He began by insisting there had been no break in the link between the prosperity of the economy and that of the individuals working in it. This was a “dangerous fallacy”, he claimed. Moments earlier, Digby Jones, who introduced him on stage, made a similar point, telling low income workers that higher wages required an increase in productivity.
They’re wrong. GDP per hour grows faster than median wages. In the last 20 years of the 20th century, every pound of UK GDP brought with it about 90p in median wage growth. From 2000 to 2007, it was 43p. It’s this trend that explains why tax credits and borrowing took on such a crucial role in the UK economy. Osborne prefers the net figures, which include all those high earners who remain untouched by his austerity programme. They stack the income figures so heavily at the top that the numbers turn out quite well. It’s only when you track the median wage – that of the ordinary worker – that you see the effect.
Once Osborne was finished pretending current salaries are fair, he made a hugely significant pledge: that benefits should not rise faster than wages. This is psychologically revealing.
His solution to low wages is not to improve them, but to bring everyone else down to their level.
With this in mind he pledged £25 billion of new cuts in the next parliament. This will not come from the wealthy. Osborne all-but ruled out any tax rises, and certainly any significant ones. But he did find another way to get back at least £3 billion of it: Freezing working age benefits.
So while pensioners will not be hit, he will target jobseekers’ allowance, tax credits, housing and child benefit with a real-terms cut.
These are the very same people who have suffered the most from the last four years: people in work and still struggling to make ends meet. He has nothing to offer but a worsening of their condition.
To top it all off, the chancellor had the chutzpah to repeat his mantra that “we are all in this together”.
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