The ghost of Jonathan Swift must have been looking down on us for years now and wondering, where did I get it wrong? Why did I never go that far?
Swift’s A Modest Proposal (1729) was a satire aimed at those who thought, at the time, that the sufferings of the poor were entirely their fault. He suggested the impoverished Irish should sell their plentiful babies as food for the better off.
Spoiler alert: Swift was not being entirely serious.
Alex Wild, of the Tax-Payers Alliance, apparently was when he suggested in 2015 that pensioners’ benefits should be cut after the next election because many of them would be dead and not able to vote in the next one and many more would by then be so demented that they would have forgotten which party had instigated those cuts. Comments which have since come to light again recently, for good reason
No, I am not making this up. See here. Wild, research director of the far right think tank which campaigns for a much smaller state, and consequently fewer state benefits to the poor, said then that cuts in benefits such as the winter fuel allowance and free bus passes should be made by the Tories as soon as possible after the next election “for two reasons”.
“The first of which will sound a little bit morbid – some of the people… won’t be around to vote for you in the next election. So that’s just a practical point,” he said.
The second: “If you did it now, chances are that in 2020 someone who has had their winter fuel cut might be thinking, oh, I can’t remember, was it this government or was it the last one? I’m not quite sure.”
His meaning is clear. Cut the oldies’ benefits and either they will die: of cold, starvation or old age, or they will become so senile they will not be able to remember who did it.
Wild later apologised for his comments as “crass”. As well he might.
Ideological mentors for Truss
He subsequently, as his LinkedIn profile suggests, worked for the Tory Government in a number of senior roles. Those comments have been doing the rounds on social media again because, as I have written here before, the Tax-Payers’ Alliance (TPA) and its ugly twin the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA), have emerged as the ideological mentors of Liz Truss, Kwasi Kwarteng and the hard right libertarian free market cabal that now run the country.
The TPA and the IEA’s desire for a smaller, less supportive state, an unregulated economy and tax cuts for the rich are the ideology behind last Friday’s disastrous mini-Budget from Kwarteng.
The drivers that are pushing sterling lower, interest rates higher, making the cost of Government borrowing more expensive and fuelling potentially devastating inflation have not changed. In my view.)
For a recent and belated examination of the recent malign influence of the TPA on public life and governance in the UK have a look at this.
And what of the Institute for Economic Affairs? Whose director, Mark Littlewood said of the mini-Budget, “you won’t like this package if you care more about the poor”.
IEA: drop the pension triple lock
Well the IEA is against the idea that pensioners should be insulated from the effects of runaway inflation via the so-called triple lock. The IEA says the triple lock, introduced in 2010 to ensure pensions do not lag behind inflation or average wages, is unfair to younger people whose earnings are not protected by it.
There is an argument to be made here. But if you are seeing inflation rising by 10, 12 or 13 per cent – whichever forecast you accept – while pensions are the 2.5 per cent minimum set by the triple lock, then pensioners are losing about 10 per cent of their income in real terms every year.
The means that, allowing for the compounding effect, which applies to lost income as well as earnings, pensioners will see about half their income disappear every four years.
Still, they could always starve or freeze to death. That would solve their problems even quicker – and ours.