Monday, October 04, 2010

The death knell for universalism?

Today’s announcement about the planned withdrawal of child benefit from higher rate tax payers is justified by the Chancellor on the basis that we shouldn’t tax the low paid to pay benefit to the higher paid.

But apply that logic more widely and it is a recipe to replace all universal benefits (in cash or kind) with means testing and fees. Why should we tax the low paid to fund hospital operations for those who are relatively more wealthy? Why should cleaners pay tax to fund the state education of the children of doctors and lawyers?

Why?

Because we – the working class (“by hand or by brain” as Clause IV used to say) really are “all in this together” – and not just at a time of crisis. Universal benefits funded by progressive taxation provide fairness in a manner which unifies the interests of all those who pay those taxes (“from each according to their means”) and use the services (“to each according to their needs”).

The combined impact of the plans of the Coalition Government will be – if we let them – to wipe out what is left of the Welfare State established after the Second World War.

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