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The truths they don't want you to read....

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Child poverty

There is perhaps no policy failure of the Labour Government that is more damning than their failure to properly address child poverty throughout the UK.

The policy started with a vague and unattainable* to abolish child poverty (by 2020?) in one of those moments where a sound-bite beats intelligent thought.

Then, in a half-hearted and uncoordinated fashion a series of policies were bolted together in an attempt to create a coherent strategy.

As the pledge wasn't really sincere, the policies were themselves untargetted and the consequences were an inevtiable failure of the policy.

Labour has presided over a dramatic increase in income inequality in the UK, and it seems quite unperturbed by their obsession with the rich and famous. Now there is nothing wrong with supporting economic growth and lauding these who create jobs and national wealth, but where this is augmented by policies that reduce the levels of tax paid by the very richest, whilst penalising the very poorest, then truly have they lost their way.

The effective marginal tax rates in the poorest are very high - up to 70% in some cases, whilst top tax payers face much lower rates, and with the best advice they can reduce these rates to negligible levels.

What we have in the UK is a dramatically stratified society where the extremes are polarising further and where the tax and benefits systems defines the new class structures, and mitigate against movement out of your strata.

Gordon Brown's obsession with micromanagement of policy has blinded him to the big-picture impact, and whilst each step may in itself make sense, the cumulative effect is enormously different.

It will require to be undone and replaced; and the question has got to be just how the Tories will do this without causing further polarisation.

It cannot be done without causing pain as the rules change, but it needs to be done to change society if there is any real desire to reduce child poverty.

* 'Poverty' is a relative measure of income compared to the average. As the income of the poor increases, the average increases and the threshold for stopping being 'poor' increases. You can never abolish poverty, you can only minimise the number of people in that category.

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