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Tuesday, March 20, 2012 

Classic Mail.

Today's Mail front page is a joy to behold:

Yes, here's finally the truth about a how a THIRD of your tax bill is spent on welfare, but here's why the plan to remove child benefit from those earning over £42,000 a year is "insane" and "betrays families, aspiration and core Tory values". It's the most wonderful example of a newspaper coming right out and saying exactly why they think their readers are more deserving of "handouts" than dole scum and cheating scroungers, even when the welfare bill overall MUST be slashed. We're worth it, and everyone who isn't middle class, or part of a nuclear family or aspirational is not.

To be truthful I have been converted to the "universalist" argument for welfare provision, mainly down to how increasingly it looks as though most people haven't got the slightest idea how much the unemployed get a week. Why else would such large numbers say that those on jobseeker's allowance should get less than the pitiful £67.50 a week (£53.45 for the under 25) they currently get if they weren't completely ignorant of the true figure? At least if everyone receives child benefit regardless of their circumstances it gives them contact with the welfare state that they otherwise might not have, and so less likely to be immediately under the impression that you can live anything like comfortably on less than a quarter of the average wage.

In any case, anyone who actually looks at the proposed tax statements can see that, unsurprisingly, just less than half of overall welfare spending goes on pensions, rather than on the other social security schemes. The statements themselves are meaningless in practice, as all they do is break down the amount someone pays in tax into proportions based on overall government spending. Mr Patel for example obviously doesn't have his £2,438.12 salami sliced in such a way, as that would be ridiculous. In practice his whole £2,438.12 may well have gone towards buying what Del Boy once called a "strident missile", but he and we are never going to know exactly what our tax was spent on. What it does give is an insight, and it does rather bust a few myths: regardless of the overall spend on the EU, overseas aid and welfare other than pensions, broken down it's much harder to argue against. Someone on just about the average wage contributes less than a week's money to someone on JSA (£56.74), and just £28 to the EU. Plenty will still argue that's £28 too much on the latter but as a whole it's hardly going to turn the average person into a member of the Taxpayer's Alliance. Which you suspect was rather what Osborne and friends were hoping for.

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