly functioning body, including reproductive ability), should the state (by which we mean the taxpayer) pay for all kids you wish to produce?

This is the argument raised last week by IDS with the proposal of the two child limit on benefits. There are various caveats, exemptions and anomalies to consider. Not least, the limit of two is one just being proposed as an idea. It is likely that it would only affect newcomers, grandparenting in those already beyond the threshold. I could imagine complications when talking about families with multiple parents - whose kids count, who gets the money etc. Triplets are rare but you can see the problem they might raise. Nobody says this would be easy. Nobody says it would bring in a vast amount of money either. The point that IDS is trying to make (and will probably fail to knowing the Tory party's failure to score open-goal policy wins and the predictable left wing media hysteria) is that the Big Society is about fairness, about responsibility, about one's own actions, not just about how much you can take.

I'm, as you'd expect, with him on this. And so should almost everyone. The majority of people in the country work, pay taxes and to one extent or other, budget their money. Asking them for support for a policy that asks for those being given free money (and welfare is just that) to have to live within their means like they do, or do something in return should be an easy win. This could be limiting to £20,000 net the contribution to rent (which the average worker on about £26,000 gross could never afford) gratis from the Government. Or it could be asking those claiming unemployment benefit to do some voluntary work to break the unemployment cycle and put them on a path to work. Or it could be asking them to pay for their own children if they want to have lots.

But the country is apparently not all behind this rather sensible idea. Nope - and you may forgive my lack of surprise - I heard on Any Questions on Radio 4 quite the opposite. It turns out this policy is one designed to give children cancer. And to force them to spend time with Jimmy Savile. Or something like that. I definitely came away from the programme with the idea this was a deliberately cruel policy designed solely to punish children. Cock. A load of it.

The argument put forward (and raucously applauded by the bus loads of morons the BBC source for an audience) by Dr Katherine Rake of the Family and Parenting Institute was that cuts in child benefits are unfair because they fall disproportionately on the poor. Yup. Because rich people don't generally get welfare; poorer people do. They just pay for it. It is the exact argument used by Nick Clegg and any of his lefty loon pals in the Labour or Lib Dems when any cut of any size or shape is devised which might remove one penny from the purse of someone who is of a financially lower status. They always say "same old Tories, looking to take it first from the poorest, and never from the richest", or to use his favourite phrase "from those with the broadest shoulders".

What Nick et al never mention is that those with the broadest shoulders are already paying a lot. We have started with them. It's called progressive taxation. Those with broad shoulders are paying massive truckloads of money. Dr Rake, and countless others like her, maintain that taking money away from welfare is de facto taking money away from poor children. Yes. To an extent. But it doesn't mean any cut in welfare is punishing children. Poor people often have children. Like rich people. And all the people in between. If you make any cut in welfare you are removing money from many families with children. This simple and obvious fact cannot be allowed to be trotted out as if it is proof that all welfare cuts are evil just because naturally the parents of some children will have been given less money. An increase in the top rate of tax was not touted as a punishment on the children of wealthier homes - but money was being removed (even worse than just less given, surely) from the homes of children. Child cruelty no? Of course not. Just selective lefty bullshit about which children matter and where cuts 'fall'.

If we double the welfare bill overnight (to about £400 billion, or what would then be about 1/2 of all spending) and then took a single pound off, that cut would fall 'disproportionately' on poor families. That fact does not make it a bad policy decision. It is simply because they receive the benefits that others have generally paid for. How they use that money is up to them. There is generally more than enough of it there to keep children fit and well. Just because some people will misuse their handouts and thus punish their own children does not mean we should never decrease the amount of money we give them (see this argument over state-aid for the poor children of nuclear-equipped and space-age countries). It is a senseless argument that the left are yet to confront. Mainly because the right seem to be struggling to make them do so and put it in the right terms.

Cutting one's coat according to one's cloth means adjusting what you spend based on what you can afford. Both Dr Rake and Charles Clarke mentioned they agree with the policy, but when asked how they pay for the Labour-induced deficit, they predictably trot out the same old leftie mantra of not properly defending ourselves by not renewing our nuclear deterrent, or raising more taxes from their favourite golden goose - 'the rich'. This is not cutting one's coat according to one's cloth. The point is that we are spending too much. We need to cut spending. We need to cut spending. WE NEED TO CUT SPENDING. This is CUTTING one's coat appropriately.

We do not have enough money (cloth) as a Government to pay for everything we currently have chosen to spend it on. We clearly have no chance of overnight increasing our tax take by 15-20% to match our spending 'requirements'. So we need to decrease what we spend (our coat). Welfare is a fucking enormous bill. The biggest in fact. It was never intended in its present form even by the most left wing supporters of its creation. It must be reduced. It is costing every working person in this country nearly 1/3 of all the money they hand to the Government in taxation. It is as unhelpful as it is disingenuous of the Opposition (inside the Coalition and outside) to suggest that it shouldn't be reduced - and their reasoning of "not punishing poor children" is as incorrect as it is corrosive.

What is being proposed is a move towards a sensible, affordable rebalancing where welfare stops being a comfortable lifestyle choice. The sooner the Tories can properly explain to the population of this country that cutting one's coat according to one's cloth is about budgeting what to do with what you reasonably have rather than about working out where you can get more money to pay for unaffordable idealogically-driven policies, the sooner we might have a chance of returning to being a country of producers, not just receivers.

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