Friday, 15 October 2010

Making middle class life less comfortable

There is a well-sorted couple up the road who are not happy bunnies at the moment. Both in their thirties, he works on well rewarded contract appointments with much foreign travel but significant gaps between contracts and she works in education; she may bring the bread to the table, but he puts the butter and jam on it, in the shape of expensive foreign holidays, the Audi in the parking bay and nursery and daycare for their two sprogs (named Adam and Jocasta for all I know). Although I'm on nodding terms with them, my closest neighbour shares a nursery with them - hence the information above. In income terms I think I'm on safe ground in guessing they each earn more than £35k but less than £55k; in other words, they're squarely in the sights of the Coalition's spending cuts. 

As Simon Jenkins points out in the Guardian this morning, they have been the true beneficiaries of State Welfarism; whilst this blog amongst many others railed against the waste of Welfare, the iniquity of Welfare slavery and the assaults on our wallets, it wasn't people like our neighbours we had in mind. When the recession hit, it was something that happened to others, those who lived outside of London and the south-east, not those we nodded to in the street. Government savings didn't affect our blogreaders or our relatives. 

But for once, Cameron couldn't have been clearer in the run up to the election that this would be the case. He warned we would all have to share the pain, that the measures would hit across Britain, and  many nodded and voted Conservative still not believing he meant it. He's emerging as that rarest of creatures, a true one-nation Tory, with a deep inbuilt conviction in fair play and equity, and I have to support him wholly in this, even though the pain is close to home. 

For long periods in our recent history, Britain has managed to be a highly socially stratified society without extraordinary differences in the financial worth of each strata, unlike other Western nations, and this has been partly the reason for our political stability. The growth of the middle class from Tudor times as a distinct class has been accompanied by a host of distinguishing characteristics other than wealth. A member of the middle class had an income of £12,000 a year whilst a worker had a wage of £230.77 a week - although their incomes were exactly the same, they were not. A whole caucus of English literature and drama explored the struggle to maintain status and respectability amongst the former whilst the latter could get drunk, have fun and fornicate. Or the struggle of the latter to absorb the mores of the former as they dined in a college hall for the first time. Grammar Schools were not a perk of the wealthy that maintained exclusivity as many Tories wish they were today, but a truly equitable and democratic bridge. 

No. The middle class have become too wealthy; the differentials are too great, for a healthy society and a congruent nation, and they have done so at the taxpayer's expense. Unlike Labour, Cameron promises something far more valuable than bribes - a fairer and more equitable Britain, one nation. That's a prize worth winning. 


Weekend Yachtsman said...

The middle classes have become too wealthy and therefore should be taxed more?

Mr. R, you are starting to sound like a socialist. I did not expect this.

Umbongo said...


No, Raedwald does not sound like a socialist, he sounds - as does Cameron - like a Conservative in Name Only. I expect Raedwald will also welcome the spurious "cuts" when they are announced, in the full - although unacknowledged - knowledge that the "cuts" herald an annual increase in public expenditure over the projected life of this parliament.

Hitting the wealth creators of the nation - as do Raedwald and his hero - is not a solution to gross overspending by the state: the only solution is to cut back the state, not find ever more methods to finance that overspending.

tomsmith said...

Welfare to the middle classes is in effect a tax break paid in part by tax levied on those earning less. It is their cut of the wholesale plunder collected from everyone by the state and is designed to muddy the waters and make the middle classes feel they derive benefit from the system.

They do derive benefit but the trifling amount paid to them directly in bribes is not it. Rather it is the maintenance of their social position and the state subsidised earnings and life chances that come with it, along with the fixing of the poor in a trap of absolute welfare dependency. Our social contract is designed to maintain such differences and our progressive tax system collects the most when inequality is highest. It feeds upon itself.

Cameron's plan will not pay off the debt and will not cut the size of the state, it will merely slow its growth. It is a confidence trick.

Demetrius said...

Back in the 19th there were many working class homes with several people in employment. If you added up the total earnings when in work they could come to about the same as many clergymen or clerks etc. The workers who were Temperance could ascend the social ladder, the boozers, on the whole, did not.

Raedwald said...

WY - No, no and thrice no!

The middle classes have done very well from welfare, and in order that all of us may be taxed less, need to share the pain of welfare cuts.

William Gruff said...

The size and scope of the state and state spending need to be cut back savagely and almost everyone is going to suffer a drop in household income and some discomfort, except for people like The Mrs Gruff and I, who receive not one penny from anyone except The Mrs Gruff's employer (I have no income at present). We qualify for nothing, not in benefits nor as discounts; we pay the full price for everything, which, as TMG once pointed out to me, is (partly) why we are poor. It is not unreasonable of us to resent paying so much to subsidise the lifestyles of others, many of whom already have more than us, simply because our politicians lack the courage to tell them to stand, as we do, on their own feet.

I grudge no one a comfortable lifestyle (I haven't yet given up hope of achieving one for myself) but I am angry that I must pay to provide one for others while not qualifying myself.

Raedwald is right. Like him, I would like to see a fairer society, whatever that is, and, like him, I am certain that redistributive policies are not the way to achieve one.

Tomsmith: Here, here to that.

Umbongo: Ending the flow of wealth from the diligent and independent working classes to the middle classes is not 'hitting the wealth creators of the nation', which category, by the way, includes at least some of the former and excludes many of the latter.

tomsmith said...

Raedwald, I disagree that the middle classes have done well from welfare. What they really do well from is state distortion of the economy, its effect on the mostly state subsidised or state created jobs that they do, and the effect such jobs (and welfare payments for the poor) have on fixing people where they are in society. Direct welfare payments to the middle classes are small, which is why they can be safely cut as part of the gesture politics of "paying down the deficit" and "everyone doing their bit". It is a lie. The problem is much bigger.

Anonymous said...

do away with the middle class?
Would that make you happy.

Umbongo said...


What I failed to spell out was not that the lower paid should keep subsidising the better off but the fatuousness of (1) people expecting to be paid to have children which is, after all, a voluntary act and (2) taxing wealth-creators (rich and poor) to have part of this tax recycled and repaid at enormous cost through the child benefit system.

My beef with Cameron and, by extension, Raedwald is a refusal to follow through on conservative (ie not Cameroon Conservative admittedly) principles of self- and voluntary help. Cameron will ensure that the whole structure of state interference (with its patronising patina of "doing good") will remain. Who will benefit? Not the wealth-creators (both "rich" and poor who work in the private sector) but the facilitators of wealth destruction who include bureaucrats (many grossly overpaid) both local and national in the public sector.