Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has summed up the Tory agenda for Britain in a single sentence spoken at the Conservative party conference in Manchester.
Speaking of Chancellor and PM-in-waiting George Osborne’s plan to eliminate tax credits for working people, Hunt said:
We have to proceed with these tax credit changes because they are a very important cultural signal.
“My wife is Chinese. We want this to be one of the most successful countries in the world in 20, 30, 40 years’ time.
“There’s a pretty difficult question that we have to answer which is essentially: are we going to be a country that is prepared to work hard in the way that Asian economies are prepared to work hard, in the way that Americans are prepared to work hard? And that is about creating culture where work is at the heart of our success.
In short, tax credits for working people are being cut as part of a wider effort to lower the wages and working conditions of the UK to those of China and the U.S.
What an ambition. These two nations not only have some of the worst working conditions among advanced nations, but the lowest productivity too.
This is not news. For several decades now, repeated studies have shown that a law of diminishing returns applies when workers clock up more than 40 hours a week consistently. Furthermore, economists have repeatedly pointed to the social and economic wisdom of people working fewer hours, reducing the average working week to 30 hours.
Many nations have embraced this wisdom and begun transitioning their economies accordingly. Sweden began an experiment in shorter workweeks last Summer, Germany has a policy of kurzarbeit, or shorter working hours, in Denmark workers have shorter days and five-six weeks of paid annual leave – all to fight unemployment, spread around available work, and ensure that citizens have the time and energy to perform their multitude of other roles in life (parent, friend, carer, etc) well too. In short, to create happier, healthier societies.
The result speak for themselves. These nations are developed, prosperous, innovative, and repeatedly top the OECD’s Better Life index.
Nevertheless, China and the U.S have adopted the brutal employment model of neoliberalism which dictates that the single most important aim for a nation is create the world’s biggest economy. They have produced results accordingly. They are the world’s leading economies, and the quality of life for many working, and non-working people is nowhere near that of the social democracies of Europe.They have higher rates of poverty, ill health, homelessness, and poorer social cohesion than anywhere else in the developed world.
Do you know how many days annual leave employers are mandated to provide their employees by the federal governments of U.S and China? None.
This is what the Tory tax credit cuts will do to the income of working class families over coming years.
Is the economy important? Of course it is. But the only reason it is important, is if better economic performance equals a better quality of life for the country’s citizens. The policies of the U.S and Chinese governments detached the two, and while we have such excellent examples of how to do this better in Scandinavia, the UK government is eager to join the U.S and China in the race to the bottom.
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