Making Work Pay/A new Agenda
Paul notes that Yasmin Alibhai Brown is talking of ‘tough choices’ which should be read as ‘cuts in the welfare state’.
Don summarises the findings as:
1. Nearly all the participants in the discussion groups placed themselves in the ‘middle’ of the income spectrum, despite the fact that they came from the full range of socio-economic groups. They interpreted the income gap in terms of the gap between the ‘middle’ and the ‘super-rich’.
2. Most participants believed that ‘deserved’ inequalities are fair. They were therefore not opposed to high incomes in general because they tended to believe that these were deserved on the basis of ability, effort, performance or social contribution.
3. Despite a widespread belief in ‘fair inequality’, participants strongly supported a progressive tax and benefits system – although they complained that the system is not generous enough towards the ‘middle’ (that is, where participants placed themselves)
4. Participants’ attitudes towards those on low incomes were often more negative and condemning than their attitudes towards ‘the rich’. For example, they placed far greater blame and responsibility on the former for their situation than on the latter.
5. Most participants were strongly attracted to a social vision founded on improving quality of life for everyone (more so than one founded on explicitly egalitarian objectives, and far more so than one founded on economic growth).
In his second post he makes, to me at least, the key argument:
One criticism of the welfare state is that once you include tax credits, child benefit, housing and council tax benefit and so on, a lone parent who is not in paid employment and has two children has roughly the same income as a single person who works and gets the average wage.
One possible reaction to this is “that’s a disgrace, and it shows that benefits are too high.” This is the one which you will read a lot in the newspapers.
But another is “that’s a disgrace, and it shows that wages for the average worker are too low.”
Which of these – prioritising cutting benefits or raising wages for middle income workers – is more likely to help improve people’s quality of life and make sure that hard work is properly rewarded?
The people in the middle, seem to agree with him.
I think we are stumbling towards an agenda here.