Polly\’s Politics II

Aaaaand, abracadabra!

Ed Balls addressed them yesterday before launching his much-heralded Children\’s Plan in the Commons today. Before his arrival, they were glum: they feared weaselling and prevarication. But once he spoke those vital words, there was an outburst of relief and applause.

He committed the government unequivocally to hitting its 2010 target for halving child poverty, and abolishing it by 2020. "It is not going to be easy," he said, but "we\’re not going to abandon those goals just because the going has got tough. This is when we need to make sure we try even harder." So there was the promise – though with no word as to how it is to be done.

I will do such things – What they are yet I know not. . .

Shall we book in a pony for each of us as well then?

So how can Labour now reach the halfway goal by 2010? It will cost £4.5bn, to be found in the 2008 and 2009 budgets: Ed Balls declared that the chancellor had signed up to it. Where will it come from? The government could raise that sum from taxing the richest 1.5% of taxpayers on earnings over £100,000 by another 10%.

Err, Polly, you seem not to have grasped the point about marginal tax rates. They do in fact change behaviour. No, I\’m not going to insist that a rise to a 50% marginal rate will lead to a reduction in revenues in the short term, just that there isn\’t a straight line relationship between raising rates and raising revenues. You need dynamic analysis of such changes, not static. And you also need to make sure that the revenues will last into the long term…..because people\’s behaviour does change over time more than it does immediately.

Depressing research from the Department for Work and Pensions finds public sympathy for the poor has regressed in the last decade. Voters are less likely to believe anyone is poor, and more likely to blame the poor themselves. Opinion polls and Rowntree Foundation research tell the same story, as do the hostile bloggers invading the Guardian\’s website after articles such as this. Labour\’s decade of soaring affluence for the 70% property owners has bred a newly virulent despising of the families where 30% of children live below the poverty line.

That\’s because people are beginning to work out that the poverty you\’re talking about is relative poverty, not absolute. Yes, I know that in correctly thinking circles it is relative poverty that is decried (and I\’m even willing to agree that it\’s an interesting concept) but it doesn\’t in fact strike the Great Unwashed in quite the same way. Asking the average bloke on the Barnes Bendy Bus whether children should live in deprivation and the answer is no. Ask whether it\’s similarly appalling that some children have less than others and the answer is again no. The Demos simply isn\’t as worried about relative poverty as you are.

Yet Labour\’s great failing has been in never persuading the well-off that those left behind have any claim on their sympathy or concern.

Quite. As I say, the people don\’t actually give a damn. So why should their money be spent the way you want, rather than the way they want?

14 comments on “Polly\’s Politics II

  1. I know Ed Balls is only a political scientist and not actually an economist, but how does he plan to reduce a relative concept to zero by 2020 – impose Maoist communism?

  2. In any case, you cannot halve relative poverty. It’s a mathematical formula and the proportion of those below the relative poverty line will always be more or less the same. That’s one of the problems with the concept. Of course, if we talked about absolute poverty by some generally agreed standards we would find that there is next to none in this country and what would Polly write about then?

  3. “…the hostile bloggers invading the Guardian’s website…”

    Yes, those dammed inconvenient members of the public, forcing their views onto a public site called ‘Comment is Free’.

    How very dare they!

  4. I loved her attacking people who think she is loopy. Poor dear. All those moderators to help her and they still can’t keep the “hostile” bloggers out. Perhaps it is not the bloggers that need to be moderated sweet heart.

    I also like the fact that she presumably earns more than 100,000 pounds a year but did not offer to pay it voluntarily herself. Any more than I notice her refusing to fly to her second home in Tuscany to save the bleeding environment.

  5. It’s quite easy to reduce poverty if you take the insane measure used by lefties. Assuming income follows a bell-curve, you just need to reduce the income of those in the middle; pretty soon, the median falls, as does the number whose income is less than 60% of it. In a simpler scenario, if nine people earn £2 and eleven earn £6, the median is £6, but if you reduce two of the higher-earners to £2, the median drops to £2 and suddenly you’ve abolished poverty. Try it with Excel.

  6. Child poverty seems to be caused by those on no incomes having children. How would punsihihng those on the highest incomes help?

    Maybe this can only make sense to a socialist.

  7. Child poverty must be highly correlated with parent poverty. Therefore to eliminate parent poverty, increase the wealth of all adults. Reduce the interference of the government in the economy, and all will benefit. Some will benefit more than others, obviously, but you didn’t say make all equally poor, did you?

  8. AntiCitizenOne has hit the spot. It’s that simple.

    Secondly, I am hearted to read that surveys suggest that people think that we have enough redistribution; in other words, it’s not just me who’s unusually hard-hearted.

  9. As per usual, Polly reveals herself to be such a believer in democracy: the people don’t have sympathy for the “impoverished” but thankfully the government doesn’t share the people’s views and should force its own perspective upon them.

  10. The “below the 60% of median income” definition is measuring inequality not poverty – this poverty line takes no account of what standard of living this line represents. The alleged callousness to the poor of which Polly Toynbe moans can be explained by this confusion – it is difficult to accept that someone with central heating, double glazing, landline and mobile phones and holidays to Spain as being poor. If the poverty campaigners used a more realistic measure of poverty eg poor employment prospects, poor education, damp and derelict housing, inadequate food and clothing – then the public response would be more positive. The left’s agenda in highlighting poverty is to advance the case for higher taxes and public expenditure. Yet if the state spends 45% of GDP and a third of children are below the poverty line that indicates that tax and spend is not the answer to poverty – not a lesson the Guardian fraternity are willing to take on board.

  11. It’s not about the children any way, and it never was. Children don’t vote. It’s about the parents, who actually get the state benefits, and do have the vote. Those votes are for sale, and the parties are buying. That’s why they deliberately set thresholds that look relevant to Joe Public, who never does the math. And that’s why they need to keep so many families on state benefits, when they have already shelled out that money in tax. It’s the

  12. I think that Polly is unambitious in her schemes to reduce the percentage of children below the poverty line. Let’s think of the ways. The obvious one is that we can encourage the rich to breed more. How about a tax rebate of up to 100,000 pounds for each of the first sixteen years of a child’s life? That would make a lot of trophy wives see the sense in having a few more. The flip side is that we can discourage the poor from having children. Compulsory sterilization of those on or below 26,000 a year seems a little harsh but it would do the job.

    How about we accept that solutions are often worse than problems. Why do we realise that inequality is not the issue here, get the hell out of people’s lives and let them make whatever decisions they like? For a start, why don’t we do something useful and prohibit the collection of this sort of statistical information? The Devil creates mischief for idle data.

    Of course we could also stop giving feckless teenagers dollops of cash for having children with no forethought or common sense. That would help Polly’s policies. Indeed, call me old fashioned but I think we can all support that idea.

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