The Blog

Economic With The Truth: Osborne's Omission of the Young in Budget 2015


There are a multitude of misnomers in the English language. Koala bears aren't bears, jellyfish aren't fish and peanuts are legumes. The 2015 emergency budget, in this instance, should be renamed as the 2015 unnecessary bloodbath, to be waged against the aspirations, the dignity and the prospects of Britain's young working class. For the young, there was nothing sweet to hear but a never-ending chorus of horror. George Osborne has managed to sing the finer points of the Labour election campaign whilst sinisterly applying a counter-note to the balance offered by musical sounding but ultimately discordant policies: that which he giveth, he taketh away.

But let's not forget, Ed Miliband's election promise of an £8 an hour minimum wage was based on then being in conjunction with tax credits. Osborne has made a crude gloating taunt to Miliband whilst, with one stroke of his magic pen keyboard he thought it appropriate to be photographed with, cut tax credits and mitigated one of Labour's greatest achievements for the working poor. Young workers below 25 on the pennies of poverty pay will not see the benefit of the proposed £7.20 minimum wage. This "national living wage" is also guaranteed by 2020, a casual five years away. One might serve less time for assault which is exactly what George Osborne is doing to the wallets of the low-paid.

His final insult on that matter is to rename the minimum wage, a qualifier which acknowledges the social contract by reinforcing that this is the least amount of money per hour that society should accept for its workers, now grotesquely insulted as the national living wage. This is despite being below what most charities and think tanks would set as a liveable and decent figure (less than the proposed £7.85 outside of London and £9.65 -£11.65 inside of London depending on whose figures you read). One can imagine Conservative patricians leaning over those desperate figures turning their change over in their hands and admonishing them with "That's what you'll live on, whether living is possible, and you'll like it! And if not, we'll just redefine the word living!" The English language is so fluid and changeable in Tory hands, after all. Let us not forget, this insult to the minimum wage is one of which those under 25 will never see the benefit.

Young people are already barred from receiving housing benefit amongst other benefits and with essential educational aids such as the lifeline EMA having already fallen victim to the knives of Tory malice and lies, (David Cameron having given a speech in 2010 announcing no plans to take away educational support), more and more will find themselves stranded in exactly the welfare trap of which the Tories are doing their best to starve them out. "Earn or learn" from Conservatives isn't a call to ambition, it's a reminder from an out-of-touch, overprivileged elite that social mobility is reserved for those who can afford to pay the toll by closing access to learning, stranding the young in insecure zero-hours contracts jobs and rewarding large companies who pay poverty wages with corporation tax cuts despite the fact UK corporation tax rates are already some of the lowest in Europe.

The ending of student grants and replacing them with loans is a directed attack on the working class who seek to better themselves. It is a possible disaster for us economically as our brightest and best are turned away from university, terrified of the behemoth of debt that waits to sit on their shoulders post-graduation. At a time when we need the most investment in sciences and energy, when our global markets are open as a result of EU membership and expanding trade with India, Brazil, China and the US, when we have the benefit of technology opening up new jobs, new roles, new ways of working - we are putting off potentially our best and brightest from study, the very minds we need to carry us into the future. Alongside the losses to science/techology and modern languages that we need economically, this will do nothing more than deter young people from the arts which sustain us as a society as they become economically unviable as a learning path. This will further preserve the already disturbing saturation in television, music and film of middle and upper class voices and stories, rendering working class lives as stereotypes and caricatures, as other and as inferior.

With the welfare cap having been lowered to £20,000 and cuts to tax credits, those in low-income families will find that even Earn or Learn is beyond the realms of possibility, especially those in larger families who will find their already meagre income crushed further by Tory vices. These young people will be further stranded at home, unable to find meaningful work or educational opportunities and prove to be larger burdens for families now struggling from the drop in their tax credits. With the Bloodbath ensuring tax cuts for landlords and with 18,000 less houses being built a year for five years, we may as well call it house arrest.

We can about direct action, we can about empowering young people to vote and to fight back, we can talk about community support but please let's talk in plain English. Let's not talk now, nor ever in the sanitised, snakeoil rhetoric of omission that the 2015 Budget exemplifies. As a society, let's reject the spin and the malice that underlined every signature that facilitated that egregious attack on our youth's futures. For once, let's call it as we see it.

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