Creating division, sowing discord

One of the Government’s most cunning tactics in the debate over welfare reform is the way it has shaped the discourse and carried people with it. As Jonathan Freedland observes in today’s Guardian, the tactic has encouraged poorer people to turn on each other. At the same time, it has distracted from the Government’s failures to deliver on economic policy, effectively tackle the much bigger problem of tax evasion, or propose serious reform for a dysfunctional economic and financial system.

The Government has constructed a particular type of moral argument by saying things like: Should hard-working low-income taxpayers in Sheffield subsidise workless families to live in Kensingston? That’s got to be unfair. Something must be done.

But does that even make sense? That is not a hypothecated transfer that actually exists. It is notional. Taxes collected in Sheffield effectively go into a big pot and are then spent on all sorts of things, most of which have nothing to do with welfare benefits. But it’s a useful narrative for stoking up indignation. [Read more...]