Friday, April 09, 2010

Equality: Cameron just does not get it - Today.

David Cameron had 10 minutes on Radio 4 Today interviewed by Evan Davis.

First, a brownie point to Evan. He asked some good questions, in a civil manner, and didn't interrupt much. Compared to Jeremy Paxman, who was so awful last night on Newsnight he deserves a blog post all to himself.

Cameron just does not get equality. Someone must have read the Spirit Level for him, but he does not understand the point of the book.  Asked about the problem of inequality, he blithers about the causes of poverty being family breakdown, poor education (failing schools) and people stuck on welfare. And he offers his ratio of earnings for the public sector: bosses will be limited to 20 times the amount of the lowest paid. Fair play to him for offering this radical Green Party policy, but note that unlike us, he limits it to the public sector; the differentials in the private sector wages will increase unchecked under the Tories. This is the Tories' hidden agenda: break the state, privatise everything except bank bailouts.

As for Cameron's analysis of the causes of poverty (family, schools, welfare), which he repeated three times, he is just plain wrong. Wilkinson and Pickett show that the arrow of causality runs the other way: income inequality drives family breakdown and school drop outs. It is the cause, not the effect.

The Spirit Level analysis is based on detailed, painstaking science; Cameron's analysis is based on the chunterings of a few Tory policy wonks.

Cameron is right about the welfare system trapping people in poverty, but he has no solution on offer; he rejects the Citizen Income, and does not even know about the Green Wage Subsidy, which is the way to introduce the CI in an economic way.

Can we hope that the interviewers keep Cameron's feet to the fire on inequality? If they apply the same intensity that they have applied to Labour's stupid increase in NIC, it could bring a bit of reality that is sadly lacking from this election debate so far.

The Cameroons stand out for leaving the word "Fair" out of their election slogan.

It shows. If they get back in, they will increase the RPG (Rich Poor Gap), resulting in more social breakdown, more social problems, more health problems. We simply cannot go on like this. We need a hung Parliament, with radical electoral reform leading to radical political and economic reform. We may get it, too, providing the Tories do not pull the wool over the eyes of the commentariat, and get off the hook of their commitment to levels of inequality that will break Britain big time.

More on this by the excellent Johan Hari:
[Cameron] will give a £1.2bn inheritance tax cut to the richest 2 per cent in Britain – with most going to the 3,000 wealthiest estates (including his wife's). Then he promises to end the 50p top rate of tax, giving another £2.4bn to the richest 1 per cent. Then he has pledged to cut taxes on the pensions of the richest, handing another £3.2bn to the same 1 per cent. Then his marriage tax relief policies will give 13 times more to the rich than the poor. To pay for this, he will slash programmes for the middle and the skint, like the Child Trust Fund, SureStart and state schools.

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