The Winter Palace has not been stormed, but the government is increasing income tax for the filthy rich by 10%. This might seem significant, but given the significant numbers of those in this bracket with business interests and stakes who will benefit from the pro-business measures in the budget the difficulty the tax rate will cause them is being overplayed.
Instead, like all budgets, the large majority of the burden of paying for the financial crisis will come from ordinary working class people. Regressive taxation – duty on fuel, cigarettes and alcohol – is to be increased. These things represent a more significant part of the spending of people with lower incomes, meaning that the poorer you are the harder they will hit you.
Likewise, essential services which ordinary people rely on will be attacked to pay for the cost of the financial crisis. Investment in public services has already been more than chopped in half. The ‘Efficiency savings’ already being swung into place represent stealth cuts to spending on essential public services, even before the real cuts which will be necessary in the immediate future to deal with the budget deficit come into play. £2.3 billion will come from the NHS. Interest payments on the looming national debt and the bill for the spiking number of claimants means that what spending will be allocated in the future will be severely stretched, with significant cuts to education and healthcare a given in the next few years.
The government is already looking at selling off state owned assets and buildings, and axing the jobs associated with them, in order to claw back £6-9 billion a year until 2014. So-called ‘back office’ staff, such as the administrative and clerical workers essential to the running of services, are being lined up for the chop.
The budget is based on the ludicrously optimistic assumption that the economy will be back in growth by the end of the year, and healthy again by 2011. This has been flagged up by all kinds of sources. But the precise economics aside, when it comes to tax, spending and investment, we always lose out. When we are taxed we are having a chunk of the money we are paid – which has to be less than the value of the work we do for profit to work – taken to pay for keeping the entire capitalist system ticking. We pay for their crisis, literally. The best way to fight back is to struggle against cuts for the things we need – healthcare, education and other services – as part of the struggle to raise our quality of life.