Are we trying to keep people in poverty? asks Janet Daley in her column this week, amid the left's demands that the poor be 'protected' - like an endangered species from extinction - and by doing so, maintaining their dependency on welfare in a self-defeating cycle of poverty.
The Brown government had a catchphrase that still resonates as an embodiment of political nonsense: it would boast repeatedly of its supposed triumph in “lifting people out of poverty”. There is an unmistakeable vision here of the hand of God, with the grateful masses gently cradled in its palm, raising the humble from their destitution.
But being “lifted out of poverty” by government action meant that benefit payments were nudged up by marginal increments so as to push the poor just above the statistical level of relative poverty. The boundary that they crossed might make little difference to their actual quality of life, but, on paper, they were “out of poverty” – at least until the next jump in the general standard of living put them arithmetically back into relative poverty, thus necessitating another increase in benefits to pull them once more across the magic line.
Putting an end to poverty by raising benefits was a statistical conjuring trick.
Daley further explains the ' litigious absurdity' of the Equality and Human Rights Commission pronouncing the Budget to be in breach of the 2010 Equality Act if it showed no regard for the possible impact on “social equality”.
This is tantamount to saying that no government may interfere with the right of people to be dependent on state benefits – and furthermore, that those benefits must be maintained at a level that guarantees the “equality” of recipients will not be damaged. The logical conclusion of this is that it is illegal to alter the tax and benefit system in any way that reduces welfare dependency and creates incentives for people to leave poverty behind.
Absurd or what?