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February 3, 2013 5:13 AM   Subscribe

From April 2013 all working-age housing benefit claimants will experience a reduction in their benefit if their home has what is termed a 'spare bedroom'. Some people have a problem with this, and it is believed it will plunge 95,000 Britons into poverty. Prime Minister David Cameron has defended the tax saying it is important to "get control of housing benefit". Some who voted for the tax claim to have never heard of it, even though there are some high profile cases in the media detailing how people will suffer. The Bedroom Tax might be targeting the poor, but there may be a Mansion Tax in the planning stages to help balance the scales -- or not. It's a modern Window Tax!
posted by Mezentian (121 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was sharing a taxi with a couple of benefit claimants this week. They were both convinced that it's a government plot to force them to accomodate Poles and Albanians in their spare rooms.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:21 AM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Which newspaper will record that this is a perfect loophole to allow "Welfare Mothers" to pop out another sprog for the benefit cash? The Sun?
posted by Mezentian at 5:31 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


This sorta needs a correction, only occupants of social housing will see a reduction in benefit due to this. Private sector tenants are already similarly affected by Local Housing Allowance limits to Housing Benefit.
posted by howfar at 5:32 AM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah! It's time to get tough on poverty! By, uh, increasing it. There totally won't be any consequences. The British haven't rioted in ages.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:45 AM on February 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


So the gov't might save a pittance and these people will all suffer? They'll cut back on spending on food, etc - you know, the stuff that keeps the economy going.

I wouldn't let a Conservative run a lemonade stand. They'd leave out the sugar in the name of efficiency and then wonder why they went out of business.
posted by jb at 5:47 AM on February 3, 2013 [59 favorites]


This cut in benefits will finally allow the poor to huddle together for warmth, said Dave "Eton Millions" Cameron. "Higher density poverty is the only way to escape the tripple-dipple recession and show the Romanians just how terrible our country really is."

Dave "Society" Cameron, the Primest Minister the UK has, has also appointed physicist Brian Cox as his new Housing Minister. "Brian has assured me that when enough poor people are rammed together with sufficient force it can overcome the Pauli Exclusion Principle, and they will collapse into a black hole from which their whining, pitiful complaints cannot escape. My rubbery skin glistens just to think about it."
posted by the quidnunc kid at 5:49 AM on February 3, 2013 [73 favorites]


Waiting for someone so I'll be brief here, but all that I've been reading about the Tories' solutions - whether it is universities, pasty tax, entrepreneurship, Europe, NHS, adoptions and particularly welfare reform - seem to be based on these stock cardboard stereotypes from a BBC Christmas special or something. You get this strong whiff of lazy assumptions thats quite unsuited for the complexity that is contemporary life. I can already think of quite a few people I know who'd be affected by this; they live in these quaint communities where people have lived for generations that will be affected.
posted by the cydonian at 5:49 AM on February 3, 2013 [11 favorites]


They were both convinced that it's a government plot to force them to accomodate Poles and Albanians in their spare rooms.

When you don't have the money, you have to make choices and the first choice of politicians is always reducing waste, fraud, and abuse. And becoming more efficient.

This would seem to be matter of reducing waste and increasing efficiency. When taxpayer money is used to pay for unused or under-utilised housing, this is a wasteful and inefficient use of taxpayer resources.

I don't see why this is so onerous. I have often been "forced" by my economic reality to share space with a roommate. That's life for most working class people. If this means more poor people have a roof over their head, then what's the problem with that?
posted by three blind mice at 5:49 AM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Relax, relax.

Want to avoid paying tax for your spare bedroom?

Just open a Starbucks in it.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:50 AM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Regarding the current government's claims of reducing the deficit, and their mantra of "We're all in this together".

Any credibility or sincerity they possessed was shot to pieces within a few years of taking power, as they cut the top rate of income tax - the bit that only the very rich pay - from 50% to 45% as a priority measure.
posted by Wordshore at 5:58 AM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Let's tax everyone at 50% no exceptions and pay everyone a £10 000 living stipend. That's fair, right?
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:23 AM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Any credibility or sincerity they possessed was shot to pieces within a few years of taking power, as they cut the top rate of income tax - the bit that only the very rich pay - from 50% to 45% as a priority measure.

I think the United Kingdom just completely forgot Thatcher ever happened.
posted by Mezentian at 6:29 AM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think the United Kingdom just completely forgot Thatcher ever happened.

I am baffled that anybody could live through Reagan's America or Thatcher's UK and not forevermore have a passionate, burning hatred for everything they stood for.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:30 AM on February 3, 2013 [45 favorites]


This is pretty ridiculous legislation. You can see the point, but its not at all thought out, and it'll save barely anything.

Calling it a "tax" is just political posturing though, and its that side of the story that makes me angriest.
posted by zoo at 6:31 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or maybe Brits who are happy that London never became Detroit remember Thatcher and thank her for it.
posted by MattD at 6:32 AM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Interestingly (to me), `poverty plunge` at 3m has about half as many google hits hits as `bus plunge` (6.1m)
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 6:35 AM on February 3, 2013


the first choice of politicians is always reducing waste, fraud, and abuse

...in a very specific way that fucks over poor people.
posted by liquidindian at 6:35 AM on February 3, 2013 [43 favorites]


This is Window Tax-level nonsense.

Mezentian, there are enough people who were quite comfortable with it all at the time - enough for them to scrape a coalition now, which is apparently enough to re-enact it. And all the young'ns have been bought up on Murdoch media, so you ain't seen nothing yet.
posted by forgetful snow at 6:36 AM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Or maybe Brits who are happy that London never became Detroit remember Thatcher and thank her for it.

Oh, I'm sure there are loads. I recommend you start looking for them in Glasgow, or Fife, perhaps Manchester and Liverpool. Just stop people in the street and ask them how thankful they are for Thatcher's economic policies and how they benefited London. Let me know how you get on!
posted by liquidindian at 6:42 AM on February 3, 2013 [49 favorites]


*pulls up chair*
*lights pipe*
*does Gandalfy things with the smoke*

The prosperity Mrs Thatcher brought to Britain was selective, antagonistic and temporary.

I'm not in the UK, and have almost never been in that place, but the narrative similarities between Thatcher and Cameron are curious to me as an outsider. But I grew up hearing about Thatcher in ways which make the response to the last major MeFi Thatcher thread seem entirely reasonable (which, if memory serves, was a long line of normally placid people waiting to piss on her grave, or willing to cheer on those who would be willing to do it).
posted by Mezentian at 6:45 AM on February 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


the first choice of politicians is always reducing waste, fraud, and abuse

...in a very specific way that fucks over poor people.

...while increasing their own wealth (and the wealth of their friends) through fraud and abuse of power.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 6:51 AM on February 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


I don't see why this is so onerous.

Here's a clue for you.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:55 AM on February 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


I don't see why this is so onerous. I have often been "forced" by my economic reality to share space with a roommate. That's life for most working class people.

From the National Housing Federation's page on this:
What do the changes mean?

The size criteria in the social rented sector will restrict housing benefit to allow for one bedroom for each person or couple living as part of the household, with the following exceptions:

Children under 16 of same gender expected to share
Children under 10 expected to share regardless of gender
Disabled tenant or partner who needs non resident overnight carer will be allowed an extra bedroom

Who will be affected?

All claimants who are deemed to have at least one spare bedroom will be affected. This includes:

Separated parents who share the care of their children and who may have been allocated an extra bedroom to reflect this. Benefit rules mean that there must be a designated ‘main carer’ for children (who receives the extra benefit)
Couples who use their ‘spare’ bedroom when recovering from an illness or operation
Foster carers because foster children are not counted as part of the household for benefit purposes
Parents whose children visit but are not part of the household
Families with disabled children
Disabled people including people living in adapted or specially designed properties.
That's why.
posted by Catseye at 6:57 AM on February 3, 2013 [25 favorites]


Yeah! It's time to get tough on poverty! By, uh, increasing it. There totally won't be any consequences. The British haven't rioted in ages.

I'm convinced this government is an attempt to make Thatcher look good so people won't be quite so mean about her upon her death.

Have we stopped pretending the LibDems are a thing that even exists in this?
posted by Artw at 7:06 AM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Who will not be affected?

Tory MPs
Anyone a Tory MP is likely to choose to spend any with
The directors of Policy Exchange
Those who tell Jack that they're alright
posted by liquidindian at 7:08 AM on February 3, 2013 [20 favorites]


I'm convinced this government is an attempt to make Thatcher look good so people won't be quite so mean about her upon her death.

Yep, there's going to be an almighty rumpus when she does die. Probably not rioting, but more likely localised disruption during her funeral - especially if it's a state (funded) one. The day she does die will be the time to come off social media for a while as it (especially Teh Twitter) goes into outrage and anger overdrive.

(Checks) okay for now...
posted by Wordshore at 7:10 AM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


The budget for 2012 was 127bn for pensions, 121bn for health care, 116bn for welfare, 91bn for education, 45bn for defence, 33bn for protection (police, courts, fire etc) and 47bn for debt interest.

The more we borrow to fill the gap between taxes and spending, the higher the debt interest gets - the cuts aren't about even paying back the debt, but slowing the amount the debt grows every year. Every party has looked at the budget, and agreed we need public spending cuts. The devil is in the detail.

Defence, education, protection have seen stiff cuts, as have most of the smaller departments. Pensions you can't really cut, but they are making cuts to future spending by cutting provision and raising pension age.

That leaves two last big areas; the NHS and welfare. The tories pledged not to cut the NHS.

You can't practically address the budget deficit without making cuts to any of the three biggest costs. Two out of the three are politically untouchable, or should the tories instead be cutting pensions payouts to current pensioners, or closing hospitals instead?

I've had to make tough decisions about what housing I can afford for my entire adult life. I certainly haven't been able to afford a bigger house with spare bedrooms just for the hell of it.

Why should someone on welfare have a bigger house than they need, that we all pay for, when working people certainly don't get the same luxury?

Yes, taxes should go up on the wealthiest, and companies should stop being able to avoid the taxman. But practically, without it all just racing away offshore, you're not going to see more than a few billion extra, still leaving a big problem with the deficit that has to be met from somewhere.

So fine, it's tough for those at the bottom. It's tough for all of us who are working too, who've seen our salaries falling in real terms, having to work harder to cover the jobs that can't afford to be filled, who's taxes and cost of living keeps going up. Tell those people and businesses on the high street that they need to pay yet more tax so that a middle aged couple who've children have left home can keep their large house for free, while the council struggles to find accomodation suitable for young families with children.

Or should we be closing hospitals? Cutting pension payouts in real terms? Because that's the alternative. We simply cannot continue to keep growing the debt - we're already approaching greek like levels. The devil is in the detail, but spending has to come down as well as taxes rising. And welfare is a really big chunk of the budget, and housing benefit is a big chunk of that.

Feel free to hate on Cameron, I can't stand the slippery PR wanker. But you're deluded if you don't think whatever party was in power would be forced into making unpalatable cuts in welfare spending as well as all the other departments.
posted by ArkhanJG at 7:10 AM on February 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


Or maybe Brits who are happy that London never became Detroit remember Thatcher and thank her for it.

Go to Birmingham and say this out loud. Then thank the public that the NHS sewed your face back up.
posted by srboisvert at 7:16 AM on February 3, 2013 [18 favorites]


While we on the American Left are wallowing in our sackloth and ashes over our fellow citizens' willingness to elect fuckwits like Rand Paul to high office, it's easy to forget that in those countries we wistfully admire for being more enlightened than us how very many powerful people are working tirelessly to destroy all those enlightened institutions we admire and want to build for ourselves.
posted by localroger at 7:16 AM on February 3, 2013 [18 favorites]


Let's not forget that the Lib Dems enabled not only this, but the attack on the NHS which has led to the formation of the National Health Action Party to try and reverse the damage. Remember it's not just the Tories - they couldn't have done any of this without the Lib Dems.
posted by Flitcraft at 7:18 AM on February 3, 2013 [11 favorites]


Why should someone on welfare have a bigger house than they need, that we all pay for, when working people certainly don't get the same luxury?
They don't have a choice about it. In some places individuals may be living in a dwelling with more than one bedroom because there are no places with only one bedroom. Housing associations and local authorities can already move folk out for underoccupancy, but often choose not to because either the house isn't needed or they have nowhere else to put that person.

Besides, how much will thise measure even save?
posted by Jehan at 7:22 AM on February 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yes, taxes should go up on the wealthiest, and companies should stop being able to avoid the taxman. But practically, without it all just racing away offshore, you're not going to see more than a few billion extra

Oh lord, this stupid excuse. If we do the right thing, and nobody else does, we won't get any benefit from it. It was a bad excuse in second grade, and it still is.

This was, incidentally, the exact argument that had all the local media in a tizzy when Curt Schilling couldn't get absurd amounts of money from Massachusetts, whereupon he moved his video game company to Rhode Island, who did give him absurd amounts of money. Let's just say it didn't work out anyway.

It's a stupid game of playing one municipality against the next, one state against the next, and one country against the next. And it only works because people say "be practical; if we don't roll over, somebody else will."
posted by Dr.Enormous at 7:24 AM on February 3, 2013 [15 favorites]


This is what happens when you elect people who read Dickens and miss the point.
posted by srboisvert at 7:25 AM on February 3, 2013 [18 favorites]


Also there is a national shortage of smaller properties

So what is a family supposed to do? Move to a smaller house. Oh yeah? With a massive shortage of one-bedroom properties in social housing, that is not likely.

They could find somewhere in the private sector. Maybe. But with rents much higher, their housing benefit wouldn't reduce. Might even go up. So how does that help the government's plan to lower spending on housing benefit?

If they stay, they'll just have to find the extra rent from their income. Since their income is by definition low, this could be tough. Choosing between food and heat could be a serious option for families. Or rent arrears, leading ultimately to eviction and homelessness.
'Children and Young People Now' blog
posted by Flitcraft at 7:27 AM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


The more we borrow to fill the gap between taxes and spending, the higher the debt interest gets - the cuts aren't about even paying back the debt, but slowing the amount the debt grows every year. Every party has looked at the budget, and agreed we need public spending cuts. The devil is in the detail.

I'm sorry did Hitler win WWII? Because the UK parliament appears to be full of Austrians right now. Cutting spending in an ongoing recession. Jesus Christ they should just reduce the top rate of tax to 20% and give the UK economy the coup de grâce it sorely deserves.
posted by Talez at 7:34 AM on February 3, 2013 [20 favorites]


So, as a fellow European (of which UK was still, nominally at least, a member, last I checked), I can't help but wonder whether Cameron's foolish stance on the EU is supposed to direct the voters' attention away from his foolish domestic politics? Or is he just a general fool?
posted by bouvin at 7:41 AM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


The opinion of Thatcher haters is a bit of a nonsense -- she saved them (or their parents, at this point) from killing the goose that lays the golden egg. It's not the conservatives or professionals who got stuck in Detroit, after all. The putative Thatcher hater in Birmingham can have his view of Thatcher attended to the minute he stops accepting subsidy from the taxpaying Thatcher lover in Kent.
posted by MattD at 7:48 AM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Cameron's foolish stance on the EU is at root a very serious and well-planned political gambit which if it comes off will strangle the only serious threat to a Tory-run Little England for generation or two.
posted by cromagnon at 7:50 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why should someone on welfare have a bigger house than they need, that we all pay for, when working people certainly don't get the same luxury?

I am not sure I trust a goverment's ability to come up with a one-size-fits-all metric for how much "house" any given person "needs." After all, people aren't smooth; there is a lot of variation, and the Procrustean Bed was the work of a villain for a good reason.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:50 AM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


The opinion of Thatcher haters is a bit of a nonsense -- she saved them (or their parents, at this point) from killing the goose that lays the golden egg. It's not the conservatives or professionals who got stuck in Detroit, after all. The putative Thatcher hater in Birmingham can have his view of Thatcher attended to the minute he stops accepting subsidy from the taxpaying Thatcher lover in Kent.
Sir, I know birds, and that's a cuckoo not a goose.
posted by Jehan at 7:57 AM on February 3, 2013 [19 favorites]


So, as a fellow European (of which UK was still, nominally at least, a member, last I checked), I can't help but wonder whether Cameron's foolish stance on the EU is supposed to direct the voters' attention away from his foolish domestic politics? Or is he just a general fool?

Both, but the talk about the EU is to protect his standing in the Conservative Party rather than as a matter of national interest. His stated policy is to renegotiate unspecified powers and then have a referendum on if the UK should leave. He would personally argue against leaving but allow most of the members of his party to argue that the country should. The ultimate policy goals are as yet not defined aside from gaining extra powers for the UK and specifically being able to avoid the requirements of worker's rights Directives. The classical example of this is the Working Time Directive, 2003/88/EC and the lack of freedom to work more than a certain number of hours.

I hope that was coherent to you, but you may rest assured that any confusion you may have is caused by the policy rather than you personally.
posted by jaduncan at 8:00 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The putative Thatcher hater in Birmingham can have his view of Thatcher attended to the minute he stops accepting subsidy from the taxpaying Thatcher lover in Kent.

Well, that's fairly ugly stereotyping, given that it rather paints both as a grasping stereotype. As much as it might confuse you, I would rather pay more tax and support more of my fellow citizens. I was born poor, worked hard and went to a very good university. I now wish to pay back, and you may rest assured I am no longer in a position to be subsidised.
posted by jaduncan at 8:01 AM on February 3, 2013 [19 favorites]


Hint: the "cost-saving" they're disucussing are a sham and it will end up costing the government more. The NHF figures show that ~180k social tenants are under-occupying 2BR homes. There are only ~70k 1BR properties available. So some of these folks, because they can't afford the HB cut, will accept the move to a private 1BR home. The government has to pay more HB for the 1BR private place: £35 more per week when compared to the 2BR public! The savings of someone moving from 2BR social to 1BR social is only about £10 a week, so the math simply doesn't work out.

(Knocking down 2BR places and building 1BR in their place costs a lot of up-front money, so we won't see that happen. Likewise building new 1BR places.)

So it'll cost more public money to make this "savings" happen, but it'll be going to the "right" people: the wealthy property owners.
posted by introp at 8:07 AM on February 3, 2013 [31 favorites]


The opinion of Thatcher haters is a bit of a nonsense -- she saved them (or their parents, at this point) from killing the goose that lays the golden egg. It's not the conservatives or professionals who got stuck in Detroit, after all. The putative Thatcher hater in Birmingham can have his view of Thatcher attended to the minute he stops accepting subsidy from the taxpaying Thatcher lover in Kent.

The bitch threw the coal miners onto the libertarian trash heap. Scrapped tens of thousands of jobs without any way for these communities to absorb the massive amount of unemployment she sent into the system in those areas. The shock of this caused waves to rupture through all of the peripheral industries and British manufacturing which rapidly died in the region.

So maybe The Midlands wouldn't be so dependent on Kent if Thatcher didn't break the economic spine of the region in an attempt to win her petty feud with the unions.
posted by Talez at 8:17 AM on February 3, 2013 [30 favorites]


The opinion of Thatcher haters is a bit of a nonsense -- she saved them (or their parents, at this point) from killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

The goose is labor. The goose is always labor. There is literally nothing but labor that creates wealth. Filth like Thatcher want you to forget that, and pretend that the rich pieces of shit who grind labor into dust are the source of the wealth, and not the people they abuse, exploit, and occasionally kill.

The goose is labor, and the man with the axe is the wealthy, and Thatcher is the bystander screaming for the goose's head.

Anybody who ever tells you that wealth comes from anywhere but labor, punch 'em in the face, because they are trying to fuck you out of something.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:21 AM on February 3, 2013 [106 favorites]


bitch

No need for that. Stick with just-as-insulting 'Tory'.
posted by liquidindian at 8:23 AM on February 3, 2013 [13 favorites]


jaduncan:
I hope that was coherent to you, but you may rest assured that any confusion you may have is caused by the policy rather than you personally.
No, it made sense to me. Regrettably. Thanks.
posted by bouvin at 8:42 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is pretty horrifying.
posted by limeonaire at 8:53 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Who really gets the most housing subsidies?
posted by srboisvert at 9:25 AM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


ArkhanJG writes "
You can't practically address the budget deficit without making cuts to any of the three biggest costs. Two out of the three are politically untouchable, or should the tories instead be cutting pensions payouts to current pensioners, or closing hospitals instead?[...]
Yes, taxes should go up on the wealthiest, and companies should stop being able to avoid the taxman. But practically, without it all just racing away offshore, you're not going to see more than a few billion extra, still leaving a big problem with the deficit that has to be met from somewhere.
"

Is this measure going to save anywhere near a billion? If not why not raise taxes on those whose marginal benefit per pound is lower instead of lowering them as a first measure? IE: go after the low hanging fruit first.
posted by Mitheral at 9:26 AM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


My one hope is that as more and more people see what a racket - what a straight-up con game - "conservatism" is, more and more people will be motivated to band together to oppose it.

Rick Perlstein recently wrote quite an interesting - small - article about a college libertarian who reconsidered his views when he realised just how powerless employees were in the face of corporations.

I know that the more I pay attention to the news and to politics, the more I see the world in essentially Marxist terms: as Pope Guilty puts it, labour produces value; people who "own" things without having to work basically get a free ride.

Those owners might be samurai or knights, or they might call themselves capitalists or financiers (or even members of 'The Party' or 'The Family'). At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what word they use - the type has always been the same, throughout recorded history.

They want something for nothing. To get it, they form a gang. They put on fancy clothes and "bling", claim they get their power from some pseudoscientific source (God, the 'free market'), demonise whatever power can stop them (free thought; government; unions) and say that only they have the right to the legitimate use of force. They suck their enemies into abstract debate over trivialities - what is the true nature of God? what exact shade of neoliberal economics is the True Faith? And when all else fails, they terrorise those who try to stop them - even if the people who are trying to stop them are trying to save them and everyone else from disaster.

The funny thing is, when the hold of these parasites is relaxed, even a little, from around the throat of the world, mankind thrives. In the 1930s, in the face of overwhelming popular force, the United States government was forced to slacken its hold, and the result was a tremendous success.

In the UK context, I wish I knew more about what, exactly, Thatcher did. I was a child at the time that she was rampaging - but I remember that even then I instinctively felt that there was something horribly "off" about her - she was so clearly mean and a bully, while the men who supported her were all so creepy and grovelling and weak.

I could not have articulated it at the time, but there were clearly sexual, sadomasochistic feelings at work there - stunted, warped, driven into politics rather than worked out in the healthy confines of a bedroom or a fantasy life. She looked like a monster out of Dickens or Doctor Who - I remember, with an infant's bafflement at the absurdity of adults, wondering how anyone could elect this thing to run a country.
posted by lucien_reeve at 9:28 AM on February 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


In the UK context, I wish I knew more about what, exactly, Thatcher did. I was a child at the time that she was rampaging
Ask Sid.
posted by fullerine at 9:49 AM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I agree with lucien_reeve that there is an element of sadism in Conservatism. Not just in the UK but in many other places. My guess is that this arises from shame of one's own weakness, and therefore projecting that weakness out onto others, who are then ritually castigated and punished 'to teach them a lesson', 'to make them stand on their own feet'.

I think that is why groups who are kind of emblematic of weakness get the harshest dispensation. For example disabled children, pregnant women, the homeless. The money that can be raised by taking what little they have from these most vulnerable groups is pitiful. In practical terms it will not help. In ethical terms, the deficit is not due to their greed.

So why target them? In my opinion it is because of hidden and shameful emotions, shared by politicians and those who vote for them.
posted by communicator at 10:12 AM on February 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


Brutally, it means a widow or couple of pensioners in a two-bed house may be forced to leave their home. Hull has only 70 suitable properties for the thousands at risk.

Soon you'll have to sell your blood, a kidney, or an eye to stay on the welfare roles. How much longer before they get impatient and just start murdering poor people outright?
posted by ryanshepard at 10:13 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


srboisvert: Who really gets the most housing subsidies?
This article was very helpful to me in understanding what's really meant by 'housing benefit'. Thank you.

I am curious if there are many people in the U.K. who vote for the Conservative Party even though it doesn't really serve their interests, i.e. working class people who would normally be considered part of Labour's constituency?
posted by ob1quixote at 10:17 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


American here.

I've read all the posted links (I think) and I'm a little unclear on the "housing benefit." Do people below a certain level of income have all of their rent subsidized by the government? I know there is "council housing" in which the poor live (which is...what..housing built by the local government?) and there is privately owned housing which the poor might rent. But these spare bedroom taxes are a cut in benefits?

From PeterMcDermott's link:
And under new rules for larger families, bedrooms must be shared by two kids, so the Hoopers will be deemed to have a spare.

Dad Gary, 44, who receives a £58.58 a week carer’s allowance, says he hopes Angel’s extension will mean he can return to work.
So if I am reading this right Gary gets an allowance from the government to take care of his own child?

I don't understand why the spare bedroom tax is not exempt for Foster parents and for the handicapped. Actually many of you have made the argument that the whole thing is a ridiculous waste of effort which will end up costing the government more, but even conservatives should have the brains to realize that handicapped people have special needs. And Foster parents are supposed to do what? Stop fostering? Adopt? This seems really tone-deaf.

Also the idea that 10 year olds must share with children of the opposite sex. What happens the following year? What if a family with a 9 year old boy and a 10 year old girl moves into a 2 bedroom home so they will not have to pay the spare bedroom tax? Move again the following year?

The more I think about this the more ludicrous it becomes. This is really a crazy rule and will cause chaos and hardship for many without saving the government much money.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:18 AM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Some of the most enduring damage done by Thatcher was the effective eradication of council housing by the Right to Buy programme. It was very popular due to the undeniable short term benefit to those who participated, but it has had the long term effect of reducing the quality and availability of affordable housing for many in society. The councils continue to have a requirement to provide shelter, which has to be at least partially met by the private sector to the inevitable enrichment of the property owners at the expense of the council tax payer.
A further knock-on effect is the reduction in the number and quality of construction trades apprenticeships due to the effective disbandment of entire housing departments. This is a significant loss reasonably well paying and decent quality jobs and training in many areas.
I believe that the right to buy programme has done nothing to decrease council costs, whilst it has contributed to a fragmentation of social service provision that makes the implementation of social care more difficult and expensive. A reliable provision of decent affordable housing would be a very decent start to solving many of the problems of those in poverty in the UK today.
This half arsed policy is a deckchair rearranging exercise designed to appease those buying into the skiver and scrounger rhetoric, rather than a legitimate attempt to address a real problem. I would expect nothing less from the Tories, but those Orange Book Lib Dems make me want to puke.
posted by Jakey at 10:36 AM on February 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


The suprise reveal of the Orange Book Lib Dems as super-shitty Tories is, I suspect, the end of anyone not a Tory voting Lib Dem ever again.
posted by Artw at 10:45 AM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why should someone on welfare have a bigger house than they need, that we all pay for, when working people certainly don't get the same luxury?

For a start, more than a quarter of working-age HB recipients are actually in work. Secondly, someone on "welfare" is a potential worker, not a member of some luxuried class sunning itself in state-funded bliss. Do you really think that introducing massive disruption into people's lives is going to help them find work? Thirdly, as has been noted, there is a huge shortage of social housing in Britain, and downsizing often isn't easy (I work for a housing advice charity, I deal with people who want to but can't downsize on a regular basis). Forcing people into the private sector isn't going to reduce the fucking HB bill, now is it? Fourthly, this measure absolutely fails to take into account the needs of separated parents and the disabled. What for? Helping to fund a tax-cut for the rich.

And it makes no sense, economically, to make the poorest poorer at this time. Poor people have to spend their money, and thereby drive economic growth.

But practically, without it all just racing away offshore

We make the most paltry of efforts to stop this from happening. Why? Because proper anti-avoidance provisions wouldn't work, or because it would be unpopular with rich people? You mentioned avoidance in one breath and promptly forgot about it in the next. Do you even know what "offshore" means in a tax context?

It should also be noted that this measure, which will inevitably lead to more possession claims from councils and RSLs, comes at a time when Legal Aid for housing matters is being stripped to the bone. Factor the cost of court time for dealing with litigants in person into your calculations.

I believe there is a free clue you can collect with six coupons from packets of Frosties.
posted by howfar at 10:46 AM on February 3, 2013 [18 favorites]


It's hardly only conservatives that decry people who have too much space in their homes.
posted by gyc at 10:59 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The ere of Reagan for America and Thatcher for Britain is one I do not remember fondly.
Reagan comes in for such adulation. This is tiresome to anyone who struggled in those days.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:00 AM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am curious if there are many people in the U.K. who vote for the Conservative Party even though it doesn't really serve their interests, i.e. working class people who would normally be considered part of Labour's constituency?

I can't imagine that the US has the exclusive on people who vote to pull the trigger on the gun aimed at their head.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:02 AM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've read all the posted links (I think) and I'm a little unclear on the "housing benefit." Do people below a certain level of income have all of their rent subsidized by the government? I know there is "council housing" in which the poor live (which is...what..housing built by the local government?) and there is privately owned housing which the poor might rent. But these spare bedroom taxes are a cut in benefits?
Housing benefit is money toward the cost of rent, dependent on both individual status and size of residence, which may cover the whole cost or only some proportion, but not above a set amount. This applies to both renting in the private sector and council housing. Council housing was typically built and owned by local government, but much is now either sold off or in the control of social housing organizations (called ALMOs: arm's length management organizations); there are also selfstanding organizations which offer social housing. The housing is not free, but offered at less than market rents (how much less differs from place to place), which means that housing benefit typically covers a greater proportion of those rents. The "bedroom tax" applies to those living in council or ALMO controlled housing, and is actually a cut in housing benefit.
So if I am reading this right Gary gets an allowance from the government to take care of his own child?
Yes, but only because she is disabled. Carer's allowance also covers those who look after anybody, of whatever age, where the person could not otherwise care for themselves, and which is more or less a full time job. In truth it is a wonderfully cheap way of caring for the needy, letting them have an ongoing carer who is known to them, and of soaking up excess unskilled labor.
Also the idea that 10 year olds must share with children of the opposite sex. What happens the following year? What if a family with a 9 year old boy and a 10 year old girl moves into a 2 bedroom home so they will not have to pay the spare bedroom tax? Move again the following year?
These cases would count as "overcrowding". In my personal experience, they're solely if ever remedied unless the tenant pushes for it. The local authority will overlook overcrowding quite happily.
posted by Jehan at 11:02 AM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


The suprise reveal of the Orange Book Lib Dems as super-shitty Tories is, I suspect, the end of anyone not a Tory voting Lib Dem ever again.

They've been playing this moronic game of quid-pro-quo where Lib Dems have wanted to do sensible cleaning house of the Westminster system of government (to make it more fair and see more consensus in government) and the Tories have asked for blood in exchange.

You'd think after the AV referendum they'd have grown a fucking clue but nope, the NHS reform went full steam ahead and the Lords remains unelected as always.
posted by Talez at 11:02 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


How much longer before they get impatient and just start murdering poor people outright?

No need when people are killing themselves.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 11:04 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


American here.

I've read all the posted links (I think) and I'm a little unclear on the "housing benefit." Do people below a certain level of income have all of their rent subsidized by the government? I know there is "council housing" in which the poor live (which is...what..housing built by the local government?) and there is privately owned housing which the poor might rent. But these spare bedroom taxes are a cut in benefits?


It varies. There is council housing stock, which was either built by or bought by local councils - mostly based on the county level, which are often subdivided up into chunks, along with cities which get their own council(s). It's local government.

This is available for those on low or no incomes; they pay a below private-market rent.

On top of that, you have housing benefit; this is paid on a sliding scale based upon income. If you have no income, your rent is paid for you, either your council housing rent, or private housing rent if no council housing is available, which is common as a lot of council housing stock was sold to occupiers by Thatcher.

There is also housing association houses, which is affordable housing often required to be built as a percentage of new developments, and run by in effect a private company that is responsible for social housing in the area; usually also at below-market rent, and subsidised by councils.

As your income rises, you also get less housing benefit, so you end up paying more of your rent out of your own pocket.

What's happening is that if you have a 'spare bedroom', i.e. one considered unoccupied by the criteria laid out earlier, then your housing benefit will be cut, at 14% for one spare bedroom, or 25% for 2 or more bedrooms; people can either move to a smaller property, eat the loss of benefit, or get a lodger to up the occupancy (though most of the income from the lodger is counted and offset against housing benefit)

Note, one thing wrong in that article about Hull is that pensioners are exempt.


Hint: the "cost-saving" they're disucussing are a sham and it will end up costing the government more. The NHF figures show that ~180k social tenants are under-occupying 2BR homes. There are only ~70k 1BR properties available. So some of these folks, because they can't afford the HB cut, will accept the move to a private 1BR home. The government has to pay more HB for the 1BR private place: £35 more per week when compared to the 2BR public! The savings of someone moving from 2BR social to 1BR social is only about £10 a week, so the math simply doesn't work out.


Did they account for the drastic shortage of council and housing association properties for families with young children in many areas, who are currently being housed in high-rent larger private houses, or worse bed and breakfasts, and will be able to move into the theoretically freed up council homes, thus saving money there?
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:09 AM on February 3, 2013


"Whose home has too many bedrooms?" We see a picture of Buckingham Palace, 240 bedrooms, subsidised at £15.1m a year – the bedroom tax does not apply. Next there is an image purporting to the be the private property of welfare minister, Lord Freud: an eight-bedroom London home. Finally we meet the Hooper family, two parents with five children who live in a council house in Hull. They have a disabled daughter who has her own room built into an extension because her wheelchair can't fit in the boxroom that deems them to be over-occupying. The Hoopers will lose £20 a week when the policy comes into force.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:12 AM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Do you even know what "offshore" means in a tax context?

Non domiciled for tax purposes for individuals, or pulling a Jimmy Carr in Jersey et al; cayman islands etc via the dutch or irish sandwich for companies.

In other words, the rich, both individuals and corporations can and do use creative accounting to move their money, and if necessary, themselves, beyond the reach of the taxman. Just look at the fury lately over all the corporations using the dutch sandwich.

It's a lovely fantasy that soaking the rich would solve all the problems. I'd like to see us try it more. But realistically, when you're talking about raising taxes, it's the working poor and middle classes who end up getting soaked, because the wealthy just pay their accountants to find the right way to avoid paying them. And I'm a realist enough to know that's not going to change, that there's not some magical pot of money that we've not managed to tap that will suddenly raise hundreds of billions of tax that successive governments haven't managed to pull off. Labour didn't manage it, for example, so why would it suddenly be possible now? And EVEN if it was, do you think those companies won't just all raise their prices and pass it on to their customers? Again, thus soaking the working stiffs.

VAT. Fuel duty. Sin taxes. Council tax. Income tax. These disproprotionately fall on the working class, not the wealthy.

So when you're talking about benefit cuts vs tax rises, what you're actually talking about is soaking the workers who are already struggling to give more to those in low-paid work or no work.

Or you know, we can just keep increasing the budget deficit. It's only £15bn a MONTH. I'm sure the debt interest payments currently 40% of the welfare budget won't go up. And it's not like the financial markets would possible raise the cost of government borrowing if they see us as risky. If we end up paying 6-7% like spain, italy or greece, we'd be just fine, and wouldn't struggle to handle the massive balloning of interest payments at all - they've handled that problem just fine!
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:29 AM on February 3, 2013


Of course instead of embracing the quack austerity doctrine of the three big neo-liberal parties, you could actually invest in the economy and a better society to live in by building more of the right kinds of social housing.

As the IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard and IMF economist Daniel Leigh put it -

"Policymakers throughout the Eurozone assumed fiscal multipliers would be 0.5 (meaning that for each one-euro budget cut, GDP would be affected by 0.5 euros), Blanchard writes. But in practice, the real fiscal multiplier was actually close to 1.5 – that is to say, the damage to GDP was three times as much as they thought.

Ergo, the austerity measures in the West hurt economic activity and employment much more than thought."

Blanchard argues that policymakers in Europe were gravely off in their estimates of the damage sustained by their economies as a result of austerity measures and governmental budget cuts."Haaretz -unfortunately a premium link

These kind of petty attacks don't just hurt the poor and vulnerable - they hurt the entire economy.
posted by Flitcraft at 11:36 AM on February 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


Maybe things are going to be okay after all:

Britain shapes good citizens with a gentle ‘nudge (AFP-Jiji Press Service)

How can people be persuaded to make decisions that leave them healthier and happier, while saving taxpayers’ money at the same time?

In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron has set up a team to test out the theory that a gentle prod in the right direction can go a long way.

posted by KokuRyu at 11:45 AM on February 3, 2013


In other words, the rich, both individuals and corporations can and do use creative accounting to move their money, and if necessary, themselves, beyond the reach of the taxman

It's times like this that I just wish there were some kind of sovereign law making body that had the power to stop this.
posted by howfar at 11:54 AM on February 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


Don't we all. Shame the UK government doesn't have that power though, given the free trade rules in the EU, for example. Or are you suggesting amazon, for example, shouldn't be able to domicile in Luxembourg and use EU free trade law to sell into the UK, yet only pay Luxembourg taxes? Very UKIP of you.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:01 PM on February 3, 2013


I don't understand many of the measures being taken right now in Britain. What is the good of declaring people "fit to work" when unemployment is so high? What is the reason for minimizing benefits, when those benefits are pretty instantly recycled back into the economy as poor people aren't really in a position to save it? Plus if taxation schemes there are similar to the US, taxation disproportionately falls on less wealthy people, meaning a proportionally larger portion of taxes comes out of the incomes of people on benefits... right back into the economy (in theory). The thinking behind all of this seems completely illogical and short sighted. Give people a little more and they will buy goods from shipping companies and factories that give people jobs; at shops that give people jobs, and pay local taxes, &c. Isn't that obvious, or am I just being obtuse?
posted by oneirodynia at 12:03 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Or you know, we can just keep increasing the budget deficit. It's only £15bn a MONTH.

You would have a point if these measures were going to save a significant amount of money. But as many people have pointed out, they aren't.
posted by Summer at 12:10 PM on February 3, 2013


Shame the UK government doesn't have that power though, given the free trade rules in the EU, for example.

There's actually a reasonable argument to be had on this point, and the crux of it is that the location of a business, for tax purposes, is a matter of law, not a matter of fact. Parliament can famously act to outlaw smoking on the streets of Paris, and is equally free to tax profits made by notionally overseas companies at any point where it can enforce that tax. Companies trading in Britain are subject to British law, and any measure within the bounds of Art. 30 could be applied to them. A tax on overseas profits, if applied equally to domestic companies, is neither a customs levy nor an equivalent. And resident employees and shareholders can be taxed like anyone else, without regard to free movement of goods, with proper anti-avoidance measures.
posted by howfar at 12:19 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


These proposals are logistically ludicrous, but suggesting that individual cuts shouldn't be made because individually they won't save enough money is a terrible argument. Look after the millions, and the billions will look after themselves. As my old grandmother would say.

The housing shortage (especially at the bottom end of the market) makes this proposal look at first glance like a good one. There are tonnes of families in accommodation that's too small for them, and a more equitable distribution of our painfully inadequate social housing would be good. But if this government has demonstrated time and again, it's that they care about the right things, but they're not smart enough to do the right things.

If there's any story in this, it's at the painful and consistent lack of joined up thinking by the current administration.

Hopefully, these proposals will be downgraded and disappear.
posted by zoo at 12:25 PM on February 3, 2013


Did they account for the drastic shortage of council and housing association properties for families with young children in many areas, who are currently being housed in high-rent larger private houses, or worse bed and breakfasts, and will be able to move into the theoretically freed up council homes, thus saving money there?
One of my main worries with this plan is that it is an across-the-board measure, not taking local needs into account. Social housing organizations can and do already move folk out of family homes when they're underoccupying, if the home is needed for a family. My sister-in-law's mother and stepfather were recently moved from Scunthorpe to Grimsby, from a family home to a smaller dwelling. That happened because a family in Scunthorpe needed their house, and there was a dwelling available in Grimsby for them. Where there is no need, or nowhere else to put folk, the bedroom tax is little more than an unavoidable benefits cut.

Also, as you yourself note, pensioners are exempt. But they're often the ones underoccupying! My uncle and aunt live in a three bedroom house, but he's the name on the lease and he's 66. I would be happy if the housing association made him move to somewhere smaller when a family needed the house, but the bedroom tax is utterly irrelevant to that situation.
posted by Jehan at 12:26 PM on February 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


To me, the biggest problem with this (beyond the whole paternalistic, "punishing the poor" angle), is the fact that the rental market is extremely inefficient.

I have a spare bedroom and I really don't need it (I live alone) or particularly want it (it's extra space to have to clean, furnish and keep organized). I can afford it in my budget, but honestly, I'd rather have a one-bedroom apartment for $100-200 less/month. But I seriously could not find a decent one-bedroom apartment in a neighborhood I liked in my budget. I basically lucked into this apartment because my prior landlord owns it and he let me know about it when he heard I was thinking about moving. It's at the top of my budget range and missing some key things I'd wanted, but it had pretty much everything else I wanted, so I took it.

Of course, if I'd had months and months to look, and was dealing with a completely open and transparent market where I knew everything that was available, I probably could have found a one-bedroom apartment that met my other needs, at a price point that I felt a bit more comfortable with. But the rental market is so inefficient - you typically have a very short period in which to look, you can only look at so many places (in the past, I've looked at up to 15 places when moving and still had trouble), and there's so much false advertising/BS in the market.

I'm in the US, and maybe things are different in the UK (and of course, such benefits barely exist here) but if the housing market is anywhere near as inefficient in the UK as it is here, it seems like this is a really unfair way to use policy.
posted by lunasol at 12:32 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Probably prompted by this...
posted by MikeMc at 12:40 PM on February 3, 2013


If There's any story in this, it's at the painful and consistent lack of joined up thinking by the current administration

This.

One thing that unifies all policy areas under the coalition is a bizarre grasping of random ill thought out ideas as the solution to Britain's ills, generally the more fringe right wing the better. There are lots of sensible reforms to the welfare system that could bring down costs but they would take time to research and develop so Tory high command just reach out to whatever headline grabbing scheme comes out of a nearby thinktank.

The deficit will only come down through economic growth, this is deckchair rearranging of the most Daily Mail friendly kind.
posted by brilliantmistake at 2:07 PM on February 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


The deficit will only come down through economic growth

We can outgrow deficits but the other half of this equation is that we must also leverage higher taxes during boom times and retire debt while we outgrow it.

God forbid we have a sane taxation system that adapts to changing circumstance though.
posted by Talez at 2:26 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thorzdad: I can't imagine that the US has the exclusive on people who vote to pull the trigger on the gun aimed at their head.
I didn't think we did. I guess I was also hoping to hear what line of bullshit the Tories feed their 'low information voters' so I could see how it differs from what happens on this side of the Atlantic.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:52 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's basically similar stuff to the US 'welfare queen with cadillac' line. By cherry picking exceptional cases (or making stuff up), they excite people in work to think anyone who needs benefits is some unemployed 'scrounger', living in luxury at the tax payers expense - when actually a lot of their cuts attack the working poor. They did so well in convincing people that huge amounts of welfare fraud was going on that people now vastly overestimate the (actually tiny) amount of fraud that occurs by a huge factor.

It's propagated through the right wing newspapers.
posted by Flitcraft at 3:15 PM on February 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


>Isn't that obvious, or am I just being obtuse?

Policy is being written almost solely with one or both of the following aims: a) looking like the government is doing the sorts of things that will reassure bond markets and b) increasing the perception amongst a target voter demographic that someone unlike themselves is getting something for nothing.

We don't get out of our recession/anaemia cycle until the US or the EU, does - no policy levers have anything on the other end. Until then misdirection, grandstanding and dog whistles will have to do.


Incidentally, I still find it illuminating that Vince Cable announced an intent to lobby for a land tax ("It will be said that in a world of internationally mobile capital and people it is counterproductive to tax personal income and corporate profit to uncompetitive levels. That is right. But a progressive alternative is to shift the tax base to property and land which cannot run away and represent, in Britain, an extreme concentration of wealth.") and was immediately targeted for (and was entirely culpable in) a sting by the Telegraph that reduced him to his current impotence. Note that he was advocating not just an additional symbolic tax on personal properties (his mansion tax still maunders on) but to have land ownership as the primary mechanism for taxation and to include land holdings by corporations.
posted by cromagnon at 3:50 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


This thread made me go listen to Neil Youngs Welfare Mothers [make better lovers]. First hearing in 30 years. Still not sure what Neil was trying to say about WM. I think actually he was introducing heavily flanged repetitive electronic music. Which is why he calls his instrumental breaks by announcing that he was about to make a sound like a washing machine.
posted by telstar at 3:52 PM on February 3, 2013


The one site you need for all your Margaret Thatcher questions:

http://www.isthatcherdeadyet.co.uk/

posted by dunkadunc at 4:10 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Flitcraft: "By cherry picking exceptional cases (or making stuff up), they excite people in work to think anyone who needs benefits is some unemployed 'scrounger', living in luxury at the tax payers expense - when actually a lot of their cuts attack the working poor. "

Papers like the Daily Mail and the New York Post make money, but that is not their primary purpose: Their real goal is to bend public opinion in favor of the rich and against the poor.

They go to great lengths to find outrageous stories about "illegals" and "benefits cheats", and then wash the propaganda down with pictures of cute meerkats so you think they've got a heart.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:19 PM on February 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


You don't have to believe cadillac welfare queen bollocks to argue a total welfare budget (including tax credits, which the source I used above didn't) of 207 billion is unsustainable. Or the 23 billion a year housing benefit is unaffordable, which is double what it was 10 years ago. The plans are to save £1.8 billion a year of that.

We borrowed 91 blllion in 2012, which is going to keep going up - 126 odd billion in 2013/14, for example.

Current corporation tax is 45 billion. Income tax 155 billion, national insurance 106 billion, VAT 102 billion.

If you think we're going to find 100 billion quid a year from corporations or the rich alone to close the deficit you're out of your mind.

You want to save the housing benefit as is, fine. Where would you get 1.8 billion a year from?
Seriously. You want to criticise? Tell me where you'd find the money. So which taxes should go up for the workers and poor alike? Scrap the income tax threshold rise? That's 3 billion a year. Perhaps a couple more points on VAT?

Oh yeah, tax the rich. Fine. The 1% pay about 25% of income tax, so lets say they currently pay about 40 billion. We'll double that, and triple corporation tax; That gives us 130 billion. Enough to clear the deficit, and a couple of billion left over, so we can stop the housing benefit cuts. Though we're still stuck with the cuts to education, policing, council care, and NHS care etc, as those are already factored in.

I'm sure putting the income tax rate at 90% and corporation tax at 60% won't have any consequences at all, and it will all be paid without any problems.
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:22 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


But if this government has demonstrated time and again, it's that they care about the right things, but they're not smart enough to do the right things.

Really? It seems to me that the Conservatives are working very effectively to break up the institutions of the welfare state. I'm not sure what else they've given any indication of caring about. They don't want to do things that would actually aid the economy, so instead they're taking a sledgehammer to everything and keeping their fingers crossed for a second term on the back of a fluke recovery.
posted by howfar at 4:22 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm sure putting the income tax rate at 90% and corporation tax at 60% won't have any consequences at all, and it will all be paid without any problems.

Wait, are you trying to argue that opposing a measure that might, but won't, save £1.8bn, and won't substantially address the deficit, places the burden on us to find the £126bn that would? Why do you think that is anything but cheap and obvious sophistry?
posted by howfar at 4:35 PM on February 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Housing benefit is itself a subsidy to the buy-to-let landlord class. The way to cut it would be to provide social housing; council housing, far from being subsidised, used to bring in income for local authorities, albeit at less than the market rate - paying for yourself over time with a bit of surplus but not generating an unholy profit counts as subsidy to the loony right. And of course building it could be just the sort of stimulus a slack economy needs.
Thatcher's Right to Buy needn't have been the disaster for social housing (at one point in the 1970s 30% of the population enjoyed this decent and affordable option) it ended up as, but councils were specifically forbidden from using the money made from sales of their housing stock to build replacements. There was an ideological underpinning to the policy besides the preference for home-ownership - the notion that mortgage payers don't go on strike.
posted by Abiezer at 4:37 PM on February 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


Just waiting for the Daily Mail article that finds a way to convince its readership (who may well be affected by this) that the change is because of Nigerian and Turkish immigrants.
posted by yellowcandy at 4:43 PM on February 3, 2013


You want to save the housing benefit as is, fine. Where would you get 1.8 billion a year from?
Seriously. You want to criticise? Tell me where you'd find the money.
As seen as you asked, here's what I would do. Use reductions in current expenditure (that is, cuts), and redirect them into capital expenditure by building more social housing. The growth in social housing means that the cost of housing benefit goes down as renters on housing benefit move from the private market into social housing.

However, the plan has many more plusses. The fall in the number of private renters on housing benefits means that the worth of rental accommodation will fall, lowering the overall price of houses, and making it easier to buy a house for those with reasonable incomes. The building of the social housing itself will also be a great stimulus to the economy, being both spread over the whole country and focussed on ordinary wage earners such as builders and laborers. Moreover, the lowered costs of housing--both for individuals moving from private rental to social housing and from private rental to mortgages--will free up money for those lower down the socio-economic scale.

Of course, the cuts effectively still happen and current expenditure will be shrunk, but only belated by a few years til the capital programs expire.

Indeed, were I running the country, housebuilding for social housing and urban light rail would have seen tens of billions of pounds investment, freeing the economy from the high costs or transport and housing which have weighted us down for too long. Of course, we instead get a government which has cut to shrink the deficit, only to find economic activity drop and grow the deficit, meaning that they must cut again and see economic activity drop once more. This isn't a choice between cut and spend, but between invest or chase your own tail.
posted by Jehan at 4:53 PM on February 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


You want to save the housing benefit as is, fine. Where would you get 1.8 billion a year from?
Seriously. You want to criticise? Tell me where you'd find the money. So which taxes should go up for the workers and poor alike? Scrap the income tax threshold rise? That's 3 billion a year. Perhaps a couple more points on VAT?


Fine. You win. Fuck the poor. Fuck them up their lazy, uneducated asses because we secretly know that's what they really are. Let's kick them all out onto the street. Let's stop all the payments. Let's stop caring for the disabled. Let's stop giving pensioners their pension. Fuck them. They can go die in the streets. Now we don't have a budget deficit and we have a surplus.

Now what? You just consigned a large swath of your citizenry to outright poverty but you have a nice feeling about using black ink instead of red, right?

You know what you do? You borrow in a time of depressed tax receipts. It's not the fucking bogeyman. It's not a payday loan. It's making sure that the government can make sure its citizenry can be looked after in tough times. Once the growth is back on track the bubble of debt as a percentage of GDP will start to come back down. Hold the politicians to retiring debt and bringing taxes back up as economic activity improves instead of giving out a another banner round of unneeded tax cuts. But god forbid anyone wants to vote for a tax rise on themselves.

What's the free market adage? You've got to spend money to make money?

Fucking oath you do in these times.
posted by Talez at 5:03 PM on February 3, 2013 [13 favorites]


You want to save the housing benefit as is, fine. Where would you get 1.8 billion a year from?
Seriously. You want to criticise? Tell me where you'd find the money. So which taxes should go up for the workers and poor alike? Scrap the income tax threshold rise? That's 3 billion a year. Perhaps a couple more points on VAT?


Uncap National Insurance. Is that too simplistic an answer for you?

There's a land tax if you prefer.
posted by jaduncan at 5:38 PM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]



Wait, are you trying to argue that opposing a measure that might, but won't, save £1.8bn, and won't substantially address the deficit, places the burden on us to find the £126bn that would? Why do you think that is anything but cheap and obvious sophistry?


No, I'm asking you where else you'd try and find that money for that specific example, as I actually said. That's one cut out of dozens.

However, I anticipated a glib answer of 'the rich' and pointed out how much we'd already be soaking them to address the rest of the deficit, and that a simple answer of 'soak the rich' is simply unrealistic to solve the massive black hole in the budget. Sure, we can get 1.8 billion out of them for this one cut. But what about all the others, or the deficit itself?

This kind of discussion comes down to 'grarr thatcher' and 'fuck the tories' and 'tax the rich!'. Which is fine, i agree with all of that. But then we walk away, as if that's all fine, and kicking out the tories and the orange book libs will magically make it all better and save the poor.

But it's not that bloody simple, there is a bloody huge deficit that's growing and growing, and isn't being balanced even in the boom times, and the debt interest alone is more than the entire defence budget.

That any government right now, and for a good while, is going to be facing nasty tricky choices on trying to save really big sums of money, and that in addition to whacking up income tax and VAT and all the other taxes, there HAS to be savings in the spending side of the ledger too. That the axe will have to fall on the poor as well as everyone else, because there simply isn't even close to enough money coming in to finance welfare, pensions and the NHS together.

I dunno. Maybe I was just looking for some glimmer of recognition that soak the rich was a simplistic answer that won't solve all our problems in one magic wave of the government pen.
That not doing this, means finding some other group to stiff. That growth is not some magic solution to the problem, that debt just maybe is at unsustainable levels.

Building more social housing is the obvious answer, and addresses that problem longer term. Though successive governments have tried to address the total housing shortage in state and private sector, that far too few houses are built than needed. That building companies don't want to take the risk, that green belt makes it hard to find places to build that people want to live, that local communities resist that big block of housing being built near them, while a billion a year is spent on building more social housing from central funds, and cash strapped local authorities are being pressured into spending also. Should we do more? Absolutely. All we need to do is find someone to tax for the money...

You know what you do? You borrow in a time of depressed tax receipts. It's not the fucking bogeyman.

No, it's 126 billion a year and rising. Ed balls admitted Labour were running a structural deficit in 2007 of 5% of the budget, and that was going on for a while. So not only were we running up debt in the boom years, we were spending money that wasn't being balanced by growth.

That's the tory's budget goal, btw - not to address the debt, not to address the growth in the deficit, but to tackle the structual deficit, that shortfall that won't be tackled by growth and can only be tackled by spending cuts and tax rises. So no, grow our way out of the problem is not the answer, because even accounting for that growth there is a structural debt that will remain. We're already back in growth, btw. This IS what the good times looks like now.
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:08 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait, are you trying to argue that opposing a measure that might, but won't, save £1.8bn, and won't substantially address the deficit, places the burden on us to find the £126bn that would?

To be fair howfar: this isn't cheap sophistry when all Tory cuts are being criticised in this same way. The government are saving money in a handful of ways - and to be sure, no one way is going to raise 126bn from this, but that isn't the point. The government seems pretty wedded to the idea that cuts have to come from everywhere, and it's this ideal that you have to find a solution to.

Nice to see that all proposed solutions to the deficit are "rich people should just pay more." That's the politics of envy. There's plenty of evidence that we could do with equalising the gini coefficient in this country, so to a point - I think rich people should pay more, but the entire narrative coming out of the left is one where the rich are caricatured as no-tax-paying rich boys who got all the breaks because they went to exactly the right schools.

And yeah - sure you can point to a few people who are like that, but in the same breath - I can point to a bunch of dole and housing benefit cheats(*). When you're pointing out specific people, or you're relying on ridiculous stereotypes, then you're no better than those in the right of the Tory party.

If you're going to uncap national insurance, you may as well just increase the tax rate on people earning over £40,000 by 10%. It'd be cheaper to manage, and more transparent too. Saying "uncap national insurance" is handwavy nonsense.

I've no idea what a "land tax" is, but I'm guessing that it's just another way of getting back at the "idle rich".

(*) - I know two people who get 25% of the housing benefit paid to them by their landlords. Government gives all the money to the landlord, and the landlord gives some of that the the tenant. And if I know two people who are doing this, you can be sure it's a pretty popular and widespread scam.
posted by zoo at 2:05 AM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


GDP decreased by 0.3% in the last quarter of 2012. GPD was flat between 2011 and 2012. Source: That well known lefty propaganda organ, the ONS. So you're just flat wrong. Which doesn't fill anyone with confidence about how much you actually know about this stuff.

The structural deficit, if you look at times of actual growth, is something much more like £30-40 billion. It was typically lower under the last Labour government than in the last Tory parliament. Indeed, from 1998 through 2001 there was a budget surplus.

Your Tory caricature of those on the Left as just wanting to 'soak the rich' doesn't really cut it. I haven't seen anyone make an argument about getting the '1%' to address the deficit alone, apart from you of course. You're ignoring any rational arguments about where tax increases might fall, because they don't fit your narrative of what the Left is and how it wants to achieve its goals. And, in essentially employing straw men to deny that it's possible to raise taxes, you make your reasoning look a little ridiculous. The overall British tax burden is lower than that of Germany, France or Italy, for example.

You also throw out implausible arguments about what the government can and cannot do with relation to tax. These arguments don't suggest that you're quite as informed about law, economic reality or tax policy as one would like.

People recognise that this is a difficult issue, but it's a real problem here that you make no coherent argument for why the deficit must be cut at this time, you just keep repeating your magic number and expecting it to stand in for reasoning. Please try harder.
posted by howfar at 2:10 AM on February 4, 2013


if I know two people who are doing this, you can be sure it's a pretty popular and widespread scam.

'Data' is not the plural form of 'anecdote'. But seriously, yes, the higher rates of tax do need to increase. We, the better off, not just 'the rich', should be paying more. To call it the 'politics of envy' isn't an argument, it's a slogan.
posted by howfar at 2:14 AM on February 4, 2013


'Data' is not the plural form of 'anecdote'.
My point exactly howfar, and one you should remind people about the next time the internet goes mental because a banker gets caught living an overly excessive lifestyle.
posted by zoo at 2:26 AM on February 4, 2013


On a less combative note howfar, you obviously know more about this stuff than I do, and to a degree I'm going off gut feeling when I give Cameron more of a pass than other people in this thread. But your words are useful to me.

I think my current slow drift to the right is more to do with Milliband than Cameron. I think the image of Milliband and Balls standing outside Greggs, gleefully explaining that they believe that Tesco shouldn't pay tax on it's hot pizzas when thousands of small takeaways would still have to, put pay to me ever considering voting for the current Labour administration.

Respect? I'll vote for Respect when fucking Galloway is ejected from the party. The Greens? Haven't forgiven them for dropping the citizen wage, and doing it in such a carefully quiet manner.

So for the moment at least, I'm stuck with the Lib Dems and the Tories.
posted by zoo at 2:39 AM on February 4, 2013


If you're going to uncap national insurance, you may as well just increase the tax rate on people earning over £40,000 by 10%. It'd be cheaper to manage, and more transparent too. Saying "uncap national insurance" is handwavy nonsense.

No, it really wouldn't. Right now there's an artificial cap that once did not exist so NI does not scale well. I'm unsure why you'd think that would be hard to remove. You're effectively making an argument that NI should be wrapped into income tax. But yes, you could also wrap NI into income tax and increase the top rates of tax. I should also note that it would not be that close to 10%.

A land tax is a taxation of property value. It's sometimes referred to as a 'mansion tax', although it would also be possible to tax property value increases as capital gains.

Respect? I'll vote for Respect when fucking Galloway is ejected from the party. The Greens? Haven't forgiven them for dropping the citizen wage, and doing it in such a carefully quiet manner.

So for the moment at least, I'm stuck with the Lib Dems and the Tories.


I cannot imagine how you can at once consider voting for Respect/SWP but only don't because of Galloway, dislike the Greens for not wanting a guaranteed income for all citizens, and then decide that the LD or Tories are the alternative because you dislike Labour's stance on snack food taxation.

What can the policies that you are basing your choice of party on be? I am astonished.
posted by jaduncan at 3:31 AM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh don't get me wrong, I won't vote for this incarnation of the Labour party, but that's got less to do with image than a total absence of policy. The real problem, which I think you're identifying, is the lack of a real radical Left. I don't mean 'radical' to be taken as 'extreme', but actually freethinking and forward looking. The Labour party tried being 'nice' and 'generous' Tories, and look where it got us all. On the other hand, the Left more broadly continues to obsess over regulation and nationalisation, as if this were still 1950.

We do need to increase the tax take if we want the sort of society that I desire. Partly we have to ween the middle-classes off their expectation of a continual rapidly increasing standard of living. But we also need to look at what taxes we impose. Land value taxes actually make a lot of sense as economic drivers, because they penalise those who don't employ their wealth much more than those who do. Ditto for consumption taxes (essentially meaning that no income tax is paid on reinvested income). The Left needs to turn to mainstream economic theorists for its inspiration, rather than its current bizarre confusion between Right and Leftwing ideologues.

But we also need to reconsider (by which I pretty much mean scrap) our benefits system. The current system distorts labour markets horrendously. Personally I'd favour eliminating all means tested benefits (and the minimum wage) and replacing it all with a universal basic guarantee income applied as a negative income tax. Even Friedman argued for a negative income tax, so this is hardly leftist dreaming. What our economy needs is greater labour flexibility, and more entrepreneurship, not JSA and ESA as sinks lumping in the temporarily unemployed with those who can't or won't work. One thing I think we have to accept is that, in order to get the world we want, we're going to have to carry some people with us who don't make direct economic contributions, and stop trying to distinguish between the deserving and the undeserving poor. It's a moral distaste masquerading as economic policy. But a universal income would be expensive, and we need to properly cost a real root and branch reform of both our tax and benefits systems. But it is obvious to me that it's the middle-classes who will largely have to pay. We're insanely pampered compared even to the 1980s, let alone before. Real income distribution needs to be shifted from the richer to the poorer, not as a matter of envy but as a matter of economic and social need.
posted by howfar at 3:50 AM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


No, it really wouldn't. Right now there's an artificial cap that once did not exist so NI does not scale well.
What? You're making the assumption that NI, as currently designed, is designed to scale. It's not. You can like this or hate it, but choosing to remove it has little to do with increasing tax revenue.

You're effectively making an argument that NI should be wrapped into income tax.
I'd be happy to do this. The link between what NI is and what it says it is has been absent for generations.

But yes, you could also wrap NI into income tax and increase the top rates of tax. I should also note that it would not be that close to 10%.
OK - Maybe more like 7 or 8%.

My argument is that removing the cap on National Insurance has pretty much the same impact on tax payers that increasing the top rate of tax does. You can't deny this. If this is so, then what does removing this cap do except try and generate the revenue in a way that people don't see as a tax raise. Removing the NI cap has nothing to do with increasing tax revenues, and to propose it as such is politiking.

Get rid of the cap by all means. (I'm in favour of scrapping NI, personally - so getting rid of the cap wouldn't bother me), but don't try and sell it as an alternative to raising the top rate of tax.
posted by zoo at 3:52 AM on February 4, 2013


I cannot imagine how you can at once consider voting for Respect/SWP but only don't because of Galloway, dislike the Greens for not wanting a guaranteed income for all citizens, and then decide that the LD or Tories are the alternative because you dislike Labour's stance on snack food taxation.

Because - above all else, I despise the corruption and lying that these things represent. Galloway is a vanity monster, obsessed with himself and the power he can wield (though - I've heard a couple of good things about him since he took on the Bradford gig). The stance taken by Labour showed just how much they're willing to throw under the bus, and how shallow their politics actually are. The green thing - I may yet go green, but I was pretty wedded to the citizen wage (I think this is equivalant to howfar's negative income tax), but they just dropped it without explanation. They just brushed it under the carpet in the hope that nobody would notice. I really hate that.

Your point jaduncan, assumes that there are big ideological differences between the left and the right in this country. There aren't. There's just a difference in how commited the different leaderships are towards openness.
posted by zoo at 4:03 AM on February 4, 2013


But we also need to reconsider (by which I pretty much mean scrap) our benefits system. The current system distorts labour markets horrendously.
God yes.
posted by zoo at 4:03 AM on February 4, 2013


you know howfar - I think we believe almost exactly the same things. We've just got a slightly different idea of how we can get there.
posted by zoo at 4:16 AM on February 4, 2013


I think there is another problem, that politicians are human. You could probably run a fairly happy and successful country based on either 'right wing pragmatism' or 'left wing pragmatism', but neither group is actually good at being pragmatic. The Right are frequently angry at the poor for being poor, the Left with the rich for being rich. Both sides fall back into notions of fairness (not fair to be so rich/not fair to not contribute so much) that make sense on a personal moral level, but are useless for actually organising a society on the macroeconomic level.

I'm on the Left for two reasons, firstly because the Right seems to me to include within it a major element that really just doesn't care about creating a successful and happy country, the element that really doesn't mind if the poor starve, and secondly because I can see actual 'leftwing' policies with bases in evidence and theory that could move us toward a society that is both fairer and more prosperous. The Left represents to me the belief that in order for me to be happy, my neighbour must be happy too. Evidence about happiness levels in countries with greater and lesser income inequalities seems to suggest that this is closer to being a general condition of human happiness that a simple personal preference. 'Enlightened self-interest', to use a phrase from another century.
posted by howfar at 4:18 AM on February 4, 2013


Your point jaduncan, assumes that there are big ideological differences between the left and the right in this country. There aren't. There's just a difference in how commited the different leaderships are towards openness.

Desire to be an EU member, as a random example of an incredibly significant choice.
posted by jaduncan at 4:25 AM on February 4, 2013


Given that Cameron seems in favor of membership of the EU, and nobody knows what Milliband wants on account of the fact that he's either playing opposite day again or he's mouthing empty platitudes, I'm not exactly sure what your point is.
posted by zoo at 5:09 AM on February 4, 2013


Blair - Promised referendum about Europe. Didn't keep it.
Brown - Promised referendum about Europe. Didn't keep it.
Cameron - Promised referendum about Europe. Keeps putting it back.

You're right - they are completely different.
posted by zoo at 5:18 AM on February 4, 2013


howfar - The struggle to me between the left and the right seems more to be a struggle between totalitarianism and libertarianism, and I'm uncomfortable with both. Blair had a pretty laissez faire attitude towards privacy and free speech, and you're right - there is a strong element on the right that seems to want nothing more than the right to hunt poor people with dogs.

In the centre, there's less of that from both sides. I do think that compassionate conservatism should be viewed with suspicion, but my general take-home is that the current Tory party leadership is more centre than right and even if they're a bit rubbish, they actually are in this to make all of society better.
posted by zoo at 5:26 AM on February 4, 2013


I don't think that the totalitarian/libertarian association works very well at all. The concentration of power in the hands of a very few looks just the same no matter how you got there. As for this current government, I see nothing in the way of policy that supports your faith. And in the end I really don't care if my politicians are well-meaning, just that they enact the right policies. Austerity, which has been this government's totem, is just bad economic policy, and I don't think it is being pursued because this government doesn't know that, but because they don't care.

And in terms of health and education, the other big pillars of the welfare state, there is no evidence base for anything the government are doing, only the certainty that, somehow, making things look more like markets is better. Or look at the Legal Aid cuts. I don't know a single lawyer (largely publicly funded or otherwise) who believes they'll save money. They're going to waste court time, waste public money and lead to more miscarriages of justice (which will of course take more time and money to resolve). Seriously, most legal aid funded practitioners I know are looking at taking on law student volunteers to offer advice to many clients. Do you want advice from some 21 year old who only just finished his tort module?
posted by howfar at 5:39 AM on February 4, 2013


If you're looking for more evidence based policy funding, then the first step to that is to look where there is the most effort towards transparency. Even if the desire for transparency exists within left wing grass root movements (something I doubt - e.g. in the recent SWP news story) it doesn't exist in the mainstream left wing leadership.

Unfortunately - evidence based policy making and transparency do not seem to be something that people will vote for.

I missed the legal aid story, so can't really comment.
posted by zoo at 6:38 AM on February 4, 2013


I don't really understand why you think that the Right is more transparent than the Left. It seems like a gut-instinct rather than anything substantive. Does Jeremy Hunt's relationship with News Corp seem transparent to you? Or David Cameron's come to that. What about Gove's apparent use of government-paid advisors to operate a secret Twitter campaign? What about the Justice and Security Bill? Do secret courts strike you as transparent? What about the Communications Bill, which is only being redrafted because Lib Dems fear that its snooping powers are too far-reaching? Or Theresa May lying to the Tory party conference, and to the public, about asylum seekers and their cats? Or Theresa May (again) lying about immigration checks carried out on EEA citizens? Or David Cameron claiming publicly that we are "paying down the debt" while the debt (and the deficit, so let's have no "slip of the tongue" nonsense here) continues to rise?

Where is this honourable, transparent government you see? Really.
posted by howfar at 7:06 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Blair - Promised referendum about the EU Constitution.Lisbon Treaty that would not affect membership no matter what the outcome. Didn't eventually undertake referendum as eventual Lisbon Treaty was not yet being ratified.
Blair - Promised referendum about the Lisbon Treaty that would not affect membership no matter what the outcome. Didn't keep it.
Cameron - Promised referendum about EU membership that would lead to withdrawal if lost. Specifically dated it for before 2017.

They are indeed completely different.
posted by jaduncan at 7:17 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


howfar: I said *more* transparent. If your response to my comparison is just to list all the ways one side of the house has failed, then I really don't know what to say to you.
posted by zoo at 1:10 AM on February 5, 2013


Blair has been mentioned a couple of times, and to those on here who have said that those on 'welfare' shouldn't get houses too big for them, paid for by everyone else, it's worth pointing out (sorry, Daily Mail link) that the Blair family recently completed the CASH PURCHASE of their seventh luxury home. Maybe that puts this mean spirited and nasty crap into some kind of perspective.
posted by Myeral at 8:35 AM on February 5, 2013


The neocon tour circuit pays pretty well I guess.
posted by Artw at 9:28 AM on February 5, 2013


Eh, I didn't list all the ways. I just don't see any difference in transparency. Partiularly as the coalition agreement that formed the current government was an utter sham which the Tories had no intention of honouring. But my question stands, in what way is this authoritarian-leaning, dishonest government any better than the last authoritarian-leaning, dishonest government? You might feel it to be the case, but if you can't tell me why then how am I meant to be persuaded? I understand that you probably want someone to trust, but there ain't no-one. We're going to have to do this for ourselves.
posted by howfar at 10:44 AM on February 5, 2013


And remember that it was 'sleaze' that did such great harm to the last Tory government. Labour doesn't have a monopoly on failures of transparency. Plus ça change...
posted by howfar at 10:47 AM on February 5, 2013


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