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Taking a broader perspective…

Why not remove child benefit from the rich?

This article was cross-posted with the kind permission of its author, Councillor Dr. Rupert Read. Rupert Read has been a Green Party City Councillor in Norwich since 2004, to find out more about Rupert visit his blog and twitter.

Here’s why:

The problem with taking away child benefit from the rich is that the more you remove universal benefits, the less stake the rich have in the welfare state. Some people already say to me on the doorstep: ‘Why should I pay all these taxes? I don’t benefit from the tax-take!’ This problem will only worsen, if you start in effect means-testing even more benefits (Because that is what removing these benefits from the rich actually amounts to – a ‘kinder, gentler’ means-testing.).

So: this ConDem move will delegitimise the welfare state.

Actually, when you put it like this, it isn’t so hard to figure out why the Tories are happy to do this… Because many of them WANT to delegitimise the welfare state! So this move, that seems so ‘reasonable’ and sensible – the Radio 4 reporters are all saying things like ‘Yes, surely rich people don’t NEED winter fuel allowance / child benefit, etc.’, is actually a very clever political device for the long-term restructuring of the political consensus in this country in a rightward direction.

There is no way around this: it is an inevitable dilemma of a welfare state constructed around a complicated benefits system. There is no way out of this dilemma: except radical policies to change the status quo in an egalitarian direction. We need a genuinely progressive tax system (i.e. tax the rich more, rather than taking benefits away from them), a citizens’ income (slicing through the baroque welfare system and replacing most of it with one benefit that goes to everyone), and a raft of other measures that will take us in the direction that Wilkinson and Pickett are talking about. Unless we attain greater equality, the rich will always be looking for ways to opt out of the benefits system, and to delegitimise it. That is what this latest episode is a symptom of. However ‘reasonable’ it sounds to reallocate child benefit away from the rich to the poor, it is actually a move that will have the effect of undermining the very long-term acceptability of the welfare state.

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One Response

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by patrick smith, Broad Left Blogging. Broad Left Blogging said: Why not remove child benefit from the rich? : http://wp.me/pXkBd-39 […]

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