15 Oct 2010, 4:30pm
economy personal finance:
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  • we’re entering a family-unfriendly economic system

    There’s been a lot of hue and cry about the changes to child benefit and stuff, and Stephanie Flanders of the BBC has spelled it out over a couple of posts.

    She gets away with it where it’s probably incendiary for me to tackle this, because

    a) she’s an established writer and understands the subject better
    b) she’s a woman
    c) she has kids

    But I’m going to tackle it anyway, because the reason why we are entering a family-unfriendly economic future surprised me, even though I had a gut feel of it. The thrust of her argument is that

    Labour tilted the tax and benefit system in the direction of children and families, particularly low income single parent families. For better or worse, that is what their target of eradicating child poverty encouraged them to do. It is going to be hard to raise serious money from the benefit system without tilting it back.

    Now I had been aware that I wasn’t personally getting any of the gravy over the last 10 years. That’s a good thing in many ways, having managed to screw down my outgoings there are limited ways the government can manage to shaft me. They can’t take away my benefits because I don’t get any. They can raise taxes and obviously the VAT increase next year will hit me.

    But what I hadn’t realised is just how much gravy people with children did get out of Labour. The government can reduce the deficit by either taxing more or spending less, and because the ConDems emphasis is on the latter, it means that people with children will be taking most of the pain, just as they took most of the gain in previous years. Single parents are apparently about 16% better off as a result of Labour’s changes, whereas I am about 4% down. That great sucking force you hear out there in the distance is the sound of much of that about to be rolled back.

    Relative to people with children I expect to be 20% better off when Cleggeron have finished. Unfortunately this will be achieved along the lines of the second part of Gore Vidal’s aphorism

    it is not enough to succeed, others must fail

    I don’t expect to be any better off at all, it is just that families with kids will lose a lot of the extra bungs and sweeteners society has given them to make having children easier/less expensive.

    Before people start screaming that it isn’t fair, perhaps you might want to ask yourself whether getting free gravy was fair in the good times. It wasn’t fair to me, for instance. Twice in my life I asked myself the children question, and each time I didn’t really feel I could manage to support a family for 18 years.

    Before the aggrieved hordes of the Daily Mail and the Torygraph seize on that as proof positive that as a higher-rate taxpayer it shows I know you can’t raise kids on 44k of course I could have kept the wolf from the door, but to me life is about more than that. Many people get an awful lot out of having children, and if I had that sort of desire I would prioritise this up the stack and manage somehow.

    I didn’t do it because I didn’t want to hard enough. It’s called making choices in life, knowing your values and acting accordingly. It’s not the Government’s job to get involved in my lifestyle when if comes to such individual and personal decisions, unlike with services we all need, like healthcare and policing. And yeah, I know it’s different for guys.

    It’s going to be a rough ride, people.

     
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